Zeiss Conquest HD 8×32 Binoculars Review

 

Zeiss Conquest HD 8x32 roof prism binoculars

Zeiss Conquest HD 8×32 roof prism binoculars

Binoculars are an essential item for many travelers.  There’s nothing quite as satisfying as a close up,  crystal clear view of that snow covered  mountain peak, a sailboat on the far side of the lake, or a grizzly bear munching on berries to add just one more memorable ‘wow’ moment to any trip.

German company Zeiss is considered one of the ‘alpha’ binocular manufacturers in the optics world.  Zeiss, Leica and Swarovsky (all German brands) typically top the binocular reviews you can find posted online, but Japanese companies such as Kowa, Nikon and Vortex often nearly match the optical performance of the Germans, often for significantly less money.

All the major binocular manufactures sell different ranges of binoculars.  Typically, these are divided into price groups:  “price is no object, I want the best optics money can buy”; premium; mid-level; and entry level.  Street prices for quality name brands range from sub-$200 dollars to more than $2,500 dollars.

If you’re ‘serious’ about optics and intend to buy something durable, you can spend hours looking through without eye fatigue, and of sufficient quality you can pass them down to your kids, expect to pay $500-$1,000 dollars.

Whether you’re an avid birdwatcher or hunter, the so-called ‘serious’ binocular users say you will likely only purchase two pairs of binoculars in your lifetime – your first set will likely be affordable and of decent quality.  Your second set will be high quality, expensive and the ones you’ll use for the rest of your life.

Zeiss Conquest HD 8×32

The Conquest is Zeiss’s second level-priced binocular range.  They are roof prsim design (identifiable by their “H” shape and straight barrels), 8x power with 32mm objective (that’s the ‘big’ end.)  It has multi-coated lenses that Zeiss claims improves colour accuracy and transmits more than 90-percent of light – important when viewing under low light conditions.  The Conquest HD 8×32 binoculars are advertized as water resistant, nitrogen-filled (fog resistant), and very importantly, focus very closely – a mere 1.5m.  Zeiss technical specifications state the operating temperature for these binoculars is -20C – +63C.

Short-listing the Zeiss Conquest HD 8×32

There’s an overwhelming number of very good binoculars on the market.  Some online research revealed the Zeiss Conquest HD 8×32 (and 8×42) were among the top-rated binoculars in extensive binocular tests (2013) done by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Outdoor Life (Editor’s Choice), the Zeiss Conquest binos not only ranked top of their price class, but matched or out-performed models in the ‘money is no object’ $2,000-$3,000 USD class.  That’s impressive.

Oddly, when it came to side-by-side testing, my lengthy stint of eyeballing the Conquest 8x32s against the 8x42s confirmed Outdoor Life’s findings – the smaller objective lens 8x32s were optically clearer (marginally) than the 8x42s.  (The 8x42s would be superior in low light viewing because of the greater light gathering capability of its larger 42mm objective lenses.)

Zeiss Conquest HD 8×32 vs. Minolta 8×40 Wide-angle

A pair of Minolta 8×40 Wide-angle porro prism binos have been my mainstay for twenty years.  (When I showed them to a staffer behind the optics counter of a major outfitter’s outlet, he was duly impressed, saying easily matched the optical quality of new binoculars in the $300-$400 Cdn range.  That’s remarkable, given the tremendous advances in optics manufacturing technology over the past two decades.

Colour Rendition

New coatings make the Zeiss binoculars much more vibrant, vivid colours than the 20-year-old Minoltas.  Studying lichen on a tree across the street, even under dull, cloudy skies, the green lichen ‘pops’ when examined through the Zeiss Conquest.  Colour vibrancy is important, especially for birdwatching.

Contrast

Comparing views of tree branches against a backlit sky once again shows the superiority of Zeiss optics.  The edges of tree branches are sharper and better defined than the view through the Minoltas.

Resolution and Optical Clarity

While the old Minoltas are still darn good, the new Zeiss binos are simply spectacular.  Viewing the bark on trees across the street shows stunning, crisp detail.  On the birdhouse out the dining room window, I can easily differentiate the composite layers of its plywood construction and see the fuzzy vanes that make up the resident sparrows’ feathers.

Handling

The soft, rubber coated Conquest HDs feel good in hand.  Despite being fairly compact, their heft (691 g with supplied nylon strap) gives an immediate feeling of quality.  Rubber-coated, twist-out eyecups can be locked in place for non-eyeglass viewing, and an eyepiece diopter adjustment is on the right eyepiece.  (Turning the diopter wheel requires a firm grip, a good thing to prevent inadvertent adjustments.)

The centre focus wheel is coated with a grippy rubber-like material with grooves, and turns smoothly with just the right amount of resistance.

There’s no doubt these Zeiss Conquest HD 8×32 binoculars are pricey, but their optical quality is world-class.  They feel good in hand and their relatively compact size and light weight make them an excellent choice for travel and hiking.

In the box:

  • Zeiss Conquest HD 8×32 binoculars
  • 1 nylon neck strap
  • 1 pair objective lens protectors
  • 1 pair eyepiece protectors
  • 1 nylon travel case
  • 1 travel case shoulder strap
  • 1 lens cleaning cloth
  • Owner’s manual, warranty card

Zeiss Conquest HD 8×32 binoculars.  Made in Germany.  Street price:  $997.00.  (Carl Zeiss Canada is currently offering a $75 Cdn rebate on selected binoculars purchased between March 1, 2014 and May 4, 2014.)

3 Comments

    • ty says:

      I see the link you provided is for a bad review of the Zeiss Conquest 10 x 42 bino. It’s an entirely different animal than the 8 x 32 Zeiss Conquest model I reviewed and still am very, very happy with. Obviously, the 10 x 42 Zeiss Conquest is not the model for you. I still highly recommend the 8 x 32 Conquest. Like all consumer products, you gotta buy what YOU like.

      Cheers.

      Tim

  1. Maria says:

    Binocular is one of the best choice nowadays maybe we should need more information about best binocular that is durable and easy to use.

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