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Zeiss Binocular Design: A Personal Overview Part 1 (1 Viewer)

Troubador

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From Dialyt to SF, the aesthetics of Zeiss binoculars have evolved with several ‘diversions’ down a variety of different avenues along the way. I thought it would be entertaining to take a stroll down a few of these diversions to compare and contrast various models, and also have a few brief glimpses into the design process. The first decision was which models to leave out, and in deference to the way the market has developed, I have concentrated on roof prism binoculars with rubber armour. I apologise to those whose favourites might lie outside of this and just remark here that I am similarly placed as I really love the old leatherette Dialyts. This overview covers 7 models from the Dialyt 7x42 BGAT* to FL 8x42, so here we go…

Dialyt 7x42BGAT*
Zeiss’s famous Dialyt 7x42 was born out of Hensoldt’s Dialyt range, following Zeiss’s takeover of the Wetzlar-based company. This range was more diverse than Zeiss’s later offerings, Dia 7x42.png for example Hensoldt made this model in 8x30 and 10x50 as well as 7x42. Zeiss developed the model further into the one we are familiar with today. It had the look of two telescopes side by side, had the exposed bridges and axle reminiscent of a Porro binocular, and like those, the centre focus wheel actually moved the eyepieces rather than in internal lens. Foldable rubber eyecups marked this model out as spectacle-friendly, but the biggest visual impact was made by the chunky rubber armour embellished with prominent rubber bars that presented a stout, robust appearance. As an aside it is interesting, looking back with hindsight, that this model’s performance was the inspiration for the original Swarovski EL.




Dialyt 10x40BGAT*P*
Here we see an entirely different concept of design. Instead of the bridges and axle being exposed as on the 7x42, they are now hidden, so instead of looking like two telescopes joined side-by-side, the appearance is of a more modern, unified single structure. However it shares the same Dia 10x40.png armour design with the 7x42 BGAT* having the rugged rubber bars that endow it with a robust appearance.







Design Selection 8x56
This model could not be more different from the Dialyts. Its smooth armour, and the way the oculars and objectives are integrated into the overall shape, DeSel 8x56.png speak of the principals of aerodynamics having inspired those who created its appearance. Even the end of the focus wheel nearest the eyepieces is rounded like a streamlined nacelle on an aircraft, and, at the expense of practicality, it barely protrudes above the surrounding surfaces. The pattern of small marks on the grip-area of the armour are in fact miniature versions of Zeiss’s famous Z logo. Also, note the semi-winged foldable eyecups that were simultaneously a touch of styling modernity and functionality, as they screened the eyes from distracting side-lighting.




Victory 8x56
The big-objectives Victory models took the Design Selection look and sobered it up with more conventional eyecups and slightly more practical focus and dioptre wheels. There Vic 8x56.png was no hint of the iconoclastic style of the 40mm models (see below).








Victory 8x40
The 40mm versions of the first models to carry the Victory name took modernity to another level. Compare this to the Dialyt 10x40BGAT*P* above, and while that model had clear hints back to earlier models, this one looked as though it had landed from outer space. It challenged the eye with swooping, curvaceous feature-lines and provocatively-angled eyecups, combined with a chunky focus wheel having streamlined ridges to aid grip, similar to those on Diafun . However, compared with Diafun, the first Victory was almost conventional with its obvious and undisguised objectives. Vic 8x40.png

Diafun 8x30, 10x30
This model took the concept of a binocular not looking like a binocular to an extreme, at least below the focus wheel. The eyecups and focus wheel/dioptre wheel looked reasonably normal, although the slanted, semi-winged, eyecups were a little unconventional. However down at the objectives, the lenses had disappeared, disguised by the extended body and full-length closed hinge. On some units blue highlights were applied to the eyecups and also around the objectives, giving the latter a kind of ‘Elton John Diaf Obj.jpg ’s sunglasses’-appe Diaf full.png arance (see below).






Victory FL 8x42
The first Victory was not a success and it seems when replacing it with the Victory FL, Zeiss took a step back from the space-age, and not only reverted to more conventional eyecups but also deleted the swooping feature-lines, and went at least part-way back to the Dialyt-look by adorning the armour on the optical tubes with prominent rubber bars, and furnished the moulded focus wheel with straight-sided grip-bars, echoing the bars of the armour. FL 8x42.png








Production Dates with Grateful Thanks to Gary MH:
7x42 Dialyt 1981-1988
7x42 Dialyt P 1988-2004
10x40 B Dialyt (524020) 1968-1977]
10x40 B Dialyt (524021) 1977-1980
10x40 B Dialyt (524010) 1983-1988
10x40 B Dialyt P (524012) 1988-1996
10x40 B Dialyt P / BGA (424013) 1988-2005
7x45, 8/10x56 Night Owl/Design Selection 1993-2000
8x56/10/12x56 Victory Mk.1 2001-2006
8/10x40 Victory Mk.1 2000-2004
Diafun 1997-2003

Production Date Researched by Troubador (corrections gratefully received)
FL 8x42 2004-2012

Part 2 follows shortly and will bring us up to date.

Lee
 
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Sebzwo

Well-known member
Thanks, interesting topic. I like the functional style so much more than those design bins. Finally binoculars are some optical instrument and not a fashion item although today's marketing seems to have moved that way with many companies.
 

Maljunulo

Well-known member
Thank you for posting this, and I very much look forward to the new installment, having just acquired my first ever Zeiss glass.

I clearly remember the Dialyt, although I have never looked through one, and I am totally uninformed about anything up to the original gray SF.
 
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Patudo

Well-known member
I've never handled the Night Owls or Victory Is, but to my eye both have a stylistic resemblance to the Dialyt 10x40 (the classic Dialyt in terms of appearance and function IMO) that is also apparent in the HTs but which Zeiss departed from with the FLs. If one stands the Dialyt 10x40 next to the Victory I and the HT there is, I think, a clear similarity in the angle of line from the eyecups to the objectives. The FL (and SF) barrels have more of an outward curve that resembles Leica's Trinovids - a look that lives on today, though with different armouring, in the Meostars and SLCs,

It'll be interesting to see how Zeiss will style their next line of top tier binoculars.
 

NDhunter

Experienced observer
United States
Lee:
Thanks for your Zeiss history lesson, well done and you have listed some great binoculars so far.
I am wondering how Zeiss could top those mentioned. :cool:

Jerry
 

Pinewood

New York correspondent
United States
Hello Lee,

Thanks for the memories. I attach a photograph of a late model 8x30BGAT*P Dialyt, with the eye cups turned down. It looks like a scaled down 10x40, with a similar structure. I note that the objectives moved in the tubes, so the models did not have true internal focussing. Both the 8x30 and the 10x40 were very highly regarded, twenty years, ago. I never got on well with the dioptre setting being on the opposite end of the axle from the focussing knob.




Stay safe,
Dialyt.jpg Arthur
 

Troubador

Moderator
Staff member
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Lee:
Thanks for your Zeiss history lesson, well done and you have listed some great binoculars so far.
I am wondering how Zeiss could top those mentioned. :cool:

Jerry
Thanks Jerry, Part 2 is incoming and may answer your question.
Lee
 

Troubador

Moderator
Staff member
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Hello Lee,

Thanks for the memories. I attach a photograph of a late model 8x30BGAT*P Dialyt, with the eye cups turned down. It looks like a scaled down 10x40, with a similar structure. I note that the objectives moved in the tubes, so the models did not have true internal focussing. Both the 8x30 and the 10x40 were very highly regarded, twenty years, ago. I never got on well with the dioptre setting being on the opposite end of the axle from the focussing knob.




Stay safe,
View attachment 1366648 Arthur
Thank you Arthur. With the objectives moving to achieve focus there was always a slight film of grease around the internal surface of optical tubes over which the lenses moved and boy was it easy when cleaning the objectives to get a little grease on your cloth or brush and then onto the lens. This was so annoying I soon learned to avoid doing it. Those 8x30s are so nice.
Lee
 

Weasel1

Well-known member
Supporter
United Kingdom
Can only agree with what has already been said and I've really enjoyed it so far, looking forward to the next installment.

I always wanted a pair of Dialyt 7x42, such a classic, but I always thought it would be to difficult to find a top quality example, so went for some 7x42 Victory FL's which are so good.
 

Pinewood

New York correspondent
United States
Hello Lee,
this
As you have moved on, to part 2, I append a photo of a Zeiss 8x32FL, with one eyecup extended and the other down. This binocular follows the minimalist's ideal of form following function: ribbed armour and a very prominent focussing knob. Unlike the larger FL models, it used Schmidt-Pechan prisms, giving it a clean vertical line like its predecessor, the 8x30 Dialyt. It replaced the Dialyt Classic 8x30 with more reliable weatherproofing, true internal focussing and very good eye relief. Although its replacement, the SF 8x32, has a wider field, this binocular's compactness is well regarded.

8x32 FL.jpg

Stay safe,
Arthur
 
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Troubador

Moderator
Staff member
Supporter
Hello Lee,
this
As you have moved on, to part 2, I append a photo of a Zeiss 8x32F, with one eyecup extended and the other down. This binocular follows the minimalist's ideal of form following function: ribbed armour and a very prominent focussing knob. Unlike the larger FL models, it used Schmidt-Pechan prisms, giving it a clean vertical line like its predecessor, the 8x30 Dialyt. It replaced the Dialyt Classic 8x30 with more reliable weatherproofing, true internal focussing and very good eye relief. Although its replacement, the SF 8x32, has a wider field, this binocular's compactness is well regarded.

View attachment 1366712

Stay safe,
Arthur
Thank you Arthur, to my shame, for years I regarded 32mm binos as nothing more than 'children's' binoculars. Then I tried an FL832 like yours. And bought it. Lee
 

garymh

Binocular Engineer
Victory 8x40
The 40mm versions of the first models to carry the Victory name took modernity to another level. Compare this to the Dialyt 10x40BGAT*P* above, and while that model had clear hints back to earlier models, this one looked as though it had landed from outer space. It challenged the eye with swooping, curvaceous feature-lines and provocatively-angled eyecups, combined with a chunky focus wheel having streamlined ridges to aid grip, similar to those on Diafun, and a dioptre adjuster disguised as a tripod adapter port cover.
Hi,

The dioptre adjuster on the 8/10x40 Victory Mk.1 was exactly the same as on the FL i.e. it was operated by pulling the focus wheel upwards. The tripod adaptor port between the objective barrels was for a special tripod adaptor for this model - part number 528601.

Here are a few production dates :

10x40 B Dialyt (524020) 1968-1977
10x40 B Dialyt (524021) 1977-1980
10x40 B Dialyt (524010) 1983-1988
10x40 B Dialyt P (524012) 1988-1996
10x40 B Dialyt P / BGA (424013) 1988-2005

7x42 Dialyt 1981-1988
7x42 Dialyt P 1988-2004

8/10x40 Victory Mk.1 2000-2004

8/10/12x56 Victory Mk.1 2001-2006

7x45, 8/10x56 Night Owl 1993-2000

Diafun 1997-2003


Gary
 
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tenex

reality-based
[7x42 BGAT] ... this model’s performance was the inspiration for the original Swarovski EL.
Thanks, Lee. Could you elaborate on that? The resemblance isn't obvious to me, and I never saw a 7x EL.

Also I'm curious, did the Design Selection and Spaceship Victory models result from engaging an outside design firm, as apparently Zeiss still do? (And were the simpler FLs a departure from that?)
 

Troubador

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Thanks, Lee. Could you elaborate on that? The resemblance isn't obvious to me, and I never saw a 7x EL.

Also I'm curious, did the Design Selection and Spaceship Victory models result from engaging an outside design firm, as apparently Zeiss still do? (And were the simpler FLs a departure from that?)
Hi Tenex, I will take your questions one at a time.

May I gently point out that I posted that the performance of the Dialyt was the inspiration for the EL, not its appearance? Here is an extract from my article about the Genesis of the original Swaro EL, which explains my statement:

"In the 1990’s Swarovski was well known in hunting circles but Gerhard Swarovski wanted to penetrate the birding market. At the time, many people regarded Zeiss’s Dialyt 7x42 (with it’s Abbe-Koenig prisms) as the premier nature observation instrument, and it was a particular favourite of Gerhard Swarovski who wanted to make a binocular that would match, or better still, exceed the performance of the 7x42 in every way. So the Dialyt was the inspiration and the challenge".

The Design Selection models, in some markets called Night Owls, were styled by a studio called frogdesign (the absence of capitalisation is their chosen style) and the Victory Mk1 56mm models only departed from these in minor ways. BTW the Design Selection 8x20B Pocket Binos received an iF Design Award in 1991, and the 56mm models received this in 1994. I have no information about who designed the FLs.

From a retired businessman's point of view, given the glacial pace at which sports optics companies release new models it makes no sense at all to have a team of a minimum of 2 designers (for inspiration and ideas) trained in styling/external design, sitting around with nothing to do for 80% of the year. By employing an external design studio you pay for the project time you need and get access to a team with a broad experience of many products and market sectors.

Lee
 
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tenex

reality-based
"In the 1990’s Swarovski was well known in hunting circles but Gerhard Swarovski wanted to penetrate the birding market. At the time, many people regarded Zeiss’s Dialyt 7x42 (with it’s Abbe-Koenig prisms) as the premier nature observation instrument, and it was a particular favourite of Gerhard Swarovski who wanted to make a binocular that would match, or better still, exceed the performance of the 7x42 in every way. So the Dialyt was the inspiration and the challenge".
Sorry, I meant to be asking what specific aspect(s) of the Dialyt's performance were the inspiration. Ease of view, perhaps? (Not going to match brightness, with higher magnification and SP prisms...)
 

Troubador

Moderator
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Sorry, I meant to be asking what specific aspect(s) of the Dialyt's performance were the inspiration. Ease of view, perhaps? (Not going to match brightness, with higher magnification and SP prisms...)
Its a good question Tenex but my research for the article didn't uncover whether there was some specific aspect of the performance that Gerhard wanted to surpass, only that he admired the Dialyt 7x42 and its international reputation and wanted to produce a binocular that would be even better.

Lee
 

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