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Zeiss Victory FL 7x42 vs Swarovski Habicht 7x42 initial comparison

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Old Friday 7th March 2014, 12:59   #1
mikeymo
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Zeiss Victory FL 7x42 vs Swarovski Habicht 7x42 initial comparison

This is a 'first impressions' comparison, not a long term test.

Me: 55 years old. Not experienced with binoculars or birding. But getting into it mainly because of imminent holiday in the Outer Hebrides. Where I feel I ought to exploit the opportunities there to explore nature and the landscape. I use glasses for reading only.

Previous binoculars are my dad's old Swift Supreme's, 8x40 (488 feet FOV!) which have just been serviced by Tony Kay. They're pretty good. But big, heavy and not waterproof.

I've been through a few things:

1. I got a pair of Vortex Raptor 8.5x32s. Which for the price (they were NOS or ex display or something) are excellent. I'll keep those as they're really light so great for hiking. And easier for my 12 year old daughter to carry.

2. I got a pair of Nikon Action EX 7x35s. Which I returned. Great value for money but the seller didn't include a Nikon Warranty card, even though they were supposed to be new. I might be another pair from a proper retailer anyway. As a pair of 'rough treatment' bins that you wouldn't worry too much about if they got stolen/dropped overboard/left on car roof when you drove off/whatever they're pretty good.

3. Opticron BGA SE 7x42s. See my other thread. Good optics, just couldn't get on with them. Even though they were on sale at a fantastic discount.

So now I've got a pair of Swarovski Habicht 7x42s (S/H but mint) and a pair of Zeiss Victory FL 7x42s, new.

Optics: Nothing in it. Both are very sharp, bright and neutral. The Habichts maybe a touch more colour neutral.

FOV: Yes, the Habichts are very narrow, the Victories very wide. Which seemed to mean that things which were starting to go out of focus at the edge the Habichts were in focus with the Victories. But that's not the main thing. The main thing is you'll catch things you wouldn't see with the Victories. They also 'feel' a bit more expansive. The Habichts end up feeling a bit like tunnel vision.

Handling: The Victories are a little heavier than the Habichts, and you can tell, just. The Habicths are beautiful in the hand. Beautiful full stop, in a traditional way. You'd like to pass them on to your grandchildren.

Focus: The focus wheel on the Victories is both bigger and a lot easier than the Habichts. It is also faster. Focussing on the Habichts is probably more accurate, potentially. Except that there is quite a bit of movement while you're actually trying to focus. Which makes it harder. Whereas the Victories stay still while you're focussing.

Eyecups: The Victories have large twist up eyecups. They seem to be fine. Although I've had a few blackouts, which I've never had with dad's old Swifts. But maybe just need to get used to them. The Habichts have tiny eyepieces, with fold down rubber cups. What this means is you are obliged to adopt a different grip to make these work. 3rd and 4th fingers on the prism housings. 2nd finger on the focus wheel, 1st finger across the oculars, thumbs at the side of the oculars and against your temples. Now, the first time I tried this (which is, supposedly the 'correct' way to hold binoculars) it seemed like a faff. But I'm getting used to it. And in some ways it might be better. You have a little more control, and you block side light. But it will always take a bit longer getting the bins up to your eyes.

Accessories: I really like the Habichts accessories. Which is practically nothing. No objective covers. A simple one piece rain guard and a thin leather strap. As a simple unit it works. The rain guard stays on top of the oculars, slides up the strap when you want to use them, back down when you've finished. You'd leave it on all the time. It's so small it isn't in the way. The Victories on the other hand has objective covers, which I suppose is OK, but the rain guard is one of the two-covers-joined-at-the-middle affairs. And the strap is the usual padded thing with 'ZEISS' emblazoned across it (pet hate, photographers who feel the need to tell the whole world they're using 'CANON' or 'NIKON' gear). The thing about the adjustable nylon straps is that you can't do the slide-the-rainguard-up-and-down thing that you can with the Habichts. Or at least only by a bit of adaption. This might seem like a little thing, but it makes the Habichts really nice to use, especially in a casual wandering about situation.

The case for the Habicths is a bit naff. Well made, but not really a travelling case. It's a pouch, as it's got no strap. The case for the Victories is the usual nylon thing with straps. But presumably if you've bought waterproof bins you're expecting to take them out 'naked'.

Conclusions:

1. At this level, the pure optical quality is a wash. The Habichts have it by a short nose, but that is offset by the loss of field of view.

2. At this level, again, usability is more important. Do the eyecups work for you? Do they handle the way you want?

All of which means that if you're buying unseen, you need a retailer with a good returns policy, AND you have to do a huge amount of research.
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Old Friday 7th March 2014, 13:24   #2
caruh
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Very nice. Looking forward to the next chapter. Thanks for sharing and I'm more than a little envious.........would love to have either and both is even better. Enjoy.
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Old Friday 7th March 2014, 13:35   #3
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Yes, sorry. A bit long winded. Just that it might help somebody who's thinking about buying either.

Just standing in my kitchen now looking at a pair of pigeons getting it on, what was very noticeable is how a pair of 30 (40?) year old Swift porros really weren't that far behind these modern new expensive things. At least in good light.
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Old Friday 7th March 2014, 14:06   #4
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Mikey

If you are having any trouble with the FL eyecups try them at intermediate settings instead of screwed all the way out. You may even find they will stay put in between the 'official' detents. I would try them screwed back down 1 stop from fully up and then if this doesn't sort the problem, back them out a bit at a time. Do make sure you have the IPD set right though as this can cause huge blackout issues that are easy to blame on the eyecups. FLs do not have a reputation for blackouts.

Your lovely Habichts are not really waterproof and any day in the Western Isles can start sunny but change quickly. Whereabouts are you going? We go every year and know North Uist pretty well.
Lee
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Old Friday 7th March 2014, 14:47   #5
caruh
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mikeymo......."looking forward to the next chapter" was no criticism......I am hoping you will continue to post about your experience with these two gems. They are both on my wish list and I hope you enjoy every minute with them.
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Old Friday 7th March 2014, 15:34   #6
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Thanks for the advice folks. I'm now very definitely at the - 'examined all the options, done my homework, bought some well made things, now just use them' stage. After all, you can faff about all your life trying to find the perfect gizmo. Sometimes you just have to use what you've got. At least binoculars are simple. Don't get me started on cameras!

Lee. We're off to Eriskay, which is the last thing off the bottom of South Uist. 3rd year running. My father was born and raised in South Uist. I love it out there. If I had my choice I'd just sell everything in England, buy a plot of land out there and build something. I'd be happy to die in the Outer Hebrides. I know what you mean about the weather. Good thing is if it rains it doesn't usually last. Swarovski claim the Habicht is waterproof. Not that I'm intending to immersed them, just that I won't make a fuss about them getting wet.
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Old Friday 7th March 2014, 18:06   #7
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Originally Posted by Troubador View Post
Your lovely Habichts are not really waterproof and any day in the Western Isles can start sunny but change quickly.
Swarovski makes it clear in their literature that the Habicht range *is* waterproof, and so far I haven't seen any reports at all of a Habicht leaking, neither here nor anywhere else.

What makes you think they aren't?

Hermann
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Old Friday 7th March 2014, 21:14   #8
stephen b
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...... After all, you can faff about all your life trying to find the perfect gizmo. Sometimes you just have to use what you've got.....
Loved this part of your quote! That could be the theme for what we often do here in the bino section of BF.

Was not exactly sure what the clear meaning of "faff" was- so had to look it up further.-

faff about/around

"› to spend your time doing a lot of things that are not important instead of the thing that you should be doing:

ex: "I wish you'd stop faffing about and do something useful!"



Yup- does seem to be what we often do here.
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Old Friday 7th March 2014, 21:18   #9
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And as far as the Habichts being waterproof- yes they are. I know my 8x30's have been through down pours and held up fine. I have not submersed them yet- and probably won't. What is the major point of that? Not really much to me. Unless I am going to be diving with them .
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Old Saturday 8th March 2014, 00:36   #10
ibramr
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And as far as the Habichts being waterproof- yes they are. I know my 8x30's have been through down pours and held up fine. I have not submersed them yet- and probably won't. What is the major point of that? Not really much to me. Unless I am going to be diving with them .
No need to go diving with them Stephen, just capsize with your canoe half a dozen times like I did in the past years to appreciate the waterproofing attributes of your binoculars.

In reference to Swarovski 8x30, I have heard excellent accounts of their characteristics--but I never used one. However, I own and use the FL 7x42 a lot and have found its stable platform, FoV, absence of CA, and its brightness extremely difficult to match. Yes, the Ultravid HD and the SLC (Neu) are very close (particularly the the Ultravid HD)--but in my opinion, in the realm of 7x42, they come second, and third, respectively. Mikeymo's comment that the Habicht 7x42 is optically better than the Zeiss FL makes me wonder how can this be? Love to see that--I will do my best to find an opportunity to test this model for sure. Enjoy in good health.
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Old Saturday 8th March 2014, 10:38   #11
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Mikeymo's comment that the Habicht 7x42 is optically better than the Zeiss FL makes me wonder how can this be?
It might not actually be. Except in my imagination! I read reviews which mentioned the colour neutrality of the Habichts, and the cool cast of the Victories. So maybe I thought I saw it. And my super detailed tests have been performed watching pigeons on my back lawn, through a double glazed window. Both bins are excellent optically. I think it would need a whole year of using both, side by side to actually be aware of any differences. By which time the differences in handling, usage features, build quality, warranty attitude, strap and case usability etc. etc. would have become far more important.

If somebody was in the position of choosing between them, the optical quality (not including FOV, focussing wheel etc.) would simply not be a consideration.

Worth pointing out that the already very high transmission of Habichts (95% IIRC) might be even higher on the 7x42 version (compared to 8x30 and 10x40) as the 7x42 has simpler eyepieces, just 3 elements, whereas the others have 6 elements, being WA. In fact I think I remember seeing, somewhere, 96% transmission quoted for the 7x42s.

Having said all that, it would make sense to me that Swarovski Habicht 7x42 binoculars may have achieved the highest possible optical quality possible, at this moment in time, if measured in laboratory conditions. But that quality advantage, compared to any other top quality bins, would be marginal. And not even recognisable. Of course I'm 55. I might as my 12 year old daughter, who has perfect vision, if she can spot a difference.
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Old Saturday 8th March 2014, 10:45   #12
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Another difference worth pointing out is the close focus of the Zeiss Victories, which is about 6 feet, whereas the Habichts is about 12 ish.
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Old Saturday 8th March 2014, 11:23   #13
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Swarovski makes it clear in their literature that the Habicht range *is* waterproof, and so far I haven't seen any reports at all of a Habicht leaking, neither here nor anywhere else.

What makes you think they aren't?

Hermann
Hi Hermann

When I first started visiting BF some years ago I remember reading some praise of the service from Swaro for replacing leaking seals on the Habichts at no charge.

Perhaps these were older models. Certainly the posts here seem to support the waterproofing.

It could also be that I am biased against porros in this respect as the Swift Audubons and Saratogas that me and my wife started out with in the early 1970s were always fogging up, leading me to mistrust the idea of waterproof porros.

My apologies to the wizards of Absam if I got this wrong.

Lee
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Old Saturday 8th March 2014, 11:31   #14
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Lee. We're off to Eriskay, which is the last thing off the bottom of South Uist. 3rd year running. My father was born and raised in South Uist. I love it out there. If I had my choice I'd just sell everything in England, buy a plot of land out there and build something. I'd be happy to die in the Outer Hebrides. I know what you mean about the weather. Good thing is if it rains it doesn't usually last. Swarovski claim the Habicht is waterproof. Not that I'm intending to immersed them, just that I won't make a fuss about them getting wet.
Mike
Eriskay and Barra are lovely as indeed are all the Western Isles and we share your love.

From where you are it is a short hop to Loch Eyenort on South Uist. If you take the south road to its end you can usually park in the 'turnaround only' space without hindering anybody. We have asked at the house there and they say its fine and even use the space to stack up crofting stuff. Walking and scrambling east from here gets you fine views in Loch Eyenort with bank nesting herons, sea eagles, loads of seals and great chances of otters.

BTW looks like I got it wrong about your Habichts not being waterproof so apologies for that .

We will be on North Uist in July and can't wait to get there.

Lee
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Old Saturday 8th March 2014, 12:18   #15
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Having said all that, it would make sense to me that Swarovski Habicht 7x42 binoculars may have achieved the highest possible optical quality possible, at this moment in time, if measured in laboratory conditions. But that quality advantage, compared to any other top quality bins, would be marginal. And not even recognisable.
One interesting fact is that it's easier to get porros just right in the manufacturing process. Roofs - despite all their advantages - have got three potential problems in the manufacturing process: The prisms have to be ground to truly exacting tolerances (down to about 1/1000 mm). Porro prisms don't and are thus far easier to manufacture in good quality. Also the phase coating has to be perfect, otherwise you'll see a loss of contrast and resolution. Problems with the dielectric coatings may lead to a loss of transmission, even though that shouldn't be a problem with the Victory due to their AK prisms. Add to that their higher complexity with internal focusing (where all sorts of things may go wrong), there's quite a lot that may not be quite perfect.

And that seems to happen even with the top manufacturers, as Henry's and Kimmo's tests show. Differences between the two barrels of a roof, for instance, aren't quite as rare as they should be, and they become obvious when you use a tripler like the Zeiss 3x12 Mono. Even good roofs sometimes show differences between the two barrels (I think Kimmo's Nikon 10x42 SE did), but it's much more common with roofs. Such problems may most of the time not even be visible in the field, but they are once you compare such roofs with an up-to-date, well-made porro.

Add to that that the Habicht has a very simple eyepiece and very high transmission, it may well have *slightly* better image quality than even a good sample of the Victory at about half the price. You pay for that by having a (very) narrow field of view, stiff focusing and some problems when using the bins with glasses.

I really wish Swarovski upgraded the 7x42 by making an 8x42 with a decent field of view. They'd only need to change the eyepieces for that. No need to change anything else, the prisms should be large enough for something like a 60 degree AFOV.

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Old Saturday 8th March 2014, 12:47   #16
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Add to that that the Habicht has a very simple eyepiece and very high transmission, it may well have *slightly* better image quality than even a good sample of the Victory at about half the price.
Actually, in this case it's 30% of the price!
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Old Saturday 8th March 2014, 15:49   #17
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And my super detailed tests have been performed watching pigeons on my back lawn, through a double glazed window.

....go outside - better yet, go birding for a few days and then let us know. I can't imagine a worse test than through a window.
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Old Saturday 8th March 2014, 16:41   #18
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[quote=james holdsworth;2944220

I can't imagine a worse test than through a window.[/QUOTE]

Yes you can James, its Dennis looking at DVD cases through a window

Lee
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Old Sunday 9th March 2014, 01:18   #19
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Chapter 2. 'Straps and rain guards'.

I like the idea of rain guards. Not just for rain but anything else obeying the laws of gravity. Whereas the objectives are facing down when you're carrying the bins, and are a lot more recessed too.

On the Habicht this is simple. A narrow leather strap. No adjustment at all. It places the eye pieces at sternum level. Which feels perfect for me. But might be a bit high for some people, especially women. Er, maybe? I can (just) get them over my head sideways if I want to wear them that way for walking. Which is how I wear/carry my camera, to stop it banging about on my chest.

Also, because it's just a narrow leather strap, it wraps around the centre hinge and takes up no space, great for packing in the case.

The rain guard is a one piece, with loops on both sides. It's relatively hard plastic, and the eyepieces are metal. So it goes over easily, and stays there. It also pulls off easily, one handed, slides up the strap easily, stays in place, then slides back down easily. Because the eyepieces are small, so is the rain guard, so when it's up it's not really in the way.

The Zeiss Victory is another story. Supplied with the usual nylon strap with padded neck bit. All adjustable with loop type thing. Or whatever you call that. I was wrong earlier. Of course you can loop the strap through both sides of the rain guard, so it slides up the strap, rather than hanging off to the side. But here's the thing, it doesn't do any of that anywhere as neatly and quickly and elegantly as the Habicht. On the Victory it's a rubbery rain guard and rubbery eyepieces. So it's a lot stickier to put on. Plus it's a two-pieces-joined-at-the-middle job. So it bends. So to put it back on is a bit more fiddly. Two hands really and each eyepiece has to be done separately. I'll probably be looking for a one piece rain guard soon.

Does it matter? Maybe not. But I like elegance (unlike this prose!). If you were out walking, with the Habichts, maybe dog on lead in one hand, you could quickly get the rain guard off, get them up, have a gander, put the rain guard back on with one hand. It just wouldn't be as neat with the Victorys.

A minor 'ease of use' difference. You know, like Macs and Windows.
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Old Sunday 9th March 2014, 12:42   #20
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@mikey and stephen…. I'm still rolling over the faffing statement and comment thereon… thanks for your perspective...
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Old Sunday 9th March 2014, 17:17   #21
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Chapter 3. Field testing.

Well actually, back garden testing. But at least I made the effort and walked out the door, rather than looking through the window.

Bright sunny day here in Yorkshire.

Sharpness still a dead heat, I would say.

Tried to find CA (tree branches against the sky, good test, yes?) couldn't see any with either bins.

I still think the Habicht's colours are a little more natural. But that just be in my mind, such as it is (my mind, that is). By the same token the Vikings seem a bit more vibrant. Kind of.

The sun was lowish. 2.30 in the afternoon GMT. So took the opportunity to test for loss of contrast. Stood at 90 degrees to the sun. Neither bins exhibited any loss of contrast. What they do though is let light in at the side of the eye. And it's annoying and distracting. So the 'grab the bins around the eyepiece' technique which you are practically forced to adopt with the Habichts becomes essential, and is also useful with the Victorys. But more awkward with the Victorys because of the placement of the strap lugs.

Then tried looking at my neighbours house wall with the sun just out of sight above. In other words I was almost pointing at the sun, but not quite. Both bins I think had a slight loss of contrast, but not severe. Still perfectly acceptable in that regard. But the Habichts did get a bit flary. If that's a word. Thing about the Habichts is they are a bit more involving in the way you hold them. I think there is more 'technique' involved in using them. As I experimented a could make the flaring go away. And you'd have to be a bit foolish to be looking straight at something with the sun only a degree or two out of vision.

The Habichts might take more work to get used to them. That's not really a problem. We all learn to use tools. I'm a professional musician, the idea of practicing to acquire a physical skill isn't a foreign to me. In the end they might actually be the more satisfying and elegant binoculars. Time will tell.
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