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Leica ’s name is legendary and synonymous with high quality cameras and optical instruments. Glenn Olsen puts the Noctivid, Leica's flagship offering, to the test in real world birding situations.
As a bird guide and an optics geek, I was excited to use their new Noctivid binoculars in the field. After all, binoculars are our most important tool for birding and I am always interested to try out ones that I do not have. Although looking through binoculars midday at an optics store or birding festival is fun, this does not test the optics in real world birding situations, such as low light, or seeing a bird deep in a tangle of vines or brush.
The silver box that the binoculars came in enticed me to think there was something special inside, and upon removing the binoculars, I was not disappointed. Surprisingly small and compact for a full sized 8x42 binocular, they felt so comfortable in my hands. An understated elegance makes them a joy to behold and I think they may become the standard for a new classic appearance.
After several days of using these binoculars in the field looking at birds under lighting conditions from twilight to bright, and peering into brush piles, clumps of grasses, tangles, back lit leaves and limbs, I had finally gained sufficient experience to effectively review them. In short, I think that most birders would find that the Noctivid provides an awesome view, is compact and comfortable to hold, and has proper eye relief for those of us who wear glasses.
The double barrel style of the Noctivid is a departure for Leica but upon handling the binoculars I could tell that great thought and care had gone into this design. The exceptional quality in materials, construction, and engineering that Leica is known for was embodied in every ounce of these binoculars.
Their compact size and well-balanced weight make them a delight to hold. The weight is centered such that it is distributed into the palms and forearms so that I was not aware of anything but how comfortable and balanced they were in hand. Perfect balance and comfort of binoculars is critical when one is continuously lifting and holding these to your eyes hundreds of times in a full day of birding. I think that the few extra ounces of this configuration will also provide greater stability when viewing shorebirds or hawks on a blustery day.
Focusing is often given very little thought, but is an extremely important component of the entire process. The focus wheel has the proper amount of resistance so that turning the wheel is smooth, uniform and rapid.
The view through these binoculars is nothing short of phenomenal! Two aspects of the view impressed me, and they function together to create an amazing image. First is the rendering of the light. It is clear, clean light without any harshness, bright but not overly bright, and lacking any glare; a natural, color-neutral light. Second is the enhancement of three dimensional viewing of an object. This is a subtle difference when compared to other high quality binoculars and a little difficult to describe. The engineering of the optics renders richer, more noticeable contrast and a sharper, crisper image with greater definition to edges and enhancement to the depth of field. When looking at a bird or into a thicket for a bird, it was like I had the object in my hand and was viewing it at one foot distance with my naked eyes. It is that impressive!
Not only is the Leica Noctivid a superb binocular functionally, I believe it creates a new standard of beauty and elegance that other manufactures should aspire to.
About the Author
Glenn Olsen leads natural history and birding tours with GOBirding Ecotours and teaches bird identification, gardening for birds and butterflies, and nature related classes through Rice University's Glasscock School of Continuing Studies, Houston Audubon, Katy Prairie Conservancy, and the Texas Master Naturalist program. He has served on the Houston Audubon Board as Vice President of Education and also served as an Audubon Warden monitoring colonial nesting birds in Rockport, TX. He is currently Region 8 Director for the Texas Ornithological Society. Glenn is a co-founder of the Wildscapes Workshop through the Native Plant Society of Texas (NPSOT) where he served as president of both the Houston Chapter and the State NPSOT over a five year period. He has led field trips and/or given programs for meetings of the Texas Ornithological Society, Houston Audubon, Houston Arboretum, the Native Plant Society of Texas, Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival, Rockport Hummer/Bird Festival, Galveston FeatherFest, and other groups and festivals. Glenn has led trips to such exotic locales as Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands, Amazon Rainforest, Costa Rica, Honduras and the hottest birding locations in the U.S. Contact Glenn at [email protected] or 832-517-2478.