Review: Carl Zeiss TERRA ED 10×32 Binoculars

    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 teaches wilderness medicine and writes for a number of publications, including The Prepared, a site devoted to self-preparedness. 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.

    You can reach him at tom.r AT thefirearmblog.com


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