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Zeiss 10x56 Night Owl - WOW!!!

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Old Monday 13th August 2007, 22:43   #1
angelo225544
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Zeiss 10x56 Night Owl - WOW!!!

Years ago I owned and loved my Zeiss 7x45 Night Owls, but it was very difficult to justify their size and weight as optically nearly-equal, but much lighter alternatives were introduced - so I sold them. I have wondered ever since, why every pair of Zeiss Victory and Victory FL binocular has left me so unmoved (either optically or mechanically). Was it possible that the Night Owls had some magical image/build quality that Zeiss has simply been unable to recapture (as with the 7x42B/GAT)? Well, I just came across a beautifully maintained Zeiss 10x56 Night Owl, and using them has been quite a revelation. First, they are big and heavy - more so than the newer 10x56 FL's. But the image quality - WOW!!! They are sharp (especially in the center - a Zeiss signature) and bright beyond compare (Abbe-Konig prisms). The image sparkles in the same way that the 7x42 B/GAT image sparkled (and the 7x42 FL). Now, the weight is understandably a deal breaker unless, like me, you have a masochistic streak when it comes to superior optics. But, the primary reason for their heft is that this is the last pair of binoculars Zeiss made using "environmentally unfriendly" leaded Schott glasss. This glass was developed and perfected over a 100 year period, and perhaps this explains something. By moving away from leaded glass (and very thick elements at that), Zeiss had to re-invent similar (or superior) performing optical glass - which they clearly have with the FL. Everything that came between the Night Owl and the FL though, had unacceptable levels of chromatic abberation (especially the 10x Victories, which could double as a kaleidoscope!) and flare. I'm not sure if the proliferation of flare was an optical flaw or had more to do with poorly designed housings - but the original Victories were the worst "flare-performers" I have ever used. So, perhaps the new 10x56 FL (which I have not yet tried, but seems to get high praise for brightness and overall performance) have done little more than restore the superior optical qualities that Zeiss had created 13 years ago (negligible chromatic abberation and flare combined with extraordinary brightness and color rendition). And while I'm sure Zeiss has shaved a few ounces off the weight, the FL simply does not (for my money) exude the "cost-no-object" subjective feel of this 13 year old Night Owl - even though both have housings made of glass-fiber reinforced plastic.
I just wanted to pass along some of my observations - FWIW - and I would appreciate comments by any of the more learned optical experts who grace us with their presence in this forum.

Last edited by angelo225544 : Tuesday 14th August 2007 at 01:11.
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Old Wednesday 15th August 2007, 13:57   #2
hinnark
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Hi Angelo,

I agree, the Zeiss Nightowls are very good binoculars, offering very sharp and contrasty views. I also agree that those perform better than their successor Victory I series. Your assumption with the old glass as the cause for superiority, Im afraid no expert without insider knowledge could assess but I can easily imagine that this plays a role in fact.

Steve
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Old Wednesday 15th August 2007, 14:01   #3
Alexis Powell
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I feel much the same about the Night Owls in comparison to earlier and later Zeiss efforts. Furthermore, I don't recall _any_ reviews that contained complaints about their optics or build quality (in stark contrast to everything made by Zeiss since). The biggest complaint was with the weight, and it was for that reason that the 7x45 Night Owl was not considered a viable upgrade (waterproof, and perhaps slightly better optics, esp. edge performance) to the 7x42 Classic for birding. Another complaint was that the focus was harder to operate when wet and with gloves.

As for bearing the weight of the 10x56 Night Owl, there are some who manage. Once, while birding in the forest south of the Grand Canyon, I encountered a ~50 year-old German man with the 10x56 Night Owl around his neck, hanging from the original Zeiss supplied pencil-thin neck strap, and complete with rain guard. His neck must have been made of iron.

--AP
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Old Tuesday 11th March 2008, 21:36   #4
J.S.D.
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hi angelo, i have the 10x56 night owl, and it is simply stunning !
this pair was produced in 1995 ! i have a pair of 10x40b leatherette dialyt`s
that i use in the field as they weigh 680 grms only ! they were produced in
19 72 and are in excellent condition ! i do not like the construction that is
used on the modern zeiss bins ! hope this helps.. J.S.D.
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Old Monday 17th March 2008, 22:44   #5
nyatt
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I got a set of these recently, and decided to wait until I had some time carrying them before writing about them. They are amazing! The clarity, brightness, and low light resolution are astounding. They do not have the edge-to-edge sharpness of my Nikon 8x32se's, but then again, what else does?! And they ARE impressively heavy. All who have looked through them have similar impressions: "Incredible" and "wow, are they heavy!". I love 'em!
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Old Thursday 26th June 2008, 04:46   #6
angelo225544
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I'm happy to report that I am once again the proud owner of a Zeiss 7x45 Night Owl. This time, I will never part with them! The 8.6 degree FOV, incredible high contrast image and those wonderful wrap-around eyecups are an addictive combination. They are still heavy enough to remind me why Zeiss felt market pressure to replace them. I can also report that the new Zeiss 7x42 FL provides an equally bright and contrasty view, but without those wrap-around eyecups I so like. Comparing the FL to the Night Owl was quite revealing. As nice as it is to have virtually no chromatic aberration in the FL, it still has Zeiss' signature sofness away from the center of the image, so overall image quality is not improved. Between the weight, and perfect balance (when held correctly), I can see as much detail as with any hand-held 10x I've compared them to. Between the Night Owl and the Victory FL, came the original Zeiss Victory line. It had poor flare control, low contrast and excessive CA. I have always suspected that perhaps Zeiss abandoned leaded glass before they had found a suitable replacement - which turned out to be their new FL glass. This is just speculation, but may help explain the giant optical backward step that was the original Victory binocular. A shame too, because the Victory 8x40, with the strap lugs removed, is THE most comfortable binocular I have ever held - perfect size and weight, smooth yet grippy surface, smooth and perfectly placed focus wheel - and no thumb grooves. Zeiss is the least conservative of the Big 3, so it is no surprise that they have produced both some of the most sublime, and ridiculous binoculars in the last 20 years.

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Old Friday 19th September 2008, 19:00   #7
Pigeonhawk
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I still use my 7x45 Night Owl's all the time. They are fantastic. They are heavy.
If I ever felll off a mountian, I'm pretty sure I could use them in a self-arresting stop.
I also bought them when I was living in the Bronx, so if anyone ever bothered me, I could bludgeon them to death with the Night Owls, wash the blood off, and continue birding...
Truthfully though, they have held up great; there is some slight chromatic aberration along the bottom edges of the FOV, but the depth of field and wide FOV make woodland birding a treat.
-Keith
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Old Wednesday 31st December 2008, 17:34   #8
Marys1000
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Well they sound wonderful for homebody's lucky enough to have a patch of habitat that regularly needs watching, either close by regularly frequented short trails or their own acreage. I have my "really good" bin's for "real" trips to birding places, my car bins and my house bins. Should I ever have that patch where I had a few acres with a trail and some "home" birds especially requiring low light - like owls or flying squirrels - then they would be worth the money.
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Old Sunday 17th October 2010, 00:37   #9
NDhunter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by angelo225544 View Post
Years ago I owned and loved my Zeiss 7x45 Night Owls, but it was very difficult to justify their size and weight as optically nearly-equal, but much lighter alternatives were introduced - so I sold them. I have wondered ever since, why every pair of Zeiss Victory and Victory FL binocular has left me so unmoved (either optically or mechanically). Was it possible that the Night Owls had some magical image/build quality that Zeiss has simply been unable to recapture (as with the 7x42B/GAT)? Well, I just came across a beautifully maintained Zeiss 10x56 Night Owl, and using them has been quite a revelation. First, they are big and heavy - more so than the newer 10x56 FL's. But the image quality - WOW!!! They are sharp (especially in the center - a Zeiss signature) and bright beyond compare (Abbe-Konig prisms). The image sparkles in the same way that the 7x42 B/GAT image sparkled (and the 7x42 FL). Now, the weight is understandably a deal breaker unless, like me, you have a masochistic streak when it comes to superior optics. But, the primary reason for their heft is that this is the last pair of binoculars Zeiss made using "environmentally unfriendly" leaded Schott glasss. This glass was developed and perfected over a 100 year period, and perhaps this explains something. By moving away from leaded glass (and very thick elements at that), Zeiss had to re-invent similar (or superior) performing optical glass - which they clearly have with the FL. Everything that came between the Night Owl and the FL though, had unacceptable levels of chromatic abberation (especially the 10x Victories, which could double as a kaleidoscope!) and flare. I'm not sure if the proliferation of flare was an optical flaw or had more to do with poorly designed housings - but the original Victories were the worst "flare-performers" I have ever used. So, perhaps the new 10x56 FL (which I have not yet tried, but seems to get high praise for brightness and overall performance) have done little more than restore the superior optical qualities that Zeiss had created 13 years ago (negligible chromatic abberation and flare combined with extraordinary brightness and color rendition). And while I'm sure Zeiss has shaved a few ounces off the weight, the FL simply does not (for my money) exude the "cost-no-object" subjective feel of this 13 year old Night Owl - even though both have housings made of glass-fiber reinforced plastic.
I just wanted to pass along some of my observations - FWIW - and I would appreciate comments by any of the more learned optical experts who grace us with their presence in this forum.
Angelo:

I just wanted to revive this thread, as I have just had my recent chance
with the Zeiss 10x56 Nightowl, Design Selection. I have found that they are very much quality made, and this is my first experience with a "large" optic, that means anything over 50mm. I find they are so very nice and easy to look through and that is compared with a top 10x42, they have a "wow" that is hard to find in smaller sized optics.

Zeiss did such a nice job with these with a slightly angled eyecup, great handling and so bright that these will help with viewing after your regular eyesight has given up. They are heavy at 51 oz. and the reg. Zeiss FL
10x56 weighs 44 oz. I find them to be a great pick for early and late light,
when the others have faded, these are still good to go. These are not for all
day use, but do fit a purpose, and that is for low light and great all around.

Henry has recently posted about the great views through a 56mm, and I agree
they do have their place.

Jerry

Last edited by NDhunter : Sunday 17th October 2010 at 01:36.
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Old Sunday 17th October 2010, 05:53   #10
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I've never looked through the old leaded glass Zeiss and I'm sure they're fantastic but after having 10-15 minutes with the Zeiss 10x56FL I think that's good enough for me. It's way better than the 10x42FL, brighter and it had enormous contrast with a richer color rendition and amazing flare control. And pretty easy on the hands, the were well balanced and I was holding them steady no problem. These will be my next binocular.
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