Review: Swarovski Z8i and BTF turret-Woe betide the Crepuscular

The world of optics keeps evolving by leaps and bounds.  New in the past year or so is a selection of 8x zoom optics from a number of companies, one of those being Swarovski.  Swarovski Optik, purveyor of fine glass, had released their new Z8 scopes at IWA 2016.  As previously covered by TFB’s Eric B., the Z8 line comes in four variants: 1-8×24, 1.7-13.3×32, 2-16×50, and 2.3-18×56.  I was looking for a super high quality hunting scope, and after looking through an example of the Z8 line decided to bite the bullet and invest in the scope despite it’s great cost.  I chose the 2-16×50 Z8i (the “i” is for illuminated) with their BRX-I reticle model, as it would cover all of the possible hunting scenarios I could find myself or my guests hunting in.  PC130118

Specs and initial impressions:

Per Swarovski Optik:

Technical Data
Magnification 2-16x
Effective objective lens diameter (mm) 16.3-50
Exit pupil diameter (mm) 8.1-3.1
Exit pupil distance (mm) (Eye relief) 95
Field of view (ft/100 yds / m/100 m) 63.0-7.8 / 21.0-2.6
Field of view (degrees) 12.0-1.5
Field of view, apparent (degrees) 24
Dioptric compensation (dpt) -3 to +2
Light transmission (%) 93
Twilight factor acc. to ISO 14132-1 5.7-28.3
Impact point corr. per click (in/100 yds / mm/100 m) 0.36 / 10
Max. elevation / windage adjustment range (in/100 yds / m/100 m) 54 / 1.5
Parallax correction (yds / m) 55-∞ / 50-∞
Objective filter thread M 52×0.75
Length (in / mm) 14 / 356
Weight (oz / g) 23.8 / 675
Central tube diameter (in / mm) 1.18 / 30
Functional temperature -4 °F to +131 °F (-20 °C / +55 °C)
Storage temperature -22 °F to +158 °F (-30 °C / +70 °C)
Submersion tightness 13 ft / 4 m water depth (inert gas filling)
Illumination unit
Brightness levels Twilight: 0 – 32 / Day: 33 – 64
Operating time (h) Twilight factor at medium brightness: 1,400; daylight factor at medium brightness: 180

 

 

MSRP as tested: $2939.00 scope, $295.00 Turret

PC060084

brightness adjustments can be seen to the front of the silver hawk on the scope body

The Z8i comes in a very nice, sturdy box with cleaning cloth, scope cleaning wipes, see-through scope covers, manual, battery, and awesome little drop chart stickers for the scope’s reticle that are pre-printed for 100 different hunting rounds.  It also comes with blank stickers for one to make custom drop charts.  Though the mini drop charts are awesome, I recommend users true the data at the range prior to using them on a hunt or in a competition, just to be sure.  After taking the scope out from the protective padded brackets, I tried out the controls.  The illumination switch is very positive and stays in day or night mode easily.  I also could tell right away that Eric B. was correct in opining the throw lever will be a necessary accessory, as the magnification range is so large that the ring can take come time to turn without it, and can almost not be rotated through the full range smoothly in one motion.  The parallax, focus, and zoom adjustments were all very smooth.  Looking through the glass gave me peace of mind, as the optics were of the expected Swarovski exceptional clarity.

Blank and pre-printed drop chart stickers

Blank and pre-printed drop chart stickers

PC060081

Mounting and Illumination controls

I mounted the Z8i in a GG&G Accucam quick-detach integral ring scope base, as I will be moving this optic from rifle to rifle quite a bit.  I first mounted this optic on a .300wm Benelli R1 that I set up for guest hunters to use on big game, as it hits hard at long range but has little recoil due to the ARGO system.  It’s not the most accurate rifle I have, but I was setting it up for a last minute wild boar hunt for a guest who did not have a rifle available.  Once mounted and leveled, I noticed that it zooms out far enough for me to see the front sight in the bottom 1/8 of the field of view at 2x zoom.  This didn’t really annoy me, however, as it does not obstruct the target in any meaningful way.  I played with the illumination levels of the center square quite a bit.  The light controls have +/- brightness adjustment buttons on the top of the scope body just forward of the magnification ring.  There is a 3 position toggle switch to the rear of those buttons for night, off, and day. The night levels are not at all visible in full daylight, but the daylight illumination levels were nicely visible and never got to the point that they had a halo.  The controls adjusted easily with bare hands as well as light and heavy gloves.

Night-off-day controls for illumination

Night-off-day controls for illumination

 

 

Zeroing

It was super easy to initially zero the scope both due to the clarity and quality of the optic as well as the ease of use of the controls and the well written manual.  The manual itself was a huge step up from the Z5 I had bought some years back, whose English manual was lacking in translation from the original German.  Keeping in mind that the click adjustments for this model were 1/10 mil (.36 inches) at 100y, rather than 1/4 MOA, I had to make only a few clicks up and right.  Once I confirmed the correction, I lifted up on the outer ring, rotated it back to zero, and I was done.  Once zeroed, I ran a “box drill” test by shooting groups at the following points to see if the adjustments were true and would return to zero.  For those readers who don’t already know, a box drill is shooting groups from 4 clicks up, 4 right, 4 down, and the 4 left and seeing if connecting lines from group to group comprises a perfect square.  The Z8i passed with flying colors.

Elevation adjustment. Just lift up on the other ring and return to zero when done

Elevation adjustment. Just lift up on the other ring and return to zero when done

Optical Impressions

I looked through the scope at all ranges of magnification in various lighting conditions ranging from outdoor  from deep shade to bright sunlight during the day, twilight, nighttime and indoors.  Where the Z8i’s 93% light transmission really shines through is at night or in twilight.  I could definitely see far better and brighter through the optic than with the naked eye, even on misty evenings with little moonlight.  There was definitely enough definition to pick out bucks vs does at night, and count points from 1-200 yards away with a 1/4 moon.  This is an extremely impressive optic when it comes to light collection.  Though the Schmidt & Bender Polar line boasts 96% light transmission, their eye relief is certainly not as generous as the Swarovski.  I have tried both and much prefer the Z8.  The Z8 lenses have also shrugged off mist and rain, and have excellent coatings that I have yet gotten to fog.

Clarity was incredible. This is at 2x

Clarity was incredible. This is at 2x.  The firearm is slightly tilted on the sandbags, not the crosshairs.

At 16x with center illuminated on day setting

At 16x with center illuminated on day setting

Going Ballistic

Once the initial zeroing was completed, I could add on Swarovski’s BTF (Ballistic Turret Flex) accessory.  The BTF system is compatible with all Z8 scopes, and can be used on both windage and elevation turrets.   The BTF comes with the replacement turret and stacking rings numbered from 2 to 5.  I set mine up for use with elevation.  The turret itself replaces the original elevation turret with a press of a button in the center of the turret.  The way the system works is one plugs in one’s ballistic data or factory load into Swarovski’s free ballistic software, note what distances you want rings 2-5 to be set at, and the program gives you click adjustments to set each number at.  Stack the rings indexed at the appropriate points, put on the top until the button clicks in, and you’re set to go.  Then one can make super fast adjustments in the field for firing at different distances, and easily change the configuration for different loads and calibers in the future.  Usually I use the hold overs in my reticle in a hunting situation, but the BTF simplifies matters greatly for making quick distance adjustments, and is very easy for me to explain to guests who will use the scope.  The BTF also features an easy to use locking mechanism at the bottom to prevent adjustments when you don’t want them, with just a 90 degree rotation for on or off.

Original turret. Notice lock at the bottom to prevent inadvertent adjustments

Original turret. Notice lock at the bottom to prevent inadvertent adjustments

Overall Impression:

Though being a regular Swarovski user for over a decade (I first invested in a pair of their binos after a frustrating mule deer season trying to divine bedded Mulies from sagebrush with crappy optics), I was extremely impressed by the Z8i scope.  The excellent features, impeccable glass, and great addition of the BTF system all make for an excellent optic that, although rather expensive, is well worth the price and will likely last a lifetime.  This optic will not only help me harvest game during peak activity periods, but also be an excellent aid in introducing new hunters to the sport which is something I try and do as often as possible.  Buy it on sale, and you won’t have buyer’s remorse.

Pros:

  • Incredible glass gathers and transmits light extremely well
  • Night and twilight performance was exception for a non-NV scope
  • Coatings proved durable and shrugged off mist and rain like it was nothing
  • Illuminated center of reticle makes for easy twilight shots
  • controls all useable with or without gloves, even with sausage fingers
  • BTF system makes adjustment for shooting at varying distances a snap, and is user- reconfigurable
  • 8x zoom!

Cons:

  • Super steep entry price (MSRP $2400-$3200 depending on configuration)
  • Not the lightest scope out there
  • only 3 reticle choices
  • 2nd focal plane optic means that the BRX holdovers are only correct at max zoom
  • throw lever should be an included accessory due to large range of magnification
PC130126

All set for a hunt



Rusty S.

Having always had a passion for firearms, Rusty S. has had experience in gunsmithing, firearms retail, hunting, competitive shooting, range construction, as an IDPA certified range safety officer and a certified instructor. He has received military, law enforcement, and private training in the use of firearms. He is fortunate enough to have access to class 3 weaponry as well.


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  • thedonn007

    I was expecting it to be expensive when I started reading the article, but I still was shocked at the price when I saw it listed.

    • Phil Ward

      and it’s not even covered in over-priced crystals!

    • Russ Kell

      It comes with a spotter. Shipped in a larger box.

  • JumpIf NotZero

    Title gore.

  • Dr. Longfellow Buchenrad

    If only I could land a Swarovski spnosorship for my mad Mac & Cheese cooking skills…

  • Phillip Cooper

    Crepuscular- of or relating to twilight.

    “Farewell to that relating to twilight”?

    How does this factor into the story?

    • Rusty S.

      Deer and other game such as hogs are usually most active in the hours surrounding dawn or dusk-they are “crepuscular” in nature. The light transmission of these scopes allow for optimal hunting during these hours.

      • Phillip Cooper

        Thanks! I learned something!

  • iksnilol

    Swarovski and SFP ?

    Good God, that’s a swing and a miss.

    • Rusty S.

      All new Swarovski models are SFP. They’re great for hunting, but for ultra long range precision shooting, I use FFP.

      • iksnilol

        I prefer FFP for anything with variable magnification.

        Guess I’ll go for Zeiss or Meopta then.

  • Tassiebush

    Not quite in the same category but I recently got a Steiner Ranger 3-12×56 scope and it impressed the pants off me! There really is a lot to be said for going with the best optics that you can afford. The one in this article seems like a spectacular do everything well scope. The logic too is fantastic about picking an optic ideal for crepuscular creatures. So much hunting is right around these time periods. And the pairing of it with the benelli seems a fantastic example of modernity and hunting matched together!

    • Rusty S.

      Thanks, Steiner makes great stuff as well. I agree with you that I never regretted paying more for exceptional optics. I’ve had multiple times where the main reason my hunt was successful was the quality of the optics, and being able to see the game in the first place.

      • Tassiebush

        I was also impressed at the idea of using the quick detachable mounts to be able to use it across a few guns. I think it’d require some meticulous records of adjustments but it makes good sense to use your best scope across a few guns.

        • Rusty S.

          A white or silver sharpie helps me on that end as far as where to mount the optic on the rails of different firearms.

  • The_Champ

    I bit the bullet last year and got a Swarovski Z5 3.5 x 18 with ballistic turrets for my .300 win mag. The scope has more than met my expectations. You sure pay for quality though.

  • 22winmag

    Or just go with a VX6.