Leica Ultravid 8x32 HD

  • Simple, uncluttered ultra-light design
  • Bright, punchy, natural looking image
  • Lenses shrug off rain easily
  • Precise, easy focusing
  • Peace of mind thanks to the Leica ‘passport’

One of the trends in top end binoculars is the use of low dispersion glass to improve the view. Zeiss and Pentax have already done it. Now Leica have done it, and Nikons with ED glass are coming soon too. Ultravid HDs are second generation Ultravids and the range includes 8x32, 10x32, 7x42, 8x42 and 10x42mm models as well as some 50mm big brothers. The HDs use fluoride glass, which should enhance contrast and colour fidelity, reduce chromatic aberration and generally provide an even more stunning view. Some other things have changed too – hydrophobic coating on the lenses, tweaks to the prisms to get a tad more light through, modifications to the focusing mechanism and various things to help the binoculars cope better with side-lit or backlit subjects.

One of the first things that strike you about these binoculars is their size and weight, or rather, their lack of size and weight! This is a very compact bit of kit that weighs just 560g. They are beautifully made, with a simple, uncluttered design free of indents and moulding – essentially just two tubes, a hinge and a focussing knob. I found them comfortable to handle, and despite their small size, the strap lugs didn’t get in the way. As you would expect, they are stuffed full of nitrogen and waterproof to 5m, though I didn’t test that – one day I will! I did take them out in the rain though and was impressed with the ‘Aquadura’ lens coatings – the view stayed good throughout the rainy Fen Drayton Lakes experience, and there was so little residual muck on the lenses afterwards that I didn’t bother to clean them. The view is impressive. Bright, punchy, colour neutral and easy on the eye. Resolution is very good, even in low light. I did detect a bit of edge softness but I was looking for it – in practice, I doubt you’d notice. In good light, not surprisingly, brightness was excellent and in low light they did well in extracting detail from dark shadows, and I could even see colour on a singing Robin that was almost silhouetted in fading post-sunset light. Chromatic aberrations seemed very well corrected – I did find a little colour fringing but nothing to get worked up about. The view of backlit subjects was good too. Close focus is pretty accurately quoted at 2.2m, and the view is comfortable at this range too.


FACTFILE

  • Price: £1,500
  • Dimensions: (height x width x depth): 116x116x56mm approx
  • Weight: 560g
  • Field of view: 7.7˚; 135m@1,000m
  • Warranty: 10 years.
  • Also supplied: Rainguard; tethered objective covers; high quality, contoured, neoprene strap; padded, cordura case; lens cloth. .
  • Distributed by: Leica Camera Ltd, Davy Avenue, Knowlhill, Milton Keynes MK5 8LB; Tel: 01908 256400; Fax: 01908 671316
  • e-mail: :info@leica-camera.co.uk
  • website: www.leica-camera.co.uk

A criticism of the first generation Ultravids was the ‘lumpiness’ of the focusing. Leica listened and worked on the focusing mechanics. Focusing was smooth and precise, with perhaps just a smidgeon of variability in smoothness, but nothing that would concern me. The focusing wheel moves through 1.25 turns, but for most birding you won’t need to move it through more than about 60 degrees. The dioptre worked very well and is designed so that you can easily see the setting. To adjust, you pull up the top of the focussing knob, twist, then push it down to lock. Take care though – it’s possible to move the dioptre through more than 360 degrees.

The rubber-coated eyecups can be set in one of three positions, with a stiff action and very definite click stops. Leica have even designed the case so that the binoculars fit in with the eye cups up – something you can’t always do. The Ultravids also come with the Leica passport. This doesn’t give you VIP treatment at German airports, but does mean that if anything untoward happens to your prized binoculars during the warranty, even if they are accidentally damaged, Leica will repair or replace free of charge.

Is there anything less positive to say? Well, yes. I sometimes found some flare spots in the eyepieces when the sun was to the side. At just over 13mm, eye-relief may be too short for some people. The rainguard was a bit too tight for my liking. And, you might find these Ultravids a bit too small (or you might love their compactness!). My biggest concern, though, is the price. £1,200 is a lot of money. They cost substantially more than their competitors. A very fine lightweight and compact binocular with very good optics and simple, ‘purist’ ergonomics. At a price…

REVIEWED BY DAVID CHANDLER.