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Monocular - 8x20 or 5x15?

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Old Wednesday 1st May 2019, 12:01   #1
Al Downie
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Monocular - 8x20 or 5x15?

Hi all,

If you could only choose one, and cost wasn't an issue, would you choose the Monovid 8x20 or the Nikon 5x15 HG?

I have a little pair of Trinovid 8x20s which I like for travelling and non-birding days out, but (obviously) they always seem a bit 'meh' when you're used to using 8x42.

For work trips, conferences etc, I'd like to get a small monocular that'll fit in a pocket, and I've pretty-much narrowed the choice down to the two models above. I know the monovid's image will be brilliantly sharp, but I'm guessing the 5x15 will have a wider and brighter field, and will be less prone to shake.

If you have experience with either or both of these, I'd be grateful for your advice!

Thanks,

Al
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Old Wednesday 1st May 2019, 14:28   #2
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I have had many different monoculars including the Nikon 5x15 and 7x15 and many 8x20's and 8x42's also. I like the 7x15 format in a monocular the best because it gives you a enough magnification versus a 5x which is a little weak for most uses like birding and opera but it gives you better DOF and all the other advantages of 7x like a bigger FOV and you can hold it steadier than an 8x20. A monocular is harder to hold steady than a binocular where you have both hands gripping it. That being said if have never had a monocular you are probably going to be dissappointed in the view versus a binocular because the binocular has the big advantage in that you are using both your eyes which becomes even more of an advantage when you are talking about sub 20mm apertures which don't collect a lot of light anyway and it helps to have TWO eyes to receive the light you do have and the stereo vision of a binocular can not be underestimated when trying to perceive objects at a distance. You just don't get the DOF with a monocular you do with a binocular. That being said I know the advantage of a monocular is the small size and weight. You can throw them in your pocket when you walk the dog and hike and you don't even feel them there. Here is a very SMALL binocular I have found which rivals a monocular for size and weight yet has all the advantages of a binocular when it comes to the view. It is the Nikon 7x15 Reverse Porro Anniversary Special. It is a reproduction of the first binocular Nikon made in 1920 but it has been updated with modern coatings and modern construction techniques. It is 4.2"x 1.8" and it weighs 4.8 oz. versus the Leica Monovid monocular which is 3.9" x 1.4" and weighs 4 oz. It is much smaller and lighter than even the Leica Ultravid 8x20 compact binocular which I have also. So you can see it is not much bigger than a monocular but the view is MUCH better with a 367 foot FOV versus 331 foot FOV for the Monovid and it is a binocular. I have one and it is very impressive and can be used anywhere you need a very compact binocular including birding, opera, traveling or just to carry with you when you walk the dog. They are like "Baby E2"s". Here is a link for it at Adorama with the specifications on it. They sell for around $379.00.

https://www.adorama.com/nk715se.html
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Old Wednesday 1st May 2019, 14:51   #3
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Just mind the 10 mm eye relief of the Nikon 7x15.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Al Downie View Post
...I have a little pair of Trinovid 8x20s which I like for travelling and non-birding days out, but (obviously) they always seem a bit 'meh' when you're used to using 8x42...
Rather than getting another (though smaller) mediocre bin or monocular, perhaps you should consider an upgrade to same size or slightly larger but better optics, such as the Leica 8x20 Ultravid BL or Zeiss 8x25 Victory Pocket. I find that what I'm willing to carry is partly governed by the ratio of hassle to viewing quality. So I'm happier to pack and carry my Zeiss 8x25 Victory than I would be to carry the Leica Monovid or the Nikon 7x15.

--AP

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Old Wednesday 1st May 2019, 15:47   #4
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Beecher Mirage binoculars weigh perhaps 3 ounces.
Mirror prisms.
Various magnifications up to 8x.
Also available as monocular.
Wide fields.

Also near focus versions.

I haven't tried one, but would be interested to see how they perform.
Not the Galilean version.
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Old Wednesday 1st May 2019, 16:20   #5
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Originally Posted by Al Downie View Post
Hi all,

If you could only choose one, and cost wasn't an issue, would you choose the Monovid 8x20 or the Nikon 5x15 HG?

I have a little pair of Trinovid 8x20s which I like for travelling and non-birding days out, but (obviously) they always seem a bit 'meh' when you're used to using 8x42.

For work trips, conferences etc, I'd like to get a small monocular that'll fit in a pocket, and I've pretty-much narrowed the choice down to the two models above. I know the monovid's image will be brilliantly sharp, but I'm guessing the 5x15 will have a wider and brighter field, and will be less prone to shake.

If you have experience with either or both of these, I'd be grateful for your advice!

Thanks,

Al
I have the curious "Nikon 6x15 Monocular II", and a pair of Leica Ultravid 8x20s.

The view through the Nikon monocular is impressively clear, but the magnification is underwhelming. Conversely, when I look down just one barrel of the 8x20 Ultravids, that makes me very tempted to get a Monovid.

So of the two monoculars you mention, I'd be far more tempted by the Monovid.

I think the 5x magnification of the Nikon would always leave me wanting more. Another thing to consider might be waterproofing, depending on how you expect to use it. That might be another reason to go for the Monovid.
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Old Wednesday 1st May 2019, 17:09   #6
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The trouble with the Beecher's is you wear them like glasses so the frame is going to make them bigger and less pocketable than a monocular or Nikon 7x15. Also, I think people would be more tolerant of them in the UK but over here in the states I wouldn't want to wear them to a football game especially a Raider's game or Rolling Stone's concert and then have to listen to the quiet giggles behind my back. The Leica 8x20 Ultravid BL or Zeiss 8x25 Victory Pocket are just in a different size category IMO than a monocular or the 7x15 Nikon binocular.
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Old Wednesday 1st May 2019, 17:55   #7
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I have the Leica Monovid, both the 5x15 and 7x15 Nikon High Grade, the 8x20 Trinovid and Ultravid binoculars, the 8x25 Zeiss Victory Pocket, the 7x15 Nikon miniature reverse porro binoculars, and a Minox 8x25 Macroscope to round them up.

What I use for Everyday Carry is the Zeiss 8x25. The views are so outstanding I sold my old Leica Ultravid HD 8x32 when I got them, and they are in no way "meh" even when compared to alpha 8x42s. I wear glasses, however, some people who don't find the eyecups not ideal.

If you don't have room for them, I would recommend the Nikon 5x15 HG. It's tiny, covers a full distance range without having to screw in a close-up lens like the Monovid, and is less finicky about eye placement than the 7x15 HG, and you are right about shake, monoculars are harder to hold steady. It's not a huge difference, though, I'm perfectly happy to pack the 7x15 HG when I need to keep to the minimum, as in the rare hot days in San Francisco where wearing a jacket is not possible.

On the other hand, the Monovid or Macroscope can do dual duty as a stand-off loupe if you have need of that extreme close range (but the macroscope is nearly as big as a pair of binoculars).

As for Dennis' Nikon 7x15 CF M, they are remarkably given their size, even with glasses on. The focuser is very stiff, however, and they're not that comfortable to hold for extended periods of time.

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Old Wednesday 1st May 2019, 18:58   #8
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I agree that in the beginning the focuser on the Nikon 7x15 binoculars was a little stiff but with time it get's better and being a 7x and having that great DOF you have don't really have to focus that much. Any binocular as SMALL as the 7x15 Nikon is not going to be as comfortable to hold. That is the price you pay for extreme smallness. There were some positive comments on the Zeiss 8x25 and I recently compared it to the Swarovski 8x25 CL-P and the Leica Ultravid 8x20 so I thought I would give my take on it. Alexis, you probably won't like what I say so read no further. First of all I don't wear glasses. I liked the big FOV on the Zeiss but since I don't wear glasses I found the eye cups way too short on the Zeiss for the eye relief. I mean I can cup my hands around them and support them on my forehead to get proper eye relief but the Swarovski's even though both had about the same diameter and length eye cups didn't require me to hold them as far away as the Zeiss. I don't know why either. I think the Swarovski's eye relief is less than stated. With the Swarovski I can almost touch my eye sockets and still not get blackouts so in that way they are more comfortable than the Zeiss. Yes, the Zeiss has the biggest FOV but the sweetspot is not as big as the Swarovski so the Swarovski has a higher % of the FOV that is sharp and the edges on the Swarovski are tack sharp and the Zeiss which is typical of Zeiss are not. They are softer. I notice it in my peripheral vision too. So even though the Zeiss has a bigger FOV the Swarovski makes up for it with an overall sharper FOV which is typical of Swarovski. My preference is for the double hinge design also because it folds smaller and is more pocketable IMO. I don't have a problem opening it up. Because of these reason's I kept the Swarovski. The Leica Ultravid 8x20 BCR is surprisingly good and I would say it is very close to either the bigger Swarovski or Zeiss optically and it has those nice saturated colors that is Leica is known for. The Ultravid is amazingly good for it's small size. The eye cup length to eye relief ratio is in between the two bigger glasses so I have to cup my hands around it to avoid blackouts but it is not as bad as the Zeiss. Because of it's smaller aperture it is a little fussier for eye placement than the other two. But that is really the only difference. But it is stll is one of the best smaller compacts around if not the best 8x20.

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Old Wednesday 1st May 2019, 20:08   #9
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Yes, the Zeiss has the biggest FOV but the sweetspot is not as big as the Swarovski so the Swarovski has a higher % of the FOV that is sharp and the edges on the Swarovski are tack sharp and the Zeiss which is typical of Zeiss are not. They are softer. I notice it in my peripheral vision too. So even though the Zeiss has a bigger FOV the Swarovski makes up for it with an overall sharper FOV which is typical of Swarovski.
Are you sure its not just curvature of field youre seeing? Its fairly pronounced on the Victory Pockets.
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Old Wednesday 1st May 2019, 20:44   #10
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Are you sure it’s not just curvature of field you’re seeing? It’s fairly pronounced on the Victory Pockets.
I am not sure what the name for it is but the edges are soft compared to the Swarovski and the area of the FOV that is in sharp focus or sweet spot is smaller. Both the Swarovski CL-P 8x25 and Zeiss Victory 8x25 are sharp on-axis but as you look out to the edge of the FOV the Zeiss get's softer than the Swarovski and when I look at the edge on the Swarovski it is a sharp, whereas, the Zeiss is softer. The Swarovski's field appears flatter to me also which I prefer. I like flat field binoculars with sharp edges and RB doesn't bother me in the least. That is why I usually like Swarovski's.

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Old Wednesday 1st May 2019, 22:50   #11
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...Alexis, you probably won't like what I say so read no further....
Ha! I only have a problem with what people say when they are lying. I've no problem with reporting honest opinions and honest efforts to convey observations.

The edges of the Zeiss 8x25 Victory soften mainly due to field curvature rather than astigmatism. I find the drop-off gentle, like on the Leica 8x32 BA/BN/Ultravid, but as one who appreciates flat and astigmatism-free views, I'd love for Zeiss to give the next iteration of these a flatter field. Still, I haven't been drawn to the Swarovski 8x25 because it is a substantially heavier bin, has narrow FOV, doesn't perform as well as the Zeiss in tricky light, has poor finger access to the focus knob, doesn't allow for a wrap-around grip, and early samples were plagued by loose hinges. The Zeiss 8x25 is the largest bin that I accept as a tiny bin. It packs into the same space as my Leica 8x20 Ultravid when the latter is within its leather clamshell.

--AP
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Old Wednesday 1st May 2019, 23:25   #12
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I did appreciate the lighter weight of the Zeiss even 2 oz. makes a difference when you are talking binoculars this small. The focus wheel of the Swarovski doesn't bother me but I can see how the bigger focus wheel of the Zeiss would be better when wearing gloves. The tricky light issue I didn't really notice and I didn't have a problem with a wrap around grip on either one. I use the wraparound grip and rest my hands on my forehead to adjust for eye relief on the compacts because their eye cups are so small. As I said I did like the bigger FOV of the Zeiss but the flatter field and sharper edges of the Swarovski made up for it. Soft edges REALLY bother me because I can see them and I know it is not a defect but IMO it takes away from the optical perfection of the binocular. I had no problem with loose hinges on the Swarovski. The REAL deal killer with the Zeiss for me not wearing glasses was the large distance I had to hold them from my eyes to avoid blackouts. For me the Swarovski are more comfortable because you don't have to hold them as far away from you eyes.. What is kind of funny is the little Leica Ultravid 8x20 BCR which is much smaller than either the Zeiss or Swarovski is really about as good as either except for a little more fussiness with eye placement due to the smaller exit pupil. The little Leica Ultravid is really good with the excellent Leica saturated colors. If you want something REALLY small that will make your Zeiss seem like a pig you should try the Nikon 7x15 reverse porro binocular. It will shock you how good it is! I think for a compact the 7x15 format is actually better than 8x20 with better DOF and you can hold it steadier. You can carry the 7x15 ALL the time. Walking the dog, the store, golfing, fishing the list is endless.

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Old Thursday 2nd May 2019, 00:21   #13
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Yes, I like the Ultravid a lot and have used it for many years, but I find the Zeiss _much_ better. The 7x15 doesn't work for me because of poor eye relief for glasses.

--AP
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Old Thursday 2nd May 2019, 02:08   #14
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The Zeiss has easier eye placement with the bigger exit pupil for sure than the smaller Leica. Really these 8x25's are kind of pushing what I would call a compact but they could be used as a full time birding binocular as you have said. They are quite comfortable and the view for their diminutive size is amazing. I didn't like compacts for a long time but now I have accepted their shortcomings which are few because of their wonderful small size and weight. After you use one for awhile and you go back to even a smaller 32mm you suddenly notice this greater weight around your neck. Even the 8x20 Leica Ultravid and the 7x15 Nikon Porro give you great views and could be used for birding if you wanted to travel light. I consider the 8x25's just a small birding binocular not a compact. Your right the 10mm eye relief of the Nikon would not work with glasses.
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Old Thursday 2nd May 2019, 06:33   #15
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The only monocular I've ever had and still have is the Nikon 5x15 HG.
I went through the same decision process as most do and that's what I decided on.

Pros:
Small
Light
Good optics
Wide field
Deep depth of field reduces focusing

Cons:
Helical focuser requires two hands
Supposedly not waterproof
Only 5x

I used it a lot walking my dog in the neighborhood as I wanted something to ID a bird when necessary but didn't want to draw attention to myself by having binoculars.
The little HG fits in a tee shirt pocket no problem. BTW, this had gotten wet numerous times from rain and never an issue.

Though I don't use it much these days, I never wanted for more because "more" entailed a larger, heavier optic that is harder to hold still.
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Old Thursday 2nd May 2019, 07:44   #16
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I am not sure what the name for it is but the edges are soft compared to the Swarovski and the area of the FOV that is in sharp focus or sweet spot is smaller.
It's easy enough to test: just refocus so the edges are in focus rather than the center. If the edges are sharp, it's caused by curvature.
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Old Thursday 2nd May 2019, 13:20   #17
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It's easy enough to test: just refocus so the edges are in focus rather than the center. If the edges are sharp, it's caused by curvature.
Thanks, for that. It was field curvature then because I could focus it out. Also, Alexis says it is so we probably nailed it. It is not bad in the Zeiss. It is just the Swarovski is sharper at the edge. A lot of people don't look at the edge but I do and I notice it even when I am looking on axis.

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Old Thursday 2nd May 2019, 15:09   #18
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Dennis,
Thanks for the nice photo of the Beecher.

Also your review of the Zeiss 8x25 is most useful. I don't use glasses and many modern binoculars are very poor for me because of excessive eye relief.
At least I can cross the Zeiss 8x25 off my list of desirable binoculars.
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Old Friday 3rd May 2019, 00:22   #19
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Dennis,
Thanks for the nice photo of the Beecher.

Also your review of the Zeiss 8x25 is most useful. I don't use glasses and many modern binoculars are very poor for me because of excessive eye relief.
At least I can cross the Zeiss 8x25 off my list of desirable binoculars.
Non spectacles wearer here and love the Victory 8x25. It's the compact that I'd have at the top of the list not crossed off.
Good to have choices.
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Old Friday 3rd May 2019, 04:54   #20
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Non spectacles wearer here and love the Victory 8x25. It's the compact that I'd have at the top of the list not crossed off.
Good to have choices.
It is all in your facial structure and how deep your eye sockets are and how big of a diameter they are which will determine how deeply the eye cups can be inserted into your eye sockets. My eye sockets are shallow and big in diameter so I have problems with binoculars like the Zeiss 8x25 which have excessive eye relief for me. If Binastro has problems he probably has shallow eye sockets also. If you have shallow eye sockets the Swarovski 8x25 CL-P will work better for you than the Zeiss Victory 8x25 because you can hold it closer to your face without getting blackouts.

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Old Friday 3rd May 2019, 05:36   #21
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The focuser of the Nikon 7x15 binocular is much easier than a Swarovski Habicht 8x30 W even in the beginning. To me the tension is about like a Nikon EII. The reason it is relatively tight is it moves the objective lens to focus. I believe a Nikon EII focuses in the same way. These tiny Nikon 7x15's are a lot like the Nikon EII's in many ways. They almost look like a baby version of them.

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Old Friday 3rd May 2019, 06:53   #22
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It is all in your facial structure and how deep your eye sockets are and how big of a diameter they are which will determine how deeply the eye cups can be inserted into your eye sockets. My eye sockets are shallow and big in diameter so I have problems with binoculars like the Zeiss 8x25 which have excessive eye relief for me. If Binastro has problems he probably has shallow eye sockets also. If you have shallow eye sockets the Swarovski 8x25 CL-P will work better for you than the Zeiss Victory 8x25 because you can hold it closer to your face without getting blackouts.

Valid points but I would also add how you position the eye cups on your brow.
I also find excessive eye relief can be an issue as a non spectacle wearer so with the majority of my binoculars I adopt suitable positioning rather than just pressing the eye cups directly into my eye sockets.
Regarding the Victory I don't have to even think about it, I just place them as you do and view away. I don't think my particular facial structure is more suitable than another, I just make them work and that they do extremely well.
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Old Friday 3rd May 2019, 14:03   #23
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Valid points but I would also add how you position the eye cups on your brow.
I also find excessive eye relief can be an issue as a non spectacle wearer so with the majority of my binoculars I adopt suitable positioning rather than just pressing the eye cups directly into my eye sockets.
Regarding the Victory I don't have to even think about it, I just place them as you do and view away. I don't think my particular facial structure is more suitable than another, I just make them work and that they do extremely well.
I don't use the brow method because it puts the binocular at an angle which I don't like especially with binoculars like the Zeiss 8x25 that have way too much eye relief. I cup my hands around the oculars of the binoculars and then use my hands against my forehead to adjust the eye relief distance to my eyes so I don't get any blackouts. I COULD use the Zeiss 8x25's in this way but I find the Swarovski's still to be more comfortable because I don't need to keep them as FAR away from my face as the Zeiss. The Zeiss have some of the most excessive eye relief in relation to the eye cup length of any binoculars I have tried even the Leica Ultravid 8x20 BCR is quite a bit better. Most compacts are this way because their eye cups are small in diameter also which causes them to have a tendency to go too far into your eye sockets. I also prefer the sharper edges of the Swarovski and flatter field even though the FOV is smaller. I don't care for a lot of field curvature but that is iust personal preference.

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Old Friday 3rd May 2019, 18:40   #24
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I have the Nikon HG 5x15 and use it about as much as all my binoculars combined. It is around my neck almost all the time, tucked into a shirt pocket.

Love it but would never use it for birding. This is the only optic I use with my glasses on. This thing has great eye relief no problem seeing the entire fov and then some. Sharp, bright, easy to use and hold steady. And 9.

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Old Friday 3rd May 2019, 21:53   #25
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I don't use the brow method because it puts the binocular at an angle which I don't like especially with binoculars like the Zeiss 8x25 that have way too much eye relief. I cup my hands around the oculars of the binoculars and then use my hands against my forehead to adjust the eye relief distance to my eyes so I don't get any blackouts. I COULD use the Zeiss 8x25's in this way but I find the Swarovski's still to be more comfortable because I don't need to keep them as FAR away from my face as the Zeiss. The Zeiss have some of the most excessive eye relief in relation to the eye cup length of any binoculars I have tried even the Leica Ultravid 8x20 BCR is quite a bit better. Most compacts are this way because their eye cups are small in diameter also which causes them to have a tendency to go too far into your eye sockets. I also prefer the sharper edges of the Swarovski and flatter field even though the FOV is smaller. I don't care for a lot of field curvature but that is iust personal preference.
Just to clarify, I don't need to make compromises to use the Zeiss like looking through at an angle or cupping my hands to extend the eye cups etc. I also don't have deep set eye's and from your description perhaps mine are similar to yours? Well my eyes feel pretty level with my eyebrows anyway.
What I'm trying to say is that I get an easy, comfortable view with no fuss or black outs.
I owned the Ultravid 8x20 briefly, didn't like them.
Just goes to show how differently we all operate.
I can agree on the narrow eye sockets but they're compact binoculars which goes with the territory. One can always pad them out or use winged eye cups etc.
I don't tend to peer into the edges or look into a binocular at angles so the Zeiss are perfectly fine in that regard also, I would say they're quite sharp.
In my search for the perfect compact, which I believe I've found, I wanted to go as compact as possible and had even contemplated a Nikon or Leica monocular (both would be great within their limitations).
Starting small with the UV 8x20 I realised there was too much of a trade off for having such a compact size. With the Victory 8x25 I gained a bit of size and weight but importantly gained far superior handling, ease of view and have something I'm happy to take anywhere without feeling compromised as I can happily bird watch all day with these things.
When looking to go compact whether monocular or binocular it's important to acknowledge what trade offs you're willing to make, with the Zeiss' quality view and handling I feel I'm making little to no compromises however if you are restricted to or simply don't want to carry anything larger than a monocular then its compromises are better than having an empty pocket.

Last edited by F88 : Friday 3rd May 2019 at 21:56.
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