Swarovski Z8i 3.5-28×50 P Riflescope review

Chris Parkin takes a shine to the crystal-clear quality he finds inn Swarovski’s Z8i 3.5-28×50 P Riflescope with 4Ai reticle.

When Swarovski scopes arrive, I’m always 99 per cent certain they are going to be pleasurable to live with and rely upon. Their reputation is well assured and I myself am truly convinced. But that’s not to say they will suit everyone and, of course, the price is quite significant.

The latest Z8i shows its 8x zoom range amplifying the base level 3.5x magnification all the way up to 28x to cope with both short-range hunting needs, possibly even spacious shots on driven game, yet more appropriately with mid to longer range shots on stationary game.

It’s important to note that Swarovski make the BTF (ballistic turret flex) which is an optional extra for this optic and one I wholeheartedly recommend to get the most from the image quality and longer range capability.

Swarovski Z8i 3.5-28×50 P Riflescope: specification

  • Magnification: 3.5-28
  • Effective objective lens diameter (mm): 28.5-50
  • Exit pupil diameter (mm): 8.1-1.8
  • Exit pupil distance (mm) (Eye relief): 95
  • Field of view (ft/100 yds / m/100 m): 36.3-4.5 / 12.1-1.5
  • Field of view (degrees): 6.9-0.9
  • Field of view, apparent (degrees): 24
  • Dioptric compensation (dpt): -3 to +2
  • Light transmission (%): 93
  • Twilight factor acc. to ISO: 14132-1 9.9-37.4
  • Impact point corr. per click (in/100 yds / mm/100 m): 0.36 / 10
  • Max. elevation / windage adjustment range (in/100 yds / m/100 m): 50.4/25.2 / 1.4/0.7
  • Parallax correction (yds / m): 55-∞ / 50-∞
  • Length (in / mm): 15 / 381
  • Weight (oz / g): 23.5 / 665
  • Central tube diameter (in / mm): 1.2 / 30
  • Functional temperature: -4 °F to +131 °F (-20 °C / +55 °C)
  • Storage temperature: -22 °F to +158 °F (-30 °C / +70 °C)
  • Submersion tightness: 13 ft / 4 m water depth (inert gas filling)
  • Brightness levels Twilight: 0 – 32 / Day: 33 – 64
  • Operating time (h) Twilight factor at medium brightness: 1,400 
  • Daylight factor at medium brightness: 180

All external surfaces on the tube are smoothly burnished before hard anodising to briskly shed debris with the greatest ease. The recessed 50mm objective lens is not quite the equal of a 56mm in terms of light entry aperture but is a great trade off in terms of keeping the scope’s ample optical/mechanical capabilities in check. A light transmission figure of 93 per cent is specified and I know this will look good as soon as I have seen the Swarovski data.

The objective bell shows a smooth curve into the 30mm main tube with compact central saddle showing three turrets for control, parallax on the left from 50m to infinity, upper elevation and windage to the right.

The right-side cap also holds a spare CR2032 battery within for the illuminator (battery in use on the left side) yet the scope itself has full automation for vertical can lateral ‘lights out’ when moved away from a shooting position; Swaro’s rarely go flat.

Slipping off the dust caps reveals clinically smooth threads on the aluminium below with no chance of crossing them when applied carelessly, this is one of the first details I note on any scope to assess machining standards externally which will be a serious clue to how things are scaled even more accurately on the inside.

Both dials are finger adjustable with 1cm @ 100 metre clicks as well as imperial dimensions listed. I always stick with the metric these days as it just works more intuitively with ballistic software which the 0.1 mRad click fits perfectly with algorithms and interactive menu design.

Each will lift to turn with a final zero indicator enabled but no specific zero stop unless you add the BTF system (which is an article in its own right). Needless to say, with it added, the system gains more capability for quickly dialled corrections at the time/cost of more detailed and intricate mechanics to set up.

For now, we just zero ‘point blank’ and aim off. I have no issue with low magnification left more mechanically pure like this for hunting, but can’t see the point in having one of the truly great optics with integral mechanics left a little short by a lack of external adjusters to compliment it.

Spare battery in the windage dial cap although full automation is incorporated

Parallax adjustment gives smooth tactile focal travel without backlash and at high mag, very important and thankfully it’s easy to gain the sharpest picture. Moments like that remind you why the Z8i commands its price, with crystal clear optics enabling superb image definition and colour balance without any undesirable blips in the quality as zoom is wound on.

I would describe colour balance just on the warm side of stark but I find most very high transmission scopes veer towards a slightly clinical starkness in bright daylight to offset (within the coatings) the important appreciable minutes of glory as the light fades, when contrast remains for great aiming solutions and final target assessment when needed.

There is no use seeing well through the binos to identify quarry if you can’t precisely pick out the exact ‘unit’ in a herd when the rifle comes to bear and that is where Swarovski seem to concentrate, but everyone is a little different in appreciation of colour.

I can only compare my experience of alternate brands in my perception. Would I hunt in the toughest light conditions with a Swaro? “Yes” is the simple answer but there are other scopes I would rank similarly, thankfully all are similar budget so no brand is left looking foolish.

Further back the tube shows ample space to mount on your rifle, 95mm eye relief is perfect for balance between recoil avoidance and ergonomic positioning with your head able to access the full exit pupil.

Swarovski engineer generous eye box geometry enabling you to retain full ‘vignette free’ imaging when the gun recoils on shot, with retained target visibility appreciable to maintained head position, without getting blacked out as the scope moves towards you and eye relief/full sight picture can be lost.

The image is flat full width and the fast focus dioptre control surrounding the ocular lens offers a wide span of -3 to +2 dioptre compensating for your natural vision.

Swaros are among the few scopes I know in advance I won’t shoot ‘bottomed out’ because of their plentiful span. This is more appreciable because of the reticle detail requirements, it is very fine and one of my few doubts about this exact specification.

The 4Ai shows a German #4 type reticle with illuminated centre dot. Swarovski’s website has an effective simulator allowing you to set chosen mag level. Due to the reticle being in the second focal plane, it remains visually consistent for size but subtention on target varies with mag.

At 3.5x magnification, the inner crosshair arms show 9mm target coverage and the red dot 42mm. Move to say 8x, the figures are now 4mm for the crosshairs and 18mm for the dot, at a full 28x they now cover just 1mm of a target for very precise aiming with the red dot spanning 5mm to draw your eye.

The precision is fantastic but for me it’s just a little bit too skinny for fast acquisition without the illumination and I come back to the “Varminter” designation each time.

Fuss free illumination lever immediately returns to day/night intensity settings previously specified using the button pads

Ironically, the spacious eye box and field of view with uncluttered reticle do compensate well because you see so much more of any missed ballet’s splash on the backstop, or fantastic detail on impact when things go right.

Illumination turns on and off between two day/night categories via the lever/switch atop the eyepiece. There are 64 intensity levels in total, split either side of the central ‘off’ position.

Control pads atop the ocular body allow these to be customised and the unit remembers where you were before, so you are left with two fast acting day/night settings to suit your eyes and environment. This allows the dialling out of any excessive intensity and the red dot is always crisp and ‘sparkle’ free.

Shooting with the scope lead nowhere unexpected and yes, low light performance is fantastic. I stayed from 6-8x when it mattered but it is a joyful demonstration of the optical precision when dialled to 28x in daylight that the quality of the image, edge to edge is awesome, so when dropping back between 8-12x or even 16x, it feels beyond most likely hunting needs.

Z8i 3.5-28×50 P Riflescope
Price: £2,720-2,770 (depending on reticle)
Z8i BTF (Ballistic Turret Flex)
Price: £222
01737 856812

Also used:

Mauser M18 in .243
Blaser Sporting Limited
01483 917412

Tier-One 30mm scope mounts
Tier One 
01924 404312

Hornady Ammunition 
Edgar Brothers
01625 613177

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