Zeiss is known the world over for its various optical systems for a reason. When you combine 167 years of that stereotypical German forte for engineering excellence with glass quality that is second to none, good things are bound to happen.
So in 1908, when Zeiss inevitably entered the sport optics market with its first rifle scope, they quickly made their mark. Europe, in some locale or another, spent much the first half of the 20th century at arms and the demand for their optics increased astronomically. During both world wars, Zeiss saw its directive priority turn to the manufacturing of optics systems for the Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, and Wehrmacht (including its rifle scopes). So good were their optics, the company was actually split into two after the 1945 partition of Germany, seeing the Americans assume patents, designs, and production equipment. Not to be left out, the Soviets followed suit and “encouraged” Zeiss engineers, specialists, and other staff to relocate to the USSR.
Since then, Zeiss has perpetuated its excellent reputation in the sport optic market and currently offers two main product lines of rifle scopes for the North American market: the Victory and Conquest series. New this year is the Conquest HD5 line of rifle scopes, complete with new features not previously seen on the outgoing Conquests. But this quality comes at a price, which means they aren’t accessible to the budget shooter. Or are they?
Enter the Conquest HD5 3-15x42mm Rifle Scope.
The 3-15x42mm is the most versatile, well rounded scope Zeiss has to offer in its HD5 line. With up to 15x zoom, it’s ideal for mid- to long-range targets while the 3x zoom works well at closer ranges for fast acquisition hunting situations. Its aluminium, one piece-tube body construction is built for the inhospitable North American landscape and provides the shooter with a rugged rifle scope capable of enduring the punishment of big cartridge recoil. The Conquest excels in all weather conditions by being waterproof, dust proof, and fog proof thanks to its nitrogen filling; though according Zeiss, it is only temperature tolerant down to -20 celcius, where some shooters might find that bottom line insufficient for the Canadian winter. And all this is achieved while maintaining a low-profile and compact design: weighing just 1.15lbs and measuring roughly 13.5” in length.
Predictably, where Zeiss sets itself apart, is with its multi-coated glass. Utilizing a 42mm objective lens, this scope provides excellent light transmission for a bright, luminous optic image even in low light. Available previously only on the Victory line scopes, Zeiss is now applying its proprietary T* coating to their Conquest line, which results in improved light transmission. In addition, the outer lenses receive a LotuTec water-repellant hydrophobic lens coating for added protection. Wide fields of view are noteworthy, giving the shooter desirable overview exceeding ten meters for targets 90 meters distant at three times magnification, and throughout the magnification range the field-of-view remains consistently above average.
The Conquest series provides its shooters with several reticle options, the most commonly seen being the Zeiss Z-Plex reticle, which is their version of a standard duplex cross-hair reticle. Following this is the Zeiss RAPID-Z series of reticles, each tailored to common cartridge groups. Being a variable power scope with the reticle in the second focal plane also means that regardless of the zoom, the reticle remains constant in its size and will hide as little of the target as is possible; especially important for targets at greater distances.
The RAPID-Z has an advantage in a website dedicated to assisting shooters in accurately setting up their scopes, not much unlike our previously reviewed Nikon. It allows the shooter to enter their ballistic information, including a long list of the most common of cartridges, which gives you a read out of the holdover and zero points for each reticle. Equipped with 1/4” MOA hand-adjustable windage and elevation drums, sighting in is quick and easy. New to the HD5 are counter-clockwise rotating dials that are both lockable and possess zero stop and end stop points on the windage and elevation dials. Some might argue the dials are too stiff, but ultimately this will come down to personal preference and probably a good “problem” to have to ensure you stay sighted in.
It’s hard to not like the Conquest HD5 3-15x42mm. Near the low end of the HD5 series price scale, the 3-15x42mm can be had for roughly $1000, which makes it a great deal given both the technology and craftsmanship that accompanies the Zeiss name.