Champions of the Flyway!

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Review: Zeiss Victory SF 10x32 Binoculars

As a Zeiss ambassador, testing optics in the field is always a pleasure, especially comparing them against each other - and I've recently had the opportunity to see how the new Victory SF 32s rack up against their older 42 siblings. 

I've been using the Victory SF 10x42s for several years now, and I love them. Super bright, super sharp, super powerful, and with an enviable field of view, especially for those circumstances which require it - seawatching being the most notable example. They're hard to fault, handle beautifully, and I've been more than happy with their performance in all circumstances.
My well-used Zeiss Victory SF 10x42 (left) and the hugely impressive 10x32 (right)

So, a high bar for the 10x32s to aim for. I'm no tech geek, and so won't bore you with the specifications and all that jazz (you can find that on the Zeiss website here, or by searching online for reviews and comparisons), but rather focus on how they perform, and compare against the 42s, in the field. 

I'm fortunate to be out birding - whether surveying, guiding, recreationally patch-birding or otherwise - pretty much every day of my life, and rarely am I out for less than several hours; so putting the 32s through their paces, in a wide variety of circumstances and conditions, wasn't a problem. In fact it was a pleasure.....
As above. The much smaller, lighter, even more ergonomically comfortable 10x32s (right) take a lot of beating in any birding situation. 

Ergonomically, they are instantly shocking (in a good way). Handling them for the first time, I almost thought I'd been sent the wrong model - surely these were way too small to be 10x32s? And surely much too light? In the field, they blew me away. Quite how such a small, dainty, compact, extremely light pair of binoulars could occupy their space at the very high end of cutting-edge birding optics takes some getting used to. 

Even after several days of field use, in all manner of habitats (including seashore, woodland, farmland, estuaries and urban/industrial environments) and in all kinds of light (be it bright, dull, fading, cloudy and clear, and in both inclement and fair conditions), the compact and wonderfully handleable nature of the 10x32s belied their superb image quality and durability.

Regarding their weight, or rather lack of - it's no exaggeration to say that, even after days of use, I was still instinctively patting my chest on numerous occasions while out birding to check they were actually there at all. That split-second sinking feeling you have when you think, "oh crap, I've forgotten my bins"? Get used to it - and to the follow-up relief of feeling their presence.
Are there any circumstances where the pros of the 10x42s outweigh those of the 32s? None that i could think of. As mentioned, I do a lot of seawatching, and the combination of brightness and (especially) the wide field of view of the 42s give the latter an edge in these circumstances. But for my purposes, the 32s are something else, and taking into account the almost counterintuitive nature of their size, proportions, ergonomics and weight, I'd favour them above any others, and in all other birding scenerios.