Join for FREE
It only takes a minute!
7x42 T* FL / 8X42 T* FL / 10X42 T* FL
Specifications: Model: 7x42 8x42 10x42 Magnification 7x 8x 10x Objective lens mm 42mm 42mm 42mm Field of View @1000m 150m 135m 110m Exit Pupil 6mm 5.25mm 4.2mm Minimum focus 2m 2m 2m Weight 740g 755g 765g
All models are Nitrogen filled and waterproof. Eyecups have four click-stop height settings.
Content and images originally posted by Andy Bright
 Leif's review
Introduction The Zeiss FL range is Zeiss\'s latest attempt to conquer the premium binocular market. Priced at the top end of the market, it is intended to compete head to head with offerings from Leica, Nikon and Swarovski. The 7x42, 8x42 and 10x42, FL continue the Zeiss tradition of using Abbe-Koenig prisms with higher transmission than the more usual Schmidt-Pechan prisms. Another unusual feature, and the origin of the FL name, is the use of triplet objectives with an element of fluoride glass. Zeiss claims that this significantly reduces colour fringing. The optics are of course fully multi-coated (T*) and the prisms are phase coated (P*).
The large rubber armoured focus wheel is situated between and slightly in front of the eyepieces. It can be accessed from above, in the normal manner, or held between thumb and forefinger for making fine adjustments. The wheel turns smoothly with no perceptible backlash or stiffness, and is highly geared for a rapid focus. The high gearing might trouble some people, though I found that I soon got used to it, and appreciated the speed with which I could lock on to a bird.
The dioptre adjustment is achieved by pulling out the focus wheel, then turning until the required setting is achieved. Zeiss claim an adjustment range of +/- 4 dioptres. There\'s not a lot to say except that it works.
The eye tubes screw in and screw out and have four positions including two intermediate ones. The eye tubes are, like much of the internal structure, made from a composite material. For comfort the ends are covered with rubber. They work well.
It is worth noting that the strap lugs are well placed, since a common criticism of the original Victory range was that the strap lugs dug in to the sides of the hands.
Weighing in at 755g the binocular is one of the lightest in its class.
The binocular is waterproof and filled with nitrogen to prevent internal fogging.
According to Zeiss the internals are made from a combination of metal and a composite described as fibre-reinforced polyamide. Although some people might question the use of plastics (or, as Zeiss might say, advanced polymers), there\'s no doubt that it provides strength whilst keeping weight to a minimum. The only negative aspect, in my opinion, is the central hinge covering, which seems to be made from high-density polyethylene, and to my eyes it looks slightly cheap in contrast to the rest of the instrument.
Accessories The binocular is supplied with a very good neoprene strap, a rain guard for the eyepieces, excellent removable objective caps and a very good holster case with strap. The presence of a strap on the case is a welcome change from the norm.
Optics The binocular provides a superb image, which in many ways, but not all, surpasses any other binocular I have tried. The field of view is class leading at 135m at a distance of 1km. On axis, sharpness and contrast are excellent and even with my eyeglasses on the image has that \"with your own eyes\" feel characteristic of the best optics.
On-axis colour fringing is absent. There is a trace of off-axis chromatic aberration in high contrast situations but it is negligible and probably will not even be noticed by many users.
There is a trace of pincushion distortion at the edges of the field, sometimes noticeable when panning, but it is not significant, and I do not notice it in normal use.
There is some off-axis softness which starts to appear at about 60% from the axis, and gradually increases until the edge where the image is mediocre. This is perhaps the only (minor) weakness in the optics. Although re-focussing can recover some sharpness, most of the softness is from aberrations other than field curvature.
Flare is, as with most if not all premium binoculars, extremely well controlled, and was not a problem. Ghosting was not seen. I saw no obvious colour cast, though I am very poor at seeing a colour cast.
Eye relief, which is of particular importance to eyeglass wearers, is generous at 17mm, and I found that I could view the whole field of view while wearing eyeglasses. (Eyeglass wearers should check for themselves, as there are wide variations in eyeglass frames and individual facial features. I have small frames that sit close to my eyes, and I do not have sunken eyes, all of which help with viewing through a binocular.)
Comparison with other instruments I own a Zeiss 8x42 FL, a Nikon 8x32 SE and a Swarovski 8.5x42 EL and was able to do some side by side comparisons.
The Swarovski 8.5x42 is quite rightly a best seller, with superb ergonomics and build quality, and excellent, but not in my opinion class leading, optics. It has slightly higher resolution than the Zeiss, consistent with the higher magnification and it has slightly better off-axis sharpness. However, it has slightly lower contrast, and in high contrast situations noticeable chromatic aberration, even on axis. In my highly subjective opinion the Zeiss provides an overall image that is one step above the Swarovski, though the Swarovski is nevertheless a fine instrument. Of course some people might disagree with my conclusions.
The Nikon 8x32 SE is in my opinion one of the finest 8x glasses in existence. It has superb sharpness and contrast, roughly on a par with the Zeiss. However, the Nikon also has almost no distortion, almost edge-to-edge sharpness, and an almost completely flat field. There is some chromatic aberration, both on and off axis, in high contrast situations, though it is minor, and can usually be ignored. The Nikon has in many respects slightly better optics than the Zeiss, but it is not waterproof, the image is not as bright in low light, the on-axis image is not quite as good, the folding rubber eye tubes are less convenient and the small focus wheel can be rather stiff in cold weather. Overall the Nikon is a superb instrument and at about half the price of the Zeiss it is a bargain, albeit one that is less rugged and convenient. However, as discussions on Bird Forumhave shown, the SE is surprisingly rugged, and if treated with a little care, should last many years without any problems.
Discussion Overall I think that Zeiss have done an exceptional job. The use of fluoride glass is a definite innovation in premium birding binoculars and does exactly what Zeiss claim: in my opinion the one problem with most roof prism binoculars is excessive chromatic aberration, and in the FL Zeiss have overcome this issue. I was pleasantly surprised at the high contrast and the excellent sharpness. I was less impressed with the off-axis sharpness, which though very good, does not match that of the best competing instruments. The Zeiss FL has excellent ergonomics and I found little to fault. The armour is good quality, and has a pleasingly soft texture. The eye tubes, with intermediate positions are a welcome innovation. The smooth backlash free focus wheel is extremely well placed, and easy to use. Some might consider the focus too coarse, but the high gearing allows rapid acquisition of fast moving objects, whilst the smoothness and absence of backlash allow for fine adjustment. The binocular is waterproof and I can testify to this fact having on numerous occasions been caught in torrential rain. In many respects Zeiss have borrowed the best features of other instruments, and then added a few of their own (triplet objectives, multi-position eye tubes). I have already heard that one other manufacturer has introduced a roof prism binocular with triplet objectives. I suspect they will not be the last.
Conclusion If you are looking for a premium waterproof binocular, and have the cash, then I reckon that you should take a look at the Zeiss FL range.
Comment added 28 March 2005: After using a Zeiss 8x42 FL for 6 months, I remain as impressed as ever with the optics. Compared side by side, colours through my Nikon 8x32 SE seem slightly but noticeably subdued, whilst colours through the FL have more clarity and vibrancy, due no doubt to the better colour correction. Combined with the high contrast the result is an incredibly natural and bright image. The slight distortion is, for me anyway, a non issue. The slight off-axis softening is sometimes noticeable when birding, but is a minor irritation rather than a flaw. It is however more obvious when using the binocular on the night sky, presumably because the eye is more likely to explore the field when viewing stars. In terms of ergonomics, I have become more accustomed to the fast but sensitive focus, and would not go back to a slower version.
 Andy Bright's review
Testing the 10x42 version.
I can confirm that the FL's present a full image to all three spectacle wearers that have used my 10x42's so far.... way ahead of the 10x42EL, ahead of the 10x42 Leica Ultravid and someone said marginally better than the Nikon HG's. I can't begin to comprehend the issues effecting spectacle wearers, so I'm really not the best person to comment on that.
What I can say is that, to my testers (birders) and myself, the 10x42 FL's outperform all the competition in terms of brightness and contrast of image (some achievement when both aspects negate eachother to some extent). Colour neutrality was total, with no colour cast detected by anyone. Sharpness and resolution was as good as anyone had seen in a pair of binos, though it was hard to seperate any of the leading RP binos here. Everyone mentioned the impressive depth of field.
CA!! o.k., It can still crop up so hasn't be eradicated entirely, but the effects are minimal even when trying your very best to find it, one tester couldn't find any and he is usually the first to complain about CA My own feeling was that CA was less than that of all other binos I have tried ... including that of the 8X32 Nikon SE's (that's the only time I'll refer to the SE's as I'm just not going to compare across magnifications, others have done that and paid the price). What CA presented itself did not spill over as far and had less of an effect on the subject than other models, this was agreed by all users.
I'm not going to bother with the meaningless optical performance of the peripheral edge of view, other than to say that the typical edge distortion isn't much different to any other bino and doesn't have any impact for the real world user.
As for non optical aspects: There were no major complaints, one tester didn't like the feel of the rubber armouring and the grip ridges could've gone up to the eyepieces a bit further (helping grip by the focus wheel) but that was as much as i got in terms of negativity. Everyone liked the large, two finger wide, focus wheel, which had loosened up a bit since i first received the binos. The focus wheel fell easily to the fingers.
The feel of a bino is strictly down to each user, Zeiss seems to have taken the sensible route of not having any thumb recess/stops so no one should have a problem there. The ridged body will be handy for those wearing gloves on cold days. In fact the whole appearance of the FL's seem to conjure up memories of distant Dialyts, certainly an improvement over the previous Victory models.... and someone tell Zeiss we don't need any silly triumphant macho names for our binos, FL will do very nicely.
The rapid focussing was liked by all. I must admit that I'd never lost any sleep over some of the slower focus wheel gearing of my Swaro' EL's, typical birding distances are covered by a 1/4 turn on most binos anyway but I'm getting the hang of these 'progessive focus' types, especially handy for tracking birds moving away or towards you. The focus wheel needs only travel from 10 o'clock to 1 o'clock to cover almost every situation (5m to miles!)
The novel four position eyecups is a nice touch, I prefer the eye-cup just one click back from full extension. No one had a bad word to say about this feature, all feeling that having variable eyecup settings was a step forward in getting more people a perfect view... even if they have the facial features of a Klingon
Dipotre adjustment (Yawn) was fairly typical, a central click stop but infinite positions +/- 4dpt.
All the rest is pretty much specs that you can read anywhere, weight and all that.
In conclusion, these 10x FL's do seem to be top of the 10x pile at the moment but there's no huge leap in optical quality from the competitors... high end binos just aren't like that, there's no quantum leaps to be made... even when CA vanishes altogether it won't be a massive progression to most as it's just not a problem for most users now.
 Ben O's review
The best binocular bar none for this birder. I have purchased the 8x42 FL and tested all serious competitor products thoroughly before parting with my money. Previous binos were the Leica 8x42BN.
Staggeringly sharp, amazingly bright, perfectly neutral colour and a vivid high contrast image that beat all the other binos, even the Leica ultravids. My old Leica BN's just don't compare, looking dull and flat compared to the FL.
Focus wheel just the right size and friction is spot on for my needs, very smooth with no slack.
Nice grips on the body will be a boon in cold weather wearing thick gloves. Durable looking armour.
Highly recommended if you are looking for the very best image of the bird, but excellence doesn't come cheap.
 ropaled's review
Cannot better other peoples comments which are spot on!! These binos are the biz!!
 Swissboy's review
I can only second what has been posted here. My own model being the 8x42. Two exceptions to a minor degree: There is still a bit of flare under very critical conditions. And, personally, I'd have preferred much smaller ridges. They give me some irritation in normal use (i.e. without gloves). But then, the ridges on the Leica Trinovids irritated me to the point where I tried to reduce them. An attempt that lead to more instead of less irritation.
Being accustomed to a 8x32, I still need to become really comfortable with the larger size and weight. But that is not the fault of the FLs, as the other x42s would necessitate even more getting accustomed to.
 skyshrink's review
My previous binocs was a pair of the Zeiss 10x40 vintage from the late 80's. My wife has used a pair of the Zeiss Classic 7x42's so I'm familiar with the qualities of that fine binocular.
When I decided to upgrade, I followed the advice of a friend and decided to get the 8x42's instead of the larger size. I've been continually astonished with the brightness, sharpness and ease of use with my eye glasses. (Previously, I had to remove my glasses before using my binocs for best results.)
 KorHaan's review
I've got the 7x42 FL's for just over a year now, and I'm as pleased with them now as I was on the day I bought them.
I never experienced a more relaxed view than with this panoramic wonder; I deliberately made my choice on a 7x mag and I was right doing so. Good steady handholding and exceptional sharpness, brightness and resolution they are just a joy on the eyes. I wear specs and could effortlessly see the 150 meter field the bins provide. Just great!
Swapped bins with other birders in the field, all with other high-end binoculars, and they all went "WOW!" and "GREAT" looking through the FL's, and I went "Not bad" and "Nice view", looking through theirs. That's how great they are, as an all round bin they can't be bettered IMO.
Low light performance is outstanding, they keep me birding well into dusk and they are excellent for owling.
They are quite big, yet surprisingly lightweight, with a firm grip on the barrels and good balance, for me personally.
They are expensive, but will last a long time so they're a good investment.
Greetings, Ronald Sinoo