ZeroTech binos worth a second look, says Mark van den Boogaart
It’s writing day and sitting beside my keyboard is a slightly used pair of ZeroTech 10x42mm Thrive HD binoculars and during the past few weeks the Thrives and I have travelled 2500kms, walked a few tracks and searched for Brisbane Valley pigs. Thinking about binoculars it’s hard to ignore the fact the sports optics market is dominated by the European kings and while it’s a great way to start an argument, I reckon the crown is held jointly by Swarovski and Leica with Zeiss and Steiner constantly looking for ways to dethrone them.
And rightfully so as German-made optics rule the roost for one very good reason: they’re the best but if you want to hang out with royalty then be prepared to pay a princely sum. Of course there are other options including new players entering the market and some years ago while in the UK, a good friend introduced me to GPO (German Precision Optics) a brand now regarded as one of the mainstays in sports optics.
Here in Australia we also have those willing to push their way into the market, one being ZeroTech and after seeing their ads in Australian Shooter I started to look a little more closely and found out, by accident, the very gentleman who introduced me to GPO in England now distributes ZeroTech throughout the UK. In fact as I write this review he’s testing some of their new scopes in the Scottish Highlands.
But back to the task in hand. The Thrive HD are ZeroTech’s first ED glass binoculars and this is important as Extra-low Dispersion glass overcomes the fact that light (and especially colours) travel on different wavelengths and don’t like to be bent round corners. Now this isn’t a problem when you look at the world through the genius of your eyes but once you start trying to capture all those different wavelengths via a lens, colours appear to separate and create what’s called a secondary spectrum. To make matters worse, magnification exacerbates or widens that spectrum.
What that means is generally the observed object has a fringe or coloured halo around it. Low magnification combined with good manufacturing tolerances can minimise the effect but you can’t make it disappear so to overcome the issue, as you can’t remove it, you need ED glass as it reduces the differing light wavelengths into a more compact spectrum. It compresses them. To the eye a compact secondary spectrum means no fringing as well as greater clarity and sharper images so in short, ED glass is a very good thing.
Working in tandem with the ED glass, Zerotech Thrives also make use of fully multi-coated lenses and prisms which enhance your view by improving the binocular’s light gathering capabilities. To bring it all together the Thrive HDs have a wide field of view which reduces the ‘telescope effect’ and makes the image more natural rather than like looking through a tube. Aside from the optical tech the Thrive HDs feature a fast-focus wheel that’s both smooth to operate and has a high level of incremental adjustment so you can really dial in on a specific point within a larger landscape.
On the outside these binos are protected by what ZeroTech describe as ergonomic rubber armour though I personally wouldn’t call it rubber as it’s more like a hard skin which feels like it would provide a high level of abrasion resistance as well as direct impact protection. Continuing that theme the lenses themselves are protected by integrated flip-down covers for the objective (front) and removable covers for the Ocular (rear).
One thing which did strike me as a standout feature of Thrive binoculars is the amount of accessories which come in the box as along with the standard neck strap and cleaning cloth is a purpose-built chest rig. The rig includes a fully enclosed binocular pouch with magnetic clip, a sizeable zippered front pocket, rear slip-style pocket and two smaller side pockets all held in place by a well-made adjustable harness. Chest rigs for binoculars are a great addition to your hunting kit and having one supplied certainly saves money. Finally there’s the ZeroTech warranty, a ‘Triple-A’ unconditional lifetime affair which means it extends to Any owner (so can sell them on) for Any problem and they’re Always covered.
The first part of field testing meant taking the Thrives on a family road trip and let’s make this clear, if they can survive my two boys they’re doing better than OK. More importantly the outing gave me the chance to use them for general observation, generate a feel for what they’re like to carry and pass them around a few different users.
During that trip the Thrive HDs accompanied us on walking tracks, mooching around country towns and seeing the sights. We tended not to use the purpose-built chest rig, most often carrying them in a small day pack and that being the case, after the second day I removed the strap as it tended to become caught up when taking them out.
While the road trip wasn’t a particularly tough test the binos performed very well and offered clear, crisp viewing across a range of setting and locations, the whole family enjoying the chance to use them including when we spotted goats at distance around Copeton Dam. However the outing highlighted two points worth noting, the first being the integrated flip-down covers get in the way at times, something I’ve experienced with other brands so personally I’d remove them and rely on the chest rig to provide suitable protection for the objective lenses in a hunting scenario.
The second consideration is their physical size as these 10x42mm binoculars are longer than both my comparable Steiner and Leica 10x42s, though interestingly it didn’t make them any less comfortable to carry or use. However if you’re considering retro-fitting the Thrive HDs to an existing chest rig or similar-style binocular pouch you may want to check the measurements first.
Now hunting gear reviews really should include some hunting so on returning home I grabbed my rifle and went in search of game. After several dry years the pigs have returned to my favourite block so over the spring and summer they’ve become my hunting focus. On this particular trip after checking the trail cameras the boys and I visited different observation points around the block to see what was about.
Throughout a day in the field the Thrive HDs came into their own. Firstly the chest rig made carrying them a breeze and also made observations on the go that much easier as being able to easily access your binos then return them to a secure location does seem to make you use them more, which is a good habit for a hunter.
In more static positions the 10x magnification gives a good mix of power to weight meaning they were comfortable to use over longer periods. Continuing to adjust point of focus with the quick-focus wheel made checking different parts of the block a breeze, especially when I spotted a pig that turned out to be a rock – damn rock-pigs. All in all the Thrive HD binoculars performed well where it counted most and that’s searching for game.
In a world of high-end and high-priced sports optics, Australian-owned ZeroTech Thrive HD binoculars offer a different option. Taking into consideration their quality and specifications, in the box accessories including chest rig and that unconditional lifetime warranty, at around $749 they represent serious optical bang for your hunting buck. ZeroTech binoculars are available at all good gun shops and www.zerotech.com.au.