By Seth R. Nadel
I have spent much of my life looking through binoculars. In my professional life in Law Enforcement, I was looking for smugglers. I saw them, too – particularly one group smuggling live parrots in cages on their backs from Mexico into the US. Parrots? Yes, they are worth more per ounce than heroin, yet usually carried a lighter sentence than drugs.
The first binos I was issued were World War II surplus Navy “Night Glasses” – big, black, and frequently damaged. When the two tubes are not aligned (collimated), you can quickly get one heck of a headache! Since most of the time we were surveilling suspects, they were hard to use inside a car and remain unnoticed. Surveillance in real life is often long, boring. You never get the perfect parking space, and it is either very hot or very cold. In short, “It ain’t like TV!”
Today the items I need binoculars for are much more benign – spotting deer, antelope, elk, bald eagles, red tailed hawks (all common where we live), scoring targets on the range, checking on my neighbor’s horses and cattle, and the like. Plus, while I had good vision “back in the day,” now not so much. The extra investment in quality binos pays off for me, and the investment is not nearly as big! As the old cigarette ads used to say, “You’ve come a long way, baby!” Today’s binoculars are smaller, lighter, and much, much sharper and of higher quality than back in the day’ I have used some high end binoculars, and I immediately reject cheap glasses unless that is all that is available. Forget about those blister packed, Christmas stocking stuffer, sub-compact units – they are not even close to the quality of great glasses!
Zeiss Terra ED 10×32 Binoculars
I am trying some Zeiss Terra ED 10X32 binoculars – a solid piece of kit! The “10x” is the power – how much closer the item observed appears, in this case, reducing 100 yards to appear as if it is at 10 yards. In my opinion, ten power is the highest power that can be hand held by most people. Anything higher, and your breathing and pulse makes it hard to hold them steady enough for long range observation. The high powered glasses need to be mounted in some way – a tripod, window mount, or similar.
The “32” is the diameter, in millimeters, of the objective lens – the lens closest to the item being observed. The larger the objective lens, the more light is gathered into the tube, and the brighter the scene. The old Navy glasses were 7×50’s, so they gathered more light than a 30. Of course the design of the lenses and the quality of the glass used are critical factors. I will take today’s 30 over a 1940’s vintage 50 any time. The Terra ED’s are as bright at night as lesser quality Night Vision Devices – and one heck of a lot cheaper!
The Zeiss Terra ED 10×32 Binoculars measure 4.9” x 4.6”, not much bigger than the Xmas gift glasses, but big enough to get both hands on them for a really steady hold. I can clearly see bullet strikes on my steel target from 150 yards – not bad for a seasoned citizen!
Design and glass quality are two things at which Zeiss excels, and this shows in every element of the Terra ED‘s. In fact, Zeiss has been building lenses for optics since 1846, and they are widely recognized as one of the top optic manufacturers in the world. They are recognized so widely, the owner’s manual is in 14 languages.* These binos are not featherweight at 18 ounces, but they provide a solid feel and enough heft that they did not move when I tried them standing unsupported in 40 mile per hour winds. At 1,000 yards they have a field of view (side to side) of 367 feet, so it does not take a long time to scan a distant hillside for the items or animals.
They can be focused as close as 5.3 feet – handy if you want to identify what kind of scorpion just wandered through your camp site, or what flower is on the other side of a large cactus. The view is sharp from edge to edge, without the ring distortion from cheaper glass in the lenses. While there are all kinds of sophisticated tests, I use one you can try. Look at a distant, straight object, like a power pole. Gradually move the binoculars so the object appears at the sides, top, and bottom of the lens. If it looks straight in all positions, those are quality lenses, If it bends, the lens is distorting the image. With the Zeiss glass, the image never bends, and is bright and amazingly clear. The tubes have textured, rubbery griping surfaces, in case your hands are wet.
The Terra EDs come complete with a firm shell compact belt case, and there are attachable covers for both the objective and eyepiece lenses. I call the case firm because it will protect the glasses from minor knocks, but if you fall on it, the case may be damaged. One small touch I like is that the case only opens about 45 degrees, and it has net sides covering the side openings. It’s enough that, when worn on a belt I can get my hand in to get a good grip, but not so far open they can drop on the ground – Yup, been there, done that! The neck strap is 1.5 inches wide to spread the weight over a long day in the field. After 10+ hours with binoculars with a skinny strap, I appreciate the wide, comfortable neck strap. This was obviously designed by someone who actually wore these binos for a long day.
While Zeiss is a German company, these binoculars are made in China, to Zeiss specifications. The German precision and quality control is obvious in every element of the Zeiss Terra ED 10×32 Binoculars. You can spend more, but not get any better in a compact, quality pair of binoculars than the Zeiss Terra ED 10×32 Binoculars.
* The languages, since you asked, are German, English, French, Italian, Spanish, Swedish, Finnish, Czech, Polish, Hungarian, Russian, Japanese, Chinese, and Dutch.