The Frank Perspective: A review of Leica Binoculars
One of the best things about having a job in a binocular showroom is that when things are quiet, I get time to play with some of the stock. Here at South West Optics, we have many demonstration items on show that are here for our customers to try. Occasionally, I get the chance to compare brands and see how they perform against each other.
In the Field: Leica Ultravid vs. Trinovid
One of my passions is photography- landscape and portrait, mostly. I'm a great fan of Leica cameras, they are beautifully engineered and their lenses are crystal clear and sharp. The same can be said for their binoculars. On a nice cold but sunny day in the new year, I was able to roam freely in the Devonshire countryside with a couple of different Leica models to see what I thought. Now, anyone that has read my previous ramblings will be wondering why a review from someone that has limited knowledge about optics and virtually no birding experience would be worth reading? Well, as my granny used to say, “you don't have to be a chef to enjoy a pie!” Actually, she didn't really say that but you get my drift.
I selected two pairs of Leica binoculars that are of similar magnification but are in different price brackets. Leica Ultravid 8x32 HD Plus (£1669 at time of writing) and Leica Trinovid HD 8x32 (£819 at time of writing).
The Showroom Experience: Trying Out Leica Models
Although our showroom is well stocked, comfortable, and with chocolate covered hobnobs and tea on tap, it's fair to say that the views from our windows leave a lot to be desired. With that in mind, we often take our customers for a trip down the road to where there are lakes and woodland so they can try things out in a setting in which they are best suited. I wasn't going to miss out on an opportunity like that myself so off I went into the sunshine armed with binoculars, a warm coat and waterproof walking boots.
Comparing Features: Ultravids vs. Trinovids
On first inspection, which admittedly I did in the showroom, both pairs felt well made. They are both easy on the eye to look at and the rubber armouring provides good grip and allows them to sit nicely in the hand. Both pairs are water resistant to a depth of 4 metres for the Trinovids and 5 metres for the Ultravids.
The Ultravids are a little smaller, more compact and weigh less than the Trinovids at 535g and 630g respectively. Not a great deal in it but if you're old like me and out all day, the less weight that you have around your neck the better in my opinion. Both pairs have the famous Leica red dot trademark logo that will impress other birders with lesser brands from a distance and hopefully create a bit of binocular envy.
What did I like about the two different models? Both have similar coatings and feel nice to the touch. They are small, compact, and fairly lightweight. Both performed well optically—clear and sharp. But on the day, it's fair to say that I found the Ultravids to be a little better, which you may expect from binoculars costing almost twice the price. Both pairs fitted nicely in the hand and were comfortable to use.
The Ultravids also scored points when it comes to chromatic aberration. Again, not much in it but noticeable on occasion.
Both pairs have good close focus capability, which is something I particularly look for in binoculars. The Ultravids will focus as close as two metres, but the runaway winners in the close focus race are the cheaper Trinovids. They will focus at half of that, at just over one metre, which is fantastic if, like me, you are keen on butterflies, dragonflies, lizards, snakes, etc., as well as birds.
Focusing on both was smooth and precise but the extendable eye cups on the Ultravids could have been better.
Leica Ultravid 8x32 HD PLUS Binoculars at £1669.00 from South West Optics
Pros: Small and compact, lightweight. Look good, feel good, well made. Fluoride glass. Waterproof and optically sharp and clear with a natural look.
Cons: Price, eye cups could be smoother.
Leica Trinovid HD 8x32 Binoculars at £819 from South West Optics
Pros: Price, size, weight, good looks, feel good to hold, build quality. Optically good, natural colours. Positive clicks on the eye cups compared to the more expensive priced pair.
Cons: Size and weight. Although still not big and heavy they do weigh in a bit heavier than the Ultravids and are a bit bigger but again I'm being a bit picky to be honest. A bit of noticeable chromatic aberration on occasion. Both come with eye and lens caps, neoprene strap and case.
To conclude, in the summer when I upgrade, would I buy a pair? If so, which would I go for? To be honest they are both good, the Ultravids are a little better optically as well as smaller and lighter. The eye cups aren't as smooth to set but not hideous . Out of the two, I'd probably go for the cheaper option, Trinovids. The Ultras are good, but in my opinion, not twice as good as the price suggests. The extra close focusing of the Trinovids is brilliant for the things I like to look at, and that swings it for me. If you have the budget and aren't worried about the extra metre of closeness for focusing, then the compact Ultras are a great buy and can be recommended.
If you want a more detailed specification, visit our website swoptics.co.uk, or better still, come in and see us! We’d be happy to show you around, and who knows, you may even get a cup of tea and a hobnob…