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Review Zeiss FL 8x42 vs Vortex Razor 8x42

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/08/2010 at 05:27
tamanoir View Drop Down
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Hi all,

here is a review of my Zeiss FL 8x42 versus my Vortex Razor 8x42.
I precise "my" binos : are these 2 units representative of the rest of their respective product line ? Don't know, but based on all what I read on the net I would bet they're not far from.
 
Foreword/context:
Me : 45 yo. Has satisfied my quest towards "the most perfect possible" optics with 2 Takahashi astro refractors FS102 and FS60C, and later 1 Zeiss FL 8x42.
I precise I'm wearing spectacles : I found alignement of eye-spectacles-optics of binos is of upmost importance when testing optics for resolution and CA (I can even easily see CA from the spectacles only).
I'll try to be objective and precise, but subjectivity will be there necessarily.
English is not my native language : feel free to ask for precisions if there is a doubt.

A few words about my 2 Takahashi fluorite "APO" refractors, as they are my "absolute" references for optical quality and were also the references for the Zeiss FL itself.
Concerning abberations (impact on resolution/micro-contrast), astronomical telescopes are said "diffraction limited" when they reach or do better than 1/4 lambda wavefront error peak-to-valley.
Based on the excellent book "Star testing astronomical telescope" from R. Suitter, I tested my Taks to be 1/8 lambda ptv error or better : at high magnification with them, you can "see" theory of light diffraction.
Color, CA, clarity/transparency, brightness belong to the very high end quality : read near perfect, as I couldn't visually detect any defect due to the objectives themselves.
In fact, with them you can test the quality of the eyepiece itself and its adaquetion to the relative f/d ratios ("of course", I have quality eyepieces paired to them : Zeiss Abbe, Takahashi, Pentax XL, the last being now the prefered for their comfort), the FS102 being a little more kind with its F/8 ratio.
They are racing machines, optically and mechanicaly, making them just exquisite at every magnification from 20X to 200X (the best mag depends on the subject, what you wanna do, and the atmospheric conditions of course).
They are not the only ones reaching this level of quality, "astro quality" is not magic. But sadly, it seems this level didn't yet really spread consistently outside from astro field (?!!, based on what I've read on various forums, QA seems to be very "tolerant" and tolerances themselves seem to be large (like 1/2 wavefront error for some BIG COMPANY  : no less than a shame !...).
So, I was and continue to be amazed to find in my Zeiss Fl some essential qualities I found with my Taks : in short there is a feeling of "no limit/filtering by the glass" (subjective of course).
I cannot be sure, with only 8X, about the real "astro quality/diffraction limited" for my Zeiss FL, but I would bet it is, as at least they never stop delighting me in this "no limit/no glass/living subject" feeling, even during the most adverse conditions of sight.

When I bought the Razor, I didn't really hoped for such a level of quality/pleasure, not in an absolute manner and even less when considering the tag price.
But I hoped a really "excellent" bino !
My reference for optical "excellence" is a Leica 77mm spotting scope that I used (shortly) a few years ago. I didn't scrutinize it, as it was shared by other birders and as the goal was to study birds not optics. But it was enough to make my mind.
I had my Zeiss FL with me, and I could also easily recall what would show my Tak FS60C in similar conditions.
Frankly, firstly, I was shocked by the Leica at 20-30X : CA everywhere, even in the center of image, even with mild contrast. Impossible to "forget the glass" between me and the bird.
Clearly not in the same league than my Zeiss FL bino (ok, not the same magnification) or the Takahashi at the same mags.
It was frustrating : after all it was a Leica ! But, nonetheless, I recognized that even with its CA this Leica spotting scope was excellent at showing all you have to see for identification and for studying the bird with very good sharpness, good contrast, good colors, etc, no feeling of a loss of information, and good eye comfort too : serious quality optics, even if no more up-to-date.
There were other (less expensive) spotting scopes at the same time, and the Leica was clearly the best one, the "pro one" for its global eye comfort and efficiency.
So to me excellence means "perhaps not the most perfect/pleasing view of the world, but certainly very effective and enough easy at doing its job" optically (and mechanically too !).
I think I would have been (reasonably) happy if my Razors had this level of performance.
My Razors are not only excellent, most of the time they are superb !

Let's begin :

The contenders :
My Zeiss FL 8x42 (Z) is among the latest pre-lotutec model, bought new in 2007 (if my memory is ok!).
My Vortex Razor 8x42 (R) is a replacement under warranty of a first pair bought new during june 2010. Based on this date, it is the dielectric prism coatings version.
Was bought with the excuse for needing 2 serious binos (as the Zeiss is practically dedicated to my wife, now...)

Warranty :
Z : on the paper, should be excellent, with a reassuring long time for handling the problems (30 years in Europe, lifetime in the US : why this difference ?! Grrrr). Also, "legends" are flying about this subject, and Zeiss is more than 150 yo. So perhaps it is true.
R : I experienced Vortex's warranty : simply stellar. Level of customer service should be the norm for every company. Lifetime warranty. Just one wish : that Vortex continues to fight for quality, and succeeds with a loooooong life !
Summary : Z's warranty sould be very reliable. R's warranty is very reliable (hope it continues to be)

Accessories :
Z : Bag : high quality, effective, lightweight and very well padded with high quality neckstrap. Bino's neckstrap : high quality, reassuring in the field, excellent distribution of weight : with this belt I never "forget" the bino, but it never becomes a hassle. Very comfortable.
R : Bag : idem Z. Bino's neckstrap : very nice but not quite same quality as the Z's, feels less confortable (a little heavy) also. Not bad, but perhaps could be a little better for a bino of this class.
Summary : Z : quality/effective items. Bino's belt very comfortable. R : quality/effective bag but bino's belt could be a little better (with less flexible padding to compensate the heavier weight).

Look, fit and finish :
Zeiss (Z) : exterior excellent. "fully serious/functionnal" look. Some may say plastic look due to the "polycarbonate reinforced fiberglass" used for the main frame (inside tubes are magnesium).
I agree to some extend. But I don't forget that when well done this kind of material can be more effective than magnesium when it comes to internal protection and resilience : I've seen high pressure gaz cylinder made of this kind of material. I've seen too a flagship camera whose magnesium body was BADLY cracked after a shock).
Interior (seen through the objective glass) : excellent, perfectly clean, superb machining, very serious. One apparent minor quibble : a long threading/baffling is grey, not painted black, but there is no optical incidence, no reflection, no glare, etc : Zeiss seem knowing what they do).
Vortex (R) : exterior excellent. "very serious/functionnal" look, classy also (subjective of course).
Interior excellent : perfectly clean, very serious. One apparent very minor quibble : some trace of glue (not on the optics), no incidence on optical performance.
Summary : Z and R have excellent exterior/interior finish : the two says "I'm serious". The difference are only cosmetic and subjective.

Looking thru the objective glass, one can see the sharp border of the circle that delimits the field of view at the focal plane.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/08/2010 at 21:51
NDhunter View Drop Down
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Tamanoir:
 
Thanks for the effort with your very thorough reviews.  You made it seem as if we were right with you
looking through the optics.
 
Jerry
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/09/2010 at 03:09
tamanoir View Drop Down
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Thank you Jerry.

I'm happy if I managed to give effective informations !
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/09/2010 at 08:54
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Impressive indeed.  Thanks for the effort and review.  Great stuff.  
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/09/2010 at 13:07
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Very nice write-up!

ILya
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/09/2010 at 13:38
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Originally posted by tamanoir tamanoir wrote:


A lot of "superb" adjective in this review ! It could lead to think I'm kind, it is not the case.
 
I think you are kind. Wink
 

Originally posted by koshkin koshkin wrote:

Very nice write-up!

 

ILya

 

That is very high praise coming from ILya.
 

I could only imagine if you and ILya were to ever meet in person what the conversation would be like.

 

Superb review sir, thank you very much for sharing it with us.

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/09/2010 at 17:17
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Tamanoir - this is really an outstanding review. It was very kind of you to share.

I am hoping you will keep on buying lots of optics:-) Thanks a lot!
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/09/2010 at 18:46
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Very nice write up,thanks! Excellent

Edited by stickbow46 - October/09/2010 at 18:47
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/10/2010 at 06:04
tamanoir View Drop Down
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Thank you all for your very kind and rewarding words !

Chris, I would like a lot to meet ILya in person as I appreciate very much his comments and reviews. I  bet that the conversion would rather unidirectionnal, and very interresting for me, as He has access to a lot more products than I do !
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/10/2010 at 19:39
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Thank you for putting together a very nice, thorough review, Tamanoir!  I really appreciate you sharing your observations with us, friend!  
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/11/2010 at 03:36
tamanoir View Drop Down
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Thank you Ted.
You're calling me "friend", that's an honor for me !

Again, I'm happy if my little review has managed to bring some informative inputs.
I think it's normal to share here my observations, as I took myself, by reading from here, from you, from ILya, and from others, lots of important informations to made my mind before buying my new bino !
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/11/2010 at 16:26
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Originally posted by tamanoir tamanoir wrote:

You're calling me "friend", that's an honor for me !
 
That's very kind of you to say, Tamanoir, and I appreciate it very much, sir!
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/12/2010 at 10:54
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I finally finished this review. It is very good, thanks.

I have had the pleasure of using the 8x42 Razor next to my 7x42 Zeiss. I am most impressed with the Vortex, too.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/25/2010 at 11:51
tamanoir View Drop Down
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Yes, this review is longuish to read, and was to write.
It could have been longer, as I forgot some aspects, but it doesn't change my conclusion.
The more I use these binos, the more I'm pleased with.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: November/02/2010 at 18:22
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tamanoir , thank you for super review.

What you can say about  'comfort for eyes' , comparing  Zen-Ray ed2  7x36  and 8x43 to Zeiss / Razor ?

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: November/05/2010 at 06:20
tamanoir View Drop Down
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Hello mmx_4,
thanks for the kind words.
Sorry, I never looked through a ZR : I cannot answer to your specific question.
I can only repeat that with the Zeiss, I had completely forgotten this aspect. The Razor made me think of this again, but by comparison only. Since my review, I have exclusively used the razor, and have been accustomized to it : I have "no real problem" with them, so I conclude their are good. But again, I reused my Zeiss jst to verify after this time, and yes Zeiss shows it can be better.
So, ZR'eye comfort vs Razor's, I don't know.
Zeiss's vs ZR's, I bet the Zeiss wins (hand down ?) : "eye comfort" is one of the parameters included in the global compromise of an optic system, and each parameter has a cost...
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: November/05/2010 at 07:49
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Never looked through a zeiss but my bow shop is a vortex dealer and everything I've picked up I like, that being said, I'll order anything I want to buy off swfa just because their prices look good
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