Lens-to-lens

In a head-to-head test, Chris Parkin compares two of Zeiss’s finest scopes, the Victory V8 3-12×56 and and its forerunner the Victory HT 2.8-20×56

Head-to-head tests are not something I engage in often – very few competing products can be said to meet each other’s exact specifications for a true ‘apples to apples’ comparison. The Victory V8 from Zeiss is a scope I am familiar with, having had several versions on review in the past and made a trip to the Ulfborg Field shooting weekend when it was first released. I had competed at the event the year previously with a Victory HT, so I became familiar with the mechanical capabilities of both after shooting literally thousands of rounds in competitive use at multiple ranges in varied light conditions and when back at home, hunting, shooting and varminting in the field.

The Victory HT 3-12 x56 is definitely a premium choice for the woodland stalker

Now I had the chance to compare the two directly, pitting the 3-12x HT model against the 2.8-20x guise of the V8. First, light transmission percentages, measured on the amount of light passing through the tube from objective lens to ocular. The HTs are rated at 95 per cent light transmission with the V8 a few points less at 92 per cent. Is this detectable in the field? Not in my opinion – both are absolutely first rate when it comes to image quality, contrast from the Lotutec coatings and sharply defined resolution. The mechanical capability of either optic comes with an assured reputation and believe me, the trips to Denmark were an ordeal for the scopes. We were encouraged to try and prove the Zeiss staff wrong about their ‘game changing’ capabilities, and none of the 20 or so shooters on either trip were able to break one, even with the flour-like sand floating around the dunes entering gaps and crevices below the turrets and dials.

Both scopes show very similar detailing and superb build quality

One factor I specifically remembered about the V8 on my first encounter was the easy accessibility of the exit pupil from any shooting position. If we compare the closest published data at near-comparative 3x versus 2.8x magnification, you will see the V8 actually has a smaller exit pupil, but wider field of view, which was particularly noticeable on driven targets. Given that it has the same 56mm objective size, this 7.2 versus 8.9-degree arc is significant, owing no doubt to the obvious difference of the 30mm versus 36mm tubes and 42 versus 46mm overall diameter of the ocular body incorporating similarly mounted lenses. Eye relief of 95mm on the V8 is 5mm more than the HT but the more spacious ‘eye box’ is pleasant and you tend to find targets quicker from unnaturally improvised postures.

Some complain over the assumed bulk of a 36mm tube but frankly, as long as you can get mounts, it makes no difference as the overall length is near identical and it inhabits what is essentially blank space above your rifle. What is does allow is more space inside the scope for glassware and space for the lens packages and erector tube to move. As a result, in the V8 you have 21 mils of elevation range, nine more than the HT.

The V8’s illumination on top of the ocular body is equally effective, just different

Both scopes have turret options featuring accurate 10mm clicks, 210 of which will make up the former’s range and 120 in the latter. ASV elevation is standard on the V8, with ASV+ available at  extra cost to add windage. The HT comes with simpler finger-adjustable dials under caps but upgrading to ASV or ASV+ gives identical access to the lift-to-turn adjustments. Multiple collars are available to suit the dial to your rifle, or custom-engraved collars made precisely for your actual ballistics. The custom option isn’t for me, and I’m sure many trained travelling long-range shooters will agree. Varied atmospherics cause things to shift around along with the ammo’s performance, and you really need to learn to work these things out for yourself on the fly.

Both optics have fast-focus eyepieces, with the HT offering a slightly greater -4 dioptre than the V8’s -3.5 – but both are greatly appreciated and give razor-sharp focus of the Zeiss No60 reticle inside. Both are set in the second focal plane with simple thick-to-thin lines leading to the fine illuminated dot. The HT has a pull-out turret on the left of the saddle with infinite intensity variability and memory. Reticles on both scopes will turn themselves off automatically based on time or scope angle, and they have similar run times from a CR2032 battery, too. It is hard to pick a winner here – they are equally intuitive systems – but where the V8 really shows benefit is the fineness of the control. A long press on the centre button above the ocular body turns the dot on; the same to turn it off, but the dial spins to alter the brightness with a memory. Most importantly, it does all this with delicate finger pressure, not brutal button presses on the side or unintuitive positions and combinations.

The ASV turrets are fantastic to use for precision and speed of adjustment

To sum up, these two optics represent the best of the old ways and the best of the new. I would have liked to place the new Conquest V6 in the middle of this fight as it has a wider magnification range than the HT, closer to that of the low-end V8, but with the physical external build of the former. Placing more mechanics into the same tube will undoubtedly lower the optical performance slightly but will you really notice in the field? Perhaps a little, but your wallet will still thank you.

Which would I choose? It is hard to say because my shooting opportunities are so varied, but I can do without sleek lines and light weight a lot more easily than I can cope without long-range potential, especially when mounted to pest control rifles or instructing those wanting to become more capable at longer ranges. But those are my priorities, not yours. Were I a woodland stalker, the HT would win  as the twilight factors are, on paper, slightly better, and all those little weight shavings you make do add up for day-to-day comfort. For a hill stalker, I would go with ASV on the elevation turret but not on the windage. For the longer-range vermin shooter or travelling hunter likely to find themselves taking longer shots, the V8 wins hands down as the extra magnification helps to aim on quarry at distance, though image resolution of Zeiss’s quality minimises this need with the fine No60 reticle.

The 10cm clicks of both scopes are ideal for hunting – there is a larger-spec 4.8-35×60 model in the V8 range but I wouldn’t describe it as a target scope as the ASV turret will only accept one rotation after zeroing with the zero-stop in place. Where the V8 is a real game changer is its wide magnification range that gives the ‘one scope, one rifle’ hunter the versatility he craves. I will always remember my first encounter with one, and really seeing this broad range, mated to superb optics and  a scope to uphold the Zeiss name. The two features that really stood out to me were the field of view and eyebox accessibility, which, three years on, have yet to be beaten in my eyes – literally. 

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Posted in Optics, Reviews

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