In our opinion, those looking for a high-end pair of binoculars should be choosing between the Zeiss Victory HT and the Swarovski EL. Both models provide exceptional optical clarity and brightness, but the Victory HT fell slightly short in both in-hand comfort and close focus range. If you're going to be paying full price, we would give the edge to the Swarovski EL. However, if you can find a sale on the Victory HT, that may tip the scales in their favor.Editor's Note: This product review was updated on January 11, 2022 with further product information and comparisons.
Zeiss Victory HT 10x42 Review
Cons: Very expensive
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Zeiss Victory HT 10x42
$2,700 at Amazon
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$146.25 at Amazon
|Pros||Excellent clarity and brightness, great construction quality, quite comfortable||Incredible clarity, brightness, comfort, and construction quality||Very clear and bright, easy to adjust, comfortable, high-quality construction||Excellent brightness, great clarity, comfortable||Inexpensive, good clarity and brightness|
|Cons||Very expensive||Prohibitively expensive||A bit heavy for the backcountry||Slightly heavy for backpacking||Average construction quality, mediocre low-light performance|
|Bottom Line||High-end bins that are nearly as good as the Swarovskis, but not quite||One of the best all-around models that we tested, but they also carry a high price tag||This model is our first choice and offers just about the best clarity and brightness you can get from a binocular without a quadruple-digit price tag||An excellent balance of price and all-around performance with particularly impressive brightness||The most budget-friendly option we've found that offers a good introduction to birdwatching|
|Rating Categories||Zeiss Victory HT 10x42||Swarovski EL 8.5x42||Vortex Viper HD 8x42||Vortex Diamondback...||Celestron Nature DX...|
|Ease of Adjustment (15%)|
|Construction Quality (15%)|
|Close Focus Range (7.5%)|
|Field of View (7.5%)|
|Specs||Zeiss Victory HT 10x42||Swarovski EL 8.5x42||Vortex Viper HD 8x42||Vortex Diamondback...||Celestron Nature DX...|
|Multi - Coating||FMC||FMC||FMC||FMC||FMC|
|Field of View (at 1000 yards)||330 ft||399 ft||409 ft||393 ft||388 ft|
|Close Focus||6.2 ft||4.9 ft||6.5 ft||5.0 ft||6.5 ft|
|Eye Relief||16 mm||20 mm||18 mm||17 mm||17.5 mm|
|Size (Length x Width)||6.3 x 5.0 in||6.3 x 4.8 in||5.8 x 5.3 in||5.7 x 5.1 in||5.3 x 4.9 in|
|Weight||28.4 oz||29.5 oz||24.2 oz||21.8 oz||22.2 oz|
Our Analysis and Test Results
Zeiss discontinued the Victory HT in the 10x42 magnification. They're now offered in 8x54 and 10x54. We're linking to the 10x54 version above.
Hands-On Review of the Zeiss Victory HT 10x42
The Zeiss Victory HT is a superb pair of binoculars, but not the best in its price range. If you can find a great sale, you should snatch these bins up, but if you're paying full price, we would suggest you check out the Swarovski EL instead.
The Zeiss Victory HT earned one of the top overall scores in our testing and was the second-best for the three high-end models we tested. We used seven different tests to calculate those overall scores. You can read about how the Zeiss Victory HT did in each of those tests below.
Like all of the high-end models we tested, the Victory HT earned a perfect score of 10 out of 10 in both our clarity and brightness testing. All three of our high-end models produced exceptionally bright and clear images. If you're going to spend this much on a pair of binoculars, you can pretty much be guaranteed you'll get first-class image quality, and the Victory HT delivers. Whether you're searching for warblers in the afternoon or scouting for shorebirds at dawn, the Victory HT will give you a near-perfect, bright image.
Ease of Adjustment
The Victory HT again scored a perfect 10 in our ease of adjustment testing. Like all of our high-end models, it has a nice, fine-tuned focus knob that allows for fast focusing when trying to see a fast-moving bird. The eyecups screw in and out, allowing for easy adjustment and making it easy to get them even. This is very similar to the eyecups on the Swarovski EL and much better than the eyecups on the Leica Noctivid.
One area where the Victory HT separated itself from the rest of the high-end models was its diopter adjustment. It has a small knob behind the main focus knob that adjusts the diopter. This knob is fairly easy to move but is still small and stiff enough to avoid accidentally moving it. The Swarovski and Leica models use a main focus knob that can be pulled back to switch over to adjust the diopter. This works well but is more susceptible to accidental adjustment than the diopter knob of the Victory HT.
Like all of the high-end models we tested, the Victory HT is superbly constructed. Again, if you're looking at binoculars in this price range, durability and construction quality are not factors you'll need to worry about.
Comfort is another area where the Victory HT falls a bit short of the Swarovski EL. Overall the Victory HT is quite comfortable to hold and use, but the thumb indents on the Swarovski just make it feel so much better in your hands. However, we did prefer the feel of the Victory HT over the Leica Noctivid, which has slightly thicker barrels.
Field of View and Close Focus Range
The Victory HT is slightly behind its high-end counterparts regarding field of view. The 10x magnification version provides a 330-foot field of view at 1000 yards, whereas the Swarovski and Leica models provide 336 feet and 376 feet, respectively.
The Victory HT is also one of the lesser of the high-end models when it comes to close focus range. It, like the Leica Noctivid, has a close focus range of 6.2 feet. The Swarovski EL offers a significant improvement with a 4.9-foot close focus range.
Neither of these points are are real knocks against the Victory HT. In practice, we never felt limited by its field of view, and the close focus range only feels prohibitive if a butterfly lands right in front of you and you want to get your bins on it.
Should You Buy the Zeiss Victory HT 10x42?
These binoculars are one of the top options on the market. They're exceptionally bright, with incredible clarity. If you're loyal to the Zeiss brand and have the money to shell out, we think you'll be happy with them.
What Other Binoculars Should You Consider?
The Zeiss Victory HT is a top-notch binocular that will please even the most serious birders. However, the Swarovski EL has slightly better close focus range and felt better in hand thanks to their thumb indentations. If you're spending this much, you may want the consider the Swarovski instead. If you really want a high-performing pair but just can't afford the top-tier products, the Vortex Viper HD 8x42 performs nearly as well and retails for a fraction of the cost.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata
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