Zeiss Conquest Gavia 85 Review | Best Zeiss Spotting Scope For the Money?

Spotting scopes. If you are into optics, you have likely checked them out. Zeiss spotting scopes are certainly a big part of that discussion, and the Zeiss Gavia 85 mm spotting scope offers some impressive features and performance. How does it stack up to the competition though? That is the real question most of us want to know, and we had the opportunity to put it next to some some other similarly priced spotting scopes like the Kowa TSN 773, Tract Toric UHD 80 mm, the Maven S.1A, and Leupold Santiam SX-5 to give you some valuable feedback and information.

All of these are impressive spotting scopes in their own right, but parsing out the differences takes time and the ability to put them side by side. We were able to do just that and came away with a pretty comprehensive list of pros and cons with this Zeiss Gavia 85mm spotting scope.

Check out our MASSIVE SPOTTING SCOPE REVIEW where we lined up 19 of the best spotting scopes we could find and put them to the test. All side by side with volunteer testers, no brand loyalties (at least as much as humanly possible), varied lighting conditions, and 14 guys ranking these things. What an awesome project to put together! This review is a product of over two years of work, research, and testing. You do not want to miss this!

Spotting Scope Review

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Zeiss Gavia Review: Legendary Optics

Zeiss Conquest Gavia 85mm spotting scope review

If you have been around optics for a while, you will have heard of or used Zeiss optics. Zeiss has been around a LONG time and has been a one of the premium sport optics brands for many decades. That being said, simply having a history of being a top brand does not necessarily mean anything (to us at least) as we put all the gear we get our hands on through our own independent testing for these reviews.

At the end of the day, the brand name on the side of the optic does not help you spot more game if the optical performance does not match the reputation. For that reason, we were excited to see how this Zeiss Gavia 85 mm spotting scope would fare given the extensive amount of side by side optics testing we have been fortunate enough to do over the last several years.

The Testing: Zeiss Spotting Scope Review

Zeiss Conquest Gavia 85mm spotting scope review

During our testing of the Zeiss Gavia 85 mm spotting scope we were able to not only put it side by side with many competitors, but we also used it in the field for some spring shed hunting, summer scouting trips, as well as during the fall deer and elk hunting seasons here in Idaho. This gave us a great feel for how it performed next to the competition, as well as practical use in real world situations.

Looking for a binoculars? Check out our MASSIVE 26 BINOCULAR REVIEW where we put 26 of the best binoculars side by side!

This Zeiss Gavia spotting scope spent many days bumping around in a backpack, in the cold, and might have even been knocked over a time or two when sitting atop a tripod. We used it with and without the Zeiss spotting scope cover to get a feel for how it worked both ways and sent this optic on trips with several team members to get their opinions.

Not quite ready to spend the cash on a Zeiss Gavia 85 mm spotting scope, check out our review of the Athlon Cronus UHD Gen 2 as well as our review of the Tract Toric UHD Spotting Scope for some great options that will not leave your wallet quite as light.

The Specs: Zeiss Gavia 85 Review

Zeiss Conquest Gavia 85mm spotting scope review

When picking out a spotting scope, you are likely to begin by looking at the specs. After all, we want our gear to meet the use case we need it for, and when it comes to spotting scopes the specs matter. Weight, length, overall packability, objective size, zoom range, etc. can all push us one way or another.

The Zeiss Gavia 85 mm is particularly impressive in the weight department for an 85 mm spotting scope. By comparison, the Sig Oscar8, the Leupold Santiam SX-5, and Maven S.1A are all heavier with smaller objective lenses. One interesting feature that the Zeiss Gavia 85 offers is a wide angle lens with a minimum magnification of 30x, as apposed to the more typical 20x or 27x that the Sig, Leupold, and Maven offer. There is no right or wrong here, but your use may lead you to like or dislike that higher minimum magnification.

Zeiss Gavia 85 Specs
Magnification30-60x
Objective Size85 mm
Field of View @ 1000 yds99 ft – 69 ft
Eyepiece Angle45°
Weight60 oz
Eye ReliefNone Given
Body MaterialMagnesium
Length15.6″
GlassHD Lens System
Tripod AttachmentYes – Threaded
Country of OriginJapan
Current Price$1,999

Another factor helping the Zeiss Gavia keep the weight to a minimum is the magnesium body. For additional reference, one of our favorite spotting scopes from our previous massive spotting scope test, the Kowa TSN 773 (no longer made unfortunately) comes in at 59 oz, which is impressive in its category. However, the Zeiss Gavia 85 offers a larger 85 mm objective while only adding 1 oz.

There is no doubt that the Zeiss Gavia is one of the lightest 85 mm spotting scopes you are going to find, so if you are looking for the performance of an 85 mm objective without the typical weight penalty, the Zeiss Gavia 85 is certainly worth a look.

The Glass: Zeiss Conquest Gavia

Zeiss Conquest Gavia 85mm spotting scope review

The Zeiss Conquest Gavia spotting scope is built on a roof prism design and is equipped with an HD lens system that is enhanced with the ZEISS T* coating, which is designed to give you a high contrast image and a bright and clear viewing experience. The glass is coated with a protective coating called LotuTec® that gives you a nice clear image no matter the weather conditions.

All of that sounds great, but if you do not start with high quality glass, it is like putting lipstick on a pig. While the information on the exact type of glass that Zeiss uses in the Conquest Gavia is a bit hard to find, the folks at Zeiss stated that the “HD Lens system” is the result of a system of lens elements, and respective coatings, that ensures you get a top notch image.

This higher definition is the result of using various glass types to obtain the improved image quality. The real world result, as we found in our testing, is far-and-away above standard definition image quality. While you do not get fluorite glass and custom lens system that the higher tier Zeiss Victory Harpia comes with, it is still impressive and produces an incredibly well defined and well resolved image.

The Eyepiece: Zeiss Gavia 85 Spotting scope Review

Zeiss Conquest Gavia 85mm spotting scope review

The Zeiss Gavia 85 mm spotting scope offers a nice eyepiece that is removable for transport. It is not interchangeable with other ZEISS spotting scope eyepieces though. While this is not a deal breaker, it can be nice to have the ability to change to a different eyepiece if those options are available.

The twist up eye cup offers just three positions, which is less than most other spotting scopes we have tested; however, this did not prove to be detrimental during our use. The positions were nice and crisp but could have offered more resistance and moved a little too easily for our liking. Again, not a big deal, but we are talking about an expensive optic here.

EYE BOX FORGIVENESS

Another factor to note regarding the eyepiece is the eye box. By “eye box” I am referring to the area where your eye needs to be to get a full field of view and how off-center you can be without seeing those annoying black spots during use. This is an often overlooked aspect of selecting a spotting scope.

When we put the Zeiss Gavia 85 mm spotting scope up next to several other comparable spotters, we found the the Zeiss Gavia to be less forgiving than the Tract Toric UHD and Kowa TSN 773 (now discontinued) but similar to the Athlon Cronus UHD G2. Eye box forgiveness is one of those things that is nice to have and makes your use experience more enjoyable, and we found the Zeiss Gavia to be a bit more finicky and required a little more precise eye placement to get the best viewing experience.

I expect that this is, at least in part, due to the fact that the Zeiss Gavia has a minimum magnification of 30x while the Tract Toric has a minimum magnification of 27x and the Kowa TSN 773 has a minimum magnification of 20x. Typically, the lower the magnification the more forgiving the eye box, but that is not always the case (see the Athlon Cronus UHD which has a low magnification of 20x but was less forgiving than the Tract Toric). The eye box is one area where we felt that the Zeiss Gavia 85 mm spotting scope was by no means unpleasant but could have been a bit better.

Magnification Range & Exit Pupil – 30-60x: Zeiss Gavia Review

Zeiss Conquest Gavia 85mm spotting scope review

The Zeiss Gavia 85 mm spotting scope gives you a higher minimum magnification (30x) than any other 85 mm spotting scope we have tested. Many out there like the Sig Sauer Oscar8, the Leupold Santiam SX-5, Maven S.1A, and the Tract Toric UHD offer a minimum magnification of 27x, and the other other spotting scopes we have tested or seen that have a minimum magnification of 30x are the larger objective options like the Kowa TSN 99 and the Swarovski ATX 95 mm spotting scope. So, it is quite unique that this 85 mm spotting scope has a minimum magnification of 30x.

Why does that matter? Well, it might not depending on your use, but a time when this can be an issue is when you want a larger field of view. Because of that 30x minimum magnification, your field of view is smaller compared to other spotting scopes with a minimum magnification in the 20x range.

EXIT PUPIL

Another factor that is affected by the magnification range and objective size combination is the exit pupil size. The exit pupil is the size of the “pupil” that is allowing light to exit the optic, which directly affects low light performance. To demonstrate how the exit pupil is affected by the combination of objective size and magnification, let’s take a look at the calculation:
Exit Pupil = Objective size / Magnification

  • Gavia 85 – Minimum Zoom: = 85 mm / 30x = 2.83 mm exit pupil
  • Gavia 85 – Maximum Zoom: =85 mm / 60x = 1.42 mm exit pupil

As you can see, when you are at maximum magnification, that exit pupil size shrinks to roughly half of what it is at minimum magnification, so less light can be gathered for the image. Now, for fun, we compared the exit pupil of the Zeiss Gavia 85 to that of the Kowa TSN 773, Tract Toric UHD, and Athlon Cronus UHD, and as you can see, our visual observation results were confirmed:

  • Zeiss Gavia 85 – Minimum Zoom: = 85 mm / 30x = 2.83 mm exit pupil
  • Tract Toric UHD – Minimum Zoom: = 80 mm / 27x = 2.96 mm exit pupil
  • Athlon Cronus UHD – Minimum Zoom: = 86 mm / 20x = 4.3 mm exit pupil
  • Kowa TSN 77 – Minimum Zoom: = 77 mm / 25x = 3.08 mm exit pupil

Although there is generally a correlation between exit pupil size and low light performance, there are other factors at play. In fact, we found the Zeiss Gavia 85 mm spotting scope to excel in low light and provide superior low light performance over the Tract Toric UHD. However, the Kowa TSN 773 offered better low light performance throughout the magnification range than the Zeiss Gavia 85 despite the smaller objective. We will get into that more later though.

Fast Focus System: Zeiss Gavia Spotting Scope Review

Zeiss Conquest Gavia 85mm spotting scope review

The Zeiss Gavia 85 gives you a super smooth barrel focus wheel that is designed to quickly bring an image into focus. In fact, it offered the fastest focus wheel speed of any spotting scope we have tested. This can be a double-edged sword as it makes it super fast to bring your view into focus with minimal movement of the focus wheel, but fine focusing can be a bit more finicky.

The focus wheel mechanism and functionality is smooth and flawless without any play. The focus wheel is covered in a nice tacky rubber, making it easy to grip. It offers just the right amount of resistance so it does not move accidentally but is not so stiff that the optic moves when focusing.

As we used this Zeiss Gavia spotting scope through various situations, we found that while we liked how smooth it was and really liked the exterior rubber armor, the focus was a bit too fast and was not ideal for fine focusing. As with anything, we got the hang of it after a bit, but at times it was difficult to move the focus wheel in a fine enough manner to achieve optimal resolution.

This was particularly the case when it was cold outside and fine motor skills do not come as easy, as well as at super long distances where that fine focus is more difficult to obtain anyway. Achieving the perfect resolution was certainly still doable, it just took a little more care at times.

Weight & Body Construction – Zeiss Conquest Gavia Review

Zeiss Conquest Gavia 85mm spotting scope review

The Zeiss Conquest Gavia 85 spotting scope features a magnesium body with an excellent rubber armor that covers the entire spotting scope and offers extreme grip. One team member who tested this spotter felt that is was possibly even too grip and impeded getting the Zeiss Gavia out of the spotting scope pocket of his pack as it tended to want to grip the material of the pocket it was in. The rubber armor did, however, ensure that the optic did not slip in your hand and provided excellent protection.

Because of that magnesium body and compact design, this 85 mm spotting scope comes in at just 60 oz. Now, 60 oz is still a lot for a spotting scope that you may carry into the backcountry, but considering that the Maven S.3A spotting scope which features a much smaller 67 mm objective also comes in at 60 oz, it brings some context to just how light and compact this Zeiss spotting scope is.

Resolution/Low Light/Color Contrast – Zeiss Gavia 85 Review

Image resolution is one of the most important things to consider when deciding what spotting scope to buy. While it is typically true that spending more gives you better optical performance, there are certainly gems out there that give you excellent optical performance at a great value.

During this Zeiss spotting scope review we tested the image clarity and low light performance of the Zeiss Gavia 85 next to a number of other spotting scopes like the Tract Toric UHD 80 mm, the Athlon Cronus UHD 86 mm, and even the Kowa TSN 88A. However, what we were most interested in is how it compared to the Kowa TSN 773 given how well that scope performed in our head to head spotting scope review a few years back.

The Kowa TSN 773 not only had best in-class performance but routinely outperformed many 85 mm spotting scopes we evaluated at that time. Interestingly, there is only a one ounce difference between them and they are in a similar price class. With that in mind, here are some quick takeaways from our comparisons between the Kowa 773, Tract Toric, and Zeiss Gavia spotting scopes given that we had those in hand for comparison throughout testing for this review and the price points are not too far apart.

ZEISS CONQUEST GAVIA vs KOWA TSN 773 vs TRACT TORIC UHD – IMAGE RESOLUTION AND LOW LIGHT PERFORMANCE

  • Zeiss and Tract have a more bluish tint while the Kowa has a more yellowish tint
  • Kowa has slightly better resolution in low light than the Zeiss Gavia
  • Zeiss and Kowa have very similar resolution and are both better than Tract Toric
  • Zeiss Conquest Gavia has slightly better color contrast and more rich, vibrant colors than Kowa in daylight conditions
  • Zeiss Conquest Gavia better/brighter than Tract Toric in low light
  • Tract Toric and Zeiss Conquest Gavia showed similar color contrast at minimum magnification
  • Zeiss Conquest Gavia had overall better resolution than Tract Toric at minimum magnification
  • Zeiss Conquest Gavia had significantly better resolution and color contrast than Tract Toric at maximum magnification

Overall, the Zeiss Conquest Gavia 85 was extremely impressive, particularly in its resolution and exceptional color contrast and stunningly vibrant color rendering. While overall we liked the Kowa TSN 773 a touch more for its slightly better low light performance, the Zeiss Conquest Gavia was no slouch. The Zeiss Conquest Gavia clearly outperformed the Tract Toric in most categories, but that is not surprising given the higher price point.

Edge-to-Edge Clarity – Zeiss Gavia 85 Review

Zeiss Conquest Gavia Spotting Scope Review

Another critical area within the optical performance department where we put the Zeiss Conquest Gavia 85 to the test was its edge-to-edge clarity. While some folks put more importance on this than others, one thing typically holds true: great edge-to-edge clarity is something not many optics achieve.

ZEISS CONQUEST GAVIA 80 vs KOWA TSN 773 vs TRACT TORIC UHD – Edge-to-Edge Clarity

  • Kowa TSN 773 was slightly better that Zeiss in edge to edge clarity at all magnifications
  • Zeiss Conquest Gavia significantly better at all magnifications that the Tract Toric UHD

While the Zeiss Conquest Gavia did not quite perform as well as the Kowa TSN 773 in edge to edge clarity (roughly 5% loss for the Kowa and closer to 10% loss for the Zeiss Conquest Gavia), the Zeiss still far outperformed the Tract Toric which saw closer to the outer 15% of the field of view losing clarity.

Chromatic Aberration – Zeiss Gavia 85 Review

Zeiss Conquest Gavia Spotting Scope Review

Chromatic aberration is something that most optics other than the very best suffer from. To varying degrees, you can often pick out that fuzzy/hazy/color-distorted edge on a tree branch, rock shelf, or antler tip at longer distances, especially toward the edge of your field of view. So how did the Zeiss Conquest Gavia 85 fair in this test? Overall, we found it to present a small amount of chromatic aberration, but it was very minimal and nothing more that you expect to see from an optic at this price point.

When compared again to the Kowa TSN 773 and the Tract Toric UHD, the Kowa again slightly beat out the Zeiss and the Zeiss Gavia easily outperformed the Tract Toric. Again, not surprising given the price point of each of these optics.

Field of View – Zeiss Conquest Gavia Review

Field of view is an easy thing to overlook but it is an important one that bears consideration, particularly in spotting scopes. As you may know, the field of view shrinks as the magnification goes up, so the minimum magnification needs to be something that aligns with your use case in a spotting scope.

In the case of the Zeiss Conquest Gavia spotting scope, we found it interesting that the minimum magnification is 30x whereas most 85 mm spotting scopes seem to feature a 20x to 27x minimum magnification. While this might not seem like a huge deal, it is something to be aware of and is a challenge I ran into on a hunt.

The higher magnification and subsequent smaller field of view makes it more difficult to quickly acquire a target at close range. Again, this is generally not a huge deal, but this last hunting season when trying to film a 700-yard shot through a digiscoping setup, finding the moving target proved more challenging than with a 20x or even 25x spotting scope. As a general rule, I much prefer a lower minimum magnification for situations like this as well as the overall larger field of view.

For comparison, it is worth highlighting the field of view specs of the Zeiss Conquest Gavia Spotting Scope vs other spotting scopes we have tested, where you can often see a direct correlation between minimum magnification and the FOV:

  • Zeiss Conquest Gavia 85 (30-60x): 99 – 69 ft
  • Kowa TSN 99 (30-70x): 105 – 60ft
  • Kowa TSN 773/883 (25-60x): 138 – 76 ft
  • Athlon Cronus (20-60x): 117 – 60 ft
  • Leupold Santiam SX-5 (27-55x): 105 – 73 ft
  • Meopta Meostar WA (30-60x): 146 – 68.8 ft
  • Maven S.1A (27-55x): 115.2 – 83.3 ft
  • Sig Oscar8 (27-55x): 105 – 73 ft
  • Swarovski ATX 85 (25-60x): 124 – 68 ft
  • Tract Toric UHD (27-55x): 105 – 73 ft

Keep in mind that each of these have slightly different low and high magnifications, but you can see that the Zeiss Conquest Gavia offers one of the smaller overall field of view ranges.

What We liked: Zeiss Gavia 85 Review

Overall the Zeiss Conquest Gavia is a particularly impressive spotting scope that is extremely compact and lightweight for an 85 mm spotter. Combine that with the excellent optical performance across the board and you have a heck of a good value.

We loved the exceptional color contrast, low light performance, and excellent edge-to-edge clarity, making the Zeiss Conquest Gavia one of the better values in its price class.

  • Excellent edge-to-edge clarity
  • Image resolution
  • Low light performance
  • Smooth zoom mechanism
  • Relatively lightweight
  • Compact size
  • Build quality
  • Great value

What We Disliked: Zeiss Gavia 85 Review

After testing for this Zeiss Conquest Gavia spotting scope review, we came away with few things that we did not love. We found the focus mechanism to be a bit on the fast side which made resolving the image a little more challenging, particularly at longer distances. We also noted a little bit less forgiving eye box than some others we have tested but overall the difference was minimal.

The biggest downside we found the Zeiss Conquest Gavia was the minimum magnification of 30x and the relatively small field of view that provided. While it was not a deal breaker, we found it to be less ideal than having a 20x or 25x minimum magnification.

At the end of the day, the things we did not love about the Zeiss Conquest Gavia 85 mm spotting scope were:

  • Small field of view (30x minimum magnification)
  • Focus wheel a bit too fast
  • Less forgiving eye box

Zeiss Lifetime Warranty

Zeiss Optics offers a fully transferable limited lifetime warranty on the optical system. Additionally, Zeiss offers a 5-year no-fault warranty to the original owner. I have not needed to test out either of these, but it is good to know that your purchase is backed by a solid warranty. That said, the Zeiss warranty is not as good as many of the others out there that offer lifetime no-fault coverage.

While warranties can be a polarizing subject as some say a full lifetime no-fault warranty is a must, others will say they would rather have a lesser warranty and not need to use it. Ideally, both would be nice, but if I had to choose, I would rather have higher quality and not need to use the warranty.

How The Zeiss Conquest Gavia Spotting Scope Ranked

Image Clarity

Low Light Performance

Weight

Chromatic Aberration

Edge to Edge Clarity

Overall Value

Conclusion – Zeiss Conquest Gavia Spotting Scope Review

This Zeiss Conquest Gavia 85 spotting scope review is one we have been looking forward to as a follow up to our big spotting scope showdown a few years back that did not include this scope. Bottom line, we concluded that if you are looking for a full size spotting scope in a lightweight and compact package, the Zeiss Gavia 85 is an excellent option and closely competed with one of our overall favorites in the $2,000 price range from that review, the Kowa TSN 773.

Unfortunately, that one is no longer made by Kowa. Fortunately, with how well this Zeiss Gavia performed at roughly the same size and weight, it is definitely work a look if you need full size performance in a smaller lightweight package.

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