I recently had the chance to test out these two binoculars side by side on a wolf hunting trip on a quest to see which one was better. As you may know from my earlier blog post about the Conquest HD's they were my choice of binocular for 2012 and putting it lightly I was extremely impressed with them. My buddies and I compared the Conquest HD's to just about every other high end binocular on the market and they either hung in there or in some cases were better than other companies $2k + offerings.
So going into this I knew that the Conquest HD's set a high benchmark and if the Vortex Razors even compared they were in an elite class of binos. Looking at the two binos side by side the initial impressions are of very high quality. Both of them have a great feel and quality about them. The Vortex are quite a bit smaller in overall size and are over 4oz lighter so that is something to keep in mind. If you are looking for a lightweight pair of glass they would be a great choice or on the opposite side if you have large hands they might not be that comfortable to hold. Comparing the ergonomics for me I would say the Conquests do feel a little better in the hand. On the focus wheel I prefer the Razor, it is a little smaller than the Conquest's but has a nice smooth but stiff roll to it. The focus wheel on the Conquests almost moves a little too fast for me and I find myself over correcting the focus and having to go back. On the eyecups the Conquests for me have the best I have ever used, the Razors are a little thin and the 3 click stops don't lock in as positive. When wearing the Razors while hiking after a little while I found the eyecups will fall back down to the lowest setting and you have to bring them back up. Not a huge deal but just one of those annoying little things.
When comparing the glass side by side first thing in the morning my initial impressions were that the Razors were slightly brighter and had a warmer color to them while the Conquests are pretty neutral in color. As the sun began to rise and the hillside I was glassing was looking back into the sun I noticed a significant difference in the amount of glare/reflection that the Razors had. When glassing with the Conquests this wasn't an issue at all but with the Razors I found myself having to get just the right eye position to get rid of the glare from the sun. As the day grew on I could tell almost zero difference between the two binoculars. Resolution, clarity, ability to glass into shadows, etc was about as identical as it could be. I tested the field of view as the Razors have an advertised 362' (10x42) vs the 345' (10x42) of the Conquests. I found this to be fairly accurate glassing a hillside at roughly 1,000 yards away, I put a tree in the far left corner of view and with the Conquests a tree on the far right side was barely visible but with the Razors it was inside the field of view. I think this gives the Razors a slight advantage as the wider field of view will show less hand shake and make the image appear steadier. Note that both of these binos are on the very high end of the spectrum for 10x42 glass, most will fall into the 315'-330' FOV.
As evening grew closer I found myself preferring to glass through the Vortex over the Zeiss as the slightly warmer color seemed to just be a little easier on my eyes. I think this is just a personal preference though and the next person could have a complete opposite opinion. As evening came I glassed until I could absolutely not see any longer going back and forth between the two trying to find a difference. Both binos stayed sharp and clear well beyond any usable hunting light; I could tell zero difference between them. I kept going back and forth glassing for 30 seconds with one and 30 with the other and by the time it was completely dark I could not tell one from the other. Both glass are exceptional in low light.
In summary I think this is one of those situations where there is no clear winner for me. The glass is so identical you have to start looking at the features and price to make a decision. Another area I like to look at is the company themselves. I am very proud to represent both Zeiss and Vortex as a dealer as both companies don't shy away from the hunting market but embrace it. Looking at the warranty they both have lifetime warranties with Vortex having a lifetime no fault and Zeiss having a 5 year no fault. Looking at price the Zeiss is cheaper at $999 while the Vortex are at $1199.
For me I am going to go with the Vortex Razor HD's this year. The better focus wheel and being a lightweight nut when it comes to backpacking the 4oz lighter were the decision maker for me. I can overlook the glare when looking directly back into the sun and the eyecups in favor of those two things. Either way I know I'll have some of the best glass on the market around my neck come this fall!