You might have heard of Carl Zeiss Sports Optics. They make high-quality binocular for a premium price range. Their series including Victory and Conquest were focused more on the high price markets.
This gave Zeiss the drive to excel at designing binoculars and optics. After leading the high-end markets for well over 150 years, they decided to provide binoculars with the same level of optical quality at an interesting price range. This brings us to the Zeiss Terra ED series.
We have closely followed Zeiss for a long time. They were super dedicated to improving the optical quality and still are. The innovation they brought into the bino world is praise-worthy.
Everyone expected them to deliver fairly decent binoculars, but the product itself was marketed as entry-level. At half or even a quarter of the price of what they were previously manufacturing, they launched Zeiss Terra ED binocular series in 2017.
Zeiss Terra ED is a compact unit. It is relatively lightweight considering how well it packs the optics and feature-rich components. With the same quality as German manufacturing, these optics will provide you with a wide view, sharp image, and great low-light performance.
Not just the labeling, we did put these pair of binoculars through some real-world scenarios to find out if they’re any good. Let’s get into a full-depth Zeiss Terra ED review.
Zeiss Terra ED Binoculars Review
Zeiss Terra’s Chassis and Body design
Zeiss Terra ED comes with a rigid chassis. It is made of glass-fiber reinforced polyamide. This makes Zeiss Terra strong and durable while keeping its weight low. The chassis comes with rubber armor which provides a good grip to the binocular. It also protects them from fall damage.
These pocket binoculars are based on a Schmidt-Pechan type roof prism design. It gives the binoculars a slim and elegant finish. These are incredibly compact binoculars that you can store in a pocket. You can get Zeiss Terra binoculars in a color that you like as it comes in many variations. These can be mounted on a tripod or the window mount, for a stable image.
These pocket-sized binoculars are super comfortable to hold, the barrels are well aligned, the design looks nice and the chassis is quite tough. It is 5.9 inches tall which we measured after extending the eyecups. You don’t get a separate groove in the casing to fit your fingers perfectly, but the rubber enclosing will give you a comfortable hold with a decent grip. You can use it with gloves also.
Both the 8×42 and 10×42 variants of Zeiss Terra allow adjustment of the interpupillary distance from 57.5mm up to 76mm. It refers to the distance between pupils of both eyes, and if the binoculars are adjusted incorrectly, you will see the images overlapping, which isn’t good.
While the average interpupillary distance is 65mm for adults, these units cover from 57.5 to 76, so most people will find it helpful. If this variable is not addressed, it will surely cause eye strain. You can measure the interpupillary distance easily, and if it falls under the range, these pair of binoculars will fit your eyes perfectly.
At 8x and 10x magnification levels, most people will want to use a tripod to mount the binoculars. At high magnification, the slight movement caused by shaking of hands may cause blurry image, or move the object out of focus. And a tripod mount will get you a stable, highly detailed image.
But to our dismay, Zeiss hasn’t included a threaded tripod socket, so we cannot mount it on tripods. What a letdown, but given the price and availability of alternatives, we aren’t much worried about it. You can get universal binoculars tripod adapter and mount it that way. Universal tripod adapters will work for more than one model of binoculars, we will consider it a good investment.
Fine-tuned Eyecups and Eye Relief
The Terra ED comes with a twist-up click-stop type eyecup. You can adjust it by turning clockwise and counterclockwise. These eyecups are made from rubber, so they will feel soft and comfortable while using binoculars. Eyeglass wearers can use it normally without any issues.
If you don’t use glasses, then find the sweet spot by extending the eyecups. There are two intermediary steps between the fully up and fully down so you can lock it where you feel comfortable. The eyecups lock with a bit of stiffness to its rotation. It helps to lock the eyecups after the fine adjustments.
These eyecups are made from strong plastic and come with a rubber coating around them. It feels good, soft to the touch, and it also protects your eyes from the strong external lights. Eyecup isolates the external lights and enables a clear image through the dark barrels. In addition, it also gives a great view to binocular users.
We tested two variants of Terra ED. The 8×42 variant comes with an eye relief of 18mm which is quite decent, and the 10×42 with 14mm eye relief. An average eyeglass wearer will feel comfortable with an eye relief of 14 to 15mm. We feel eye relief of 16 to 18mm to be ideal but 14mm will feel comfortable and get you by.
If it was anything lower, we would reject it for being not suitable for users wearing eyeglasses. We tested these with an eyeglass on and it performed quite well. We found that for most users, these eyecups and eye reliefs will feel very comfortable to use, and these pair of binoculars, provide an exceptional value.
How is the Focus wheel?
These binoculars come equipped with a smooth focus knob. It provided us with a fluid shift in focus and there was no resistance during the shifting. Adding to it was the focus scale. In a single revolution of the focus wheel, we were able to shift the focus from close focus to infinity. Its close focus is amazing.
The focus wheel is adjusted in such a way that it feels buttery smooth during the shifting and locks perfectly in its place afterward. We faced no automatic shifting in focus, which would be the case if the focus wheel was loose and constantly slipping on its own.
The Terra ED binoculars have a sharp focus which aids in the quick revolution of the focus wheel. You can turn the focus wheel fast and the focus will lock in place, giving you an instantaneous focus on the object. Some people prefer a shifting focus range. It is due to the slow focus and their need to fine-tune the focus to get a perfect image.
But this pair of binocular comes with a sharp focus, aided by the quickly turning focus wheel. Not to mention, the more turns you make, the more fatigue you will feel as the expedition goes on. So we feel the focus wheel is just right in every aspect.
The faster focus of the focus wheel has its drawbacks. For users adept with slow binoculars, it may take some to adjust with the speed while some users may feel like the slower turning will compensation for the slow adjustment of the actual image focus.
But in our testing, we observed that this provides enough room to fine-tune the focus while making it not so tedious with a long revolution cycle. Just one turn and you get from close focus to infinity, and countless possibilities in middle.
Testing the Diopter Adjustment
The diopter setting adjustment wheel of the Terra ED binoculars is quite stiff, just the opposite of the buttery smooth focus wheel. This is for an important purpose, and we’ll explain it in a bit.
While the diopter adjustment knob is more like a ring than a wheel, it is made from rubber and super comfortable to use. It does exactly what we expect from it, to adjust the diopter of the binoculars.
The twist-ring type diopter adjustment is on its way to get many criticisms. To start with there is no marker or any indication as to how many turns you made with it.
There is no locking mechanism like we saw in other models, which would just slide in place to lock. But you get a good twist mechanism that opens with a counterclockwise turn and closes with a clockwise turn. So, yay!
On a more serious note, Zeiss wouldn’t make such a blunder with its product, so there is a way out of this. The stiffer adjustment wheel ensures that there will be no diopter fade-off during normal use. Once you adjust, it will remain so for a long time.
Although you will have to manually adjust each time somebody else uses it, for the first time use, all the binoculars require adjusting more from the viewing rather than from the markers. This is because the turning distance and individual sight vary slightly which needs to be manually adjusted.
If you want to set it once, and want to later use the same adjustment to “adjust” the diopter, we would suggest using a dab of color, nail polish, permanent marker, hot glue, or a line made with a sharpie.. honestly whatever rocks your boat. Just put a mark on there, and you’ll be set.
Detailed Analysis of Terra’s Optical Performance
We will start by explaining what the ED in Zeiss Terra ED binocular is. It refers to the extra-low dispersion glass, and it’s a really big deal. We all know that binoculars use the prism design, this one comes with roof prism whereas some models come with Porro prism as well.
When a ray of light passes through a prism, it will disperse into various rays, usually known as dispersion into different wavelengths. It will put the colors all over the place.
This phenomenon causes a color distinction resultant of the fringing around the edges. You will perceive this effect as being of inaccurate colors, blurry, or just distorted in some way. Even if it is very subtle and not quite noticeable, it will cause a significant strain on the eyes.
Watching dull images which will result in eye fatigue and headaches over time, gave a big NO sign to Zeiss. So they put the high-tier binocular component to this one.
If you’re a binocular enthusiast, you may remember that some cheap binoculars are also marketed as having ED glass. But know that, not all ED “marketed” lens are created equal.
The ED lens used in Zeiss Terra ED comes from a highly reputed company named Schott. This company makes premium quality lenses and glass optic components for high-quality Zeiss binoculars that cost over a thousand dollars.
The extra-low dispersion prevents the light from dispersing into various wavelengths, which in turn makes the images vivid, and super sharp. It also reduces all the problems we just explained. That’s all, in theory, let us share the results that we got from our real-world tests.
How wide is the Field of view?
These binoculars will provide you with a wide field of view. Zeiss Terra ED 8×42 has a 374 feet field of view at 1000 feet and 7.1 degrees angular field of view. The Zeiss Terra ED 10×42 has a slightly smaller 330 feet field of view with 6.3 degrees angular field of view. These are quite good for 8x and 10x magnification levels.
One thing to note would be as the magnification increases, the image will be slightly zoomed in, so you will be getting the less and less wide field of view. So, you cannot directly compare the two models. We compared these with the competitors and these units performed better than the average.
We won’t miss out on the Details!
These binoculars come with the Schmidt Pechan prism made using the BaK-4 glass. The extra-low dispersion lens with dielectric coatings provides an exceptional image quality. Also, the optics are coated once again with the Zeiss MC coating. This is Zeiss’s proprietary material, and all we know is that it gives exceptionally vivid, super-bright, and razor-sharp images.
Depth of field is the measure of the nearest and farthest object within the view that is well-focused and relatively sharp. Terra ED binoculars have an impressive depth of field despite being a roof prism binocular at a relatively affordable price point. This is the case when the objects beyond the object in focus are perceived clearly. This gives depth to the objects with each other.
We tested the close focus distance of both the 8×42 and 10×42 variants. It was even better than the advertised 5.3m feet, around 1.6 meters but that could be due to product variations. Most people consider the close focus of 1.8 meters to very good, and below 2.4 meters to be used for birding, these units performed noticeably better than the alternatives.
Testing the Light Transmission
The Terra ED handles different light conditions fairly well. The several layers of dielectric coatings enhance low-light performance. It captures the nearby light and gives you a relatively bright, high contrast image even in low light conditions.
This allows viewing finer details that a naked eye wouldn’t be able to discern. It performed well during the morning and evening times.
The extra-low dispersion glass used in these optics provides great light transmission during the daytime. It handled glare and light spikes better than competitors. You can use it without facing many issues.
During our testing, the Terra ED provided highly detailed, super accurate, bright, and high contrast images at all times. The low-light performance was also decent.
Checking the Sweet Spot of Terra ED
The sweet spot is the area with the best image in the entire field of view. We judge it by the shades of colors, color tones, and the sharpness of the image. This pair of binoculars features a fairly large sweet spot so you get a large area with the optimum clarity.
It assists during hunting, when you have to discern color shades in a large area, to distinguish a game hidden within the trees, large bushes as well as savanna terrain. Beyond the radius of sharp focus within the sweet spot was a relatively fair image.
A wide field of view assisted by a large sweet spot takes Terra ahead of its competitors.
Is there any Chromatic Aberration?
The distortion caused by the variation in wavelength is chromatic aberration. While the extra-low dispersion lens minimizes it to a great extent, there is still some left.
The color fringing we normally observe due to differences in contrast, like when viewing a branch against the bright sky in the background.
You get an overall detailed and accurate image, and there wasn’t much chromatic aberration. At this price range, we consider the image quality fairly decent.
Waterproof and Fog-Proof
These binoculars are fully waterproof. If water enters the binoculars, it will lead to internal fogging, microbial growth, and bino will become unusable. On the exterior, Zeiss Terra is coated using a hydrophobic coating.
It makes a layer on the outside that repels water. Due to adhesion, the water droplets form small beads and slides right off the binoculars. It is mainly to protect them from wet and humid conditions.
All the metal and glass joints are fully sealed as well. The openings are hermetically sealed to keep all the air, dust, and water particles from escaping. This also assists the internals to remain fog-proof.
More than just weather-proof and water-resistant, these binoculars are protected against any water damage. We submerged our test units into the water, and they were still fully functional. No doubt these will work fine in any weather condition.
The sudden and extreme change in temperature leads the water molecules in their gaseous form to condense. The cold surfaces of the lens are then covered by a thick layer blocking your view. External fogging is reduced due to the coatings, but it cannot be avoided.
You can easily wipe the external lens surface using a soft cloth that comes included with other accessories. With the tightly sealed housing, internal fogging would be a nightmare.
If the internal lens is fogged up, it would mean zero visibility, you cannot clean it yourself, and getting it professionally cleaned wouldn’t help either as it would get fogged up again.
It would limit the use of binoculars during a warm day. We don’t want that, so the Zeiss Terra goes through a nitrogen purging process. First, they remove the air filled with moisture and water particles creating a vacuum. Then it is filled with nitrogen gas.
This dry air can sustain temperature changes without causing a chemical reaction. So you get a fog-proof binocular. The hydrophobic fog-proof coating on the lens eliminates frequent fogging on the external lens.
Accessories That Come With Zeiss Terra ED
The Zeiss Terra ED binoculars come with few accessories to assist you in your expedition. The first inclusion is a neoprene neck strap. With these, you can hold your binoculars attached to the straps around the neck. While any neck strap will work, these neck straps will also provide comfort so you can enjoy the experience as well.
The lens cover is made from rubber and they will fit into the lens perfectly. It protects the external lens from dust, dirt, and accidental damages. The rubber lens covers are gentle against the lens. These can sustain a moderate amount of fall damage and are shock-resistant. It will come off easily, and it sometimes fell off unintentionally.
We found the rain guards fairly decent and they go right onto the eyecups. It keeps the lens dry when not in use. The rain guards lock securely in place. You can use the mounting brackets on either side to attach them with straps.
The bridge has a decent flex to it and seems quite durable. It allows the mounting and dislodging of caps onto the binocular housing easily. It provides additional protection to the eye lens.
Included with the binoculars, we also found the lens cleaning cloth, a soft bag with a drawstring, and an instruction booklet. The soft bag houses the binoculars perfectly, making it an ideal covering if you need to store it or carry it somewhere.
A Great Warranty
Zeiss Terra ED is backed by a limited lifetime transferable warranty for buyers residing in the United States and Canada. This also applies if your pair of binoculars were originally purchased there or the seller originates from the United States and Canada. You can go to the Zeiss website and register with the serial number to activate this warranty service.
In addition to this, there is also a no-fault policy. This covers all the damage incurred to the binoculars during the first five years from the purchase date. So you can take it anywhere with you whether you’re birdwatching, spending time with nature, or hunting in extreme situations, this warranty has got you covered.
Zeiss Terra is a good all-rounder optics. And the inclusion of no-cost replacement and repairs for five years, at this price point, makes it a great deal. In other countries, you will get two years warranty related to the product quality, and similar manufacturing defects.
We have seen binoculars that come with an unlimited warranty but not quite at this price point. If you purchase from the US or Canada, you will get a high value, even for resale purposes.
For other locations, you can check its performance over 2 years, and if anything is out of order, you swiftly get a new replacement. The warranty against manufacturing defects will give you peace of mind, as you’re sure to get the product quality just as advertised by Zeiss.
Quick Summary, Our Verdict, and The Recommendation
We found the overall optical quality and details to be quite decent across the Zeiss product line. While it doesn’t compare to the quality of binoculars costing thousands of dollars, what Zeiss offered in this price range was commendable.
When we compared Terra ED binoculars with the alternatives falling on the same price range, its inclusion of multi-coated extra-low dispersion glass instantly showed a vast difference in the image quality. The images were quite bright, highly detailed, colors were accurate, and there was no chromatic distortion. You get a sharp crystalline resolution.
The chassis is built strong and has a rubber coating for excellent grip. It is compact, slim, super lightweight, and looks very elegant due to its roof prism design. The hydrophobic multi-coatings provide a protective layer, while the high-quality optic provides stunning clarity. As we expect from German glass, these optics deliver excellent performance.
We recommend these compact binoculars for bird watchers, nature enthusiasts, sports enthusiasts, and hunters. You can ideally use these for normal activities in any weather condition.
You can purchase Zeiss Terra ED Binoculars from Amazon.com