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Zeiss flagship hunting scopes -- "old" vs. "new"

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/09/2016 at 21:45
RifleDude View Drop Down
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We all know that when something is advertised as "new and improved," it may not necessarily be either, and often isn't. Those of us who remember "New Coke" back in the mid 1980's will recall that it was a complete bust, and Coca-Cola was forced to bring back the "classic" Coke. Sometimes "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

I recently purchased the new Zeiss Victory HT 2.5-10X50 with illuminated #60 reticle. Zeiss advertises the HT series scopes as being "the brightest riflescopes ever from Carl Zeiss." Since I've always found Zeiss scopes to be excellent low light performers, those are pretty strong words. Zeiss claims these scopes are noticeably "brighter" than their previous flagship Diavari, Victory, and Varipoint hunting scopes. Is this true or did Zeiss just attempt to "fix what ain't broke?" Is the new HT improved in other ways over previous Zeiss scopes? With this in mind and at the urging of a fellow OT member, I decided to let my eyes decide.

It just so happens I also have a Zeiss Diavari V 2.5-10X50 with illuminated #8 reticle, so I couldn't devise a more "apples to apples" comparison of "old vs. new" Zeiss technology if I tried. The Diavari was manufactured sometime during the 2005 - 2007 time frame and therefore predates Zeiss's "LotuTec" hydrophobic lens coatings. The Victory HT includes "LotuTec," a new "Schott High Transmission" glass formulation that Zeiss claims contributes to higher than previous light transmission, a newly designed illumination system with a very broad illumination intensity range, and the smallest illuminated dot I've ever seen in a rifle scope. Externally, the two scopes are very similar, with minor cosmetic differences. The HT has a slightly longer eyepiece housing and is about 1/2" longer, and it weighs about 2 oz more, at 18.5 oz. Here's a photo of both scopes together:


What follows will be a quick and to the point review. I'll just go ahead and state the obvious: they are both fantastic scopes for their intended purpose -- big game hunting up to and slightly beyond the limits of daylight hours. But, you already knew that was the case. 

As such, I didn't do any extensive tracking tests, as these are low profile capped turret scopes, intended for "set and forget" hunting setups and moderate range shots. As long as windage and elevation adjustments move point of impact to the degree expected and as long as they reliably maintain point of impact through normal use, they've accomplished their design goals. If I were intending to spin turrets, I wouldn't buy these, or for that matter any, Zeiss rifle scope. With that said, both scopes moved point of impact precisely where expected, to the degree expected during sight-in. POI has never moved on the Diavari-equipped rifle in the 8 years I've owned it, so it's done its job mechanically. I haven't had the HT long enough to say the same, but so far, so good. The Diavari is mounted on a .25-06 and the HT on a 7mm-08, so neither is being subjected to punishing recoil. In order to draw any firm conclusions on mechanical integrity, something would have to break or fail on one or both scopes, and even then, they would be from a sample size of one.

Optically, these two scopes are very close in good lighting conditions. During an extensive range session with both scopes, I was able to distinguish the individual lines on a bar code on the corner of my targets at 10X and discern the same level of fine detail with either scope at the same magnification settings. If there was any difference in resolution between the two scopes, I wasn't able to discern it. If you are expecting a sharper image than previous Zeiss scopes as the basis for buying a Victory HT, you're likely to be disappointed. However, since extremely high resolution has always been a characteristic of Zeiss's top of the line optics, this was never a concern anyway, and it's extremely difficult to improve on what was already world class resolution. 

I noted the same degree of yellow chromatic aberration along the edges of high contrast objects, but only at the very edge of the field. The HT had a bit larger center field "sweet spot" before the image became noticeably softer at field edge than the Diavari. I would estimate the HT's "sweet spot" was around 75% of the field of view, whereas the Diavari's was maybe 50%. Since you aim only with the center of the field and a rifle scope is not an observation optic but rather an aiming device, some would say these are trivial points. However, given the retail price of these scopes, one's expectations are high.

The HT was a bit better than the Diavari at suppressing veiling flare when looking in the general direction of the setting sun. This is really my only complaint of the Diavari's optics. In my opinion, it is rather poor at dealing with flare.

Both scopes had a the exact same moderate degree of "tunneling" at low power, which only became apparent from 2.5X to around 2.8X. In other words, below 3X, you don't gain any additional field of view, so for all practical purposes, these are really 3-10X scopes. 

To judge comparative low light performance, I solicited the help of my wife. Using a foam block archery target as our subject, we alternately viewed the target at dusk with each scope until it became so dark that we could no longer discern any details on the foam block. The block made a great subject because it was a blue colored block with black aiming dots, and it contained lots of small holes from the many arrows I've shot into it. Both scopes are low light monsters, but both my wife and I agreed the HT was noticeably superior to the Diavari in discerning fine detail in dimmer light conditions. At approximately 7:00 p.m., neither of us could see the aiming dots or holes in the archery target anymore. We could still barely see the black dots on the target with the HT until around 7:05 p.m. I did not tell my wife that the HT was claimed to have improved light transmission vs the Diavari and did not offer my opinion prior to hearing hers. She came to the same conclusion I did: the HT has a bit better low light performance than the Diavari, which is even more compelling given both scopes had exactly the same magnification range and objective size. I believe the HT would give a hunter a few extra minutes of usable visibility to acquire and positively identify a specific game animal at the limits of usable hunting light than the Diavari. The advantage is even more pronounced in favor of the HT when aiming in the general direction of the setting sun due to its better flare resistance. Is the improvement significant enough to warrant selling a Diavari and replacing with an HT and having to add a significant amount of money in the process? In my view, no, but that's a decision only the buyer can make.

Moving on from optical performance, the HT has Zeiss's "LotuTec" coating, which is very effective at shedding moisture from the objective and ocular lenses. Again, the Diavari doesn't have LotuTec, as it was manufactured prior to LotuTec's introduction. I find these hydrophobic coatings to be very useful, so this is an important feature to me. If one opts for the illuminated versions, the HT has a decidedly superior illumination system. Both are activated by pulling out on the left side knob, opposite the windage knob and turned off by pushing in on the knob. Both house a common CR2032 coin battery inside the illumination control knobs. The HT's illumination knob is a bit shorter than the Diavari's knob, which is definitely a plus. The HT illumination rheostat also has a broader illumination intensity range than the Diavari provides, spanning from "barely visible" in extreme low light to very bright for daytime use. My Diavari doesn't feature daylight-compatible illumination; it's illuminated reticle is only visible in dim lighting. One really nice feature of the HT's illuminated dot is that it is so small, its presence doesn't compromise extreme aiming precision when activated. It's no larger than the intersection of the thin center crosshairs, which I really appreciate.

In conclusion, the Victory HT is a minor incremental improvement over the already high standards set by the Diavari series to my eyes. It does deliver on improved low light performance, but whether the improvement is significant of course depends on the individual's eyesight. It has improved flare control and the welcome addition of LotuTec lens coatings. In the illuminated models, it features a significantly improved illumination system. On the negative side, it's slightly longer and heavier than the previous generation scopes. 

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/10/2016 at 07:18
bugsNbows View Drop Down
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Excellent Nice eval Ted.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/10/2016 at 08:18
RifleDude View Drop Down
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I forgot to mention one other obvious difference between the two series. The Diavari has a first focal plane reticle, and it was only available in FFP at the time mine was manufactured, and multiple reticle choices were available. The Victory HT is only available with second focal plane reticles, and all models except the 1.1-4X24 are only available with their #6/#60 reticle (same reticle design, similar to a #4; #60 is just the illuminated version of the #6).
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/10/2016 at 20:40
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Thanks, RDude, for the comparison. As a low light hunter having recently purchased a Zeiss 56MM HT with #60 reticle, your detailed analysis gives me added comfort that I made the right decision.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/11/2016 at 09:55
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Excellent
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/11/2016 at 10:42
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Egg-cellent review/commentary once again, Rifledude. 

Edit to add:

What type rings on the Victory? S&K? Lovely rifles, as well, Sir. 

 


Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/10/2016 at 13:28
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Great thread, but i feel the old one is better
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/10/2016 at 14:01
RifleDude View Drop Down
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In what respect, edw? Just curious.
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