Leica Ultravid 8x42 HD binoculars
Recently introduced as the flagship binoculars in Leica’s range, I have been field-testing the new Ultravid 8x42 HDs for a while. As the best binocular manufacturers vie for the top spot, they are constantly making advances in lens and lens-coating technology. Ultravid HDs utilise fluoride (FL) glass to help with contrast, brightness and colour quality, and in all respects the 8x42s are quite superb. I tested these with another (hard to please and often restrained) birder and he professed that they were ‘quite simply the best binoculars ever made’.
As you would expect, when you open the box from new, these Leicas exude quality; just like the new Televid ‘scope, they have that certain something that Leica seem to get right – design quality and craftsmanship. Their weight is a bit more than I am used to with my 8x32s, but at 790g I did not find them tiring – Leica provide a neoprene strap, indeed often a touch of weight can help keep binoculars steady in some conditions. The eye-cups click out to two different settings and I found that they were comfortable in my sockets, with little extraneous light coming in from the edge; close-focusing was below 3m, maybe not as close as some binoculars; the focusing wheel was just a touch firm on the new pair I was using, but with use this eased, though there was just a very slight play in the wheel. I didn’t test this, but the nitrogen-filled, magnesium body is said to be waterproof to 5m.
In all light conditions, I found the image to be fantastic. In particular, I liked the sharpness, with feather details beautifully presented; I also liked the contrast, which gave a sense of depth to the image. The new FL lenses and coatings on top binoculars give great detail to shadow areas, producing a three-dimensional effect, and this was apparent on the HDs when compared with other (older) binoculars. Depth-of-field was again pretty much typical for 8x42s, and the angle of view was fine, if perhaps not quite as wide as on some 8x42s. In an attempt to push for as wide an angle of view as possible, even top binoculars suffer from slight curvature of straight lines at the very edge of the image, and so that present on the HDs was expected, if a little greater than on some other top models. However, if I was honest, I did not notice this in general use, it was only apparent when I looked for it.
The crispness of the image was stunning, in all conditions from dull to bright sunlight, with light transmission excellent and minimal obvious internal reflections even looking towards a source of light. Colour-fringing was absent and, as ever on Leicas, the colour of the image was spot on for me, with no discernible colour shift - perfectly neutral; closely examining the subtle colours and tones on the back of a Wood Pigeon, for instance, was excellent, exciting almost (?!).
So, did I agree with my colleague’s conclusion about the new Ultravid HDs being ‘the best binoculars ever made’? If they are not, they are one of two or three that may well share that accolade, and only personal preferences would make you choose one above the other. For me? Sitting on the fence, I think they probably are one of the two best I have tested.
Brian Small – May 2010
More details can be seen here - http://uk.leica-camera.com/sport_opt...avid_hd_range/