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Ultravid 7x42 vs FL 7x42

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Old Sunday 21st November 2004, 02:14   #1
Jonathan B.
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Ultravid 7x42 vs FL 7x42

I was able to compare these binoculars side-by-side today. A year ago I described my comparison of Ultravid (both 7x42 and 8x42) and Nikon SE 8x32, which I have owned for more than four years. The Ultravid 7x42 was the first roof-prism binocular I had tried that was brighter than the SE and matched it for resolution, contrast, and color fidelity (I think the 8x42 Ultravid is AS bright as the 8x32 SE, but not brighter). I bought the 7x42 at that time.

Today at the Festival of the Cranes, at Bosque del Apache NWR, I visited the Eagle Optics booth. The staffer working the booth kindly opened a factory-sealed box and lent me a virtually new 7x42 Zeiss FL, knowing that I only wanted to compare it to my Ultravid (which I bought from EO). She even let me leave the tent and take it outside. I am grateful to EO for the assistance and trust.

The FL was unlike some that have been described on this forum. The image was sharp almost to the edge; not quite as close to the edge as in Swarovski EL or Nikon SE, but sharp much closer to the edge than I had anticipated. The image was superbly sharp and contrasty, and color fidelity was exceptional. Brightness in deep shade was excellent.

None of those aspects of performance in the FL surpassed the Ultravid. In fact to my eyes the images in the two are so similar as to be indistinguishable. I was unable to get the FL to exhibit CA, but for that matter I was unable to get the Ultravid to do it while I was comparing them. The Ultravid exhibits very slight CA when viewing a bird against a backlit cloud. Those conditions did not exist at the time, so I could not say how the FL would perform under that difficult circumstance.

Viewing dark objects in shaded areas under the tent, both binoculars were identically bright. Making this comparison I stacked one binocular on top of the other so I could go back and forth between them rapidly. I tried several different subjects and in every case I could not discern a difference.

The Ultravid's field of view is technically 94% of that of the FL. In actual use I could not detect a practical difference. At all viewing distances they seemed to have nearly an identical field of view.

The FL focuses closer, and this might be useful for viewing insects. I have never been in a situation with either my Ultravid or SE in which I could not focus on a bird.

The ergonomics of the two are dramatically different. We all know that handling is a personal matter, so keep in mind that I speak only for myself when I say that the Ultravid wins hands down. I was disappointed by the FL's handling. The focusing wheel is positioned such that I had to grip the binocular with the fleshy part of my palm against the strap lug in order to focus, and at that point the body tapers in so sharply that the hand is flexed inward. The ribbed body does not fit the hand comfortably, while the Ultravid matches the hand solidly. In fact the ribbed part of the body can hardly be gripped at all by the hand that is used to focus. The FL's handling was downright awkward to me. This is all the more surprising because the ergonomics of the Zeiss Victory are very good--in fact they are similar to the Ultravid's.

The focusing wheel of the FL was stiff. My Ultravid's was not stiff when I bought it, but it was rough. With use it has become smooth. I assume the FL's focus will loosen with use, but just as was the case with my Ultravid when it was new, I had to focus the FL using two fingers. The gearing of the FL's focus is slightly higher than the Ultravid's. I prefer the slower focus of the Ultravid, but I could easily adjust to the faster focus in the 7x42 FL.

That is not the case with the 8x42 FL, which was also on display and which I handled. The focus in it was very fast, and because it does not have the depth of focus of the 7x42, I found myself struggling with it. I did not like it and could not grow accustomed to it. Others might find it wonderful.

I believe one or more contributors to the forum have preferred the ergonomics of the FL to the Ultravid's. So let me conclude by saying that if you want an optically superlative binocular, you will get it with either the FL or the Ultravid, but you need to handle them before making a choice.

EO was exhibiting the new, lighter Nikon LX/HG. Wow. This is another binocular with superb ergonomics, but I never liked the weight. Optically it is unchanged, but the difference in weight is dramatic. Except for CA, which in the Nikon exceeds the Ultravid, this is an optically remarkable bin. I had not handled one since the day I bought my SE, and I had forgotten how wonderful it was. If I were shopping for an 8x42, I would consider it alongside the FL and Ultravid.
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Old Sunday 21st November 2004, 06:57   #2
Atomic Chicken
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Greetings!

Thanks for the excellent review!


Quote:
EO was exhibiting the new, lighter Nikon LX/HG. Wow. This is another binocular with superb ergonomics, but I never liked the weight. Optically it is unchanged, but the difference in weight is dramatic.
I also was astonished by the light weight of the new Nikon HG series. When you read that it is 19% lighter than the old models, you think "that doesn't sound like much"... but handling it is something else entirely!! It's like a whole new binocular... it really does need to be felt to be believed.

Best wishes,
Bawko
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Old Sunday 21st November 2004, 12:16   #3
Pileatus
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jonathan B.
I was able to compare these binoculars side-by-side today. A year ago I described my comparison of Ultravid (both 7x42 and 8x42) and Nikon SE 8x32, which I have owned for more than four years. The Ultravid 7x42 was the first roof-prism binocular I had tried that was brighter than the SE and matched it for resolution, contrast, and color fidelity (I think the 8x42 Ultravid is AS bright as the 8x32 SE, but not brighter). I bought the 7x42 at that time.

Today at the Festival of the Cranes, at Bosque del Apache NWR, I visited the Eagle Optics booth. The staffer working the booth kindly opened a factory-sealed box and lent me a virtually new 7x42 Zeiss FL, knowing that I only wanted to compare it to my Ultravid (which I bought from EO). She even let me leave the tent and take it outside. I am grateful to EO for the assistance and trust.

The FL was unlike some that have been described on this forum. The image was sharp almost to the edge; not quite as close to the edge as in Swarovski EL or Nikon SE, but sharp much closer to the edge than I had anticipated. The image was superbly sharp and contrasty, and color fidelity was exceptional. Brightness in deep shade was excellent.

None of those aspects of performance in the FL surpassed the Ultravid. In fact to my eyes the images in the two are so similar as to be indistinguishable. I was unable to get the FL to exhibit CA, but for that matter I was unable to get the Ultravid to do it while I was comparing them. The Ultravid exhibits very slight CA when viewing a bird against a backlit cloud. Those conditions did not exist at the time, so I could not say how the FL would perform under that difficult circumstance.

Viewing dark objects in shaded areas under the tent, both binoculars were identically bright. Making this comparison I stacked one binocular on top of the other so I could go back and forth between them rapidly. I tried several different subjects and in every case I could not discern a difference.

The Ultravid's field of view is technically 94% of that of the FL. In actual use I could not detect a practical difference. At all viewing distances they seemed to have nearly an identical field of view.

The FL focuses closer, and this might be useful for viewing insects. I have never been in a situation with either my Ultravid or SE in which I could not focus on a bird.

The ergonomics of the two are dramatically different. We all know that handling is a personal matter, so keep in mind that I speak only for myself when I say that the Ultravid wins hands down. I was disappointed by the FL's handling. The focusing wheel is positioned such that I had to grip the binocular with the fleshy part of my palm against the strap lug in order to focus, and at that point the body tapers in so sharply that the hand is flexed inward. The ribbed body does not fit the hand comfortably, while the Ultravid matches the hand solidly. In fact the ribbed part of the body can hardly be gripped at all by the hand that is used to focus. The FL's handling was downright awkward to me. This is all the more surprising because the ergonomics of the Zeiss Victory are very good--in fact they are similar to the Ultravid's.

The focusing wheel of the FL was stiff. My Ultravid's was not stiff when I bought it, but it was rough. With use it has become smooth. I assume the FL's focus will loosen with use, but just as was the case with my Ultravid when it was new, I had to focus the FL using two fingers. The gearing of the FL's focus is slightly higher than the Ultravid's. I prefer the slower focus of the Ultravid, but I could easily adjust to the faster focus in the 7x42 FL.

That is not the case with the 8x42 FL, which was also on display and which I handled. The focus in it was very fast, and because it does not have the depth of focus of the 7x42, I found myself struggling with it. I did not like it and could not grow accustomed to it. Others might find it wonderful.

I believe one or more contributors to the forum have preferred the ergonomics of the FL to the Ultravid's. So let me conclude by saying that if you want an optically superlative binocular, you will get it with either the FL or the Ultravid, but you need to handle them before making a choice.

EO was exhibiting the new, lighter Nikon LX/HG. Wow. This is another binocular with superb ergonomics, but I never liked the weight. Optically it is unchanged, but the difference in weight is dramatic. Except for CA, which in the Nikon exceeds the Ultravid, this is an optically remarkable bin. I had not handled one since the day I bought my SE, and I had forgotten how wonderful it was. If I were shopping for an 8x42, I would consider it alongside the FL and Ultravid.
Jonathan,

That was an excellent and informative review that should be especially useful to folks interested in 7X bins. The more I'm in the forest, the more I realize the many benefits of a low power bin.

Thanks for your effort.

John
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Old Monday 22nd November 2004, 12:19   #4
Leif
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jonathan B.
I was able to compare these binoculars side-by-side today ...

... I was disappointed by the FL's handling. The focusing wheel is positioned such that I had to grip the binocular with the fleshy part of my palm against the strap lug in order to focus, and at that point the body tapers in so sharply that the hand is flexed inward. The ribbed body does not fit the hand comfortably, while the Ultravid matches the hand solidly. In fact the ribbed part of the body can hardly be gripped at all by the hand that is used to focus. The FL's handling was downright awkward to me. This is all the more surprising because the ergonomics of the Zeiss Victory are very good--in fact they are similar to the Ultravid's. ...
That's an informative post. You are quite right to recommend that anyone looking to buy a binocular should try them first. I tried the Ultravid a year ago and found them uncomfortable to hold (the focus wheel was in the wrong place for my hands) whereas I find the FL very comfortable. In my case I usually find most binoculars comfortable to hold, so I'm not sure why I did not like the Ultravid.

Regarding the focus, yes the FL focus is fast. Fortunately it is very smooth with no backlash (at least mine is) which means very subtle adjustments are easily made. It is something that I am coming to rather like, since I can easily lock on to a bird in flight, whereas with some binoculars that is not at all easy.
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Old Monday 22nd November 2004, 15:49   #5
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Jonathan, thanks for the excellent review. I agree with Leif about the fast focus of the FL, and I suspect many people who are suspicious of it at first would come to prefer it after a bit of practice. I wonder if many ergonomic preferences might be the result of conditioning from the pair of binoculars we have grown accustomed to using. A new "feel" or different requirements for hand movements will initially tend to seem unnatural.

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Old Monday 22nd November 2004, 17:51   #6
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I have small hands, and I find the FL to be very comfortable. When I looked at the Ultravid back in July, it was also comfortable and it fit my hands as well as my Eagle Optics bin. In other words, it provided a feel that was already familiar to me. But I'm thinking back to a comment someone made a few months ago about how they habitually hold their bin, which was different than my method, and I think such differences often account for different perceptions of handling and comfort. I generally like the fast focus of the FL, and I find that I can focus rapidly and accurately from near to far (yes, it happens sometimes). I can see that someone accustomed to another bin might find it really annoying.
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Old Tuesday 23rd November 2004, 02:41   #7
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Leif, Henry, and Curtis:

You all make good points. Leif, I remembered that you, specifically, had disliked the handling of the Ultravid, but this time I decided NOT to quote you.

As you all point out, the fast focus has its good points, and I did admit that I might get used to it in the 7x42. In the 8x FL it was just a bit too extreme for me. It reminded me of the fast focus in the Nikon 8x32 LX/HG, which I also dislike. I felt as though I was not sure if the image was focused and I tended to fiddle with it.

I now readily understand why people who like the ergonomics of the FL consider it the ultimate, much as I consider the Ultravid. They both truly represent a new generation of optical engineering.
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Old Tuesday 23rd November 2004, 09:56   #8
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A fast focus irritates me because my eyes no longer tolerate abrupt changes. I also find many fast focusers go in/out of sharp focus at the mere touch of a finger...something I don't like at all. Again, aging eyes could be a root or contributing cause. Both the SE and Ultravid, allow me to sharply focus on an object and then carefully fine-tune the focus for DOF, ultimate sharpness, etc., without losing any of the original quality. For me, fine focusing with a fast focuser requires the precision and dexterity of a neurosurgeon, and I'm not that good. I want to feel movement in the wheel before a change of focus appears and I like to maintain a high quality focus during adjustments.

One of the things we often fail to discuss is the age and condition of our eyes. We argue endlessly over optical characteristics, but fail to mention the most critical, and variable component: the human eye. Beauty is, after all, in the eye of the beholder.

John
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Old Tuesday 23rd November 2004, 15:30   #9
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I just turned 60, and I'm getting along well with the FL. But, John, I'll take your remark as a warning: maybe I'll be using an Ultravid in a few years.
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