Despite keen competition among high-end birding binoculars, a consensus of reviewers ranks the Zeiss Victory T* FL at the top. The Zeiss optics are superb even in low light, with lenses made of eco-friendly fluorite prism glass to enhance light transmission and color accuracy. Reviews say the Zeiss Victory T* FL binoculars are so comfortable they almost become part of your face, with eyestrain nonexistent. The 405-foot field of view is excellent, and minimum focus is six feet, fine for watching butterflies and bird feeders. The Victory T* FL is waterproof and fogproof (for use in cold weather), easy to focus with one hand and carries a lifetime warranty -- unusual in that it's transferable to a new owner. Reviewers warn that looking through the Zeiss Victory T* FL binoculars just once can spoil you for less expensive binoculars, but the Pentax DCF NV 8x36 (*Est. $200) binoculars do get high marks for bird-watchers on a budget.
We found the best comparison test of the Zeiss Victory T* FL 8x42 binoculars at Birder's World magazine, where teams of experienced birders rate a variety of binoculars on image quality, feel and eye friendliness. Older reviews at Birdwatching.com and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology are interesting, but they are so out of date that the conclusions aren't as valuable.
1. Birder's World
The Zeiss Victory T* FL 8x42 binoculars are the top scorers in Birder's World magazine's test of 11 high-end binoculars. Each model is scored on image quality, feel and eye friendliness; testers also report if they think the binoculars are worth the money and if they would buy them for themselves.
Review: Optics Field Test: Specifications, Reviews, and Rankings of 11 Top Binoculars, Matt Mendenhall, June 2009
Optics4Birding.com has a detailed single-product review of the Zeiss Victory binoculars. Editors are very impressed with the optical quality, but note a slight amount of blurriness around the edges of the image.
Review: Zeiss Victory FL Binoculars, Editors of Optics4Birding.com, Not Dated
3. Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Based on extremely thorough objective tests, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology gives top ranking to the Zeiss Victory T* FL 8x42 in this price range, with higher scores for optics than 77 other models, including 18 other high-end binoculars. The Zeiss Victory T* FL 8x42 are also the only binoculars to get a perfect rating for eyeglass comfort, though the Swarovski EL 8.5x42 binoculars (*Est. $1,900) score better for overall comfort and feel, and are a bit easier to focus.
Review: The Age of Binoculars, Kenneth V. Rosenberg, Winter 2005
Based on comparison tests by a panel of bird-watchers, this review praises the Zeiss Victory FL 8x42 binoculars on all counts, but especially for combining superb optics with fast focusing, a wide field of view and close minimum focus. Reviewers say, "Its color purity and freedom from fringing are awe inspiring."
Review: Zeiss 42 Victory FL -- A Review, Michael and Diane Porter
This detailed single-product review is noteworthy because the reviewer includes tests for color accuracy at various times of day, concluding that the Zeiss Victory T* FL 8x42 is "the finest all-round birding binocular in the world today." Comparing them to the Swarovski EL 8.5x42, the Zeiss has the edge for sharpness, especially in low light.
Review: Zeiss Victory 8x42 T*FL Binocular, Tom Lester, November 2005
Based on objective tests by multiple reviewers, the Zeiss Victory T* FL 8x42 earns top ranking in this comparison review of eight high-end binoculars for hunters. The optics and comfort wow testers, but some note that it can be tricky to focus and to keep the diopter adjustment consistent.
Review: A Campfire Review of 8x42 Binoculars, Rick Bin