• Welcome to BirdForum, the internet's largest birding community with thousands of members from all over the world. The forums are dedicated to wild birds, birding, binoculars and equipment and all that goes with it.

    Please register for an account to take part in the discussions in the forum, post your pictures in the gallery and more.
ZEISS DTI thermal imaging cameras. For more discoveries at night, and during the day.

8x42 FL comparisons (1 Viewer)


sub-200 birding aspirant
United Kingdom
Thought this might interest some folks. My brother normally uses an 8.5x42 Swarovski Fieldpro, but sent it off for re-armouring thanks to the notorious deteriorating armour issue and has spent the last two weeks using my 8x42 FL (black) in Singapore - mostly general birding but also some raptor-watching. Neat birds seen included hooded pitta (in deep shade in a bamboo thicket in the Botanic Gardens), banded woodpecker, ernesti peregrines. I naturally asked him for his thoughts/comparisons, and have paraphrased his observations:

Optical qualities

- The first thing I noticed was that the FL needed to be focused/refocused quite a bit more frequently. With the EL I can set and forget it much more. I think the flat field helps with apparent depth of field.

- The EL is easier to observe with when scanning over long periods of time. I think the flat field helps reduce fatigue. For general birding (where you're normally locating the birds by eye and putting the binoculars on them) it's not a problem.

- Sweet spot is noticeably smaller than both the 8.5 EL and the 10x56 SLC. The latter has a sweet spot of some 80%, the FL definitely has less.

- That said the FL does deliver a very good image, sharp (though I do think the 8.5x and also the SF are a little sharper), very clean, and bright. It's a very good binocular, especially given its age.

- Apparent field of view is similar.

- I could not perceive a difference in colour rendition or in apparent magnification.

Handling etc

- the FL does feel somewhat lighter in the hand, although not to the point that it makes a real difference

- open bridge vs standard bridge - I didn't feel there was a difference in handling, or in steadiness

- faster focuser (noticeably more so than the EL) is an advantage in general birding, it lets you get on the bird quicker.

Build quality

- I had to readjust the diopter a couple of times, I've not needed to do that with the EL. (NB. I may have adjusted the diopter myself a couple of times when I used the binocular)

- Armouring started to feel a little gummy to the touch at the end of the trip - which worried me a little after my experience with Swaro armouring. The EL was fine for the first couple of trips but really began to deteriorate after my last trip. I had the feeling that another trip might see more deterioration. I think rubber armouring doesn't react well to the combination of sweat and sunblock in the tropical heat.


Part 2 (coming soon) - comparisons with my old work horse, the 10x40 T*P* Dialyt...
Nitrogen purged too…. So both the afternoon rain and constant high humidity won’t get inside. Seems like your brother has found a “good” recipe for armour testing… could get costly though, if even Zeiss starts to degrade.

[quoting] The first thing I noticed was that the FL needed to be focused/refocused quite a bit more frequently...
This calls for further comment, given that an 8x should actually have a tad more DOF than an 8.5.
Was he refocusing to compensate for field curvature, instead of moving the bin a bit as his EL doesn't require?
Did a faster focuser make FL more challenging to get precise focus?
Or, since a diopter issue was also mentioned, is that slipping a bit and complicating focusing (for you too)?

I hope the armor hasn't been damaged.
As a family we spend nine months of every year birding in and around Singapore.

The humidity, sweat and suncream are extremely tough on binos. The first and most obvious point is waterproof (Our porros stay in the UK). Nikon Monarch armour is the worst - baggy and sticky in months which is ironic as Japanese Summers are the same as Singapore. Leica UV seem to fair well. Finally clean everything when you get home and straight back in the dehumidifier cabinet.

On the other hand as noted above the birding is amazing here with hornbills, and grey headed fish eagles flying past my home office window.

I had been looking at some FLs as the armour seems hard, I may now move on!
Last year there was an Asian Fairy Bluebird in the bushes just behind where your brother took that photo at the summit of Bukit Timah! There was a crowd of telephoto lenses taking photos.
@funsan - I agree SG is a pretty neat place as far as birding is concerned. I think the thing I like best about it isn't so much the rarities - though those are indisputably cool - but the fact that birds are all over the place even in the most urban areas. And some of the more common/everyday birds (blue-tailed bee-eaters! blue-crowned hanging parrots! - even black-naped orioles and collared/white-throated kingfishers) are so goddamn neat.

For what it's worth, I've used the 8x32 FL (green) I also own there and never experienced an issue. My brother notes that I use less sunblock than he does - which might explain it. With the black 8x42, I was in Singapore when my brother was using it, and did, after he mentioned it, notice the armour had a very slight stiction to the touch. But I'm not sure I would have noticed it myself if I hadn't been told of it. It's back in the UK now, and feels just fine. I ought to bring it back a couple more times, just to see what happens. But I tend to prefer 10x myself...

@tenex - My brother commented on the substance of the questions in your post #3 yesterday while we were out in Regent's Park. I didn't actually mention your post to him (he doesn't frequent Birdforum at all, wisely) - these were comments he voiced as he was using them.

- I definitely find I need to refocus the FL more. With the SV I normally focus on [a building about 1.75km away] and I'll be set, focus-wise, for the rest of the session. I can look at [another building about 1.24km away] with the SV and it'll be in focus. With the FL it'll be just slightly out and I'll need to either refocus it slightly or use my eye accommodation, which results in more fatigue. I don't know whether it's the fact that the flat field has the entire plane in focus or whether the SV has a larger sweet spot. It just seems to have more depth of field.

With the FL diopter, I think there is a bit of a tendency to drift slightly over time - but I also tend to need to fine-tune my diopter fairly often depending on conditions and the state of my own eyes at the time (I actually prefer the old style diopter on the right eyepiece as this is the easiest to adjust). I did use the black 8x42 myself a few times and adjusted the diopter while doing so - my brother may have thought it needed readjustment more than it otherwise would because of this.
I was able to compare the 8x42 FL directly with my 10x40 Dialyt, in particular from the rooftop car park of a food centre/market where I think I saw something like 30 species in total. This was a pretty useful testing ground - going back and forth between nearby trees with small, fast-moving birds like olive-backed sunbirds, scarlet-backed flowerpeckers and oriental white-eyes, and pink-necked green pigeons and parakeets (red-breasted and rose-ringed) flying over the rooftops further out. You'd also have good views of Asian palm swifts and other hirundines working over the area, and raptors (the ever-present Brahminy kites, and I also spotted an oriental honey buzzard).

In direct comparison like that, there was no doubt the 8x42 was the more evolved and outright superior birding binocular. I couldn't deny I found the FL image superior - sharper (or at least perceived sharpness, but I'd be surprised if its resolution, allowing for magnification, was not superior) albeit maybe only slightly so, with truer colour rendition (that "washed clean" look that I think you only get with modern coatings and either total internal reflection prism systems, or Schmidt-Pechans with dielectric coatings). Contrast, in certain situations, is better and I don't see the internal reflections I sometimes saw in the Dialyt. The intrinsic advantages of 8x magnification (greater depth of field, also made themselves apparent and along with the faster focus speed I thought the FL was maybe a second or so quicker to get on birds with. All in all a superior birding tool, as you might expect given its more modern design and manufacture (and higher price).

That said, I really liked the compactness of the Dialyt and thought it handled (slightly) better - I thought the bridge being further back gave my left hand a wider hold on the left barrel, and the narrower diameter of the barrels made for easier handling. But these are pretty fine (and personal) details. The large focus wheel of the FL was a useful feature, although I suppose it somewhat breaks up the lines of the chassis, but I didn't really feel disadvantaged with the Dialyt either. Image wise, I still find what I see through the Dialyt perfectly satisfying when used by itself, though I suppose less so when compared side by side with a more modern design. The biggest failing of the Dialyt (to me anyway) was that at certain angles, internal reflections do become evident (I think james holdsworth mentioned something similar in a post some years ago). I don't see the rolling ball-like issue he mentioned, nor any significant CA, and although I agree the FL and most modern binoculars have truer, more neutral colours than the warm/yellow cast of the Dialyt, in actual use I don't find the latter objectionable, or indeed most of my older binoculars with a similar colour cast. I think the quality I value most in the Dialyt is its solidity - the armouring has held up through multiple trips to Singapore and other places and all the mechanicals (knock on wood) still seem sound.


Here's another snapshot from another neat little spot. I was able to see blue-throated bee-eaters, a white-throated kingfisher, white-bellied sea eagles (flying out from the trees above me to the cranes across the road in the early morning) and blue-crowned hanging parrots from this slope overlooking the central business area, and had an accipiter come by twice, too quickly for me to identify. Another (NL-toting) birder more focused on general birding found magpie robin and brown shrike nearer the top of the hill.

Users who are viewing this thread