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

Superb viewing experience in the field with 8x32 T*FL yesterday (1 Viewer)


Well-known member
Keen to post this after turning round a low-ebb and unusually unproductive day of indoor admin to an uplifting and relaxing experience in the field. The weather was of the sort that would make any kind of viewing a pleasure. A bright clear day at a time of year when all is well on its way to full bloom and flowering and the birds are in good voice on all sides. The aim was just a leisurely, wide circuit-walk stroll, adapting the route as opportunities presented themselves and setting no limit on return time. In the end that meant general viewing from all sorts of vantage points both across the valley and close up at birds in a variety of tree cover. Some of the birds were very small and hard to locate in close-leaved trees with dense foliage at this late spring time of year. It also meant viewing with the sun moving from high to low and at all angles - side light, into the light and with the light behind.

I came away fully recharged from the experience but of all the reasons for that here are some you might be interested in on a forum for birds and binoculars, in this case the Carl Zeiss Victory 8x32 T*FL.

In recent months or certainly during the worst times of the pandemic I have spent too much time 'testing' binoculars i.e. sometimes picking them up without any real use for them, a sort of displacement activity when in need of a break, and of course coming on here to keep up with the news and views. I have watched birds certainly but mainly from static locations looking out into the garden. Yesterday was a great reminder how there is nothing like using an instrument for real and on the move, naturally and without support, to appreciate its qualities and fitness for purpose. For hours the main things in mind were viewing tactics: how to get close to a tree without making the birds fall silent or fly away; finding good angles to maximize the chance of seeing the birds without too much obstruction; enjoying views of other animals and the landscape; and even a bit of trainspotting when I could hear something coming up or down the line. Anyway, as time went by, a number of things struck me about the very positive viewing experience.

There has been talk about greenish casts in some Zeiss binoculars — not these perhaps? — and I'd say that this is something I have noticed, as far as my own eyes see things anyway. I have to admit here that in common with many males I do have a degree of red-green colourblindness. However, I can still tell whether the colours I see through binoculars are the same as what I see without them. I have seen this green emphasis in my 7x42 T*FL but interestingly not in the old 7x42 Dialyt ClassiC. During yesterday's viewing with the 8x32 there was never a time when anything struck me as lacking with the colour. Wooden branches, leaves, old stone walls and woodwork; none of it looked in any way off colour and the red of several robins wasn't weakened (with a Leica it would probably seem strengthened, whatever your personal take may be on that). One of the best parts of the outing was finally tracking down the exact location of a very talkative song thrush, giving a long concert of varied singing that just never stopped. What an extensive repertoire! Lucky that the singing went on for long because the bird was so well camouflaged high in a tree looking down over the valley that it took a while to see where he was. Is it just me who is tricked by the direction a bird's singing comes from? Even through the binoculars he seemed superbly camouflaged, so pinpointing him was exciting. The various shades of brown in the spots and plumage looked natural to me through the glass, though he was too far away to compare and assess for colour just by unaided eyesight. Much later on, when the sun was only minutes from setting and the light was partly diffused by semi-cloud cover, some bright red agricultural machinery with blue and green components gave another opportunity to check the colour effect. It seemed to me that those colours came across as clean, strong, and vivid yet natural. And this time they were near enough to compare by unaided vision.

Apart from sharing the happy viewing experience, the binocular specific points I'd like to make are the following (colour mentioned again in summary and then several new points):

1. Colours — very natural and pleasing, and specifically I wonder if the effect is more accurate than the slightly red-weakened view I sometimes see in big brother 7x42 T*FL. To keep things in proportion, the 7 FL is a favourite so that would be my only criticism of that binocular and for me a minor one. If I want altogether stronger reds and browns there is another Wetzlar-based outfit that can take care of that... In any event I felt that the colour rendering of the 8x32 was a major plus in conditions where colours were naturally lit at their best but also as daylight began to fade. It would be interesting to try the same scenes again on a dull day after rain, a favourite for clear, relaxed viewing.

2. Glare — everyone is talking glare these days in the binocular forums. I'd say there is some and you can't just point the glass anywhere and expect it not to happen, not without long front end lens shades at least. But even in the last two hours of daylight it was hardly a problem and a little adjustment in standing position and angle to minimize glare was all part of the tactical viewing experience. To be fussy the lenses at both ends could do with a light clean and when you consider that, then the 8x32 under discussion performed very well. As an aside there is the old Leica maxim I learnt at one of their photography seminars when they had a British base in Milton Keynes: keep lenses clean rather than keep cleaning them.

3. Chromatic aberration — the very clean, well delineated view in bright conditions suggested that the FL is very strong in this respect. A mixture of viewing angles, sometimes as near as straight into the sun as I could safely aim when looking through trees, didn't show me any, nor when viewing birds and branches against clear sky. I didn't really think about it or look for it but I didn't notice any and so for me it is clearly a non-issue.

4. Suitability for viewing after sunset — if you are familiar with this glass or are in general an 8x32 user, then the following may not surprise you, but as someone who doesn't use 32 as much as 42 I found that the ability to pick out details and get a satisfactory view both close and into the distance was still impressive when contrast and brightness of the actual scene diminished after sunset. I decided to put the rainguard back on and call it a day about twenty minutes after sunset, but certainly till that point the clarity of view was not a disappointment. It makes me think twice about taking larger, heavier glass out with me for longer walks. However, the 42 format has advantages and all things being equal I often prefer it, so this isn't a sign of a change of heart and definitely not intended to spark a 32 vs. 42 discussion on this thread.

5. Comparing with the latest and greatest — these were once the latest and at least equal greatest depending on your preferences. I rediscovered why this bin is so highly regarded. I shan't be looking to replace it with a newer design: SF or NL Pure. Not sure why I had a spell of not getting on with these small FLs before. Probably all in the mind when there weren't enough opportunities to get out and use them properly (the last fourteen months).

6. Size, specs and handling — ideal for the sort of activity described in this post. The binoculars felt absolutely comfortable just hanging on the standard Zeiss strap round my neck, adjusted to keep them quite high on the chest so as not to swing about. Small enough that if I needed to I could put them in the flat large and unflapped front pockets of an unlined gilet (basically just the quilted liner for a wax jacket). Smooth, consistent focus control with that large focus knob that behaves perfectly when changing focus direction. Nice wide field of view that was never restrictive. In fact I tried a few different settings with the eyecups, ranging from slightly out (first detent) to mostly out (second detent) and both were comfortable. I found it was never necessary to fine adjust my hold to the face to get an all-inclusive view — my habit is to rest the top of the eyecups on the brows rather than drive the whole eyecup into the hollows surrounding the eyes.

7. Collimation/focus snap — one thing that this nature walk showed was how small differences in focusing over medium and longer distances made a clear difference. To explain what I mean: viewing a sheep at approx. 200 yards and a tree behind it at 220 yards showed both looking generally very sharp and within depth of field. But importantly focusing on one and then focusing on the other gave a clearly perceptible difference in snap to the focused objects. Similarly at longer distances and even as dusk came to play in this, which surprised me as my eyesight isn't getting any younger.

8. Cosmetics — though many would say the FL package is utilitarian I find it attractive. Not just 'form fits function' (which it certainly does) but a neat, strong, Germanic design. Good job as I admit to having two: the black one and the dark olive Simon King edition (the subject of this write up). I can't tell any difference between them in performance; the black one has been recently serviced by Zeiss via Gary Hawkins. Both handle faultlessly and were good secondhand purchases at different times.

9. Objective caps — I didn't take them and especially on a day like yesterday their absence didn't bother me at all. In fact it meant much better response, faster handling, less of an obstacle all round.

10. Rainguard — does the job well. Sometimes I attach it to the strap just on one side, sometimes on both sides. The jury is out which I prefer but the double-sided method is good in windy conditions. Yesterday was quite still and as it happened the strap was attached on one side. Ideally a Dialyt ClassiC one-piece rainguard would be even better as you don't have to look and squeeze to get both halves to fit. No big deal though.

In summary, an uplifting several hours of bird and countryside observation. The weather and conditions all conspired to deliver an excellent viewing and out of doors experience, and gave a chance to appreciate the Victory 8x32 T*FL at varying distances and with different 'targets'. Any downsides? No. I don't include a bit of glare as a downside when you can work round it and some other, even more modern designs arguably provoke more glare for some users. These are binoculars I'm going to spend more time with, though it will be good to use big brother 7x more too and appreciate its many strong points.

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

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