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SF grey > black changes and also colour/handling/balance thoughts (1 Viewer)

SeldomPerched

Well-known member
I've been reading Roger Vine's extremely positive reappraisal of the Zeiss SFs, which also includes some thoughts on the black SF in comparison with the NL Pure. Interesting that he prefers the NLs for astro but without coming off the fence for birding pretty much ranks them equal and sees why birders might find the SF the best birding bin.

Have I got this right: (1) the grey SFs (released in 2015?) or at least some of them disappointed many users because of focus roughness, loose armour, squishy eyecup adjustment, dust inside — in summary sub-standard QC; (2) the improvements to ALL of these coincided with the black version which is altogether a much improved instrument and a pleasure to use?

And regarding colour rendering which seems to affect users very differently, did those who saw a green cast in the SF's view find that this was also something that was solved or at least reduced in the black version? I ask because when I was loaned a black pair three years ago under Zeiss's tryout scheme the only comparison glass I had was an Ultravid HD (not Plus) 8x42 which as we know has a warmer view and doesn't help in deciding how neutral the Zeiss is (was). I did feel that even in the black version that I was loaned the reds were a bit weak but compared with a Leica I now see that was bound to happen, given Leica's own red emphasis.

I ask because despite the big size of the SFs which put me off at the time I am coming to appreciate as far as I can trust my memory of my SF loan and trial in 2018 that the ErgoBalance idea is a major benefit for extended viewing especially in unfavourable conditions or when holding the glass up at a near vertical or any uncomfortable angle. (Or it could be any excuse to try/retry another bin ;-) )

And out of interest how do those who have tried SF and NL find the feeling of weight and balance differences? In other words, does the wasp waist of the NL provide similar balance comfort or is it just holding comfort without the balance advantage?

Hope all this makes sense. Tom
 

SuperDuty

Well-known member
This is copied and pasted from my post yesterday that has so far gotten zero response. It’s not an exact response to your post, but it hits on some of what you’re talking about in a roundabout way.

Any buzz pertaining to the SF has pretty well fizzled since the release of the Noctivid and now the NL Pure, I have read a few opinions indicating the SF view in comparison to those two is lacking in contrast and color. When I look through my SF I see a crystal clear, extremely bright view that is to my eyes extraordinarily lifelike in the representation of color and contrast in all light conditions. I owned all the X42 versions of the SV series as well as the 10X50 SV, and while they all had wonderful glass, and displayed more contrast and color than the SF, they were also somewhat less bright and had considerably more CA, and weren’t nearly as true to life compared to what I actually see through my eyes. When the NL Pure becomes available-back in stock, I may have to order a pair to see for myself, but I think my current pair of SF will be hard to top, I’ll keep an open mind until I get a chance to see them side by side. I had a pair of the original gray SF that I thought had a strange green-yellow cast in certain lighting, the pair I have now, (one of the last gray version) are very accurate, white looks WHITE, colors and contrast perfectly natural. A technicolor view is admittedly exciting, but is it accurate-natural ? The main thing is always buy what YOUR eyes enjoy. 😀 Just some random observations, who knows I may be an NL Pure owner soon.
 
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etc

Well-known member
There is nothing wrong with SF. It's what said above and all that.

I like mine. Surprisingly, I like the stiff focus. It tends to stay dialed in to where I left it. My HT has smoother focus yet it wonders on its own when put away. Not a big deal really.

I am going to replace the 1st gen eyecups.
 

SeldomPerched

Well-known member
This is copied and pasted from my post yesterday that has so far gotten zero response. It’s not an exact response to your post, but it hits on some of what you’re talking about in a roundabout way.

Any buzz pertaining to the SF has pretty well fizzled since the release of the Noctivid and now the NL Pure, I have read a few opinions indicating the SF view in comparison to those two is lacking in contrast and color. When I look through my SF I see a crystal clear, extremely bright view that is to my eyes extraordinarily lifelike in the representation of color and contrast in all light conditions. I owned all the X42 versions of the SV series as well as the 10X50 SV, and while they all had wonderful glass, and displayed more contrast and color than the SF, they were also somewhat less bright and had considerably more CA, and weren’t nearly as true to life compared to what I actually see through my eyes. When the NL Pure becomes available-back in stock, I may have to order a pair to see for myself, but I think my current pair of SF will be hard to top, I’ll keep an open mind until I get a chance to see them side by side. I had a pair of the original gray SF that I thought had a strange green-yellow cast in certain lighting, the pair I have now, (one of the last gray version) are very accurate, white looks WHITE, colors and contrast perfectly natural. A technicolor view is admittedly exciting, but is it accurate-natural ? The main thing is always buy what YOUR eyes enjoy. 😀 Just some random observations, who knows I may be an NL Pure owner soon.
Thanks, SuperDuty. That's helpful.
 

Troubador

Moderator
Staff member
Supporter
Hi Tom, I am replying in haste so forgive me if I am a bit terse. I don't think any improvements were actually introduced with the change from grey to black armour. For example the revised focus mechanism was fitted to some grey armour units just before the black armour was introduced. Similarly I don't think the later revised eyecups coincided with the black armour, although I confess I am less confident about this.

Lee
 

Torview

Well-known member
Hi Tom, I had my black SF alongside a loaner grey SF for a couple of days, the grey model reminded me why I didn`t buy one instead of my two SVFP`s at the time, bear in mind the loan grey example was well used, however the focus was unpleasant and I could see the blue ring around the circumference of the view all the time which is what I described seeing on these pages back in 2015.

The black version has neither of these issues for me, I still can`t find a downside to the SF black, nothing has tempted me to look anywhere else, with the exception I long for a 7x42FL, in fact I may put a wanted add on here :).

John.
 

etc

Well-known member
No ring in the grey-green Gen 1st SF. I do not find the focus unpleasant. It's kind of military-grade tough.
 

SeldomPerched

Well-known member
Hi Tom, I am replying in haste so forgive me if I am a bit terse. I don't think any improvements were actually introduced with the change from grey to black armour. For example the revised focus mechanism was fitted to some grey armour units just before the black armour was introduced. Similarly I don't think the later revised eyecups coincided with the black armour, although I confess I am less confident about this.

Lee
Thanks, Lee. As a nearly complete newcomer when I had the loan SF (black) I couldn't help but notice a few things where it scored very well against the ex-demo 8x42 UVHD pre-Plus I had (my first bigger than compact binoculars). Not just the obvious things like wider FOV but also much better shadow penetration in bright daylight e.g. the ground looking into a wood from a sunny vantage point outside. At the time I didn't follow up the SF because the Leica had already been a pricey purchase and I wasn't sure I liked the size or image colour as much. I might feel differently now (or might not)!

Tom
 

SeldomPerched

Well-known member
Hi Tom, I had my black SF alongside a loaner grey SF for a couple of days, the grey model reminded me why I didn`t buy one instead of my two SVFP`s at the time, bear in mind the loan grey example was well used, however the focus was unpleasant and I could see the blue ring around the circumference of the view all the time which is what I described seeing on these pages back in 2015.

The black version has neither of these issues for me, I still can`t find a downside to the SF black, nothing has tempted me to look anywhere else, with the exception I long for a 7x42FL, in fact I may put a wanted add on here :).

John.
Hi John, thank you. Good to hear about the black SF and its improvements in your experience. Not sure you want to hear this but I do have a 7 FL and it is super-special. It is the very same unit photographed by Tobias Mennle in this article http://www.greatestbinoculars.com/a...hootoutpremier7x42s/shootoutpremier7x42s.html

I am sure if you look carefully and are happy to wait a while a good one will turn up. I may be imagining things (psychosomatic illness?) but I'm certain the AK-factor in the 7x42 FL and 8x42 HT in particular brings an extra dimension to the image. Maybe the SF is similar despite being an SP design; I wouldn't like to guess from a few days' trial three or four years ago!

Tom
 

SeldomPerched

Well-known member
Hi John, thank you. Good to hear about the black SF and its improvements in your experience. Not sure you want to hear this but I do have a 7 FL and it is super-special. It is the very same unit photographed by Tobias Mennle in this article http://www.greatestbinoculars.com/a...hootoutpremier7x42s/shootoutpremier7x42s.html

I am sure if you look carefully and are happy to wait a while a good one will turn up. I may be imagining things (psychosomatic illness?) but I'm certain the AK-factor in the 7x42 FL and 8x42 HT in particular brings an extra dimension to the image. Maybe the SF is similar despite being an SP design; I wouldn't like to guess from a few days' trial three or four years ago!

Tom
Hi John (and others reading),

Having thought about this since posting yesterday and also having a look at some of the comments by Tobias when looking for the link to the 7x42s comparison mentioned above in post no.10 ... ...

... ... if there is such a thing as an AK-factor beyond maximized light transmission I wonder if it could be greater microdetail in the rendering of textures. There is a weathered wooden panel fence that I often find myself viewing while waiting for garden birds to come into view. Often they walk across the top on their way to pick berries etc from some bushes there. What seems to be a common denominator with the AKs (7x42 FL, 8x42 HT and when I use them 7x42 B Dialyt ClassiC & 8x56 FL) is a clarity of detail in fine textures that comes out very well to my eyes, down to the finest, smallest little splits, knots and swirls in the wood, the patina (struggling for the right word) of any green algae etc in the wood grain, and so on. I thought that might be to do with Schott HT glass but though that might increase the effect only the 8x42 HT bins in the list above have that (or are advertised to have that).
 

Julian61

Well-known member
I bought a pair of SFs back in 2016 with the grey armour. When I purchased them I was lucky enough to have five or six units to select from and I did find significant variation, particularly in the focusing wheel which on some was quite rough. I found one that felt perfect and so it has remained ever since. The reviews until recently have been oddly mixed with some not reflecting my experience at all. The eye caps may be a touch primitive but entirely practical and, for me, not much of an issue as I wear specs so don't extend them. The grey body has seemed unpopular with many for some reason. I believe it was an original colour for Zeiss bins so it's nothing outlandish really. But these points are pretty superficial and have never got in the way for me. These binoculars are the best I've ever looked through and, after all this time, still give me that 'wow' experience. I'm really pleased that their quality is being acknowledged by some of the reviewers who seemed too ready to dismiss them early on. They have so many fine features that I won't list them for fear of repeating others on this thread. But I will mention one which seems to be to make this instrument unique - it is so, so comfortable to hold. Ergonomically it will not be outdone for many years to come in my opinion. As I'm not getting any younger its ease of use is something I value highly. Back in the shop where I purchased them I also had a look through a couple of Swaro 8.5x42s and thought their optical performance difficult to distinguish (though fov was clearly superior in the sfs). It was that lovely balance that decided me on my choice, one that I've never regretted.
 

etc

Well-known member
I like the stiff focus of my "gray" SF. Why? Because when I dial in to some distance, I like my focus to stay there until I adjust it.

My HT 10x54 has much better focus, admittedly, but it also moves seemingly on its own when I case the binocular. There is nothing wrong the original SF focus. The fact that it has decent depth of field means you don't have to adjust it as much.

The eyecups, rather their cover, irritate me on both SF and HT. I had to put some tape on the inside of the plastic contraption so they stay put. Both HT and SF just fall off. Totally unacceptable for an Alpha bin. Leica is the only one who seems to know how to make eyecups.

Other than that, I pull out the eyecup as far as it can go and that seems to be OK. But they need to add clicks stop and give it more tension. They do feel like something from a cheap $99 Walmart binocular.
 

AlphaFan

Well-known member
United States
I own a 2017 Victory SF 10x42 (black armor) and completely agree with SuperDuty’s assessment. The view is very immersive, crystal clear and the color/tones very cool and natural. It does what I want a binocular to do - draw me in to the point I almost forget I’m using binoculars. That’s obviously a bit of hyperbole but I don’t know a better way to express It. Have also owned many other Alphas but I like these the best.

After reading some trashing of the SFs, I recently did my own head-to-head comparison with the NL Pure to see if I might be interested in them instead. A few years ago I actually set out to buy the ELs and after head-to-head comparison came home with the SFs instead. Never regretted it.

Had a fairly long side-by-side comparison of the 10x42 NL Pures and my Zeiss Victory SFs (my subjective review). They are quite challenging to compare because, while both exceptional, everything about them is very different. To sum up, the NLs are an engineering marvel with an amazing view - very explosive colors but they are a bit finicky with eye placement and diopter adjustment. The view is very rich in many ways but not at all easy or natural, and they didn’t handle glare well. Would probably enjoy them more if willing to dedicate the time to get used to them. But I’m very satisfied with the easy and thoroughly immersive, high-resolution and natural toned view from my SFs. Optically, they are very close and I’m not compelled to switch. In addition, although the shape and contours of the NLs are an engineering masterpiece, the SFs still handle better and feel lighter. After just a little while the NLs began to feel quite heavy (because they are). Interestingly, even though I panned a bit, didn’t really notice significant “rolling ball effect” with the NLs as I always do with the ELs. Not trashing the NLs as they are an optical engineering marvel, and I may end up owning a set sometime in the future, but I just find the SF’s view comparably rich but much easier.
 

SuperDuty

Well-known member
I own a 2017 Victory SF 10x42 (black armor) and completely agree with SuperDuty’s assessment. The view is very immersive, crystal clear and the color/tones very cool and natural. It does what I want a binocular to do - draw me in to the point I almost forget I’m using binoculars. That’s obviously a bit of hyperbole but I don’t know a better way to express It. Have also owned many other Alphas but I like these the best.

After reading some trashing of the SFs, I recently did my own head-to-head comparison with the NL Pure to see if I might be interested in them instead. A few years ago I actually set out to buy the ELs and after head-to-head comparison came home with the SFs instead. Never regretted it.

Had a fairly long side-by-side comparison of the 10x42 NL Pures and my Zeiss Victory SFs (my subjective review). They are quite challenging to compare because, while both exceptional, everything about them is very different. To sum up, the NLs are an engineering marvel with an amazing view - very explosive colors but they are a bit finicky with eye placement and diopter adjustment. The view is very rich in many ways but not at all easy or natural, and they didn’t handle glare well. Would probably enjoy them more if willing to dedicate the time to get used to them. But I’m very satisfied with the easy and thoroughly immersive, high-resolution and natural toned view from my SFs. Optically, they are very close and I’m not compelled to switch. In addition, although the shape and contours of the NLs are an engineering masterpiece, the SFs still handle better and feel lighter. After just a little while the NLs began to feel quite heavy (because they are). Interestingly, even though I panned a bit, didn’t really notice significant “rolling ball effect” with the NLs as I always do with the ELs. Not trashing the NLs as they are an optical engineering marvel, and I may end up owning a set sometime in the future, but I just find the SF’s view comparably rich but much easier.
Did you see any difference between the two in the presence of CA in the middle and edges under varying conditions ?
Thanks
 

AlphaFan

Well-known member
United States
Did you see any difference between the two in the presence of CA in the middle and edges under varying conditions ?
Thanks
Tough question to answer directly but will do my best - again, all is based on my subjective but direct observations.

Flat Field: Both are FF Binoculars but the NLs are flatter to the very edge and the SFs have the very slightest amount of field curvature right at the very edge. This creates a bit more “rolling ball effect” in the NLs vs the SFs (but less than the ELs, I’m guessing due to the expansive FOV); and the tiniest bit of edge distortion in the SFs. But the SFs edge distortion is an extremely small slice of the view that I really don’t even notice unless focusing on it - the NLs have virtually none. If there is CA in the edge distortion of the SFs (none particularly stood out to me, even in the brightest light) one would really have to be razor focused on finding it. However, I do see more edge and center CA in other non-FF Zeiss vs SW product lines like the Conquest HDs vs the SLCs.

Contrast and Color: At first glance the NLs sharp contrast, explosively vivid colors, and immense FOV, overwhelm sensory perception. Getting one’s eyes and brain to fully adjust takes a bit of study. This is what I meant by the view not being “easy.” The SFs are much easier in this regard, or maybe it is just that I’m used to them. The NL view explosion also creates an initial expectation that the NLs sharper apparent contrast and vivid color to blow away the SFs in resolution, but both were exceptional and I observed no difference there, and the SFs may be just a smidge brighter. While I saw no noticeable center image CA from either, there were a few perceived color and light oddities from the NL (that some might or might not find pleasing). To my eyes, the depth of blacks appear a bit unnaturally saturated, as well as glare off of just about everything reflective in bright sunlight (don’t know if these are related issues). Again, this is all very nitpicky, but to my eyes the view from the SFs and NLs are very different and very satisfying in different ways. The SFs being more comfortably natural and the NLs more saturated “technicolor.”

The above was based on a direct side-by-side comparison of 10x42 models on a mostly sunny day in early spring. Since then I also had the opportunity to spend some time with an 8x42 NL on a variable weather day with sunshine, isolated storms and cloud cover. Off the bat I prefer the view from the 8x NL over the 10x, especially in cloud cover. The glare was gone and blacks (and all colors) still appeared deeply saturated but much more natural, and I found the image deeply satisfying. When the bright sun again dominated the issues with blacks and glare returned. Conversely, I find the SFs view much more consistently good across the board in varied light conditions, but with much more natural tones.

Which is better? There’s certainly no loser between the two, and at this level it’s all about personal preferences. As they are both quite expensive yet fundamentally different devices in so many ways, would strongly advise anyone considering either to put aside the spec sheets / marketing material and directly compare before buying. It’s a small price to pay for a long-term lease on a warm, contented grin.
 

SuperDuty

Well-known member
Tough question to answer directly but will do my best - again, all is based on my subjective but direct observations.

Flat Field: Both are FF Binoculars but the NLs are flatter to the very edge and the SFs have the very slightest amount of field curvature right at the very edge. This creates a bit more “rolling ball effect” in the NLs vs the SFs (but less than the ELs, I’m guessing due to the expansive FOV); and the tiniest bit of edge distortion in the SFs. But the SFs edge distortion is an extremely small slice of the view that I really don’t even notice unless focusing on it - the NLs have virtually none. If there is CA in the edge distortion of the SFs (none particularly stood out to me, even in the brightest light) one would really have to be razor focused on finding it. However, I do see more edge and center CA in other non-FF Zeiss vs SW product lines like the Conquest HDs vs the SLCs.

Contrast and Color: At first glance the NLs sharp contrast, explosively vivid colors, and immense FOV, overwhelm sensory perception. Getting one’s eyes and brain to fully adjust takes a bit of study. This is what I meant by the view not being “easy.” The SFs are much easier in this regard, or maybe it is just that I’m used to them. The NL view explosion also creates an initial expectation that the NLs sharper apparent contrast and vivid color to blow away the SFs in resolution, but both were exceptional and I observed no difference there, and the SFs may be just a smidge brighter. While I saw no noticeable center image CA from either, there were a few perceived color and light oddities from the NL (that some might or might not find pleasing). To my eyes, the depth of blacks appear a bit unnaturally saturated, as well as glare off of just about everything reflective in bright sunlight (don’t know if these are related issues). Again, this is all very nitpicky, but to my eyes the view from the SFs and NLs are very different and very satisfying in different ways. The SFs being more comfortably natural and the NLs more saturated “technicolor.”

The above was based on a direct side-by-side comparison of 10x42 models on a mostly sunny day in early spring. Since then I also had the opportunity to spend some time with an 8x42 NL on a variable weather day with sunshine, isolated storms and cloud cover. Off the bat I prefer the view from the 8x NL over the 10x, especially in cloud cover. The glare was gone and blacks (and all colors) still appeared deeply saturated but much more natural, and I found the image deeply satisfying. When the bright sun again dominated the issues with blacks and glare returned. Conversely, I find the SFs view much more consistently good across the board in varied light conditions, but with much more natural tones.

Which is better? There’s certainly no loser between the two, and at this level it’s all about personal preferences. As they are both quite expensive yet fundamentally different devices in so many ways, would strongly advise anyone considering either to put aside the spec sheets / marketing material and directly compare before buying. It’s a small price to pay for a long-term lease on a warm, contented grin.
Thanks for the great response, I thought my 10X50 SV had a (technicolor) presentation in comparison to the more neutral view of the SF, so I’m sure I would see the NL as similar or even more technicolor, not necessarily a bad thing if you like a more vivid than real life view.
 

Maljunulo

Well-known member
I have been using my 8X32 SF exclusively since early December, and I continue to be astonished by the brilliance of things like the head of a male Mallard in sunlight, or the shoulder patches of a Red-winged Blackbird, or the neck of a Common (Purple) Grackle. (again, in sunlight) I could go on, but it still startles and surprises me. I just stop and marvel, fascinated by it.

I always enjoyed the view through my EL SV 10X42, but the view in the SF is far more transparent, and crystalline but in no way artificial or "overprocessed" looking.
 
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SuperDuty

Well-known member
A lot of the (new reference standard) observations with the Noctovid and NL seem to be based mostly on the dark contrast and vivid colors, does the ultra dark contrast affect detail in shadow areas like one sees when you turn the contrast up on an image with an editing program, my experience there has been more contrast equals disappearing detail in those dark areas, I don’t really know if it works that way with optics or not.
 

BabyDov

Well-known member
United States
Thanks for the great response, I thought my 10X50 SV had a (technicolor) presentation in comparison to the more neutral view of the SF, so I’m sure I would see the NL as similar or even more technicolor, not necessarily a bad thing if you like a more vivid than real life view.
The NL's are the most color neutral optics I have ever looked through. The colors are as vivid as real life with no exaggeration that I can see.
 
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