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.
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
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.
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 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.
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 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 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.
Zeiss: 2 years warranty
Swarovski: 10 years warranty
Zeiss: lifetime warranty
Swarovski: 10 years warranty
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!