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Swarovski Z8i 3.5-28x50 Riflescope Review | Optics Trade Reviews

  • Maja 

Swarovski, a world-renowned company specializing in optics manufacturing, released their newest product: the Swarovski Z8i 3.5-28x50 riflescope. What is interesting with this product is that it was introduced in midyear 2019. This is very uncommon since most new products in this industry are introduced either at Shot Show in January or at the IWA show in March.

Swarovski Z8i 3.5-28x50
Swarovski Z8i 3.5-28x50 scope on a rifle

Interested in Swarovski Z8i?

Revealing of the Swarovski Z8i 3.5-28x50 Riflescope

Swarovski first organized the hunting summit for influencers where they showcased the new Swarovski Z8i model. Immediately after that, they did the dealer training in Italy, where we had the opportunity to test this scope and shoot it on longer ranges.

Swarovski Z8i 3.5-28x50 scope is made for hunters who do a lot of long-range hunting. What is interesting is that Swarovski is already offering a dS scope for this purpose.

In the premium long-range hunting segment, there are not many other competitors. If I'm thinking about the scopes without an integrated laser the only premium long-range scope is the Zeiss Victory V8 4.8-35x60

There was definitely a gap in the market. Now we have two products in this class - the Zeiss Victory V8 with a 35x magnification and the Swarovski Z8i with 28x magnification. Two different products address the same problem.

Swarovski Z8i 3.5-28x50
Swarovski Z8i 3.5-28x50 P

Riflescopes for long-range hunting

In the past decade, many people have turned to hunt on longer ranges. You can also see this trend on YouTube with a lot of videos. The long-range hunting blog is probably the most famous one and the EU long-range hunting is also quite famous. A lot of people who do hunting on longer ranges use military scopes or tactical scopes. It is quite common for them to use 5-25x56 scopes with a MIL/MIL configuration. 

However, in the hunting community, there is a wish and a trend that only hunting equipment would be used.  A lot of people have objections against using military first focal plane MIL/MIL scopes for this purpose.

This is something that Swarovski is addressing with a dS scope and now with this high magnification Z8i scope. Some other premium brands like Zeiss are also addressing this segment of the market. While not quite meeting European standards, Leupold's riflescopes are also heavily geared towards hunters and boast high magnifications.

I'm a fan of the trend where hunters use hunting equipment for long-range shots, rather than military equipment, even though tactical scopes are just as suitable. I think it comes down to aesthetics and respecting hunting traditions.

Watch our Swarovski Z8i 3.5-28x50 Riflescope Review Below

Physical Properties of Swarovski Z8i 3.5-28x50

The Swarovski Z8i 3.5-28x50 is 380 millimeters long, which is rather lengthy to me. But it's also light; it weighs only 665 grams.

Swarovski's fit and finish are impeccable; the Z8i is a beautiful, elegant riflescope that is well-made. It features a 30-millimeter main tube which makes the scope quite slim compared to the Zeiss Victory V8. The scope can be bought with a 30-millimeter tube or SR rail so it can be mounted with the rail or rings.

Need a mount for your scope?

It has a 56-millimeter outer diameter of the objective bell. This is important for all those users who use a night vision clip-on.  

Swarovski Z8i 3.5-28x50
Swarovski Z8i 3.5-28x50 riflescope

Parallax

The scope features a side focus parallax. The parallax turret has an indent at 100 meters, meaning that it stops at 100 meters. For most hunting situations just leave it at 100 meters. The parallax goes down even below 50 meters, I would say it goes down somewhere between 40 and 50 meters. 

Swarovski Z8i 3.5-28x50
Swarovski Z8i 3.5-28x50 side parallax adjustment

Reticle

The reticle on the Swarovski Z8i 3.5-28x50 is in the second focal plane. Now there are three reticle options available:

  • 4A-I
  • 4W-I
  • BRX-I

The 4A-I is a hunting-style reticle. The 4W-I reticle features additional hash marks for holdovers from left to right for wind compensation. The Z8i scope also comes with a BRX-I reticle, which has vertical holdovers. However, since the Z8i is a second focal plane scope, I would not recommend using the reticle for elevation adjustments. Instead, use the elevation turret on the scope to make those adjustments.

Swarovski Z8i 3.5-28x50 P - reticle 4A-I (1)
Swarovski Z8i 3.5-28x50 P - reticle 4A-I at highest and lowest magnification

A common trait among all reticles is that they're very thin; so much so, that some users find them difficult to see. When there is little light, such as during dawn or dusk, most people need the reticle illuminated because the reticle is so thin.

Swarovski Z8i 3.5-28x50 P - reticle 4A-I (2-2)Swarovski Z8i 3.5-28x50 P - reticle 4A-I
Swarovski Z8i 3.5-28x50 P - reticle 4A-I with and without illuminated dot

When shooting at longer ranges, a thin reticle is advantageous because it doesn't cover a lot of the target. So, you can precisely place your shot. But on the other hand, in low light situations, some people find it challenging to use those reticles without the reticle illumination. They use the reticle illumination even during the day to see the reticle better.  

Interested in Reticle 4A-I? Watch our Reticle Subtension Video Below

Illumination System

Swarovski Z8i 3.5-28x50 has illumination control on the eyepiece. You have a primary switch, like with all Swarovski scopes since the Z6 series, where you select daytime mode or night-time mode. Then there are + and - on top to precisely tune the illumination.

The illumination works well. It has a lot of different intensity levels, so you can adjust illumination accordingly. 

I like the illuminated dot because it's round and can be precisely adjusted. However, it is a bit bigger than on Zeiss Victory V8. However, when you look through the scope, you can see that the dot is somewhat transparent in certain areas. When you look at it, it doesn't cover as much target because all the edges are transparent. You only notice them if you turn the illumination on. To comprehend it, you must look through the scope.

Swarovski Z8i 3.5-28x50 P
Swarovski Z8i 3.5-28x50 illumination control

Turrets

The capped, hunting turrets are the same as on all Z8i scopes. And this is very smart because you can use the same ballistic turret flex.

The turrets are resettable, but everything is made of plastic, which is disappointing. The windage elevation cap has a spare battery inside. One-click on the turrets equals a 1 centimeter on 100 meters.

Swarovski Z8i 3.5-28x50 scope feature 140 centimeters of elevation and 70 centimeters of windage. This is not much, because 140 centimeters or 14 MIL of elevation will not make a huge difference on the long-range hunt. To be honest, with most calibers, you'll only reach 800 meters or so with this scope. However, for hunting, this is more than enough.

The same is with the Swarovski dS scope - it's made so that you don't shoot over 1000 meters because for ethical reasons.

Swarovski Z8i 3.5-28x50 P
Swarovski Z8i 3.5-28x50 - capped low-profile vs. open elevation turret

BTF Turrets  

The turrets can be upgraded with the BTF. The BTF can also be purchased with individually engraved values for your ballistic curve (Swarovski PBR for BTF). Even though I think their solution with numbers which you get when you buy the standard BTF turret is great. If you ever change the ammunition you're able to reset the turret easily.

We have a separate video on how to use the BTF directly on these turrets.

Watch our video on how to use BTF turret on Z8i scopes below

Capped turrets don't have a zero stop or turn indicator. But when you put on the BTF you have a zero stop, you have a locking function, and you have 70 clicks in one turn. 

The issue we face is when you put a scope on a rifle, it needs to be completely levelled. If the mount isn't perfect, even though you have 70 clicks on your BTF you will reach the extreme of the internal elevation sooner. That means that maybe you could only use 60 clicks on the BTF turret. 

The logical step would be to buy 20 MOA inclined mounts. But 20 MOA it's approximately 6 MIL. 

That means if you change how the scope is mounted on a rifle and you incline it by the standard 6 MIL it can happen that you will have a problem when zeroing the scope at 100 meters. You will already be close to the upper extreme because there are only 140 centimeters of travel.

I would say that if you would like to adjust the BTF precisely, it'll be a smart idea that the scope is mounted by a gunsmith who has some experience and understanding of this matter. 

If you have 60 or 70 clicks, it's more than enough for all the long-range hunting if you're not going past 800 meters. If you go past 800 meters buy a Swarovski dS riflescope. 

I also have to point out that Zeiss even has a bigger problem in this segment.

Want to change hunting turret into BTF turret?

Swarovski BTF Ballistic Turret Flex

Optical Properties of Swarovski Z8 3.5-28x50 i

Swarovski Z8i 3.5-28x50 is a true 8x zoom riflescope. It's very bright. It has 93% of light transmission rate, which is extremely high for a super zoom scope. It goes from 3.5x magnification to 28x magnification. At 3.5x magnification, it has 12 meters of the field of view at 100 meters. The field of view is really big. So, the image when looked through the scope is big and the eye box is nice and easy to use.

You can use the scope even at close range. You would also be able to use the scope on stalking or when taking a shot at 40 meters. In hunting situations, it happens a lot of times that you have to take a shot at really close range. 

The scope is also, I would say on the upper limit for the majority of clip-on devices, either analog or digital or thermal for night vision use. The 3.5x magnification is however still usable with clip-on devices.

It has no tunnel effect and the sharpness is what you expect from Swarovski. The sharpness is great from edge to edge.

It features all the Swarovski technologies

  • the Swarodur,
  • the Swarotop, 
  • the Swaroaim,
  • the Swarobright,
  • the Swarolight, and so on.

In general, they give you better optical performance or better functioning of the illumination system. 

Swarovski Z8i scopes are shockproof for any caliber. It's expected because with long-range hunting you usually use powerful calibers, like .300 Remington, Ultra Magnum, or similar. The Swarovski Z8i 3.5-28x50 scope is designed to withstand heavy recoil without any difficulty.

Swarovski Z8i 3.5-28x50 P
Swarovski Z8i 3.5-28x50 riflescope

Swarovski Z8i 3.5-28x50 Price and Warranty

Swarovski Z8i 3.5-28x50 is made in Austria where Swarovski is based and has a 10 years warranty. The price of the scope with capped turrets is 3560€. There's an additional 290€ charge to add BTF on elevation turrets. For BTF on both elevation and windage turrets, the charge is 580 extra euros.

Find more about Swarovski production:

Scope of delivery

Swarovski Z8i 3.5-28x50 riflescope comes with a:

  • bikini covers
  • instruction manuals
  • lens cloth
Swarovski Z8i 3.5-28x50 P
Swarovski Z8i 3.5-28x50 scope of delivery

You may also purchase the following accessories for this riflescope:

Pros

I appreciate that this scope is designed classicly, as I expect from the Z8i series. It has a nice fit and finish great optical performance, and numerous accessible add-ons such as a throw lever or high-quality lens covers made of aluminum.

What else is positive? The ballistic turret flex is a great system because you're always able to remove it or reattach it. You just zero the scope in 100 meters and then calculate the ballistics and you can set the turret accordingly.  

I also like the idea that Swarovski did the long-range hunting scope without an integrated laser. Because all scopes with the integrated laser have some shortcomings when it comes to optical performance, especially in low light conditions. I think this was a smart choice.

Pros summary:

  • great optical properties
  • ballistic turrets flex
  • performs great in low-light situations
  • great Swarovski design
Swarovski Z8i 3.5-28x50
Swarovski Z8i 3.5-28x50 with bikini covers

Cons

Let's recap some things that could have been done better. To start, I will mention something arguable. Many long-range shooters and hunters believe that a 50-millimeter objective lens is sufficient, and the weight of the scope is more important than the size of the lens. I respect this. Many people who frequently shoot long-range do so during the day, as there is more natural light then. And while this makes sense, I also think that Swarovski listened to these people and created a product with that in mind.

The second reason is that when scopes are set to high magnification, the image becomes dimmer. In general, the greater the magnification, the more light you'll require and the larger lens you'll require.

Zeiss did the scope with a 60-millimeter lens. That means the 60-millimeter lens gives you a lot of light with high magnification. But it also gives you a lot of weight. I understand how Swarovski thinks.

One thing that a lot of people are advising you is to use a 50-millimeter lens because 56 is already too big. Another worry was that Zeiss, who makes a scope with a huge 60-millimeter objective lens, already had one. So Swarovski went in the other direction and produced a scope for individuals looking for a lightweight riflescope. I understand completely why they did the scope this way.

I would prefer a scope with a bigger lens to get more light at higher magnification and to have a brighter image. But this is like I said debatable. 

What is not debatable is that 140 centimeters or 14 MIL of elevation it's not that much. I think that if they would squeeze out an additional 10 or 20 centimeters of elevation everything would be much easier. The mounting and the use of the BTF turret would be much easier.

I will not talk about the BTF itself, even though I think it's a very positive system and a smart design with a locking function with zero stop function, with an easy way of removing it. 

What I don't like with the BTF and what I don't like also with capped turret is that everything is made out of plastic. I still prefer aluminum or metal.  

I think improvements could have been made in the scope's length. If it were shorter and more compact, it would look slimmer. But usually, there are some physical constraints why it's difficult to make a high magnification scope that is short. This makes complete sense.

Cons summary:

  • “only” 50-milimeters objective lens
  • Elevation range could be bigger
  • BTF and capped turrets are made of plastic
  • Scope in very long
Swarovski Z8i 3.5-28x50 P
Swarovski Z8i 3.5-28x50 riflescope

Final Thoughts

If I go through general impressions and a quick rundown. My take on it is that a 56mm scope from the Z8i range with an 18x magnification is adequate for shooting at long distances. 18x magnification is enough to take a shot at 800 meters.

The problem is how to evaluate the animal in real life. This is something where the Z8i 3.5-28x50 scope will shine because of its 28x magnification power and its optical performance.

I believe that, in most cases, you'll look at the animal from a distance of around 300 or 400 meters. You can tell what sort of an animal it is even if you don't have a spotting scope by putting the scope on maximum or close to maximum.

Changing the shooting position is always a problem when using a spotting scope. You're looking through the spotting scope, evaluating the animals. Then you have to shift positions and look through the riflescope to take the shot. This is something that this scope makes a lot easier.

Furthermore, if you are hunting in the mountains and have to carry a scope and spotting scope separately, it is quite cumbersome. So, I think the main advantage of this type of scope is that it allows you to see all the details on longer distances with less weight.

If you are sensitive to low light performance, then you still should go with a 56-millimeter scope model.  

Swarovski Z8i 3.5-28x50 P
Swarovski Z8i 3.5-28x50

Swarovski Z8i 3.5-28x50 vs Swarovski dS 5-25x52

Now that we've looked at all the features of the Z8i riflescope, let's do a quick comparison. Let's compare the Z8i 3.5-28x50 against the dS 5-25x52.

The price difference isn't that significant. The Z8i 3.5-28x50 costs 3560 euros, and the BTF turret adds less than 300 euros to the overall price. I don't see why you would buy this scope without the BTF turret. So you're looking at around 3,900€. The Swarovski dS scope is around 4,500 euros. The difference is 600 euros. It's not a large difference, but the differences in why you're using the Z8 model vs. the dS are significant.

To begin, the dS 5-25x52 is a competent scope for someone unfamiliar with ballistics because everything can be customized. Even the most ignorant individual could aim at the dS and get a hit on further distances simply by pressing the button. Although the dS is not even close to the optical performance and quality of the Z8i scope, it is normal because the dS has an integrated laser.

The Z8i 3.5-28x50 scope will outperform the dS in low light conditions, even though the 56-millimeter scope model will be better.

The third difference is the weight. The dS is a heavy scope and the Z8 is a light scope. The DS has a 40-millimeter tube, so the aesthetics of the Z8 is also better. 

Swarovski dS Gen. II 5-25x52 P
Swarovski dS Gen. II 5-25x52 P

Swarovski Z8i 3.5-28x50 vs Zeiss Victory V8 4.8-35x60

Let's take a look at the Swarovski Z8i and the Zeiss Victory V8, which are effectively the only two real competitors in this category. I'd say that Leupold isn't as popular as Zeiss or Swarovski in Europe. Even if they have long-range hunting scopes on the European market, they aren't as well-known. 

We know that Leica and Schmit and Bender at the moment have no similar models. However, Schmid and Bender have recently released the Exos with a 21x magnification. This scope can solve similar problems however, it has a very different design philosophy. In essence, it is a hunting scope that has been downgraded from its tactical form.

I would say that the only two real competitors in this premium high-class range of optics for long-range hunting are the Zeiss Victory V8 4.8-35x60 and Swarovski Z8 3.5-28x50 i. 

Zeiss Victory V8 4.8-35x60
Zeiss Victory V8 4.8-35x60

So what are the differences? 

I think it was really smart of Swarovski that they designed this scope completely different. They're attracting a different crowd of customers, even though they come from the same group of people who would like to do long-range hunting.

The main difference is weight and size. The Zeiss is really big and heavy scope. Swarovski Z8 is a lot more elegant and lighter. Optically they are very similar even though Zeiss does outperform Swarovski in terms of low light, due to the 60-millimeter objective lens.

Apart from that, what is I would say a little bit problematic with both of these scopes is the small elevation. Zeiss has on the ASV turret a 50-centimeter elevation range, and Swarovski Z8 has a 70 centimeters elevation range on the BTF turret. So Swarovski does outperform Zeiss Victory V8 in terms of elevation, even though Zeiss has a 36-millimeter scope tube.

I would also say, at the highest magnification, optically Zeiss outperforms Swarovski. But Zeiss doesn't have the lowest magnification as low as Swarovski does.

The most significant distinction is that Swarovski Z8i can be used for all hunting at close range, which is more difficult with a Zeiss V8.

Z8i 3.5-28 model has a better field of view, and it is easier to use the night vision clip-on with Swarovski Z8 than Zeiss Victory V8. 

It is easy to decide between the two scopes because they each have unique strengths and weaknesses:

  1. If you wish to have extreme magnification and low light performance, you go with Zeiss Victory V8 4.8-35x60.
  2. If you wish to have a compact light scope, which is more suitable for hunting in mountains, and if you will use the additional 2 MIL or 20 centimeters of elevation, Swarovski Z8i 3.5-28x50 is the way to go. If you're using the clip-on devices, go with Swarovski.

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Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Swarovski Z8i 3.5-28x50
Author Rating
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Product Name
Swarovski Z8i 3.5-28x50
Price
EUR 3560
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