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Zeiss Terra ED 8x32 binoculars review: budget binoculars perfect for bird watchers

The Zeiss Terra ED 8x32 boasts excellent performance designed to meet aspirations of serious nature enthusiasts

Zeiss Terra ED 8x32
(Image: © Matt Swaine)

Our Verdict

The Zeiss Terra ED 8x32 boasts excellent performance designed to meet aspirations of serious nature enthusiasts are a joy to use and offer exceptional image quality that will meet the needs and aspirations of really serious nature watchers. While these were at the top end of our review price point, they represent the ‘budget’ offering from Zeiss: a brand that is much loved by hordes of hardcore bird watchers. They come with the promise of a lifetime of wildlife watching and performance that is likely to impress even the most ambitious nature enthusiast. But at this price point many people may not feel that the additional investment is quite matched by returns in terms of image quality.

For

  • Exceptional image quality for serious birders
  • Superb design and easy to use and focus

Against

  • Image not quite as bright as expected at this price point
  • Objective lens protectors were easily lost

First thoughts

Bird watchers should love the Zeiss Terra ED 8x32. I am a pretty mid-level birder; happily positioned at the enthusiast end and unlikely to ever make it to the expert end of the scale. When I do find myself in a bird hide surrounded by ‘proper’ birders, these are the kind of binoculars I’d like to have to hand. The Zeiss logo at least sets out that you are serious about your aspirations, even if you struggle to confidently tell the difference between a curlew and whimbrel, a rook and a raven or a house martin and swallow.

So I was really excited to slip these out of the box and to unzip their rather high-end looking carry case. Turning the Zeiss Terras over in my hand, they immediately started to impress. They are lightweight, compact and rather beautifully designed.

The central hinge is firm but easy to adjust, the eyepieces can be positioned easily and the focus wheel is pleasingly smooth, allowing you to go easily from long range to close up focus. And that close focus is really impressive at way under 2m (1.6m according to Zeiss). So while they turned up too late to test them on what was a fantastic summer of butterfly watching, they did deliver some wonderful views of early autumn bees and dragonflies.

Specifications

RRP: $400 (USA)/£375 (UK)
Size: 125mm length; 117mm width 4.9in length; 4.6in width
Weight: 510g/17.9oz
Magnification: 8
Objective diameter: 32mm
Field of view at 1000m: 135m
Close focusing distance: 1.6m/5.3ft 

In the field

The first question I had to answer with the Zeiss Terra ED 8x32 binoculars was ‘are they worth it?’ When binoculars that come in at almost half the price deliver such impressive image quality, why would you spend this much money on a pair of binoculars?

It’s worth pointing out that this is a budget offering for Zeiss. You can easily spend three or four times this amount on a really serious pair of optics, but will people notice the additional performance here?

The honest answer to that is, for many people, probably not. I think that the majority of casual users would be more than happy with the Nikon Prostaffs or Hawke Endurance. But if you are serious about your birding and aspire to a higher level, then these will undoubtedly take you further.

Small differences in performance will represent a good return on your investment over many years of use. These felt really good to hold and the large focus wheel made it easy to adjust as we followed birds zipping across the sky. There’s very little sense of distortion at the edge of the image and you get bright, natural colours that allow you to really appreciate the action.

So if you are looking for a pair at this price point, are these right for you? In our test, these did not quite match the performance of the Kowa BDs. I took a number of trips out with just these two pairs and enlisted the help of a number of very serious nature watching friends. The difference was small, but the decision was unanimous. Everyone on my unofficial panel felt that the Kowas delivered a brighter image. While the Zeiss were impressive – and I have to say, I would love to own this pair of binoculars – there was a feeling that they didn’t quite meet expectations.

They are undoubtedly an excellent pair of binoculars that will impress most outdoor users. lightweight and compact enough to take on any adventure they are guaranteed to also deliver an appreciative nod from serious bird watchers.