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Old Thursday 15th May 2003, 19:41   #1
Andy Bright
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Review: Zeiss Diascope 85FL

The Zeiss Diascope 85FL

The scope:
Although this scope has a larger objective lens than most, it is one of the lightest scopes on the market and is surprisingly compact as well. The scope body weighs in at 1,450g and the length is only 345mm, so compares extremely well against its competitors.
The Diascope has twin focus knobs, fine and coarse, with sufficient space between the two for my fingers to operate one without accidentally moving the other, fat fingers coupled with gloves may prove problematic in the depths of winter.

Gearing of both knobs was suitable for the task, the fine being very smooth and allowing the tiniest of focus adjustments. My own preference is for a single well-geared focus knob on a scope, a secondary ‘fine tune’ knob seemed to provoke more fiddling than necessary, time that could be better spent viewing the subject. I do know many birders who couldn’t live without their dual focussing systems, so it’s just a personal matter and I’m sure that it wouldn’t be long before this slight annoyance would be forgotten.

The Diascope has an amply proportioned sunshade that can be pulled out to give the objective lens protection from rain and sun. Atop this sunshade is an elongated sighting vee, allowing rapid and reliable subject acquisition with no parallax problems that are associated with small single foresights.

I tested the angled version of the Diascope 85, rotation of the body was a simple affair that only required a small lever switch to be operated to enable body rotation.
Another feature of the scope body was the ability to lay it on a flat surface, a rubber underside grip gave it a solid feel in this position, though the opportunities to use this feature in the field may be limited for the birder. Almost without saying, the scope is fully waterproof and Nitrogen filled.
The colour of the scope tested was a non-reflective satin silver/grey, though green is available.

Eyepieces tested with the 85FL were the 40x and 20-60x zoom, a 30x is also available along with an astronomical eyepiece adapter and SLR camera adapter. All the eyepieces feature the popular pull-up/twist eyecups,

The 40x eyepiece gave a very impressive image, field of view was as wide as most 30x eyepieces and the resolving power with optimum air conditions was class leading.

The 20-60x zoom eyepiece was no less impressive in the ability to resolve detail at higher magnifications and again it was class leading at beyond 40x. The field of view with this zoom is exceptional but there is a small visual penalty to pay when the zoom it at lower magnification, notably at 20x. This minor problem takes the form of distortion around the edge of the image, this does limit the useable field of view slightly at lower magnification but is not apparent at higher magnifications. At magnifications above 50x, the wider than average field of view becomes quite noticeable in comparison to other zooms on the market.
Depth of field wasn’t quite as impressive as the field of view, though still comparable with many scopes on the market.

Glass wearers were particularly impressed by the zoom eyepiece and the image it presented to them, a number commenting that it was the best image they had seen thorough a zoom eyepiece.

Having had over two months to use this scope in a variety of conditions, it’s quite clear that 85FL scope provides excellent viewing in almost every situation that the birder is likely to encounter. As would be expected of a scope with an 85mm objective lens, the image is brighter than that from any 80mm scope and also capable of resolving more detail

The image from the Zeiss Diascope was on the colder side of neutral, which makes a change from the numerous scopes providing a slightly yellow cast to the image. Chromatic aberration was all but non-existent during testing.
The ‘feel good’ factor of the image presented was high, but this would have been increased to the very highest levels if the extra brightness of the image hadn’t had an impact on the contrast, I felt that the contrast was slightly lacking in comparison to the very best scopes.

Though slight, the extra brightness that this scope gives can make a difference to what can be resolved in trying conditions. At the end of the day, literally, this could be a major factor in deciding if this is the scope for you.

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Old Thursday 15th May 2003, 20:14   #2
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are you going to do a review of the Zeiss as regards digiscoping.
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Old Thursday 15th May 2003, 20:41   #3
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Check out the scopes forum in the digiscoping section.
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Old Tuesday 22nd July 2003, 01:42   #4
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Talking Zeiss 85T FL Scope

Andy, et. al.

After much researching and waffling back and forth between the Zeiss and Swarovski scopes (65 and 85's) I ultimately chose the Zeiss 85T FL. The main reason came down to price. I found both scopes to be truly excellent, and you're right - unless they're next to each other there is little difference save for personal preferences. Thank you for the great review.

If acceptable, I'd like to put in a plug for the Porter's website in the US at www.birdwatching.com. Diane Porter went above and beyond acceptable call of duty by delivering to me the Zeiss 85 (angled and in green) overnight so that I'd have the scope for a birding trip. She went out of her way (on a late Saturday) to call several times to verify scope type and shipping details so that I'd have the scope by Tuesday. She came through for me in truly outstanding fashion and her website comes highly recommended!

As for the scope it is truly an amazing work of art. The optics are phenomenal. I personally see no color cast (yellow or green) so I agree that it comes down to individual perception.

I'd also like to thank whomever suggested mounting the scope and tripod to a makeshift backpack. I've mounted mine to to a Bogen 3021 w/ 3047 pan/tilt head and it seems to be a perfect fit. The scope and pod are attached to a day pack and secured so that I can walk/bike all day long w/o any neck/shoulder strain, and can easily pop the legs open/closed to step in and out of the back pack.

Thanks again for such a great forum!

Jerry
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Old Monday 15th September 2003, 21:48   #5
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Does anyone know about using this with the SLR adapter made by Zeiss? I'm interested in using this for birding with a traditional film based SLR. I know Zeiss makes it, because it lists it on the zeiss.de web site but don't know the details. Can anyone tell me what is involved, what sort of aperature this creates for use, and how the images look? I've never hooked up a spotting scope to anything, but am very familar with traditional lens use with birds and the inherent issues of shake, vibration, speed etc. Thanks! -Lynn
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Old Tuesday 16th September 2003, 06:23   #6
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Has anyone noticed the annoying barrelling, with the zoom eyepiece on the Zeiss 85. A friend of mine has one and at 20x there is a very noticeable fuzzy edge, until the scope is zoomed up to 30x. None of the reviews appear to mention this but it is very noticeable.

Mark
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Old Tuesday 16th September 2003, 19:49   #7
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M.N. Reeder.
I would like to reply to your comment about the fuzzy edges (as you put it). I take it you mean that you do not se edge to edge clarity. Well it was mentioned in some reviews, and the reviewers have been informed why this happens. The Zeiss eyepieces have a wider field of view than most, and edge to edge clarity can be simply introduced by putting in a field stop, which would give it the same field of view as some other makes. The thought is that by using the very extremes, you can still capture the object and simply move the scope into place, as the purest part of any lens is in the centre.
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Old Wednesday 17th September 2003, 03:57   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by M N Reeder
Has anyone noticed the annoying barrelling, with the zoom eyepiece on the Zeiss 85. A friend of mine has one and at 20x there is a very noticeable fuzzy edge, until the scope is zoomed up to 30x. None of the reviews appear to mention this but it is very noticeable.

Mark
Yes, it is mentioned in the above review. MAK had explained why it is there (quirk of design rather than cock-up)... it was surprising to see at the outset, but it's far less of a problem than I anticipated when you're using the scope in normal use and it vanishes a soon as you move up in magnification.
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Old Wednesday 17th September 2003, 06:27   #9
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Sorry Andy, that'll teach me to speed read the longer postings. I would be interested how the field stops are obtained and fitted though.

Apologies
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Old Wednesday 17th September 2003, 10:05   #10
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The field stops are not retro fitted (perhaps I should have made it clear), but during the development process.
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Old Tuesday 16th March 2004, 01:43   #11
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as the review said, at the end of the day, this scope shines, as anyone who has waited for owls at dusk can attest.
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Old Saturday 10th July 2004, 19:33   #12
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I went to Focus Optics today to look at the Swaro 80HD and Leica APO 77. My first impression was that the Swaro was slightly the better but on reading some reviews in Birdforum realised that there are other Scopes to consider, especially the Zeiss.

I am considering upgrading from my Kowa 824 but very unsure which Scope to choose. Whichever I choose will have to be compatible with my CP4500.

There are good reviews for all the good makes i.e Swaro, Leica, Nikon and Zeiss (not sure about the top range of Opticron).

I like the sound of the Zeiss but which one would you guys choose?
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Old Monday 12th July 2004, 05:15   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Reader
[...]...which one would you guys choose?
The one that your own eye tells you is best.
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Old Monday 12th July 2004, 06:24   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by galt_57
The one that your own eye tells you is best.
Not always the case. If the differences are fractional then after sales service etc become something to consider. i.e I have been told to stay clear of the Leica because their repair service is terrible. A friend of mine damaged his APO77 and they had it for nearly 6 months before it was finally repaired and returned to him.
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Old Monday 12th July 2004, 10:51   #15
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Re: Which scope would you choose?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Reader
I went to Focus Optics today to look at the Swaro 80HD and Leica APO 77. My first impression was that the Swaro was slightly the better but on reading some reviews in Birdforum realised that there are other Scopes to consider, especially the Zeiss.

I am considering upgrading from my Kowa 824 but very unsure which Scope to choose. Whichever I choose will have to be compatible with my CP4500.

There are good reviews for all the good makes i.e Swaro, Leica, Nikon and Zeiss (not sure about the top range of Opticron).

I like the sound of the Zeiss but which one would you guys choose?
I had spent much time reviewing scopes and had to decide between the Zeiss and the Swaro. Bottom line was/is, we can't go wrong with either scope (including the Leica and new Nikons). For me it came down to price - I was able to get the Zeiss for about $600 (US) cheaper than the Swaro - and I haven't regretted the decision at all. The Zeiss (to me) was brighter and as sharp as the Swaro, and I see no color casts in my images. I've also gotten some great digiscoping images using my CP990.

Jerry
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Old Monday 12th July 2004, 17:12   #16
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Thanks Jerry for that. Do you know how good the after sales is? I have heard that leica is slow but Swaro are good. These are the sorts of added info that are a help in deciding between scopes that optically appear very similar.

I have posted a thread in the Scopes and tripod/heads forum. Join and and see what others are saying.

I must admit that the Zeiss is tempting me but I want the reaction from birders that are using all the different scopes.
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Old Monday 12th July 2004, 17:47   #17
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Re: Zeiss after sales

Quote:
Originally Posted by Reader
Thanks Jerry for that. Do you know how good the after sales is? I have heard that leica is slow but Swaro are good. These are the sorts of added info that are a help in deciding between scopes that optically appear very similar.

I have posted a thread in the Scopes and tripod/heads forum. Join and and see what others are saying.

I must admit that the Zeiss is tempting me but I want the reaction from birders that are using all the different scopes.
I'm afraid I can't comment on after sales for Zeiss, but hopefully someone else has some input. I will say that here in the States I do not have a 'licensed' Zeiss dealer anywhere near me for purchasing odd items like a new eyepiece cover and/or scope cover (I ended up purchasing a scope cover from Creedmore Sports, Seattle WA - and it works wonders at $39.99).
Other than that, I will say the scope/padding/cover that I have is pretty durable. I had the nightmare moment just yesterday setting up my tripod and watching (while time stands still) the scope fall 4 ft. to the ground.
When I came to (after fainting) the scope was fine with no visible bruises.
I think I am going to look into a sturdier tripod/quick release system ....

Good luck,

Jerry
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Old Monday 12th July 2004, 20:00   #18
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Thanks for that Jerry.

I hope you fully enjoy your scope. You never know, I might end up buying the same scope.
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Old Monday 18th October 2004, 11:46   #19
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I will certainly testify that Zeiss aftersales are extremely good. I haven't had problems with my scope, but had a couple of quibbles with my Zeiss adaptor.

The problems were not Zeiss's fault but a need I had to connect my camera properly. Zeiss service and aftersale fell over themselves to help me, and could not be more curtious and helpful. They very quickly sorted my needs.

First Class service................
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Old Monday 15th August 2005, 18:01   #20
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Lots of great advice and input here. Let me just say that I spent a couple hours with Zeiss, Leica, and Swarovski side-by-side. The Zeiss clearly had the best resolution. Other factors such as contrast and color hue etc I had a harder time judging, but on pure resolution, the Zeiss was best.
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Old Monday 15th August 2005, 18:04   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by spuchtler
Lots of great advice and input here. Let me just say that I spent a couple hours with Zeiss, Leica, and Swarovski side-by-side. The Zeiss clearly had the best resolution. Other factors such as contrast and color hue etc I had a harder time judging, but on pure resolution, the Zeiss was best.
this what i keep hearing. i think as the zeiss isnt as popular than the leicas and swaros, it doesnt get the praise it deserves.

i will be doing my own tests at the weekend, as im VERY interested at buying a 85FL.
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Old Monday 15th August 2005, 18:34   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by salty
this what i keep hearing. i think as the zeiss isnt as popular than the leicas and swaros, it doesnt get the praise it deserves.

i will be doing my own tests at the weekend, as im VERY interested at buying a 85FL.
Salty,

I have the 85T*FL and 20-60X Zoom and love it! You will not be disappointed
if you get one, and you won't regret not getting the Swaro/Leica/Kowa comparables. For me, it came down to price between the Zeiss and the Swarovski ATS80HD. The Zeiss was (in my tests) slightly brighter than the Swaro at 60X, but maybe not quite as contrasty, but again, unless you are standing next to both of them, you'll never remember the differences....

Best,

Jerry
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Old Monday 15th August 2005, 19:53   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jourdaj
Salty,

I have the 85T*FL and 20-60X Zoom and love it! You will not be disappointed
if you get one, and you won't regret not getting the Swaro/Leica/Kowa comparables. For me, it came down to price between the Zeiss and the Swarovski ATS80HD. The Zeiss was (in my tests) slightly brighter than the Swaro at 60X, but maybe not quite as contrasty, but again, unless you are standing next to both of them, you'll never remember the differences....

Best,

Jerry
i keep on hearing about the zeiss being the brightest scope, (yes it is 5mm larger on the objective, but that doesnt always mean anything).

if it is as good at high power as people say it is, then im sold. i need a zoom scope, and the zeiss is supposed to be THE scope at high power ie: 40x upto 60x. i was really happy with my old APO televid, i could not fault it optically, so im interested to know the difference in these two scopes.
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Old Monday 15th August 2005, 20:16   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by salty
this what i keep hearing. i think as the zeiss isnt as popular than the leicas and swaros, it doesnt get the praise it deserves.

i will be doing my own tests at the weekend, as im VERY interested at buying a 85FL.
Make sure you test it side by side with the other scopes you are considering. I tried the 65 version last week, having read reviews of it I was expecting to think it was the scope for me. However I did not get on with it, I found the soft edges at the bottom end of the zoom very off putting, and found the focus wasn't as smoother as the Leica 62.

I went in expecting to end up wanting a Zeiss, but instead decided that when my APO77 sells I'll be getting an APO62.

Quote:
Originally Posted by salty
i was really happy with my old APO televid, i could not fault it optically, so im interested to know the difference in these two scopes.
I'd say there isn't too much to chose between them - the Zeiss has a wider FOV, but also has those soft edges. The Zeiss has the bigger objective, so in theory should have better light gathering (I know it's often commented on how bright it is). Both have dual focusing system (which I really like), and both are a very similar price. No doubt when testing one of the small differences will be the thing that makes you like one over the other. Good luck at the weekend - I hope birdfair answer your questions about scopes, without raising too many new ones.
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Old Wednesday 24th August 2005, 13:52   #25
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I'm fairly new to bird watching but have reached the end with my Opthlyth 80

Would you buy a this Zeiss or the leica APO 77?
I intend to get into digiscoping during a long break to Ireland this Autumn

Mike
Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy Bright
The Zeiss Diascope 85FL

The scope:
Although this scope has a larger objective lens than most, it is one of the lightest scopes on the market and is surprisingly compact as well. The scope body weighs in at 1,450g and the length is only 345mm, so compares extremely well against its competitors.
The Diascope has twin focus knobs, fine and coarse, with sufficient space between the two for my fingers to operate one without accidentally moving the other, fat fingers coupled with gloves may prove problematic in the depths of winter.

Gearing of both knobs was suitable for the task, the fine being very smooth and allowing the tiniest of focus adjustments. My own preference is for a single well-geared focus knob on a scope, a secondary ‘fine tune’ knob seemed to provoke more fiddling than necessary, time that could be better spent viewing the subject. I do know many birders who couldn’t live without their dual focussing systems, so it’s just a personal matter and I’m sure that it wouldn’t be long before this slight annoyance would be forgotten.

The Diascope has an amply proportioned sunshade that can be pulled out to give the objective lens protection from rain and sun. Atop this sunshade is an elongated sighting vee, allowing rapid and reliable subject acquisition with no parallax problems that are associated with small single foresights.

I tested the angled version of the Diascope 85, rotation of the body was a simple affair that only required a small lever switch to be operated to enable body rotation.
Another feature of the scope body was the ability to lay it on a flat surface, a rubber underside grip gave it a solid feel in this position, though the opportunities to use this feature in the field may be limited for the birder. Almost without saying, the scope is fully waterproof and Nitrogen filled.
The colour of the scope tested was a non-reflective satin silver/grey, though green is available.

Eyepieces tested with the 85FL were the 40x and 20-60x zoom, a 30x is also available along with an astronomical eyepiece adapter and SLR camera adapter. All the eyepieces feature the popular pull-up/twist eyecups,

The 40x eyepiece gave a very impressive image, field of view was as wide as most 30x eyepieces and the resolving power with optimum air conditions was class leading.

The 20-60x zoom eyepiece was no less impressive in the ability to resolve detail at higher magnifications and again it was class leading at beyond 40x. The field of view with this zoom is exceptional but there is a small visual penalty to pay when the zoom it at lower magnification, notably at 20x. This minor problem takes the form of distortion around the edge of the image, this does limit the useable field of view slightly at lower magnification but is not apparent at higher magnifications. At magnifications above 50x, the wider than average field of view becomes quite noticeable in comparison to other zooms on the market.
Depth of field wasn’t quite as impressive as the field of view, though still comparable with many scopes on the market.

Glass wearers were particularly impressed by the zoom eyepiece and the image it presented to them, a number commenting that it was the best image they had seen thorough a zoom eyepiece.

Having had over two months to use this scope in a variety of conditions, it’s quite clear that 85FL scope provides excellent viewing in almost every situation that the birder is likely to encounter. As would be expected of a scope with an 85mm objective lens, the image is brighter than that from any 80mm scope and also capable of resolving more detail

The image from the Zeiss Diascope was on the colder side of neutral, which makes a change from the numerous scopes providing a slightly yellow cast to the image. Chromatic aberration was all but non-existent during testing.
The ‘feel good’ factor of the image presented was high, but this would have been increased to the very highest levels if the extra brightness of the image hadn’t had an impact on the contrast, I felt that the contrast was slightly lacking in comparison to the very best scopes.

Though slight, the extra brightness that this scope gives can make a difference to what can be resolved in trying conditions. At the end of the day, literally, this could be a major factor in deciding if this is the scope for you.

Andy Bright
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