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Zen Ray ZRS HD 8X42

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/06/2009 at 11:19
Bitterroot Bulls View Drop Down
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I have had a few days with a new pair of Zen Ray ZRS HD 8X42 binoculars.  I purchased these binoculars for a few reasons.  I wanted to get an idea of their performance for their price.  I wanted to see if they would be a quality binocular to give to my dad for his birthday.  I have to say I am pretty impressed.  Here is a brief initial review:

Having spent some time with my Zen Ray ZEN EDs, I have come to expect a lot from mid-priced binoculars.  I don't think the ZRS series even qualifies as "mid-priced."  I had my pair shipped from SWFA for under $185.00 and they arrived here in Montana in about three days.  I think a better description for their pricing is "entry level."  Their performance and build quality is actually much better than "entry level."
 
Here is a photo:
 
Build:
 
The ZRS is quite compact.  It is not noticeably longer with eyecups collapsed than my Meopta 10X42s and the Meoptas are pretty "short" for their class.  They have a slim feel and pleasant rubber armor with a mini version of the ZEN ED stippling pattern.  Included are rainguard, neckstrap, and objective covers tethered to the tripod adapter cover.  The case is a nice zippered cordura cover with shoulder strap.  The ZRS is a sturdy feeling binocular.  The focus wheel is smooth with pleasant resistance and no play.  The hinge tension is adequate, but I do prefer firmer tension.  The eyecups have two intermediate stops between fully extended and collapsed.  The lens coatings are a nice, deep green.  The diopter is barrel mounted and locking.  This is a really nice feature at this price point.  I would say the build quality of the ZRS overall EXCEEDS the build quality of the ZEN ED.  I also prefer the neckstrap (MUCH shorter than my ZEN ED's and quite useable) and case to my ZEN ED's accessories.
 
Here is a photo showing the ZRS next to the Meoptas:
 
Here is the locking diopter:
 
Optical Performance:
 
THe ZRS is an excellent performer at this price range.  While it clearly does not have the resolution of its ED brother, the ZRS has resolution capabilities similar to the Nikon Monarch/ Leupold Olympic type binoculars.  The field is sufficiently wide at 367 ft/1000yards for an 8X42.  The sweet spot is a pleasant 80% of the field in my model with noticeable astigmatism at the edge.  Chromatic Aberration control is on par with the Monarch/Olympic comparison.  Like many binoculars CA is controlled best at the very center of the field.  Contrast is good.  Colors seem pretty natural with little bias.  The CA, while present is not too distracting.  The field has some curvature at the edges, but this reduces the "rolling ball" effect while panning.  Depth of field is actually quite good.  The ZRS is a nice binocular for extended glassing sessions.
 
Several ZEN ED owners, including myself, have commented on the ZEN EDs internal stray light problems.  I still notice the "halo" effect while glassing with my ZENs.  The ZRS, in contrast, has no such problems (for me).  This binocular is well finished.
 
The ZRS brings good optical performance to a really affordable level.  Where I would have simply recommended a porro binocular at this price level, I now have a quality roof to recommend without people risking a big chunk of change on some glass.  I think Zen Ray is going to sell a pile of these.  I have a feeling my dad is really going to enjoy this pair.
 
 
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/08/2009 at 15:37
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Matt,
 
Thank you very much for the great comparative review of the ZRS binoculars. 
 
I also read your original review on ZEN ED when you posted it. I was feeling especially guilty that I had "no clue" when and where the "Bitterroot Bulls" got a hand of our optics and then wrote such a great review.  I know it is impossible to interact directly with every customer of ours. But I very much enjoy the feedback from our customers and friends so we can continue making good things better and working on improvements for future products.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/08/2009 at 18:23
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Charles,
 
Thanks for your reply to my post.  My original review was kind of getting lonely without any repliesSad
 
I would certainly like to hear some feedback from others that have looked at the ZRS HD.  I really like this bin, and think it really offers a nice option to those whose wallets aren't necessarily the thickest in this economy.
 
The image in the ZRS HD is downright amazing in a sub-$200 roof.  Although the ZEN ED beats the ZRS HD in most optical categories, the ZRS HD has a locking diopter, excellent focus wheel, and great interior stray light control.
 
I might be the only one, but I sure would like to see the ZRS HD in a 6X32 (or 36), 7X32, and 9X32 option in this binocular.  Perhaps you can let the OT faithful in on any line expansion?
 
Keep the hits coming Zen Ray!  (Maybe an ED spotter?)
 
Excellent
 
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/13/2009 at 08:58
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I had just posted in the binocular forum asking for a comparison of the ZRS 10x42 and the Nikon Action Extreme 10x50 when I saw your posting.  Even though I will be purchasing the ZRS I would like to know your opinion as to whether the ZRS is equal to or superior to Porros (discounting the weight factor) 8x or 10x 42/50 in the same approximate price range of $120-200. In other words with introduction of the ZRS and Atlas' Sky King and other high performing low end roofs, does that approx. 3 to i price formular for inexpensive Porros vs. Roofs still apply?
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/15/2009 at 14:13
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I don't know if I can write as good a review as B. Bulls, but I will try.
 
After Using a pair of Swift Audubon 7x35 roof prism binoculars for over 20 years, I decided to treat myself to a new pair. With the economy like it is, I couldn't afford the ED binoculars I really wanted, but had read enough good reviews on the ZRS to feel comfortable in ordering them. I placed an order to Zen Ray the Friday before Labor Day, and the package arrived Tuesday. When I opened the box, my first thought was that they had sent 10x binoculars by mistake. These looked big at over 1/2" longer than the old Swifts, and they are about 4 oz. heavier. A check verified that they were indeed 8x, so I took them outside to check them out against the Audubons. Looking at trees and nearby houses, they were brighter, clearer, a touch sharper-just overall, a better view. I was having trouble in my mind about the size, the slow focus (2+ turns vs 2/3 turn on the Swift), and the fact that somehow I expected something more. After a short session, I put them in my closet figuring I would send them back in a few days.
 
About a week later, after a morning rain shower, a group of Grackles invaded our yard. On a whim, I pulled out the Zen's to give them a look. Something was wrong! I pulled out my other binoculars and my wife's Bushnell's. Something was definitely wrong. The Zen Ray ZRS binoculars was showing color hues and tones on the birds that I hadn't seen before. Time to take another look at these binoculars.
 
They are a bit bigger than what I have been used to, however they balance well in the hands. The weight may also help steady them a little (the reason I didn't order 10x was because as I get older, I tend to get a little shakier). The focus wheel is long winded, but much of that is for close viewing. Set it for 70 or so yards, and it is quick to focus most anything in hunting range. It also allows a bit better fine tuning on an object. The sweet spot is nice and large, probably 70-75% of view, and it doesn't seem to degrade appreciably out to the edge. Depth of field is nice. They give what I consider an easy view in that they seem to just give a magnified natural view of things without adding or taking away in any areas. Brightness is good without overpowering you with the feeling that things are too bright. Color is a hair towards brown/red. I will tell you if this might be a help in hunting after the season.
 
Build quality is good. In about 20 years, I can tell if it is as good as the Swift, but I think they should hold up well. Hinge tenstion is firm, but not overly tight. the focus wheel turns smoothly and with, at most, just a hint of backlash. the locking diopter adjustment is a nice touch, as are the tethered objective lens covers. The twist up eye cups work well, with a couple of intermediate stops between retracted and full out.
 
The only big negative I have is the case. The design is very nice, however it is a touch small. You have to lower the eye cups for the binoculars to fit. Even then, it is tight. I have questioned them on this, and I know that they do listen as I hear some change occurred on the ED's after customer feedback, so time will tell. A 1/2" size increas would be great.
 
My feeling is that Zen Ray optics put out some excellent products for the money. They continue to receive positive feedback on their binoculars and their customer service as well. The question mark seems to be longivity, or if they will be in business down the road to take care of today's customers. While I can't answer that, my feeling is that they are here for the long term. I certainly hope so anyway, because I like these binoculars and would recommend them to others on a budget looking for a good pair of binoculars. Besides, If I can ever save up the money, I want to call them and order a pair of ED's.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/15/2009 at 21:57
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Thanks for your reviews, Bitterroot and Joe!

Welcome to OT, Joe!  Nice first post!
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/18/2009 at 21:41
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Sorry I didn't get a reply out sooner, but I have been out hunting!
 
I do think Zen Ray's roofs compete with similarly priced porros.  I think the old rule-of-thumb regarding better views from porros vs. roofs for the price is being changed by the quality Chinese manufactured roofs.  I much prefer a roof for field use and the ZEN ED and ZRS HD have spectacular views at their price level ... even when compared against porros.
 
Shocked
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/20/2009 at 03:34
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Thanks Matt for substantiating that you believe that the better low priced Chinese roofs are now competitive with $100-$200 Porros. In a somewhat different price range, some hold that the Zen EDs are competitive with the Swift Audobon 8.5x44 820's. I have a pair of Zen ED 8x43 and a pair of ZRS HD 10x42 on order and am looking forward to using them on a daily basis, primarily for birding.
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