And at a slight angle with more perspective to the inner reflections.
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Posted 27 January 2014 - 07:27 AM
Posted 27 January 2014 - 07:28 AM
The Zeiss Victory FL at a slight angle. It has no unwanted internal reflections. The inner construction of the Zeiss was done with more attention to detail. More on that later.
Posted 27 January 2014 - 07:46 AM
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Posted 27 January 2014 - 04:51 PM
The Swarovski SLC 56's (SLC) and Zeiss Victory FL 56's(FL) in actual use!
The first thing you notice when picking up these is their heft. These are serious observing equipment, be it daytime or under the stars. Rubber armor has a more sophisticated feel with the Zeiss. And more like a hunting boot in the Swaro's. Both work well, but with an edge for the Swaro in providing a grippier surface in the cold. The Zeiss are warmer in the hand though. Call it a draw.
Focus is smooth and precise in both the SLC's and FL's. The FL's focus much closer than the 6 meters of the SLC's, but who buys a 56mm monster to look at butterflies close-up anyway?
Adjusting interpupillar distance is smooth and solid. Once adjusted, it stays put in both.
Any of the SLC's feels exactly the same in use with respect to focus, you could not tell them apart blindfolded. Not so with the FL's. Some are smoother than others. The good news is that you can adjust them, either by yourself or by the Zeiss service department. I would prefer them to be adjusted more similar to each other at the factory.
Internal blackening and mounting of the prisms and internal lenses seems to be done with more care and sophistication in the Zeiss FL's, as the pictures clearly show. The Zeiss give the feel of a money-no-object effort to build the most perfect 56mm binos Zeiss could. The Swaro give the feeling of building a superb 56mm bino at a price point. Superb, but with some cost-cutting design decisions. Shiny ocular rims in a high-end bino? Come on Swarovski!
Collimation in all the Swaro SLC's was perfect. Not so in the Zeiss FL's. The 10x56 was perfect too, but the 8x56 was ever so slightly out of alignment horizontally. Within spec and adjustable per factory service of course, but not perfect.
Field stops in all SLC and FL binos were perfectly round with sharp, clean edges.
Eyecups in both are adjustable. Smoother in the Swaro, better resting position at the settings in the Zeiss. In the FL's, the eyecups are a little smaller and more rounded, allowing better positioning of the eye IN the eyecup and better shielding of stray light in the Zeiss. The Swaro's have a wider eyecup, so they keep a little more distance between the eye and the ocular. For my anatomy, I prefer the Zeiss. Both SLC and FL feature enough eye relief for eyeglasses, but with a slight edge for the Swaro, especially the 8x.
I observe without glasses, so take that into account when reading on.
With the Zeiss, the view is slightly more wrapped around the eye. You can really look around in the image, as in being in a tiny sphere. The Swaro's present the image with a little more distance, more like looking at a perfect round projection screen at a short distance in front of you. These are subtle differences exaggerated a little to make a point about how these images feel to observe and take in.
The 56 SLC's are the first and only Swaro's to use the same prisms as both the Zeiss 42 and 56 Victory FL's: the legendary Abbe-König prisms. These have full internal reflection and do not need a reflective silvered surface. This means less scattered light, a few percent higher light-transmission and no degradation of reflective prism coatings over time.
Both the SLC and FL bring light to a focus point with such precision that they feel like portable apochromats. By choice of glass and coatings, the Swaro's have the most neutral color presentation of the image. The Zeiss' images have a slightly fluorescent blue sparkle to them, almost like a slightly electrified image. Again exaggerated a little for the sake of clarity. But real and observable for the experienced observer. Under certain low light conditions, this gives the effect of the Zeiss seemingly showing a ever so slightly brighter image of landscapes and animals at dusk or dawn. But not repeatable under the night sky at stars.
Off axis, the Swaro's clearly present a sharper image than the Zeiss. The correction is very good almost to the very edge in the Swaro, where the Zeiss become increasingly astigmatic from say 75% out towards the edge of the field. The bigger field curvature in the Zeiss comes into play here too, but I could not refocus the edge to perfect sharpness.
On axis, the Zeiss FL's are very sharp. Side by side observing the first quarter Moon, the Zeiss showed a bit more detail and 3-D in the center of the field. Slightly more, but there. The SLC's still showed a magnificent image though. And through the 3x booster, all the SLC's and FL's showed sharp and almost color-free stars.
8x or 10x?
When observing objects near and far and under a range of light-conditions, the 8x56 are the better choice. They have much more depth of field, allowing more of a 3-D scene to be in focus at the same time. Thus a bird flying towards you in a scenery of trees is very easy and enjoyable to observe in the 8x, but can be challenging in the 10x. The 10x do better when observing distant objects, say at the horizon. Or objects that don't move very fast closer to you. Under low-light conditions, the 8x are brighter.
Under the stars, the 8x are wonderful as allround binos. They fit the belt and sword of Orion nicely in one field. Or show you the Heiades in all their glory. They are not for detailed deep-sky observing.
The 10x show more detail on the night sky, showing more nebulosity in M42 or a more dramatic view of the Pleiades. Over time they do become more shaky than their 8x cousins. And to me, as an only binocular, the 10x56 lack the critical overview the 8x56 provide of deep-sky objects in their surroundings.
After many nights and days with these wonderful binoculars over the course of 3 weeks, I would choose the 8x over the 10x personally if I could have only one binocular. Calmer, brighter views. Greater depth of field during daytime observations. Wider fields.
SLC or FL?
For handholdable big binoculars, ergonomics is everything. Here the new SLC's excel. They fit the view of a 56mm bino in a body that feels surprisingly close to a 42mm. Yes, the Zeiss are even better (slightly) on-axis and are built better with more attention to the details. But as an overal viewing experience, the SLC's do better. I do hope Swarovski improve on some details. And make them available with black rubber armor too. That would bring them close to being the perfect 56mm binoculars.
But ultimately out of all the SLC and FL 56mm models, I would get the 15x56 SLC for detailed hand held stargazing. It is the ultimate hand-holdable power house. Team it up with a nice compact 8x42 or 8x32 and you are good to go.
In closing I can only say that all these 56mm binoculars provide a wonderful viewing experience and great pride of ownership. The Zeiss are still superb despite their age and will likely be the last of the great Zeiss Made in Germany superb quality binoculars. Their owners will likely continue to enjoy their stunning on-axis performance for decades or more. The new Swarovski SLC 56mm binoculars are also very enjoyable hand-holdable 56 mm binoculars currently in production because of their revolutionary ergonomics and balance. And their SLC 15x56 WB model is a stunning blend of magnification, image quality and ergonomics.
Posted 27 January 2014 - 05:49 PM
Posted 27 January 2014 - 05:55 PM
Posted 27 January 2014 - 06:13 PM
Great write-up Erik.
Not to question or doubt you, but you surprised me with the following:
the Zeiss become increasingly astigmatic from say 75% out towards the edge of the field
I was actually expecting field curvature to be the culprit.
The Zeiss are still superb despite their age and will likely be the last of the great Zeiss Made in Germany superb quality binoculars.
That would be sad news. Really can't we expect anything as good or even "better" from Zeiss in the future?
Posted 27 January 2014 - 06:21 PM
<will likely be the last of the great Zeiss Made in Germany superb quality binoculars.>
<That would be sad news.>
I'd intended to address the same point myself, Mark.
In addition to which, WHY, Erik, do you think so?
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