Review: Carl Zeiss TERRA ED 10×32 Binoculars

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10×32 Binoculars

Over the past few years I have become increasingly picky about optics, from scopes to binoculars. We had some pretty decent optics in Iraq—at least I would assume they were good. I cannot remember every having a problem with clarity, nor functionality. And they certainly withstood an inordinate amount of abuse in a pretty rugged environment.

A few weeks back we got a press release for a set of Carl Zeiss binoculars (that had a “bio harness” system provided by Under Armour). I was definitely intrigued as my previous misconception was that Carl Zeiss provided lenses for other manufacturers. I had apparently missed the memo that they actually produce a full range of optics.

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I was getting ready to attend ITS Muster and we reached out to Carl Zeiss to see if I could get a demo unit in to use during the event. They were able to pull things together and get a unit ready to ship out, though we figured I would already be on the road to Texas. They were able to direct it to my buddy’s house (where I was crashing the night before the event). I arrived and sure enough, there was a delivery slip (delivery was attempted when no one was home). We hopped in the truck and headed over to pick up the package. There was a minor debacle picking up the binos, all due to idiocy with the FedEx Ship Center, and some completely asinine policies that they had, but I was finally able to acquire them.

Observations

I carried the binoculars all four days of the event. For the first half of Muster they were in my pack, and for the last half, I actually wore them as intended with the “Bio Harness”. The harness, as you can see in the picture, is not terribly “tactical”. This was not really a big deal as I wore it under my BDU jacket.

Setup was definitely interesting. I was a bit confused at first as I had never worn binoculars attached to a harness. And I had conveniently left the instructions in my vehicle back at the basecamp (which was inaccessible for all intents and purposes). After much trial and error I was able to figure out how to attach the straps and still have the lens covers available and secured.

Binos with strap system.

Binos with strap system.

A number of the other attendees have backgrounds that entailed the use of optics to some degree or another, and every single one of them praised the optics. In fact, one of them was the one that pointed out to me the slight blue haloing. The other positive comments were about the clarity of the optics given the size and weight of the entire unit.

Unfortunately I was not able to get any pictures during the FTX as it was a pretty active, and involved, event. The binos were on me through a number of rapid movements across land and via watercraft. I did use them a number of times for quick observation of areas we were moving to. As they were attached to me under my jacket, I was able to quickly access and deploy them without anyone else noticing. They survived sweat, lake water and banging through Texas underbrush, a lot better than I did :). Their usefulness at night was pretty limited, really as much as any optic in that class would be. They did do a pretty good job at dusk—a lot better than I would have thought. At a little over a pound, I really did not even notice the added weight.

I have taken them out a number of times since then, most notably to a shoot for a review on a Bushmaster XM15 ORC that I did, where we forgot to bring a spotting scope. They did admirably out to about five hundred meters, allowing me to at least see whether or not the plate was impacted. Under one hundred fifty meters I could pretty easily tell where the rounds were hitting.

Obviously not as clear as being in front of them, but we could see where shots were hitting on hi-viz targets

Obviously not as clear as being in front of them, but we could see where shots were hitting on hi-viz targets

Obviously it is challenging to represent and demonstrate the clarity and quality of the optics on a blog post, but here are some example I was able to take with the lens of my iPhone pressed up to the eyepiece using an external case adapter. As you can see the pictures show no distortion. It would have been nice to compare them to another set of 10×32 binoculars but no one in my circles had anything I could borrow.

View up the road, out to about 300m.

View up the road, out to about 300m.

Car from around 150m.

Car from around 150m.

The focusing wheel is pretty big and I found it really easy to access however I happened to be holding the binoculars—my finger just naturally positioned itself on the wheel. It also had pretty smooth and fluid motion. I’ve run binos before that had a rather “clunky” motion on the focus wheel.

One complaint I have is that there was no ability to directly attach the binos to a screw plate on a tripod. I would like to be able to use binoculars like this as a “spotting scope” (yes, I know, purists, it is not the same thing). Sometimes having a compact system is preferable to busting out a traditional spotting scope. Being able to set up a stable base for the binos to rest on has some utility. There are a number of external options available that allow you to strap the unit into but they are crazy expensive, and the Zeiss recommended unit is almost half the price of the binoculars themselves. I ended up using my GORUCK GR2 as a platform to rest them on as it allowed me three different heights to play with (for what it is worth, I frequently use it as a quick rest for my rifle for the exact same reason).

Technical Specifications

The following specs are directly from their website. Feel free to nerd out on the details:

Magnification 10 x
Effective Lens Diameter 32 mm
Exit Pupil Diameter 3.2 mm
Twilight Factors 17.9
Field of View at 1000m 112 m
Apparent Field of View 63 °
Close Focus 1.5 m
Diopter Adjustment Range +4 | -4 dpt
Interpupillary Distance 56 – 74 mm
Eye Relief 16.5 mm
Lens Type ED-Type
PrismSystem Schmidt-Pechan
Lens Coating Hydrophobic ZEISS MC
Water Resistance 100 mbar
Nitrogen Filling yes
Functional Temperature in °C -15 | +60 °C
Height mm
Width 111 mm
Weight in Use 510 g
Order Number 523206

Conclusion

I don’t think you can go wrong with these binoculars. For the price point (which currently on Amazon is just under $400), the size, weight and clarity are pretty good. I didn’t really like the harness at first and thought it would get in the way, but it turned out to be pretty useful, and I eventually forgot I had the binoculars strapped to my chest (until I went prone, of course).

They are not an optic that is going to replace a higher end model (e.g. like the Zeiss 10×42 Victory HT, or, ahem, Swarovskis) but for a small set that can be thrown in a pack and moderately abused, I think they are great.

You can find out more information on their product website (as well as see the other available models): http://www.zeiss.com/sports-optics/en_de/lifestyle/terra.html



Tom is a former Navy Corpsman that spent some time bumbling around the deserts of Iraq with a Marine Recon unit, kicking in tent flaps and harassing sheep. Prior to that he was a paramedic somewhere in DFW, also doing some Executive Protection work between shifts. Now that those exciting days are behind him, he has embraced his inner “Warrior Hippie” and assaults 14er in his sandals and beard, or engages in rucking adventure challenges while consuming craft beer. To fund these adventures, he writes medical software and builds websites and mobile apps. His latest venture is as one of the founders of IronSights.com; a search engine for all things gun related. He hopes that his posts will help you find solid gear that will survive whatever you can throw at it–he is known (in certain circles) for his curse…ahem, ability…to find the breaking point of anything.


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  • tony

    For people wearing glasses or goggles, would you recommend these? Are there alternatives with longer eye relief?

  • Mrninjatoes

    Nice binoculars. Not chromatic aberrations when looking at that SUV.

  • Oldtrader3

    You have a guy reviewing optics who is not familiar with Zeiss????? Give me a break! How can he recommend any optic, he knows nothing about them?

    • Kurt Akemann

      Concur. Zeiss has a legendary reputation and to not even mention that is eyebrow raising to say the least.

    • 360_AD

      While laughable, it could be a plus as the reviewer may be less likely to be biased.

  • Curious_G

    You missed the memo that Zeiss makes a full range of optics? That memo has been out for a long time my friend. Wow.

    • Doc Rader

      My pickiness is directly relate to being around optics snobs that have colored my perceptions. Because let’s face it, aside from caliber, optics are a huge nerdy point, and near religious fight. You can find people that swear by Bushnell whereas people in my circle hate everything they do. Because of that, I, by default hate them, without really having any experiences to color either way.

      Zeiss was not something in the forefront of my attention. I’d heard the name for sure, but never followed them. And really it was more related to photography.

      Now, they are definitely something that I will consider. I would also assert that there are a number of readers that had the same opinion of Zeiss that I initially did, and if this highlights Zeiss for them, I’d say that is a positive thing.