Looking for the best binoculars in the world? If so, there’s really not a better comparison to do than between the Swarovski NL Pure vs Zeiss Victory SF vs Leica Noctivid binoculars. It goes without saying, but these 3 binoculars are not just the best binoculars in the world but are also considered the best binoculars for hunting, best binoculars for birding, and best binoculars for just about any other activity or wildlife viewing.
But how do you know which one is going to fit your specific needs? What are the main differences between these exceptional binoculars, and how do you determine which pair to fork out the cash for? Putting them side by side is essential in order to really pinpoint the differences between them to help you answer those questions.
Most folks can agree that the “big three” in the optics world are Zeiss, Leica and Swarovski, so we thought it would be extremely helpful to our readers to do a Swarovski NL Pure vs Zeiss Victory SF vs Leica Noctivid review so we could really nail down the differences between these three incredible pairs of binoculars.
Best Binoculars In the World: The Testing
Putting what most would consider to be the three best binoculars in the world side by side for testing is something not a lot of folks get the opportunity to do, but amazingly that’s exactly what we did here at Backwoods Pursuit, and we wanted to share with you some of the data we collected. In order to do this we tested them side by side on a tripod for hours in many different lighting conditions as well as various viewing conditions- everything from full sunlight to nearly pitch dark and everything in between. All three of these were in the 10×42 variety to keep things fair across the board.
Let’s make one thing clear- these are all INCREDIBLE binoculars! You can’t go wrong with any of them, but since we were able to do such an in-depth comparison, we picked them apart with a fine tooth comb to bring you an authentic review in order to see the differences between them so you can better decide which pair would be best for your specific needs. We aren’t going to get into the weeds too much on the technical designs of each of these, but rather real-world functionality, performance, fit, and feel. At the end of the day, that’s what really matters.
Best Binoculars for Hunting: Size and Weight
The size and weight of binoculars is important if you are going deep into the backcountry and trying to keep the weight down. With that being said, most of us would be willing to carry a few extra ounces in exchange for an optic that is perfect for us.
As you can see in the photo above, the Leica Noctivid is the smallest and most compact of the group. Oddly though, it is the heaviest weighing in at 30.4 oz. The Swarovski NL Pure is slightly larger than the Noctivid, but is slightly lighter at 30 oz. The Zeiss Victory SF is by far the largest of the group, but Zeiss somehow got the incredible performance that the Victory gives you in a 27.8 oz package, even though it’s larger than the others.
Here are the specs of these 3 best binoculars:
Tripod Adaptability: Swarovski NL Pure vs Zeiss Victory SF vs Leica Noctivid
Let’s face it. If you are looking for the best binoculars and dropping the coin on one of these incredible pairs of fine glass, it is essential to put them on a good tripod to get the most out of them. To do this, you’ll need a tripod adapter, especially if you are looking for the best binoculars for hunting situations.
This is where things get interesting as somehow, and almost beyond belief, none of these elite pairs of binoculars have a standard 1/4 x 20 threading for a binocular adapter. I simply can’t believe these designs don’t have standard threads for a bino adapter, particularly when nearly every pair of binoculars out there all the way up to this point does. It’s just crazy.
But with that gripe about these three aside, I was able to dig up a couple of outstanding options for each of these three best binoculars on the market. For both the Zeiss Victory SF and the Leica Noctivid, I found the Really Right Stuff Cinch to be a dynamite adapter. It has an Arca-Swiss base built in and fits a wide range of binos without the bulk. This RSS Cinch is a quick release, or you can leave it on the bino, and is a life saver for these binoculars as I’m really not a fan of the larger Swarovski UTA Adapter.
For the Swarovski NL Pure, two outstanding options are out there depending on what brand of adapter you like to use. Epic Outdoors makes a fantastic NL Stud that is designed to work with your Swarovski SLC-TA adapter, so if you already have the SLC-TA Adapter, this is the one for you. It’s awesome. You’ll have to call them to order (435-623-0777), but it’s worth a phone call so these NL Pure Binos are securely mounted on one of the best adapters out there on the market.
If you have an Outdoorsmans Adapter, they also make an Outdoorsmans Stud for Swarovski NL Pure that works with their adapter. This is another top-notch option for the NL Pure.
Tripod Adaptability Winner: Swarovski NL Pure
CHECK OUT THE VIDEOS BELOW AS WE GO THROUGH SOME OF OUR FAVORITE BINO ADAPTERS.
After putting that video together, we were able to test out the Really Right Stuff Cinch adapter, and it didn’t disappoint. It’s the best option I’ve found when you don’t have a standard thread for a stud. Heck, even if you do, you just might find that you like this style better! It has an Arca-Swiss base, so no adapter needed if your tripod head is Arca.
Eye Pieces: Swarovski NL Pure vs Zeiss Victory SF vs Leica Noctivid
While all of these have great eye cups, there are some very distinct differences. The Swarovski NL Pure binoculars have an incredible 18 mm of eye relief with 7 positions within its adjustments which is insane. That’s far more than any other pair of binoculars I’ve tested. They are silky smooth and offer nice, crisp click stops with enough resistance so they won’t accidentally move on you.
The Leica Noctivid give you an unheard of 19 mm of eye relief, and the Leica Noctivid eye cups are, by a long shot, the least likely to move on you. They are almost difficult to move once you get them set. They move in an odd fashion and are anything but smooth, but man they lock into place and stay there.
The Zeiss Victory SF binoculars give you an amazing 18 mm of eye relief and a fairly typical 4 stops of adjustment. They are extremely comfortable, and probably the smoothest of the group by just a hair over the Swarovski NL Pure. They also have the thickest rubber as you can see if the picture above, so if that is a style that you typically like, you’ll love the Zeiss Victory SF eye cups.
Eye Piece Winner: Swarovski NL Pure
Focus Mechanisms: Swarovski NL Pure vs Leica Noctivid vs Zeiss Victory SF
You might be thinking, These are all binoculars in the 3k price range. How could there possibly be anything to talk about on the focus mechanisms? Surprisingly, we found quite a difference between these three. I know. It’s crazy to find yourself “complaining” about the focus mechanisms on $3000 binos, but hey, we did this review to really scrutinize them to see their differences.
The stand out of the group of the different focus mechanisms was hands down the Zeiss Victory SF. I’m sure many will disagree, but I handed these three binoculars to others in our test group without saying anything, and they all confirmed what I thought. The group noticed that the Leica Noctivids were the smoothest of the bunch, but had a small amount of play right at the beginning before it engaged, which was very disappointing.
The Swarovski NL Pure were very nice, but had a somewhat different feel to it. It seemed to be nice and free at first, but then at times it grabbed a little and had a little extra resistance. The NL Pure also had the most grainy feel of the bunch which was a little disappointing for the most expensive binocular of the group.
The Zeiss Victory SF was just a hair behind the Leica Noctivid as far as a grainy feel, but has absolutely ZERO play, the perfect resistance that was consistent throughout one end of the focus range to the other, and is perfectly positioned for your hand. It’s hands down my favorite focus mechanism of the group.
Focus Mechanism Winner: Zeiss Victory SF
Diopters: Swarovski NL Pure vs Leica Noctivid vs Zeiss Victory SF
As you can see in the pictures above, these three best binoculars on the market all feature very different diopters. While both the Zeiss Victory SF and the Leica Noctivid have a locking diopter, the Swarovski NL Pure does not. I’ll have to admit, I was REALLY bummed when I found out the NL Pure did not feature a locking diopter. I know it’s a small thing, but it just drives me nuts to have to check my diopter on binoculars.
With that being said, after using the NL Pure and really seeing the design that Swarovski put into it, I’m now 100% positive it will not move. The mechanism is extremely stiff and takes a very intentional effort to move. The protrusion that you use to make the adjustment is very small as well, so there’s no accidental bumping AT ALL. I really liked that the NL Pure diopter has an indent at the “zero” position of the diopter, so you know exactly where to start if you are needing to make any adjustments.
Both the Zeiss Victory SF and Leica Noctivid diopters lock nicely into place. To adjust, simply pull towards you, make your adjustment, and push the diopter to lock it back into place. I wasn’t a huge fan of the readout on the diopter of the Noctivid as it didn’t identify which was was plus and minus for those that need to make an adjustment. Not a big deal, but hey, we are being nit-picky here, right?
Diopter Adjustment Winner: Zeiss Victory SF
In Hand Feel: Swarovski NL Pure vs Leica Noctivid vs Zeiss Victory SF
The way a pair of binoculars feel in your hand isn’t the most important thing, obviously, but it sure is nice when they feel amazing. Of these three, the Leica Noctivid feels the most like a standard pair of open bridge binoculars. Nothing all that unique or amazing, just a really nice feeling pair of binos. The Zeiss Victory SF on the other hand are designed to be longer, leaving more room in that open bridge design for your hands. Our group also noticed just how amazingly balanced the Victory SF binos felt in hand. Not only balanced, but the position of the focus wheel is absolutely perfect. Zeiss knocked it out of the park here.
As you may have heard, the Swarovski NL Pure features a very unique barrel design that tapers towards the front part of the barrel (the part closer to your face). This was designed to give you an amazing in-hand feel with incredible comfort. For me though, it felt a little too tapered, and my hands felt a little cluttered around the focus wheel. Yes, they are more compact than the Zeiss Victory SF, but with that, I felt like they weren’t quite as comfortable. I still loved the feel of the NL Pure, though.
In Hand Feel Winner: Zeiss Victory SF
Edge-to-Edge Clarity: Swarovski NL Pure vs Zeiss Victory SF vs Leica Noctivid
Edge-to-edge clarity is absolutely one of the huge factors in measuring the best binoculars on the market. Good optics typically have excellent edge-to-edge clarity, so we expected these three to perform well. The Leica Noctivid had some noticeable loss of edge-to-edge clarity on the outer 10% of the image (still very, very good) while the Zeiss Victory SF only seemed to suffer loss of clarity on the outermost 5% of the image. That’s pretty incredible given that the field of view on the Victory SF is significantly larger than the Noctivid. (See table above)
Hands down, the Swarovski NL Pure stole the show in the edge-to-edge clarity testing. It literally has perfect clarity in the entire sight picture. You can’t ask for any better in an optic. There was no discernible loss of clarity at all. To make that feat even more amazing, consider that you get a MONSTER field of view of 399 ft at 1,000 yds vs. a field of view of 360 ft (Victory SF) and 336 ft (Noctivid). WOW is all we could say! This one was a no brainier win for the Swarovski NL Pure.
Edge-to-Edge Clarity Winner: Swarovski NL Pure
Image Resolution, Color and Contrast
Finding differences between these three best binoculars on the market is like asking a thirsty person what brand of bottled water is best. There’s not that much of a difference. However, we were able to notice a number of variations in image quality and colors between these binoculars.
All three of them resolved the image flawlessly and left nothing to be desired. However, we noticed that the Leica offered the most resilient colors (just by a little), and most testers thought the Swarovski NL Pure and Zeiss Victory SF just edged the Leica Noctivids in resolution. (We are talking by a hair.) As far as image contrast goes, the group gave the ever so slight edge to the NL Pure, with the Victory SF right on its tail. The differences were nearly impossible to pull out, but they were there when you put them side by side and spent some time behind all of them looking at the same object in the distance.
Image Color Contrast Winner: Leica Noctivid
Image Resolution Winner: Swarovski NL Pure
Overall Most Pleasant Image Winner: Zeiss Victory SF
Low Light Performance: Swarovski NL Pure vs Zeiss Victory SF vs Leica Noctivid
Another one of the most important tests you can do to find the best binoculars on the planet is low light testing. Low light is when hunters use binoculars the most and really need them to work well. These three incredible binoculars change the meaning of “low light.” When all others had long since faded away, these three were still going strong.
This test was another one that was difficult to call until it got REALLY, REALLY dark, WAY past shooting hours before we could pick a winner. All of them give you incredible low light performance and will keep you out glassing way past legal shooting light if you want to be. At the end of the night’s testing, with these side by side on a tripod, most testers felt that the Leica Noctivid dropped off first, followed by the Zeiss Victory SF, leaving the Swarovski NL Pure as the winner. Again, it got really dark before we could call it, but the NL Pure was able to resolve an image better at those dark hours.
Low Light Performance Winner: Swarovski NL Pure
Field of View: Swarovski NL Pure vs Zeiss Victory SF vs Leica Noctivid
If you are going to find the best binoculars in the world, you also need to consider the field of view. We touched on it earlier, but it was easy to call a winner for the best field of view. While you get a great field of view with the Leica Noctivid, and an incredible 360 ft at 1,000 yards with the Zeiss Victory SF, the Swarovski NL Pure with its INSANE 399 ft at 1,000 yards easily won the day in this department. Top that off with the flawless edge-to-edge clarity and the NL Pure took home the win in this category.
Field of View Winner: Swarovski NL Pure
And the Best Binoculars Are…
Ok, so that’s a lot of data and a ton of analysis, but which one would we consider the best binoculars? That’s a really tough call as they each have their strengths and weaknesses. Which strengths you are attracted to and which weaknesses you just can’t tolerate will make the decision for you.
Personally, my eyes were the most drawn to the Swarovski NL Pure, then the Zeiss Victory SF, followed by the Leica Noctivid. The difference in field of view, edge-to-edge clarity, and low light performance were enough to make the difference. If I hadn’t been able to spend hours behind them side by side on a tripod, it would be hard to separate them all though. They are all incredible, and as we mentioned earlier, we are splitting hairs here for this review. Put any of these in my hands and I’d be a happy camper!
So there you have it! While I know we didn’t cover much of the technical side of how each of them are built and the engineering, we wanted to bring you a real world, side by side field test to help you decide which one of these is the best binoculars for you. If you’ve saved enough money to drop on one of these three, you have likely done your research. We hope this gives you some additional information to help you make your decision. Swarovski NL Pure vs Zeiss Victory SF vs Leica Noctivid- this was a fun review to put together!