Leica 8x binoculars at Wetzlar
13-11-2021 (updated 16-12-2021)
There are no binoculars being built in Wetzlar anymore, but I had hoped to look through all Leica 8x binoculars in one day in the Leica shop at the Leitz park. The staff was very friendly, they are probably used to weird customers, but unfortunately due to Covid there is a shortage of supplies and a lot of models were not available. Outside it was foggy, so I needed to find good test objects inside, which was easy with a wall full of bags with different colours and textures, but especially with a huge chromed sculpture of a Leica M providing a very good, contrasty and threedimensional test object.
I brought my Swarovski SLC 8x42 and my Leica Ultravid HD Plus 8x32 as references.
Here are some impressions:
Leica Ultravid 8x20
Sweet, but I had not comparisons like a Zeiss 8x25 at hand.
Leica Ultravid HD Plus 8x32
My own sample. Surprisingly it has a much more 3D rendering than the Leica UV 8x42. An all time favourite despite its flaws. It needs exact adjustment of IPD all the time, ease of view is not the best, and flare suppression could be better. But the image is very beautiful, contrasty, with superb colours in this small and stylish package which really feels indestructible.
What is the main difference to the bigger glasses? The SLC 8x42, the Leica Ultravids 8x50, the 7x42 and a bit less so the 8x42 offer more immersive views. They often vanish between you and the scene. The 8x32 does not, you are still looking through a technical device, albeit a very good one that lets you do your job well most of the time.
Leica Ultravid HD Plus 8x42
I was really looking forward to using this glass again. Such a small, sexy, ergonomic binocular. What I found especially noteworthy this time:
- Compared directly with 8x32 and 8x50, the 8x42 renders space flatter, 3D is weaker than in those two. This surprised me very much and I am reluctant to assume a weaker sample with less microcontrast. Or maybe the field flattening is more advanced here.
- There seems to be a bit more red in the colour reproduction than in most other Leicas. I already saw this Munich 3 years ago, comparing with the 7x42.
- Sure, the Noctivid image is much more impressive, much contrastier and wider at first look, but also on the flat side in spatial rendering.
- Technically, the SLC 8x42 is really better than the UV 8x42, but only marginally better than the UV 7x42. Using the SLC as reference, I again conclude that the absent 7x42 really is a better glass than the UV 8x42.
I feel I am not finished with the 8x42 yet.
Ultravid HD Plus 8x50
This was a main attraction as I had never looked through this glass before. It´s a really wonderful view except the very small field (117m).
The 3D is excellent, the contrast superb. It really blows away the 8x42.
Sadly again, no 7x42 for direct comparison, which is definitely in a similar league imagewise but with a much wider field of view. Plus, the 7x42 is much smaller, lighter (770g vs 1000g) and cheaper though, so do I really need the 8x magnification?
It is a very elegant, slim glass, at least compared to the intimidating beast which is the Swarovski SLC 8x56 (1225g and 133m field of view).
The SLC 8x42 offers a similarly good view, but with a much wider field (135m). I would probably prefer the colours of the Leica though.
The third time I tested it in dim lit shops, the third time I was very impressed because it is so sharp and clear. But I can still see the flatness of image space compared with SLC8x42, UV 8x32 and 8x50. And after 2 years of use of my own sample, I know that while the Noctivid shines in subdued light, it suffers in bright light. The name says a lot.
Geovid HD-R 2700 8x42
I was very curious about the Perger porro and if it translates into brighter, deeper, contrastier images. No it does not, compared to the SLC, and that is disappointing. This glass, like its bigger brother, has high intensity magenta coatings, "hunting glass coatings". Ergonomy is bad, focuser is far away from the index finger.
Geovid 3200.com 8x56
Even more disappointing than the 8x42. Extremely stiff hinge. The focuser was under a strange uneven tension. A 8x56 image should be very transparent and this glass was not. Ergonomy is a nightmare, focuser hard to reach. Probably something for tripod use.
Ok, the Geovids are special purpose glasses and not made for nature observation anyway.
Leica Trinovid Classic 10x40
The 8x40 and 7x35 were not available. The view with the 10x40 was fine, but not great. Eyecups and their mechanism felt a bit cheap. I resent the idea of paying this money for a non waterproof binocular which mainly seems to milk the vintage cow. The original Uppendahl prisms which made the Trinovid I/IIs so small were obviously too expensive and substituted with SP prisms.
I am not even sure what is the correct name for this line. If it is Trinovid, as on the Leica website, are the cheaper Trinovids discontinued?
Trinovids 8x32, 8x42
were not available.
Take home messages...
Under these very restricted conditions - indoor, subdued light - the Swarovski SLC 8x42 was really giving all the Leicas a hard time, and especially the directly comparable UV 8x42. But then, there were few colours and hardly any natural light. The Noctivid also looked great. This is not yet the whole story - anyway, it never is - and the outcome would surely be different in sunlight and outside.
Leica customer service for binocular repair is in Portugal now, but the staff in Wetzlar immediately responded to my emails when I asked for spare parts, and sent them for free - a rubber belt of the tripod adapter had torn, and an ocular cover of the Noctivid had broken, because the plastic ring is very brittle.
Long live the Ultravids. Their industrial design is superb, they ooze quality, are very ergonomic and sexy. Even their rubber coat feels velvety. 30 years of guarantee in the US and Canada, as far as I understand.
Their colour reproduction is still the very best compromise for my taste - giving the full red spectrum and a slight contrast boost with their yellow-red touch. The Nikon EDG or Swarovision are more neutral, but the Ultravids hit the sweet spot without resorting to greenish hues for a stronger contrast boost the way many Zeiss glasses or the SLCs do.
I missed the UV 7x42 most, as I might want to buy another one. The UV 8x50 definitely was the most exciting Leica glass today and I would love to spend more time with one.