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Exploring some old and new Leicas

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Old Monday 27th November 2017, 03:32   #1
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Join Date: Dec 2016
Location: Moraga, California
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Exploring some old and new Leicas

A few months ago on a short vacation, I was tempted to visit a Leica store in Washington D.C., ostensibly looking for a 'travel bin'... I started with the 8x25 Victory, and worked my way up to the 8x32 Ultravid HD plus. The pocket sized Victory was a decent fit with my glasses on, but the most accommodating bin was the 8x32 Trinovid HD, which showed a bigger image circle, and was brighter. (The Ultravid HD plus 8x32 had terrible eye relief for me.) The Trinovid HD also had a smooth focuser, and a generous IPD range for those with narrower needs. I walked out with that bin, and have since enjoyed it on regular birding outings, and plan to take it abroad in December. As far as the 372'/1000yd FOV goes, I've not felt hamstrung by it, but consider it a trade off for the size and price, as well as the fit with my glasses. Ironically, Leica lists the eye relief on the Trinovid HD as 17mm, which is less than Nikon's MHG 8x42, as well as the Opticron Traveller BGA ED 8x32, which is listed at 19mm, yet it works for me, whereas the Nikon (just barely), and the Opticron do not show me the entire field. That is how screwy this spec varies between manufacturers.

However, taking note of the 17mm E/R spec, I studied other Leicas of interest to me with a similar spec. One which caught my eye was the 7x42 Ultravid. There are 3 different versions of this bin, Ultravid, Ultravid HD, and HD plus, which have collectively been in production for 13 years. I recently found a used 7x42 Ultravid for sale at a well known auction site, and realized it was being offered by a local retailer, so was able to drop by the store and try it out in person. Like the Trinovid HD, it fit my incredibly narrow eye relief and IPD issues, which was good news. I compared it to my 8x32 Trinovid HD, looking out the window of the shop. The sales clerk also let me look through an 10x42 Ultravid HD plus. His low key sales patter implied there was a vast difference in contrast between the 2 models, however the grossest discernible differences were a truncated FOV and apparent detail due to a 3x difference in magnification. The eye relief for me on the 10x42 was unusable for me. I resorted to de-focussing both bins and studying color relationships of varied autumn leaves of green, yellow and gold outside the 2nd story window in overcast light. After some time I could only conclude that the older Ultravid had a slightly warmer cast than the HD plus. The 'venerable' Ultravid overall was a good fit for me, and I was happy to add it to my collection.
For about the price of a well-discounted 7x42 hd plus, I was able to get an 8x32 Trinovid HD and a 7x42 Ultravid.

I was able to take it out this morning to one of my regular birding spots. It was overcast the entire time, so had a trying test looking into contrasting values of trees and birds against the sky. I could detect some CA on axis, and much more off-axis, and could observe the difference as I moved the image off center. So, in what I would consider a 'worst case' scenario for CA it got a pass. On a more positive note, I could also read local color on several birds in that situation. The 2 big pluses I've been able to experience are the larger exit pupil allowing my eyes to roam around the field without blackouts, and the wide field it presents. I've not yet noticed the increase in depth of field, but perhaps that will come with more use. Overall, I find both of these bins to be of very good quality and useful in their own ways. I like 'em!

So, along with the the axiom of 'try before you buy', I can add 'Buy 'em used', if you find that they fit your needs.

Bird away!

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