ZEISS Adds to Premier Binocular Lineup with Impressive Victory SF 32

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The upper echelons of the binocular world just got a bit more crowded with the introduction of the new ZEISS 8x32 Victory SF binoculars and their stablemate, the ZEISS 10x32 Victory SF. Designed and manufactured for the most discriminating customers, the new ZEISS Victory SF binoculars are sure to impress all those who experience the pleasure of looking through them. And, thanks to our friends at ZEISS, I did have the pleasure of looking through these new Victory SF 32 binoculars.

Before I dive into some technical optics terms, those new to binoculars might benefit from reading Explora’s binocular buying guide.

Fresh Design

For those who closely follow the comings and goings of the binocular stratosphere, ZEISS’s flagship Victory line has been hanging out at the penthouse party with the world’s premier optics since 2000. The Victory SF models of that lineage have been around for a few years now with their ZEISS 8x42 Victory SF T* and 10x42 Victory SF T* glasses. The 42mm objective Victory SF binos featured a new look for ZEISS binoculars with decidedly modern barrel sculpting. Fast-forward to today and the new Victory SF 32 binoculars have tweaked that design, removing some of the SF 42’s curves, to be even cleaner and more striking. The newest members of the Victory SF family look conservative and sharp. Even without aggressive texture or raised grips, the rubberized barrel coating provides plenty of grip.

In the ZEISS family of binoculars, several members of the Victory line, including the new Victory SF 32 glasses, feature an open bridge design that is seen, noticeably, in other premium binocular offerings. The relatively rare roof prism plus open bridge design is favored by many viewers because you can wrap your hands all the way around the barrels, and they also save weight. The downside is that it is rumored to be more expensive to produce; therefore, it has found a home, mostly, in the top echelons of the binocular world and, appropriately, is seen on the Victory SF 32 line, which features a triple-hinge design for exceptional rigidity.

Features

Choosing the top selling point of the new Victory SF 32 binoculars is difficult, because its list of features combine to create a superior optic. Therefore, I will discuss these features in no particular order.

  • ZEISS rightly touts the wide field of view of the new Victory SF 32 glasses—a field of view that is up to 20% larger than some competitors. A wider field of view gives a more immersive viewing experience and makes it easier to locate and track targets—especially moving targets (e.g., birds in flight). The 8x32 Victory SF binoculars feature a 6.7º angle of view and a field of view of 467' @ 1000 yd; the 10x32s feature a 7.5º angle of view and a field of view of 392' @ 1000 yd. Comparatively, my personal 8x30 binoculars sport an 8.3º angle and cover 435' @ 1000 yd while my 8x42s have a 7.0º angle and narrower field of view of 366' @ 1000 yd.
  • The “SF” designation of these ZEISS binoculars refers to the “SmartFocus Concept” that places the focus ring in an ideal ergonomic position and allows the viewer to rack focus from close focus to infinity in only 1.6 turns.
  • The open bridge design and position of the focus wheel allowed ZEISS engineers to place the optic’s center of gravity purposely toward the viewer and away from the objective lenses—their ErgoBalance Concept. This aft CG shift allows for longer periods of reduced-fatigue viewing.
  • The SCHOTT ultra-fluoride glass elements give the ZEISS Victory SF 32 binoculars superior resolution and color fidelity, with reduced chromatic aberration, that you notice the very first time you look through the glasses. Of course, these SF 32 binoculars have the renowned ZEISS T* coatings, as well.
  • To enhance all-weather performance, the binoculars are waterproof and nitrogen filled, and the objective lenses have a water-repelling LotuTec coating.
  • ZEISS claims a 90% light transmission level and twilight factor of 16.0 for the SF 32 binoculars, but I think these specifications must be inaccurate as the ZEISS SF 32’s appear to me as one of those rare optics that make the world look brighter than it does with the naked eye.
  • Oh, by the way, wonderful packaging and unboxing experience!

In the Field

8x—My Happy Place

Most birders gravitate toward 8x or 10x binoculars for their outings. Many observers want to get as close as possible with their views, and 10x binoculars are certainly popular with many birders and hunters, but, even with my steady(ish) hands, I have enjoyed the stability of the 8x magnification over identical pairs of binoculars with 10x. I was happy to be able to test the 8x32 Victory SF binoculars for this article. But, for those wanting more magnification, the new Victory SF design also can be had in 10x.

32mm—The In-Between Size

Although there are many sizes of binoculars on the market, one admits that there are “standard sizes” when discussing objective lens sizes. Larger objective lenses mean larger glass and larger glass means more weight. Larger objectives also gather more light and have advantages for low-light viewing.

Astronomical binoculars often feature objective lenses of 70mm or even larger.

Marine binoculars traditionally rock 50mm objectives at 7x to give a decidedly bright view when looking for aids to navigation in fading light, as well as a large exit pupil to assist with viewing when underway on smaller craft. The size of the 50mm objectives isn’t a huge consideration because mariners are generally using the glasses for a quick scan of the horizon before placing the binoculars back on a counter, bridge window sill, or protective holder.

Birding and hunting binoculars are usually found traditionally at the 42mm mark, where there is a good balance between light gathering and portability.

And, the truly compact pocket-size binoculars come in around 25 or 20mm ± a few millimeters.

So, in-between the “full-size” 42mm(ish) binoculars and the compact 25mm(ish) binoculars lives the middle-ground region where 30mm and 32mm binoculars live. And, when you shop in this range, you find a wide range of different size binoculars—some are decidedly compact, and others look and feel like their full-sized counterparts.

So, this brings us to the new pair of ZEISS Victory SF binoculars and their 32mm objective lenses—binoculars that firmly lie on the side of the full-size realm and away from the compact world.

Resting between a pair of 8x30 binoculars and a pair of 8x42 binoculars, the ZEISS 8x32 Victory SF shows its “full-size” form factor.
Resting between a pair of 8x30 binoculars and a pair of 8x42 binoculars, the ZEISS 8x32 Victory SF shows its “full-size” form factor.

With their relatively large size, with a 32mm objective, is there an advantage to the smaller 32mm objectives when compared to the full-sized 42mm or smaller compact binoculars? Honestly, that depends on the viewer. The “full-size” feel of the ZEISS might be ergonomically friendlier to those with larger hands who find compact pairs too small. Also, and most importantly, the smaller objectives translate into a fair amount of weight saving over a pair of 42mm objective binoculars.

Comparing to my trusty 8x30 and 8x42 binoculars, the ZEISS 8x32 Victory SF weighs 21.2 oz where my 8x30s are 15.3 oz and the 8x42s weigh in at 28.3 oz.

The ZEISS Victory SF 32mm glasses give you a full-size feel with the weight more aligned with a compact binocular—important for when you are carrying the binoculars on a long outing, saving weight and space in your luggage, or holding the optic up for viewing for long periods of time.

Overall Impressions

The new ZEISS 8x32 Victory SF binoculars are certainly impressive with their sparkling optics, great ergonomics, and top-tier features. As I wrote above, they live in that realm of binoculars where, when you look through them, you swear the world is brighter through the glass than with your unaided eyeballs. That, in itself, makes using the ZEISS 8x32 Victory SF binoculars a pleasure.

As for the form factor of the 32mm objectives, yet full-size feel of the binoculars, the ZEISS 8x32 Victory SF binoculars will appeal to those who enjoy the feel of a traditional full-size birding binocular yet desire an optic that is lighter and more portable for long hikes or for weight-conscious explorers who know that shaving a few ounces off one’s kit, without sacrificing an exemplary optical experience, really matters.

2 Comments

Hi Mr Vorenkamp.

Very nice reading on the new Zeiss Victory 32. Seems to be a very nice glass with a very sharp picture and a huge field of view.

I noticed you wrote the wrong FOV-number on the 8x32 (it is 8.9°). It's also wrong FOV-number on the BH website under "Specs" för Victor SF 8x32. It should be 8.9° and nothing else (or maybe actually 8.89°).

Sincerely Magnus P

Hi Magnus,

Thank you for the kind words! I will have our fact-checkers double-check my specs as I cannot find the original specifications that Zeiss sent with the binoculars and Zeiss only gives a FOV spec, not an AOV spec on their website.

Thanks for keeping us straight and for reading Explora!

Best,

Todd

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