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The Swarovski CL Pocket 8x25 and Zeiss Terra ED Pocket 8x25, a review

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#1 Erik Bakker

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Posted 04 March 2016 - 01:20 PM

Swaro Zeiss folded open.jpeg

 

Introduction

 

The Swarovski CL Pocket 8x25 and Zeiss Terra ED Pocket 8x25 currently represent the best small binoculars these famous European manufacturers make. The Swarovski’s are made in their Austrian factory in Absam. The Zeiss are manufactured in Japan to Zeiss’ specifications.
The Zeiss Terra ED Pocket 8x25 and 10x25 were introduced in juli 2015, while the Swarovski CL Pocket were announced in the summer of 2012.

 

At first glance, the new Swarovski CL Pockets have the typical Swarovski look. Nice, clean looks with an aluminum body partly covered by rubber. On closer inspection, we see that the bridge is out of synthetic material with a matte black finish. Some sort of green armor plate covers the top of the bridge. When you take these binoculars in your hands in mildly cold weather, your fingers feel 3 different temperature sensations with the Swarovski CL Pocket: a neutral-cold feel from the rubber grip, a cold feel from the black anodized uncovered metal part of the barrels and finally a thin plasticky feel from the  uncover black synthetic material the bridge is made of. Hmmm.

 

The new Zeiss Terra ED Pocket look a bit plasticky at first glance. Plain simple even. But upon closer inspection, they feature a solid build with a fibre-glass reinforced waterproof casing material. Every part is fully covered with rubbery/synthetic armor. Under the same mildly cold conditions, these feel very comfortable and grippy in the hand. As hewn out of a solid block covered with a grippy, warm synthetic/rubber armor. Very nice and comfortabel. Wow, better than I thought.

 

The Swaro's come standard with a padded soft case. The Zeiss come with a small back cloth sack. The sturdy padded case is optional (pictured). 

 

The instruments were kindly provided by the owner of my favorite local dealer for testing.

 

Swaro Case 1.jpeg

 

Zeiss Case 3.jpeg

 

 

Measured  specifications

                                               close focus  weight  length*    width*   height*  aperture  exit pupil   mag.

                                                  (cm)              (g)      (mm)       (mm)     (mm)     (mm)       (mm)        (calc)

                                                                                   

Zeiss Terra ED Pocket 8x25      145            325     120/111   105/70   50/47    25           3.1           8.1x

 

Swarovski CL Pocket 8x25        223            355     122/110   108/65   47/40    25           3.2           7.8x

 

Wherever 2 measurements are given, the first one is the maximum value, the second the minimum value

 

Swaro Zeiss open screwed in.jpeg

 

Swaro Zeiss folded.jpeg

 

 

Eyecups

 

Eyecups in the Swaro adjust smoothly and evenly, no locking positions however.
Those in the Zeiss adjust slightly less smooth new out of the box and have 2 locking positions: 1 fully in, 1 fully out. Over time, they become smooth to adjust, but don’t reach that precision feel of the eyecups Swarovski.

 

 

Eyerelief and field of view

 

Eyerelief feels slightly more comfortable in the Swarovski. The Swaro’s have slightly more comfortable eyecups for me and a slightly easier view to take in during the day while panning.
Apparent field of view feels slightly wider in the Zeiss. True field of view in both is identical as measured on the stars of Orion.

 

 

Ergonomics

 

Ergonomically, I find the Zeiss easier and more comfortable to hold. This is a result of the slightly thicker barrels that also have a more comfortable to my hands. In addition, the Zeiss also have better placement and more solid feeling focus knob.

 

The objectives are more recessed and better protected from impact or stray light in the Zeiss. The Swaro has narrower, more slender barrels, which can benefit users with small hands. For the male observer with medium to big hands, the Zeiss are more comfortable to hold because of their slightly bigger diameter barrels.

 

 

Collimation

 

Collimation is perfect in the Zeiss.
Collimation in the Swarovski CL Pocket, while not perfect, appears to be within factory tolerances. But they are not as perfectly collimated as all other Swaro’s I’ve evaluated over the last years. 

 

 

Sharpness and contrast

 

Sharpness is definitely better in the Zeiss, as are micro- and macro contrast. This is easily seen on the feathers of birds in my garden at 10 yards. And even more prominent on the moon. More contrast nuances, starker contrast on mountain ridges and craters and plainly more detail in a more lively lunar- or bird image.

In comparison, the Swarovski’s are slightly less sharp, less contrasty. But also a little bit brighter and more blue greenish in hue.

The Zeiss shows a tiny bit more of a red hue, but also have a deeper, richer more true to life image with a more neutral yet richer color palette during the day. I could observe more feather detail and subtle nuances with the Zeiss than with the Swaro.

 

Images look good in both binoculars through the 3x Zeiss booster, with the edge in sharpness going to the Zeiss Terra ED Pockets. In focus at the center of the field of view, no false color is visible in either binoculars!

 

During the night, the Swaro’s are tiny bit brighter, which adds some extra sparkle to starfields. But what the Swaro’s add in brightness, they lack in ultimate sharpness and contrast. This is easily observed on tighter binocular doubles in the Sword of Orion. Pairs that are an easy split in the Zeiss, are more difficult to seperate in the Swaro. And as said, on the moon, the Zeiss are a big step ahead. The same is visible on the definition of Jupiter’s disc and it’s 4 bright Galilean moons.

 

Starfields show a bit better edge correction in the Swaro, but edge correction is still very good in the Zeiss.

 

 

On brightness, magnification and field of view

 

The combination of the slightly lower magnification (7.8x vs 8.1x) and the slightly higher blue-green transmission in the Swarovskis lead to a slightly brighter blue/green image in low light.
This is easily visible when observing deep into the twilight or at night.

 

During the day, the Zeiss have better contrast, color saturation saturation and transparency, so the overall transparency of it's coatings and optical components is excellent and exceeds that of the Swarovski's in daylight.

 

The Zeiss and the Swarovski have the exact same true field of view. That means the Zeiss with it's slightly higher magnification has the very slightly larger AFOV, confirmed by it’s wider feel of the views.

 

The Zeiss coatings are less reflective than those on the Swarovski's.

 

Zeiss vs Swaro coatings.jpeg

 

 

On prisms and stray light

 

The Swarovski’s have a small part of the prism intruding the light path in the right barrel. They also have two false exit pupils in each barrel.
The Zeiss are free of such issues. Clean, round exit-pupils are the result. The Zeiss are very well shielded against stray light.

The Swarovskis struggle with bright lightsources just outside the field of view. This was witnessed several times with the bright moon (just) outside the field of view. When observing starfields in the vicinity of the moon, big bright arches of light are visible in the Swarovski, making observations near the moon very difficult. These reflections have a form akin to Northern Light.

 

 

Focussing

 

Focussing is nicer with a bigger, grippier focus-knob and a more pleasant resistance in the Zeiss for my taste. In the Swaro, focussing is very light and easier to adjust inadvertently.

 

 

Close focus

 

Close focus is a measured 1.45 meters in the Zeiss Terra ED Pocket, better than their 1.90 meter spec.
The Swaro's however struggle at closer distances and call it a day at 2.23 meters, a little closer than their specification of 2.50 meters. In real life, this makes a big difference at the magnification factor of objects observed at close range, like flowers and butterflies. Here the Zeiss is the clear winner and manages to provide sharp and contrasty images even at close range.

 

 

Warranty

 

Europe
Zeiss: 2 years warranty
Swarovski: 10 years warranty

 

USA
Zeiss: lifetime warranty
Swarovski: 10 years warranty

 

 

Summary

 

All in all, both the Swaro and the Zeiss Pockets are wonderful compacts.

The Swarovski’s convince with their very bright low-light views, complete standard equipment out of the box and wonderful eyecup-ergonomics.

 

The Zeiss are the sharper, more contrasty binoculars. Subtle bird detail during the day or on the moon at night are revealed with a level sharpness and contrast that is both stunning and intoxicating. Contrast is stark, with the images in the Swarovski showing a slight veil in comparison.

Ergonomically, I prefer the body-design of the Zeiss, especially with gloves on. Easier to hold and warmer hands for much longer.

 

People who already own other binoculars from either brand are well served when they buy the pocket binoculars from the same manufacturer. They both are truly wonderful. That said, my personal pick is the Zeiss. They are very enjoyable indeed. A great marriage of German-Japanese craftsmanship and design.

 

YMMV of course. If at all possible, make sure you evaluate these binoculars in person to see which model fits your personal needs best!


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#2 Mad Matt

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Posted 04 March 2016 - 01:36 PM

Excellent review!

#3 drt3d

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Posted 04 March 2016 - 01:39 PM

I have the Swarovski CL Pocket 8x25 and it is my most used pair this time of the year that's not good for stargazing. I take them everywhere I go and use them to look at birds outside my house. I love them... :) but I have nothing good enough to compare.

My other two pairs are also Swarovski, 10x50 and 15x56 (the last one is the my favorite for stargazing).

 

George


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#4 Rich V.

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Posted 04 March 2016 - 01:41 PM

Much better formatting in this post, Erik.

 

Thanks,  

 

Rich


Edited by Rich V., 04 March 2016 - 02:56 PM.


#5 garret

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Posted 04 March 2016 - 01:50 PM

Price:

Zeis: Euro 305,- Swarovski:  Euro 629,-

 

Field:

Zeis and Swarovski: 6.8 degree.

 

Eye relief Zeis: 16mm, Swarovski: 17mm


Edited by garret, 04 March 2016 - 01:56 PM.


#6 Pinac

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Posted 04 March 2016 - 02:16 PM

Thank you for this very nice review of the two 8x25 pocket binos, Erik, which I enjoyed reading !!

Just two or three remarks, if I may:

On collimation:
You found collimation in the Swaro less than perfect. I consider this a sample variation affecting the individual bino you were inspecting, the 8x25s from Swaro are generally very well collimated, I own one and have seen 3 or 4 others since they were introduced.

Contrast/Sharpness:
I am not convinced sharpness / contrast are definitley better in the Zeiss, at least not in the one I own; it is good, but it is not better than in my Swaro. Again, sample variations do occur, so I do not argue with you.

On stray light:
You write that the Swaro has false exit pupils, and the Zeiss has clean, round exit pupils. As shown in the attached picture, the Zeiss isn’t perfect either, though – quite some reflections, and the EPs are not perfectly round.

On focussing:
I number of users I know have returned their Zeiss Terras because the focussing was too tight and hard to turn, some could not turn the wheel with one finger. Mine are better, but still quite hard to turn, which I like, but many others apparently don’t.

On warranty:
in Europe, the „10 year“ Swaro warranty is actually 10 years material, 5 years labor, but Swaro as well as Zeiss are actually quite generous in the interpretation of warranty periods.

Thank you again for the interesting review, and I wish you many enjoyable observations with your Terra !
Pinac

 

IMG_0229.JPG



#7 tropical

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Posted 04 March 2016 - 02:29 PM

Zeiss Terra is made in China, correct?  I've heard it is made for Cabezas as well and is re-branded for Zeiss.  Is that true?



#8 Kimmo Absetz

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Posted 04 March 2016 - 03:30 PM

Eric,

 

Thanks for the review. One short question. How did you measure the magnifications of these two? The deviation from nominal in the Swaro is rather large.

 

- Kimmo



#9 dufay

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Posted 04 March 2016 - 04:59 PM

Zeiss Terra is made in China, correct?  I've heard it is made for Cabezas as well and is re-branded for Zeiss.  Is that true?

 

I've read somewhere that the 8x25 Terra Pocket is made in Japan. However, the 32/42mm models seem to be manufactured in China.



#10 Erik Bakker

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Posted 04 March 2016 - 05:36 PM

The Zeiss Terra 25mm Pocket ED's are made in Japan, the larger Terra's are currently made in China and optically not quite as good as their smaller Japanese cousins.



#11 Erik Bakker

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Posted 04 March 2016 - 05:37 PM

Kimmo,

 

The magnification was calculated from the (caliper under 3x magnifier) measured objective diameter and exit pupil diameter. 



#12 Erik Bakker

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Posted 04 March 2016 - 07:27 PM

Thanks Pinac. 

 

Binoculars, like all optical instruments, show sample-sample variation. And in a way, they are like children. How can one not love them? At this level, all are very enjoyable to observe with, just different.



#13 drt3d

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Posted 04 March 2016 - 07:55 PM

It just boils down to how many "children" you can afford :)

 

I am a minimalist so one child for each purpose is enough...

 

It is tempting to try the Zeiss but I am having so much fun with the Swarovskis that it is hard to think how they can be improved upon. I use them with one hand. I can hold them, adjust separation if needed and focus, all with one hand. I have no use for the hard case, strap or cups. I just store them in a soft cloth. All cups do is delay using them and having to worry about misplacing them.... :)

 

George



#14 Jerry Barnett

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Posted 04 March 2016 - 10:33 PM

Excellent review, Erik. Well done!!

 

I have certainly been pleased with my Zeiss Terra ED 8x25. They are a wonderful traveling and hiking companion. Their clarity and color rendition are superb and never fail to provide a satisfying view.

 

Thanks for providing such a well thought out review of these 2 fine compact binoculars.

 

J


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#15 Pinac

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Posted 05 March 2016 - 02:30 AM

Thanks Pinac. 

 

Binoculars, like all optical instruments, show sample-sample variation. And in a way, they are like children. How can one not love them? At this level, all are very enjoyable to observe with, just different.

 

So true - totally agree !!

:waytogo:



#16 tom6

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Posted 06 March 2016 - 09:37 AM

Thanks for the  nice review Eric."Bad" news for my wallet i think And a qwestion. Have you any experience with the 10/25 format?

 Is it posible to hold them stable?



#17 Erik Bakker

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Posted 06 March 2016 - 12:29 PM

The 10x25's are excellent, IF you can keep them steady. Over the years I've found that the hard part. There is a reason IS binoculars start at 10x  :lol:

 

A bigger and heavier pair of binoculars is easier to hold steady than these very small and light bins. Bins this small are often used when hiking or climbing. After a few hours walking or climbing, 8x is taxing my limits to hold stable. I also enjoy the slightly bigger exit pupils the 8x25's provide over their 10x25 cousins. Easier to take the views in, brighter in low light.

 

If you must have 10x, try a bigger model. Say a 40mm. For me though, 10x starts to shine at 50-56mm. For hand-held, I love my 10x56's for cruising the Milky Way or observing comets. But these are massive binoculars, make no mistake about it!



#18 edwincjones

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Posted 06 March 2016 - 01:10 PM

my 10x32 meopta/cabela HDs are small, but solid, and not a problem to hold steady

-for birding and general use.

 

edj



#19 Erik Bakker

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Posted 06 March 2016 - 02:08 PM

Good point Edj. Same with my Zeiss FL 10x32. However, while extremely compact for a 32 mm, these were nowhere near as compact as these 8x25's.



#20 stormbird

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Posted 06 March 2016 - 05:50 PM

Erik,

 

Thank you for the excellent review. I wonder how the Nikon 10x25 LXL would compare with the Zeiss 10x25 ED. The price difference is pretty large between the Zeiss and Nikon.



#21 Traveler

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Posted 07 March 2016 - 12:56 PM

Excellent review Erik! Lots of information you provide us here.

 

Maybe i will go visit your shop for a nice one of those little Zeiss...if my CFO is ok with such a visit ;-)



#22 Erik Bakker

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Posted 07 March 2016 - 02:53 PM

How can she refuse  :flowerred:



#23 samovu

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Posted 07 March 2016 - 06:00 PM

Erik, thanks for the great comparison. I've recently rekindled my interest in compact binoculars so this was enjoyable and great reading.  

 

Cheers,

John



#24 tropical

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Posted 08 March 2016 - 10:52 AM

Is the Swaro in direct competition with the Zeiss Victory line?  If that is true then why Zeiss built something much cheaper and better optically (assuming Victory is same quality with Swaro)  to compete with their more expensive line? 

 

A person from Birdforum was saying about the Terra 8x25:" The sample I tried wasn't sharp, the colours were dull and the sweetspot small. I asked the lady from Zeiss if they were all that bad and she just smiled and shrugged her shoulders so I presume the answer was yes so I moved on." 

 

I really don't understand Zeiss strategy here???



#25 Pinac

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Posted 08 March 2016 - 11:40 AM

I can only talk about the European Market.

Here, Zeiss a few years started sort of a "cheap premium" line with the China made Terras (8/10x32, 8/10x42), and as far as I am aware, they had quite some success with that product line (which I personally understand, I like both the 32 and the 42, despite their limited performance). In the meantime, competition from people such as Meopta with their new MeoPro HD models offer clearly better performance for more or less the same price, and I wonder whether / how this will affect Zeiss; I assume still a lot of people will want the brand first, even if contrast and sharpness are better in the MeoPro HD.

Now, with the 8x25, Zeiss seems to be targeting higher: this is not a cheap binocular, compared to some of its competition from Kowa / Meopta, and it is also not made in China anymore, but in Japan. That the comparable Swaro is still clearly more expensive (and imho also still optically a bit superior) is a fact, and Swarovski will have to see what happens if they keep their price where it is (I have no information whatever how well the 8x25 CL sells). I remember that Swarovski sometimes can surprise the market (if you think about the latest product switch from the previous to the new SLCs).

So my guess is that Zeiss is going to snap some of Swaro's 8x25 market away, because the new Terra is really a good piece of equipment, and the brand counts as well.

mho, for what it's worth.

Pinac


Edited by Pinac, 08 March 2016 - 11:41 AM.



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