Zen-Ray Optics saves the advertising costs and puts it all into the optics manufacturing so, it is quite difficult to get the company details. Their website states that they are situated in the Columbia Basin at the heart of the Northwest. Although they have an established business in Portland city in Oregon, United States, their optics are primarily made in China. We don’t discriminate or judge based on the locations so, check our full-depth review below. Honestly, the impressions and the first look are looking pretty good so far.
It all began in 2006 when a group of avid birdwatchers attending a birding excursion felt the need for affordable binoculars. At the time, binoculars with decent optics cost upwards of two thousand or similar outrageous prices. There were binoculars at the lower range too, but they performed as you’d expect from dirt-cheap binoculars.
The image quality of low-end binoculars was mediocre, quite bad. So, there were no affordable binoculars with a good build that would provide high-quality images. If others are not doing it, do it yourself. Or so they thought when they started. It was a massive opportunity that Zen-Ray took interest in and delivered good value optics.
In May of 2006, Zen Ray launched their first binocular line. It was called Summit to perhaps denote the level of research and dedication that went towards the production of binoculars. ZRS in Zen Ray ZRS HD refers to ‘Zen Ray Summit’. We will discuss the HD extra-low dispersion lenses after testing their optical performance. We have found quite decent reviews about the ZRS HD series but we always like to perform our tests to provide you our honest opinions.
Overview of The Zen-Ray ZRS HD
Based on pricing, these are entry-level binoculars. But its build quality and optics are far better than entry-level binocular we have tested before. These binoculars are indeed Made in China. It is to reduce production costs and it is quite necessary to make quality binoculars at this price range.
This roof prism binocular is an excellent performer and has lots of advantages over binoculars at a similar price point. Let’s get straight into this offer.
Chassis and Body Design
The Chassis of Zen-Ray ZRS HD is made with magnesium alloy. We found it quite sturdy and rigid. It is interesting to find chassis made with magnesium in budget-friendly binoculars as most binoculars in a similar price range are made from plastic, polycarbonate even aluminum. Magnesium is quite lighter than aluminum which keeps the binoculars compact and lightweight.
As we expect from a metal body, there is no flex to it. These are sure to withstand quite a lot of accidental droppings, and will not deteriorate over time. With excellent corrosion, you can use these in any weather condition. The same magnesium alloy is being used in the aerospace and automobile industry for its strength and durability.
The Chassis is designed quite well as it fits into the hands perfectly. There is also a nice indent made for the thumbs. With the uniform weight distribution, you will not find the binocular tilting one way or the other. It reduces all kinds of fatigue and you will be comfortably able to use the binoculars for extended periods.
Eyecups and Eye Relief
The ZRS HD Binoculars come with metal-reinforced eyecups. You can turn these to get eyecups extension distance that fits your need. Its soft texture rests gently against the face. For more precise adjustment, there is central locking which keeps the eyecups fixed halfway aside from fully up and fully down. We found 8mm of eyecups height when fully extended, and the halfway point is at about 5mm distance.
The eyecups are built well. It has a strong and rigid finish, yet the outside is quite soft. We found no resistance when turning them, and they lock securely in place. The eyecups on these binoculars functioned just the way we expect, with fluid-like smoothness.
The 8×42 variant comes with 17.6mm of eye relief and the 10×42 variant comes with 15.5mm of eye relief. It is helpful for people using glasses so they can get a full view of the entire field. In our testing, we found that the eye relief in both the models of binoculars that we tested, was quite adequate. There was no difficulty getting the view and focus with glasses on. For other users who don’t use glasses, it will be a perfect fit as well.
Zen Ray ZRS HD binoculars come with a center focus knob to adjust the focus. The focus knob has an ergonomic shape that lets the finger rest comfortably upon it. The entire focus range is shifted by one and a half turnings of this center focus wheel. It means, with just 1.5 revolutions, we get the focus from close range to infinity.
This pair of binocular comes with a 6 feet close focus. This is ideal for viewing nearby birds, leaves, or insects. From this point, you can turn the focus wheel counterclockwise one and a half times to reach infinity focus, to view far distance activity. There are two benefits of this mechanism.
You will not feel tired or experience hand fatigue after a long expedition. A longer revolution scale means you have to turn the focus knob more, which will result in more fatigue. The other advantage is finer focus adjustments.
You can fine-tune the adjustments to get a sharp and detailed image without losing the ability to shift from a nearby object to a faraway object instantly. Fast focus on ZRS HD binoculars is suitable for hunting, trekking, sightseeing, and all general binocular use cases with its excellent focus wheel.
Overall Durability and Endurance
The Zen-Ray ZRS HD series binoculars are made using a metal alloy. This makes the chassis extremely durable and gives it a rigid feel. There was no flex in the body, and we did some tests to check its endurance. We found the build quality fairly decent and it should last for a very long time. If you face any manufacturing defects upon arrival, the excellent warranty that Zen Ray provides has got you covered.
Testing the Optical Performance of ZRS HD
The primary use case for any binocular is to get sharp, clear images without any distortion. It needs to work in any climate and light conditions so it needs to be super versatile. We put these binoculars to the real-world tests and here is what we found.
It has a Wide field of view
The 8×42 variant has a field of view of 393 feet at about 1000 yards and the 10×42 variant comes with 315 feet at 1000 years. The angular field of view comes close to 7.5 degrees. The field of view is quite broader than what we generally find on binoculars at a similar price range.
The wider field of view gives you a larger scene so you can scale a large area in a short time. This will also be helpful to trace a bird or a quarry. It means fewer binocular movements and less adjustment of the focus wheel.
Superior Image Quality
The image quality of ZRS HD is improved significantly by its high-definition glass. The images were quite sharp and super detailed. Its sweet spot is about half of the entire field of view, and the rest was also usable due to the three-dimensional viewing feature. The edges are not quite clear and a bit blurry but considering the price point, it’s fairly decent.
These will provide you with a super crisp and high-quality image similar to some expensive binoculars. At 8 and 10 times zoom levels, you will mostly use these binoculars by holding them in your hands. In this use case, the sweet spot will remain in the middle all the time, and the binoculars are shifted to focus on another area. We did not notice any significant image quality issues when we tested these binoculars.
However, if you mount these on the tripod, you will notice some blurry effect as you go towards the edges. This is noticeable beyond 70 percent of the inner radius. With a fairly large field of view, this should not cause any significant issues during your hunting expedition. The colors are super accurate and, a large objective lens allows for a bright image. The images are bright, sharp, and super detailed as well as of high resolution.
Great Low light Performance
We have many complaints of binoculars not performing well during the low light, with dark and unusable images. We were curious to know how well the ZRS HD binoculars perform in this category. We noticed surprisingly low light performance from these binos.
Upon researching a bit, we found that the optics are layered with dielectric prism coatings. This multi-coating allows for light reflectance above 99 percent. It helps to reproduce all the available light across the full visible range. Primarily, this ensures color reproducibility and detailed images, but it also allows for a brighter image which is very useful during the dawn and dusk times.
At low light times or environments, like inside a dense forest, these binoculars will take all the visible light in, brighten the images and give you a detail-rich viewing experience. You will be able to distinguish game hidden within the bushes or branches, or among the woods fairly easily. These are equally beneficial for sightseeing and birding as well.
How it performs in Daylight?
The dielectric coating on the optics helps to replicate the colors more precisely so the images are super accurate. Zen-Ray ZRS HD binoculars are equipped with BAK-4 roof prism optics. The Bak-4 roof prisms are what provide super clear images. It refers to light barium crown glass. This type of prism is used to make mid to high-tier binoculars.
When compared with the alternatives at this price point, most use Bak 7 or even k9 type optics. BAK-4 performs significantly better than those, while also quite expensive to manufacture. But Zen Ray doesn’t cut any corners with the optics. So you are getting super bright, high contrast, highly detailed images with vivid colors.
There was not much glare to these glasses. While viewing normal surfaces, there was no glare at all. But watching highly reflective surfaces in sun at 90 degrees is quite an extreme case, which gave some glare. But that’s to be expected at this price range. Other binoculars performed worse than these units so you’re getting the best one available.
The excellent light transmission also enhances the daylight performance of a binocular. As you might already know, light enables sight. So more light transmission means better image quality, enhanced colors, and details. But higher light transmission may cause some issues.
With stray light reflecting inside the binocular barrels, we have observed a high level of image distortion in some binoculars. This unit prevents this from happening by coating the insides of binocular barrels with a dark coating and optics with multiple layers of coatings.
We know some Nikon binoculars apply 4 to 5 coatings and some really good binoculars apply up to 20 coatings. In ZRS HD binocular series, Zen Ray did a total of 40 dielectric coatings. We found a very bright, crisp, crystal clear, and highly detailed view with these binoculars. The brightness and image quality are unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
Testing the Chromatic Aberration
During our normal use and testing, we found no cases of chromatic aberration. Which is quite a surprise! Chromatic aberration is the color fringing that happens when the lens is badly made. While it’s a true and quite a simple case for most low to mid-tier binoculars, there’s more to the equation.
Darker objects against the bright background usually result in purple and yellow colors around the edges. With its excellent color fidelity, we found no unnatural color fringing going on. Testing objects just for chromatic distortions will result in some fringing, but you will not find it during normal use.
There is indeed some chromatic aberration but not much. The overall image quality is quite good. You will get highly detailed and super accurate images during most use cases.
How is the Diopter Adjustment?
There is this alignment thing in binoculars, which if not matched properly, will induce dizziness and may even cause vomiting. Even if those are quite extreme, the majority of people face extreme eye stress and fatigue after use. Here, we are referring to the diopter of a binocular. The diopter adjustment ring is placed near the right eyecups. From there you can align the diopter of two eyes.
Diopter is the measurement of the optical power of the lens. The two eyes are slightly different, which the brain calibrates easily. But with the binoculars with 8x and 10x magnification levels, the difference is made quite clear due to several times of magnification. To compensate for it, the binoculars have a diopter adjustment system.
The diopter adjustment on these binoculars is fairly decent. We like to have a locking mechanism on the diopter or slide and lock system which are quite common in high-tier binoculars. The locking diopter adjustment provided here fits our taste perfectly. Some arrive with a click adjustment.
It lets you adjust the diopter to align two eyepieces on each barrel. With both adjusted correctly to your individual preference, it will be like looking with your eyes. There will be no eye strain and images will be super sharp.
Close Focus & Sweet Spot
We discussed a bit about close focus earlier, but let’s get into the details. It is the minimum distance between the object and binoculars from where you will get a good focus. Anything closer and it will start to become blurry.
While binoculars aren’t the magnification glasses to observe super close objects, their 8 to 10 times magnification will be quite suitable for watching close-by objects. So most people prefer a good close focus on their binoculars.
You can watch birds, tree leaves, insects, ants, or some tiny objects lost in your lawn. Whatever is the purpose, these Zen-Ray ZRS binoculars will be a great tool for that, as long as the distance is at least 6 feet. We will let you know what the common perception is.
A general-purpose binocular usually has a close focus of 25 feet and maybe 20 feet if it is quite decent. The birding binocular which is meant to watch birds and close-by objects come with 10 feet close focus. This unit has a close focusing range of about 6 feet, it is slightly lower than that.
With top-of-the-stack super high-end binoculars coming to a close focusing range of 3 feet, ZRS HD performed exceptionally well. There is no competition here, ZRS HD straight-up wins regarding the close focus.
The sweet spot is where the images are super detailed, crisp, and without any distortion. Due to the nature of the curved lens, it’s almost impossible to prevent edge distortion.
While the high-end binoculars strive to achieve this more, there is still some left. Now with our units, we found that almost 50 percent of the viewable field radius was super sharp, and up to 70 percent was fairly decent.
When you held the binoculars up to your eyes with your hands, and shift the binoculars along with the object in focus, you will not feel any edge distortion. Our focus was mostly on the center part and it was just on the sweet spot. Eyes do have a similar distortion, so it is not a big game-changer.
But it is quite a different story when it comes to mounting. With 8 to 10 times magnification, the images tend to shake a bit. It is not due to inherent binocular science, or from any manufacturing defect on part of Zen Ray. This comes from the instability of human hands, they move a lot.
Eyes will adjust it to a great extent and there is also a wide range of view, and two eyepieces so while holding the binoculars, it will not cause such issues. However, we found that several binocular users like to mount their binoculars in a tripod mount and move focus across the entire lens field.
This will result in a blur as you move past the 70 percent of the entire focus view which we found during our testing. However, there is some trickery Zen-Ray did with it to compensate for the unavoidable edge distortion. It is three-dimensional viewing.
Three Dimensional Viewing
While this primarily enhances the need to make adjustments for changing the focus from close-by objects, like when moving from one object to another. We found this also minimizes the object edge distortion up to a large extent. This allows you to move from one object to another without adjusting the focus wheel, what sorcery is this?
If you have picked some mediocre binocular which comes for a cheap price, you will notice something different. Even some mid-priced binoculars have a phenomenon of being 2 dimensional. The perceived image from the binoculars looks more like a plain image like it’s printed on some paper.
The well-made binocular can fine-tune the two images and give the objects some depth. So we can gauge the distance and depth of the objects. This is what we refer to as a three-dimensional viewing experience. The binocular images are no longer boring, it will feel more like an extension of your visual apparatus.
Overall Optical Performance
The high-definition glasses used in the Zen Ray ZRS HD binoculars with several dielectric coatings provide an excellent viewing experience. The image quality is highly elevated compared to what we usually find in a similar price range. The low, as well as bright light performance, was also satisfactory.
It has a wide field of view, a large sweet spot as well as top-notch close focus. The high-contrast images that we got were all high quality, crisp, and highly detailed. Given the quality of optics and build quality, we know exactly where they invested the marketing budget.
Zen Ray ZRS HD binoculars are the binoculars with the best optics across the line that we have tried so far. While there is no “automatic focus” that lets you shift focus between close and far-distance objects without rotating the focus wheel, it helps greatly when viewing similarly ranged objects.
Water Proofing is so great you can Dip it in Water!
The Zen Ray ZRS binoculars are waterproof as well as fog proof. Waterproofing keeps the binocular safe from water, dust, moisture, and similar elements. Just a drop of water is enough to fog up the lens or damage the internal coatings of the binoculars. Once the moisture gets inside, it will immediately turn the binoculars unusable and erode the optics over time as well.
Binoculars are made to precisely transfer the light rays through the optics and all the factors are considered. But adding water to it would be quite foolish. Water will reflect the light wavelengths all across the places and give distorted images. But an even bigger concern would be reduced visibility.
If you go to cold places with binoculars filled with moisture, it will cause internal fogging. There are some binoculars marketed as splash-resistant or weatherproof. Those can take some rainwater, but not much. Our units are fully waterproof. While you should not, and most likely will not during the normal binocular expedition dip it in water, we got curious what will happen.
The binoculars were perfectly fine. Thanks to the hermetically sealed O-rings and a great chassis, the external moisture, water, dust, and dirt will all remain outside. This will keep the internal optics good as new even after years of use.
Zen Ray ZRS Binoculars are fully Fog Proof
Fog-Proofing is another addition to the ZRS HD’s features list. We cannot stress how much fog proofing will help you on your expedition, whether you’re following a game on the dense forest, or scaling high mountains in extremely cold climates. It doesn’t even have to be freezing temperature, when the moisture-filled air inside of the binoculars reacts with the cold environment, it will turn into vapor and cause internal fogging.
We know that the binoculars are tightly sealed from the outside, so it is super difficult to get to the insides. Even taking it to a repair shop and getting the binocular clean will be waste of time, as they will fog again anyway. Fogs have been a real enemy of binocular enthusiasts since forever.
You find a great target for hunting, and after a while, the lenses are fogged up. You were birding and suddenly the binoculars fogged up. External fogging can be wiped off using a soft cloth, which comes with the binocular. But internal fogging means you cannot use the binoculars at all.
To avoid all these troubles, binoculars go through a fog-proofing process. The moisture-laden air is removed from inside of the barrels then it is filled with nitrogen gas. But our unit comes with Argon-purging, not filled with nitrogen gas. Argon is considered superior to nitrogen for making fog-proof binoculars. Being an inert gas, it will not react with the coatings on optics or the barrels themselves, and there is no internal fogging as well.
Waterproof as well as fog proof binoculars are shielded against any external dirt and moisture elements. It will keep the lens from getting infected by mold, yeasts, or similar microbial fungus. These would otherwise eat away the coatings as well the optics.
You can use Zen Ray ZRS HD binoculars in any weather conditions, and you don’t have to worry about it falling into the water. But we know you’ll keep it safe from harm most of the time.
Included in the Box and Accessories
After reading the build and optics review, you may be wondering, with such great quality, does it ship with binoculars only or there are accessories included as well. For that, let us get into the box.
Zen Ray ZRS HD comes neatly packed into a box. It is like a box of surprises which consists of a carrying case, neck strap, soft micro-fiber cleaning cloth, and some instruction manuals. Not to forget the binoculars! The box has binoculars as well.
The Carrying Case feels quite soft to the touch and has Zen Ray written on it. It is made with nylon fabric. You can fasten the case with Velcro or attach solder straps that come with the case itself. It’s always good to have a nice case to store your binoculars but you can use it with the straps to carry them around as well.
You can also use it as a binocular harness. The outside seems quite durable and it will prevent the binoculars from shock and impact damage. We found the belt loop on the back of the case gives you more options on how you want to carry it. We quite like this lightweight and durable carrying case.
Rain Guard and Lens Cover
It comes with a rain guard that feels a bit like rubber. It is placed gently against the eyepieces or the external lens to protect them from rainwater. The rainwater will make the lens wet which results in external fogging. It is coated but we don’t want any water splashes near it. The rain guards fit perfectly on the eyecups and don’t fall off easily.
Objective lenses are like the main lens on the exterior part of the binocular. It is where the light rays come into the optics, so it is super important to keep them protected from damage. The objective lens covers are included to do exactly that.
Included with the binoculars is a pair of lens covers for two objective lenses each. The build is quite good and feels like rubber on the interior. The rain guards had a good fit and you can tie them to straps with a split ring. The lens cover tends to slide out quite easily. Perhaps this is the feature that lets you quickly take the covers off, so you won’t miss the scene.
These protect the objective lenses in the binoculars from dirt, dust, and fall damage. But to our understanding, people put it on to protect the lenses from bread crumbs! It will absorb the impacts and keep the lenses safe so you don’t have to face any difficulty next time you use the binoculars.
Neck Strap is one of those must-have additions to the binocular experience. Although not as versatile as a case with shoulder straps, general users prefer using a neck strap. The box has a neoprene strap that is soft to the touch and fits comfortably around the neck. After attaching it to the binoculars, you will feel the fatigue in your hands is mostly gone.
During a long expedition, carrying the binoculars on hands is quite tiring with any binocular. Putting it in the case is sufficient for storage and travels, but not so much if you’re on a hunting expedition. You want the binoculars close by so you can quickly have a look before you miss the action.
Here is where the neck strap shines. It keeps the binoculars close while freeing your hands for some other pieces of equipment like a rifle or bow. The strap itself is quite wide and comfortable so we felt it will not cause any neck strain.
We would like to suggest some accessories that will fit perfectly with the binoculars. The first is the tripod mount, which is especially helpful if you are considering getting 10 power binocular. 8 power and 10 power are the same magnification levels that we discussed earlier. As the image gets closer and closer, the images get shaky due to the shaking of hands.
Till 8 times magnification, we were able to use the binoculars with a single hand, but more than that and you will surely need to use both hands just to stabilize the image. Hands are not the most steady things, so most users considering these binoculars may already have the mounts.
With a tripod mount or some universal adapter stands, you will get the most stable images. No movement on the binoculars translates to super detailed images with lots of details. It also enhances the overall image quality so you will have a great time using these.
ZRS HD Warranty
The Zen Ray ZRS HD binocular comes with a transferable lifetime warranty. It covers all the damages to the binoculars as well as any manufacturing defects. They were quick to respond to our email so just contact Zen Ray optics if you get into any trouble regarding your binoculars.
Having a lifetime warranty gives you peace of mind, so you can use binoculars in any situation without any worries. If anything happens and your binoculars are no longer working, or even if you just have to make some slight adjustments, Zen Ray will respond swiftly.
It also increases after-market value if you ever need to sell these second-hand due to their transferable warranty. It is quite rare to find a decent warranty in this price range and upon the Chinese manufacturing. But Zen Ray maintains a good quality standard it seems.
They trust their products that they included a lifetime warranty on these binoculars. So you the binoculars without worrying about it breaking. And if it breaks, just contact Zen Ray and it will be resolved swiftly.
Our Verdict and Recommendation
Zen Ray has been manufacturing some affordable consumer optics and ZRS HD has been a great addition. It comes with super sturdy rubber armor that enhances the grip during wet weather. Its alloy body design can handle substantial impact damages.
In addition to the compact design, it has an ergonomic focus knob and looks quite good for an entry-level binocular. The optical performance beats even some higher range binoculars that we tested, so there is no compromise on the quality.
It has exceptional low-light performance. These pair of binoculars can be used anywhere, in any weather condition. The high-definition ZRS binoculars will be a great fit for bird watching, hunting expeditions, trekking, sightseeing, or watching sports events. These are one of the best value-for-money binoculars that you can get.
Get your own Zen-Ray ZRS HD binocular from Amazon.com