Carl Zeiss would have to rank very highly on the podium of global sport optics manufacturers. Life at the top of that tree is very competitive with fellow German and Austrian rivals ensuring healthy competition - and rightly so. Zeiss has always been one to refresh its sport optics ranges, especially riflescopes, with the current V range (V8, V6, V4) catering to all requirements.
On rangefinding binoculars though, Zeiss were behind the game. Their competitors have had much success lately with new releases - laser rangefinding binoculars not only optically brilliant but ergonomically unsurpassed. But Zeiss, never one to rest on their laurels, decided the time was right to redesign their range with the Victory RF rangefinding binoculars in 8x42, 10x42, 8x54 and 10x54 specifications.
Not only were they long overdue, they would realign them with their rivals in the rangefinding binocular market. But Zeiss have an ace up their sleeve in the new Victory RF range, something to put them at the top of the tree - Bluetooth connectivity. For readers unfamiliar with Bluetooth, it’s a wireless connectivity medium which allows electronic instruments to share information and operating interfaces without the need for micro-SD cards or connecting USB devices to download data to an instrument. It’s the way of the future and something already found in a myriad of electronic gadgets in use every day.
Australian Shooter approached Zeiss importer and distributor Outdoor Sporting Agencies with a request to review the new Victory RF binoculars and was supplied with the 8x42 unit.
Zeiss Victory RF 8x42 rangefinding binoculars
They come in the customary white Carl Zeiss carton. On opening, a picture of a reindeer and an image of the unit - and its Bluetooth connectivity technology - whet the appetite, with the binoculars and carry case held in a sturdy foam liner. The grey clamshell case contains two carry straps (one for the case, one for binoculars) as well as bridged rubber eyecup protectors which slot over the ocular lenses. The objective lenses are protected with clip-in plug-type protectors which hang low on their retaining straps and stay out of the way when required. A lens-cleaning kit and two instruction leaflets complete the contents. The User Instructions leaflets are the only minus point of the whole package, the instructions for use quite minimalistic and a more comprehensive manual would be more user-friendly.
Victory RF 8x42 rangefinders up-close.
The binoculars are a completely new design and ergonomically excellent. Not only is the unit much more comfortable to hold, the layout of the operational buttons is spot-on. The review binoculars measured 121mm wide (eye-spacing set at 65mm) by 166mm in length and weigh 895g. The binoculars are of a central twin-pivot bridge design with the focus wheel positioned between the two bridges and within easy reach of the index finger. The focus wheel is light in operation with only 1¼ turns achieving a crystal clear image from about 2.5 metres to infinity.
Housing for a CR2 battery is incorporated in the front and easily accessed and is rated for 2500 readings. The adjustable eyecups are excellent, their rounded profile with four-position settings and individual diopter adjustments well appreciated and expected on a high-end unit. The strap securely anchors to two lugs either side of the ocular housings. The only other external features are the operational buttons on the main binocular body just in front of the forward bridge. The ‘Menu’ button is on the left and ‘Power/Range’ button on the right housing.
The position of these buttons on the tubes requires the hands to sit slightly forward of the bridge. With hands in this position the index finger controls the focus wheel while the middle fingers control the ‘Power/Range’ button (right hand) and ‘Menu’ buttons with (left), respectively. The chassis is made from magnesium alloy and the external surfaces are coated in a matt black rubber for a secure grip.
Internally is where the Victory RF 8x42 shines. Many features of the previous Victory line continue in the new RF range, with Abbe-Konig prisms as standard and all lenses treated with the LotuTec®/T* coatings for enhanced performance in any lighting conditions. Optically, the Victory RF 8x42 continues in the superb tradition all Victory optics are renown for but the jewel in this crown is the Bluetooth connectivity built into the programming.
Without going too deeply into the how and why, Bluetooth connectivity allows a device to be wirelessly programmed via an Android or iOS device without the need for micro-SD data cards or USB cables to transfer ballistic data to the binoculars. The user can choose the particular cartridge/load from the Zeiss Hunting application on their smartphone or tablet, and by pairing the device and binoculars with Bluetooth connectivity, the ballistic data is downloaded to the binoculars.
The Victory RF range is capable of storing up to nine ballistic profiles and the user chooses whichever one is required. The unit also takes into account environmental conditions and shooting angles (incline/decline) and adjusts the hold-over required when the shooting range is measured. It is also truly customisable, from the brightness of the display, metres or yards, holdover measurements and elevation turret adjustments (mRad, MOA, ¼^ clicks etc), scan-mode or single measurements and a lot more.
These options let the avid hunter tailor the unit to their requirements and take the guesswork out of any shot - from 15-2300m with accuracy to 1 per cent out to 600m and 0.5 per cent from 600m and beyond. That information is available on the Zeiss Hunting application but the hard-printed material provided needs updating to something easier to follow, ideally an easy-to-read booklet.
In the field
The binoculars were a pleasure to use and did everything the manufacturer claimed. The fast, one-press ranging function was appreciated and the customisable nature of the unit made it easy to set up and use once the Bluetooth connectivity downloaded ballistic data. I used it extensively in a non-hunting setting, ranging reflective and non-reflective targets to 2000m, with distant targets requiring a steady hold to achieve a true reading.
What I most appreciated was the optical quality, all images having excellent clarity and contrast. When you buy a top-shelf optic such as this you expect the best, and the 8x42 RF rangefinding binoculars continue the Victory legacy of the best money can buy.
In a hunting application I paired the Victory RF 8x42s with my Android device (with Zeiss Hunting app) and downloaded ballistic information for my .243 Winchester rifle with Zeiss Conquest 3-9x40 scope, using 100gr GECO soft points. The information was stored in Ballistic Profile #1 and the rifle only needed to be resighted in for a 100m zero. Once adjusted, I set out to see if the hold-over (in ¼ MOA clicks) would be verified out to 300m and the unit was spot-on, with targets (metal gongs) successfully dialled into and hit time and time again. Even at the maximum distance of the range (300m) a few more elevation clicks dialled into the metal plate.
I shoot the for the table at distances no further than 300m and achieve this by sighting in my rifles high at 100m and taking the ballistic profile/maximum point-blank range into account for game out to 300m. Rangefinding technology like the Victory RFs make it easy to hit targets out to 1000m and beyond and as long as your riflescope has the elevation adjustment, this is very achievable using these binoculars.
Maybe it’s time for me to embrace rangefinding binocular technology and turn sense into certainty by plumping for the Zeiss Victory RF 8x42s. Class costs money and at $4240 they’re not cheap but it’s an investment in the best from the best in sport optics. For more, visit osaaustralia.com.au
Zeiss Victory RF 8x42 rangefinding binoculars.
Effective lens diameter 42 mm
Exit pupil diameter 5.3 mm
Twilight factor 18.3
Field of view 135 m
Close-up setting limit 2.5 m
Diopter adjustment range +/- 3 dpt.
Eye relief 17mm
Pupil distance 53.5-76 mm
Lens type FL (fluoride)
Prism system Abbe-Konig
Nitrogen filling Yes
Waterproof 400 bar
Length 166 mm
(with eye spacing of 65mm) 121 mm
Weight 895 g
Measuring range 15-2300 m
Measuring duration <0.3 sec.
Battery 1 x 3V Type CR2
RRP $4240 (8x42) as tested – 10x42 - $4345, 8x54 - $4625, 10x54 - $4766
Distributor Outdoor Sporting Agencies.