• 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. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia

Review Part 2: SF 10x32 on a Scottish Island (1 Viewer)

Troubador

Moderator
Staff member
Supporter
It is 3 months since I reviewed SF 10x32 (Review: Zeiss Victory SF 10x32 ) and this was during a period when Covid 19 was keeping me more or less confined to my local neighbourhood and back-garden. Following two vaccinations and an easing of travel and hospitality regulations in England and Scotland we at last escaped to Islay for our 25th visit to this beautiful island.

I took my SF 10x32 with me (the product of a deal done with Focus Optics of Corley near Coventry) to see how it performs in the wide-open spaces of a Scottish Island. In short, its crystal-clarity, sublime focus-action, and the same handling as it’s 8x32 sister, that is like the hand-shake of an old friend, made it a great companion on most days. Ha! Only most days? Yes because its 10x magnification makes it more sensitive than the SF 8x32 to the bino-shakes generated by gusting winds and when you are next to the Atlantic Ocean you do get strong winds. Which means it, like all 10x binos, it is happier in somewhat calmer conditions. For sure, it is very nice to have the choice between 8x 32 and 10x32 as there are habitats here that call for their distinct and different talents. Open coasts and big seas call for the longer ‘reach’ of the 10x, but among the tall grassy dunes and nearby moors, the wider field of view of the 8x is more useful for searching the turf for small flowers and for capturing butterflies in their erratic flight.

Lets get down to business and take a look at some of the sightings made with the SF10x, and the very first one was made before we had even crossed the border into Scotland. We paused our journey north at a pull-in next to the River Weir, and to get some fresh air went to stand on the old hump-backed bridge that spanned the river. Wagtails bounding up and down the river turned out to be Pied Wagtails, not the expected riverine Greys, but what puzzled us were a pair of grey-ish passerines, hawking for insects over the river. Dashing back to the car for the SF10x32s, when I returned, a quick look at the birds revealed a stripey crown and not much else. Then the merest glimpse of one when it perched partly under cover, revealed their identity. Spotted Flycatchers Muscicapa striata, one of our favourite birds. So why didn’t we recognise them immediately? Because we have never seen them from above before! The characteristic stripey crown was something we had only glimpsed from below or from one side. Looking down on the entire crown was a new and unfamiliar experience. We didn’t get to see the characteristic upright perching stance with head firmly set at 90 degrees to the body and with a scattering of short stripes on the upper breast, but it was a treat, if somewhat surreal, to be looking down on these birds through the SFs.

We arrived on Islay and on the following day walked to the shore to re-acquaint ourselves with the coast, and of course we were met with a flurry of piping complaints from the local Oystercatchers Haematopus ostralegus. These are very familiar birds to us but I lifted the SFs to get a closer look than usual. They are chunky, powerfully built glossy-black and white birds, with striking red eye-rings, a red-orange bill and, at least on these two individuals, rather anaemic-looking pink legs. The 10x magnification brought home to me for the first time what a powerful-looking implement their bills are. They are stout and blunt-ended reminding me of what is meant on those police-procedural shows when they say the victim exhibited signs of ‘blunt force trauma’. Certainly they are a different tool from the more precision-forceps of some other waders, or indeed the species I saw next.

Choughs (or more descriptively, Red-billed Choughs) are UK rarities and a small number breed on Islay. We were regularly visited by these athletic and joyful-sounding birds. I say ‘athletic’ as they seem to delight in the aerobatic opportunities provided by strong winds, and ‘joyful’ because while doing this they utter a loud call which sounds like CHOW. In fact although we English pronounce their name as ‘chuff’, it seems more likely that it was intended to rhyme with ‘plough’ and be pronounced as ‘chow’, since this is the call the make. Through the SFs their red-legs and bills were a smart contrast with their glossy-black plumage, and their bills are so different from the Oystercatchers’ blunt instrument being constructed like finely designed surgical instruments for foraging among turf.

Around two sides of our cottage was a mown lawn that was regularly visited by Brown Hares and Pied Wagtails. The Hares were breathtakingly beautiful through the SFs and with time and a lot of photographs I feel sure one could recognise all the individuals by their different face patterns. At the time of year we were there, this was partly facilitated by the different ages of hares and therefore their different sizes. The very smallest youngsters, not much bigger than snowballs, didn’t visit us but we could see them in the nearby rough grazings dashing about in the evening like mad-things and generally behaving like all young things.

Pied Wagtails foraged this same lawn for insects all day, every day, stalking along with head jerking back and forth, and then suddenly launching into the air with a flurry of mad wing-beats as they sought to capture insects they had startled out of the grass. Familiar though this species is, it was a treat to see the plumage details, with a deep black on the mantle and chest, relieved by the white markings on the wing coverts. They are actually very smart-looking birds.

Black seemed to be the theme of the birds I was drawn to viewing, from the Oystercatchers and Choughs to the Pied Wagtails and my final choice, the Great Northern Diver or Common Loon, Gavia immer, that was resident in our bay for more than two weeks. One of our very favourite birds, the SF 10x32s were ideal for providing a closer look of this rather shy bird as it dived and surfaced. The chequer-board pattern on its back, the necklets around its neck and it’s red eye were all imaged beautifully. The black of its head and neck seemed so dark and lustrous that ‘black’ seems an inadequate description. This individual was alone for most of its residence but was joined by another for a couple of days and we had high hopes we might hear their voices but it was not to be. We have heard this species call and sing though, and it is a memory that will never fade.

Finally, I can’t resist including a particularly beautiful non-bird subject and that is the Marsh Fritillary butterfly for which Islay is famous as a stronghold of this rather local insect. The variety and intensity of the pattern on their upper wing surfaces were simply fabulous, as in, unbelievable. Take a look at the photo of a mating pair and at the pattern on the female’s wings and I hope you can see what I mean. In my more whimsical moments I can imagine this pattern being suitable woven in silk as a cloak for the wizard Gandalf in Lord of the Rings.

Back down to earth, I really enjoyed using the SF10x32 on days when the wind allowed the use of 10x magnification, and didn’t find the exit pupil too small or difficult at all. If you have wondered about the ease of use of a 10x32 I would urge you to try one out and decide for yourself, and I think you may be surprised.

Lee

A IMG_4730.JPG B IMG_4775.JPG C IMG_4820.JPG IMG_5662 - Copy.JPG
 
Last edited:

GrampaTom

Well-known member
United States
They are chunky, powerfully built glossy-black and white birds, with striking red eye-rings, a red-orange bill and, at least on these two individuals, rather anaemic-looking pink legs. The 10x magnification brought home to me for the first time what a powerful-looking implement their bills are.
The Hares were breathtakingly beautiful through the SFs and with time and a lot of photographs I feel sure one could recognise all the individuals by their different face patterns.
my final choice, the Great Northern Diver or Common Loon, Gavia immer, that was resident in our bay for more than two weeks. One of our very favourite birds, the SF 10x32s were ideal for providing a closer look of this rather shy bird as it dived and surfaced.
Lovely.
Re these three, why I like 10s as well.
Thanks for this.

G'Tom
 

wdc

Well-known member
Thanks for sharing your experiences with the 10x32. I do periodically use a 10x42, and just haven't bothered to even try the same in 32mm. Your gift of observational writing makes the prospect appealing. I do agree that wind can derail a binocular more than I expected, and higher magnification will suffer accordingly. I always enjoy your reviews, and get as much pleasure visualizing your adventures in nature as I do learning about the binoculars themselves.

Cheers,

Bill
 

Pinewood

New York correspondent
United States
Hello Lee,

Thanks for the review and for a taste of Islay's wildlife. The marsh fritillary is surely eye catching.

Stay safe,
Arthur
 

tenex

reality-based
Only most days? Yes because its 10x magnification makes it more sensitive than the SF 8x32 to the bino-shakes generated by gusting winds and when you are next to the Atlantic Ocean you do get strong winds.
If you want stability, try larger glass. In our mountains, I've been able to enjoy my 10x56 in such windy conditions that I had trouble standing straight. Both the weight and the large exit pupil helped.

I do think it's a bit garish for a wizard though, especially if you are Someone the Grey.
More Saruman's style then?
 

Troubador

Moderator
Staff member
Supporter
Thank you for all your kind words and comments.

Maljunolo, you could be right that Gandalf the Grey might have been shy of wearing a 'Fritillary Cloak' for everday purposes, but he may have fancied turning up to a Hobbit and Dwarf party in something with a bit more gaity to it, and if he ever got the chance to go to the Prancing Pony with Galadriel surely he would want to wear something with a little panache and brio? Actually I can imagine Cate Blanchett (who played Galadriel in the LOTR movies) wearing a silk Fritillary cocktail dress, but I probably shouldn't.

Tenex, heavier 10x binos do help stability in windy conditions and I particularly remember MeoStar 10x42 (heavy for a modern 42) and a GPO 10x50 being good in this respect but I could only hold them steady for limited periods and more recently have needed to reduce the weight I carry (principally photo gear but aso binos) for medical reasons so have switched to 32mm models.

Lee
 
Last edited:

Pinewood

New York correspondent
United States
I do think it's a bit garish for a wizard though, especially if you are Someone the Grey.
Hello Majunulo,

I think that the pattern would be great for a bow tie and matching pocket square. With an appropriate Donegal tweed with orange highlights, I would be happy to seen in such an ensemble.

Stay safe,
Arthur
 

Maljunulo

Well-known member
Perhaps, Arthur.

The problem is that a Gentleman never wears a necktie and a pocket square of the identical pattern.

It simply isn't done.

Richard
 

Troubador

Moderator
Staff member
Supporter
Nice review and photos as usual Lee, I especially like the photo showing some structural geology.

Andy W.
Hi Andy, thanks for your kind words. We are fascinated by the geology of Islay and since you are interested in this subject here are 2 pics to illustrate the kind of geology we have noticed there. The main subject of these pics is the presence of volcanic dykes, the remains of molten rock forced by volcanic processes through narrow (relatively speaking) weaknesses in the strata.

The first pic shows a part of the coast west of where we stay. Take a look at the point of rock furthest from the camera where it enters the sea. Now look progressively to the left, the rock is no longer a narrow tapering point but grows into a big block with brown grass on top. Just to the left of this is a narrow band of shadow extending down until out of sight and just left of this is a band of rock looking like a 1 yard-wide wall. To the left is a big shadow and then the main land of the island. The yard-wide ‘wall’ is the remains of one of the volcanic dykes.

The next pic was taken about half a mile to the east and in the bottom right of the pic you can see a block which we believe is part of the same dyke. BTW I don’t mean the smooth pale rock shown right down in the bottom right corner but the darker rock to the left that has many lateral cracks and fissures. Much more obvious though are the further remains of the same dyke lying down along the right-hand side of that huge curiously shaped rock mass that occupies the main part of the lower centre of the pic.


Lee

IMG_4102.JPG IMG_4106.JPG
 

dries1

Member
Thanks Lee for the Photos, the erosion and weathering of the surrounding rock has exposed the intrusive dykes. The photos illustrate this very well. I hope you are having a good time there, enjoy.

Andy W.
 

ZDHart

Well-known member
Supporter
United States
Nice reportage, Lee! And photos, as well.

I've been really enjoying 10x lately, but mine are all 42s. I do have some 8x32s, but no 10x32s... so, you have piqued my interest in 10x32.

I'm considering Conquest HD 10x32, as I've gone overboard on alphas lately, and my Conquest 8x32s impress, being so close to alpha quality.

I've lightened my camera weight since retiring (from commercial photography) by going with micro 4/3. I've been using m4/3 gear for a decade now and very impressed with this format. Smaller, lighter, and very capable with a huge range of fantastic glass to choose from.

I've never been there, but do enjoy flavors of Islay fairly frequently... my favorite scotches are Lagavulin, Ardbeg, and Laphroaig. Do you enjoy those too?
 

Troubador

Moderator
Staff member
Supporter
Nice reportage, Lee! And photos, as well.

I've been really enjoying 10x lately, but mine are all 42s. I do have some 8x32s, but no 10x32s... so, you have piqued my interest in 10x32.

I'm considering Conquest HD 10x32, as I've gone overboard on alphas lately, and my Conquest 8x32s impress, being so close to alpha quality.

I've lightened my camera weight since retiring (from commercial photography) by going with micro 4/3. I've been using m4/3 gear for a decade now and very impressed with this format. Smaller, lighter, and very capable with a huge range of fantastic glass to choose from.

I've never been there, but do enjoy flavors of Islay fairly frequently... my favorite scotches are Lagavulin, Ardbeg, and Laphroaig. Do you enjoy those too?
I am a late-comer to 10x32 having grudgingly accepted one for review a couple of years ago and thoroughly enjoyed using it. I am sure Conquest HD 10x32 is terrific. All the comments about 'finicky eye placement' and 'tricky to use in comfort' turned out to not apply to me and I have 3 10x32s now and no problems with any of them.

I rarely drink whisky but cultivated a taste for it back when I was working and we had dinners and drinks after all-day meetings, especially with customers in Scotland and found that the Islay malts simply had more character than the smooth Speysides. Bunnahabhain (pronounced Bunner-harvun) is my favourite.

Lee
 

ZDHart

Well-known member
Supporter
United States
I am a late-comer to 10x32 having grudgingly accepted one for review a couple of years ago and thoroughly enjoyed using it. I am sure Conquest HD 10x32 is terrific. All the comments about 'finicky eye placement' and 'tricky to use in comfort' turned out to not apply to me and I have 3 10x32s now and no problems with any of them.

I rarely drink whisky but cultivated a taste for it back when I was working and we had dinners and drinks after all-day meetings, especially with customers in Scotland and found that the Islay malts simply had more character than the smooth Speysides. Bunnahabhain (pronounced Bunner-harvun) is my favourite.

Lee
Thanks for the pronunciation... I've read that Bunnahabhain is very nice scotch! Guess I need to try that next!
 
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Colombia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Colombia

Users who are viewing this thread

Top