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When choosing between Zeiss and Leica, There Is No Bad Choice

For serious hunters, whether bow or firearm user, the old standard binoculars rarely come out anymore unless the game is being watched, not hunted. For hunting, a good rangefinder/monocular is essential for long-distance shooting—and two brands stand out in particular.The Zeiss Victory versus the Leica CRF 1000R is a tough choice when decided which rangefinder to purchase.

Carl Zeiss AG has been in the optics business since 1846, first making microscopes then moving into camera lenses. Today, its Sports Optics division produces high-quality rifle scopes and of course, the Zeiss Optical Inc Victory PRF Monocular. While its competitor, Leica, is a relative newcomer to the rangefinder game, it has rapidly gathered rave reviews for its products including the Leica CRF 1000-R Rangefinder.

If you haven’t figured it out already, these two rangefinders aren’t cheap but that should be expected, given the companies producing them. Both are over $500, but give excellent bang for the buck; as one reviewer wrote, “…it is best to buy quality the first time (buy once / cry once) rather than ‘settle’ for something of lesser value.”

The Basics

leica crf 1000rThe Leica CRF comes in at $599.00 on most websites; the price may be lower depending on availability. It is constructed from magnesium and carbon fiber, weighs about 6.5 ounces, and measures 1.3 inches in length, 4.4 inches wide and 2.9 inches tall. The CRF is also waterproof down to one meter—a helpful trait if crossing a stream and it falls out somehow.

Zeiss’ PRF Monocular is also fairly small, although its dimensions are different. With a width of almost 4 inches and a height of about 2 inches, it comes in slightly under the CRF. However, it comes in a bit heavier at almost 11 ounces, and also comes in higher in the price department at $699.00. It is also rubber-armored and waterproof, meaning it can take a few spills if need be.

The Optics

carl zeiss victoryThe Zeiss comes to the party with an 8x magnification and 26mm lens; it has a 110 meter field of view, can range a target as close as 10 meters and all the way out to 1300 meters, and uses a digital laser with LED display and an integrated ballistic calculator. Unfortunately, it isn’t tripod-adaptable, but reviewers had nothing but good things to say about the optics themselves and about the clear LED display.

The Leica has a slightly less powerful magnification at 7x with a 24mm lens, and comes in at a shorter listed maximum range going out to 1000 meters. However, many reviewers stated they were able to pick up objects beyond the listed range; as one reviewer put it, “Optical clarity is top notch. I wish my binoculars were as clear as this.” It also has a red LED display that adjusts its brightness depending on the ambient light, and an integrated ballistics program as well as an inclinometer.

A word of caution to American buyers: these are European-made products, which mean that the displays are set up for meters, not yards. It is easily fixed on both models, although as one person noted about the Leica manual, “The manual really needs to be rewritten by someone whose first language is English.” Both rangefinders also use lithium batteries, but both models have between 2,000-3,000 hours of battery life.

The Verdict

Both products are excellent at what they do and they should be, given their price. You really can’t go wrong with either one, and reviewers of both rangefinders rave about the ease of use and the fine construction and abilities of both. Both the Leica and the Zeiss have 5-star ratings on Amazon, and the opinion seems to hold steady on other websites as well.

The Zeiss has a warranty of two years from the time of purchase, while the Leica has a limited lifetime warranty. The Zeiss has better magnification, but also costs more–so the real question is one of personal preference and how much you want to spend, since quality and performance aren’t issues here.