So, there I was, sitting in a box blind in Maine 10 minutes before last shooting light, looking through my scope at a hillside with a whitetail on it, trying to decide whether the creature had horns or not. This was complicated by the fact that the whitetail was already in deep shadow, and that the hillside was backlighted by the setting sun, and by the fact that it (the deer, not the sun) had its buttocks toward me and its head down in an infernal tangle of branches, weeds, and other annoying plant life.

I was looking at the critter through a Zeiss Conquest rifle scope and, good as the scope is, I was unable to tell if it was time to pull the trigger. Finally, since the light was running out, I said the hell with it and picked up a Zeiss 10×42 Conquest HD binocular (a loaner; sent it back yesterday) and saw at a glance what I could not see through the scope–that the beast was a doe and that the day was over.

That is what a top-notch binocular can do for you. There are probably half a dozen medium- and low-priced rifles that will shoot about as well as custom guns, but the same does not hold true for binoculars. Top of the heap glasses will show you things that less expensive ones–and there are some marvelous ones out there–can’t.

Zeiss Conquest HDs are the high-definition version of the Conquest binocular line, which is priced below that company’s Victory models by about $500-$600, glass for glass. There are four of them: an 8×32, 10×32, 8×42, and 10×42. All are very light, very compact for full-size instruments, have excellent ergonomics, and good hardware (straps, caps, etc.). The real-world price for the 10×42 is $999, which is less than the cost of a top-rate factory rifle or riflescope.

When Zeiss says “high definition,” they’re not tossing the term around like a beach ball. On paper, the Conquest HDs are probably a click below the Victory line, but unless you have eyesight like the late Ted Williams, you’re not going to be able to tell the difference. One looks through them and says, “Oh boy, how long has this been going on?”

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