In Europe, Zeiss was for a long time a synonym for high-quality optics with an equally high price tag. Several years ago, an important decision was made at the Carl ZEISS Sports Optics company – they have decided to add an affordable series of riflescopes to their offer and thus address a wider range of customers in the EU. On the American market, affordable Zeiss optics were available before. These riflescopes were launched in 2010 under the name 'Duralyt'. Zeiss managed to achieve a lower price by implementing simpler technologies and optimizing the manufacturing process.
Entry-level Zeiss Sport Optics Timeline
Zeiss Duralyt riflescopes boasted a wide field of view. There were 3 models available: 1.2–5x36, 2–8x42 and 3–12x50. All the riflescopes in this series had a useful magnification range and an exceptional illumination system that performed better than some of the systems found on more expensive hunting riflescopes. Each model could be purchased without illumination in case the buyer determined it was not needed. Of course, Zeiss had to do something that would allow them to reduce the price of this series – all the models were thus available with a single reticle which was positioned in the second focal plane (the reticle is of the same size regardless of the magnification set). This series was one of the few in this price class that had such configuration. The Duralyt series had an optical fibre inserted in the reticle (just like the Zeiss Victory HT riflescopes) – this allowed a very precise illumination adjustment. The intensity was regulated with two buttons – ‘+ and –‘. The illumination could be nicely adapted to dusk as well as strong daylight brightness. The automatic illumination turn-off function contributed to longer battery life, turning off the illumination after 3 hours of inactivity. Additionally, the illumination system alerted the user when the battery was running low. Even though Duralyt riflescopes were priced much lower than other riflescopes by Zeiss, the production was not moved to Asia but took place in Germany.
Zeiss Conquest HD
Zeiss’ endeavour to address a wider range of customers in the EU was a success. This encouraged them to take it one step further. This time, they aimed to expand their offer of binoculars. Their vision was to come up with binoculars that would be available at an affordable price but still offer Zeiss’ quality. Soon, Zeiss Conquest HD series was launched. The first generation was made in Hungary, but all the following ones were made in Germany. A few models are still in production today (2018). These binoculars provide a top-notch resolution combined with great build quality. Zeiss T* coatings are applied on all the lens’ surfaces. Their compact size makes them perfect for various hunting situations, predominantly stalking and hunting in the mountains. The housing is well-sealed and filled with dry nitrogen to prevent internal fogging at low temperatures. The external surfaces of the lenses are coated in LotuTec which protects them from dirt and external fogging. Even glasses wearers will find these comfortable because of the multi-stop eyecups. Today, Zeiss Conquest HD binoculars are among the most affordable German-made binoculars available on the market (the 8x42 model costs 995 EUR). The other available models are 8x32, 10x32, 10x42, 8x56, 10x56, and 15x56.
Zeiss Terra ED
Terra ED, launched in 2013, is the most affordable series of binoculars ever launched by Zeiss – the 8x42 model costs 499 EUR. As such, these are an excellent choice for beginners in the field of sports optics. Zeiss has a rich history in optics; their experience in this field allowed them to offer as much as they can for the offered price. Terra ED features a wide field of view, a decent light transmission rate for the price, and great edge to edge sharpness. These binoculars are available in three colours: black, blue and grey. The housing is well-sealed and filled with dry nitrogen to prevent internal fogging at low temperatures. The multi-stop eyepieces allow users to set proper eye relief, regardless of whether they are wearing glasses or not. This series is made in China.
Zeiss Terra 3x
In the meantime, Zeiss introduced Terra 3x riflescopes, aimed at those who wanted a Zeiss riflescope but were not willing to spend more than 600 €. There were three models available: 2–7x32, 3–9x42 and 4–12x50. These were made in Japan. Interestingly, they featured a tube with a diameter of an inch which made them compact. Some time ago, Zeiss chose to discontinue this series.
Zeiss Conquest DL
Conquest DL succeeded the Duralyt series. The riflescope from this series were much like Duralyt. The magnification range of the three models remained the same. Zeiss gave buyers an option of purchasing these telescopic sights with an ASV turret (Zeiss’ ballistic turret). Also, interestingly, the buyers could choose between a standard, 30-mm tube model and the one equipped with a Zeiss ZM/VM rail. The option of buying a scope with a ZM/VM rail was a huge upgrade as up to then, it was limited to the premium Zeiss riflescopes of the highest quality class. Another step forward was the click mechanism which operated smoother compared to the previous models. Duralyt riflescopes were of a distinctive bronze colour, whereas Conquest DL was entirely black.
Zeiss Conquest V4
In 2018, Zeiss came up with a successor for the Conquest DL series. They named their new models Conquest V4. Duralyt and Conquest DL were a huge success during their time, which is why plenty was expected from this new-comer. Zeiss hit the market with four models, all with a 4x zoom factor: 1–4x24, 4–16x44, 6–24x50 and 3–12x56. We were glad to finally see a model with a 56mm objective lens in Zeiss' entry level riflescope line. The 4–16 and 6–24 are an interesting addition since they are much more American oriented magnification-wise. They are all priced at around 1000 EUR. The biggest surprise is that this series is no longer German-made, as opposed to its predecessors – the Conquest v4 line is made in Japan. At Shot Show 2019, Zeiss announced launch of two more models from this series – 3–12x44 and 4–16x50. The models are not available with Zeiss ZM/VM rail.
Zeiss has made a breakthrough by adding affordable optics to their offer in the European market. With Victory riflescopes, they hold a place in the premium class of optics, while with V4, they remain on the affordable, accessible side. Even though this seemed next to impossible a decade ago, Zeiss quality is now accessible even to those Europeans who are not yet prepared to spend more than 1500 € on an optic. Zeiss’ decision to offer their products at affordable prices has proved to be a success.