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Interview with Leica Director of Sports Optics

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Old Thursday 6th February 2020, 13:08   #1
Troubador
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Interview with Leica Director of Sports Optics

Interview with Herr Stephan Albrecht, Director Product Division Sport Optics,
assisted by Herr Andreas Dippel, Public Relations Department


Troubador: Herr Albrecht, thank you for devoting your time to this interview for publication on Birdforum, and thank you Herr Dippel for your assistance.

Herr Albrecht: With pleasure!

Troubador: Herr Albrecht, can you begin by giving us an impression of the health of the sports optics nature segment today? Is it growing or remaining the same, in mainland Europe, the UK and the USA for example? And what about the rest of the world?

Herr Albrecht: All kinds of outdoor activities, including nature observation, have been improving for a number of years and is certainly a segment which has grown. Nature conservation and nature observation is in general a relevant trend. We also see a tendency where people enjoy nature observation as an important recreational element in today’s world, which is dominated by digital media consumption. This tendency is very similar in Europe, UK and US. Also in Asia we realize a growing interest in nature observation. We know there is a lot of growth potential for the future.

Troubador: Is the market developing in the same way for both binoculars and spotting scopes and is this different in different parts of the world?

Herr Albrecht: Nature observation with binoculars is a very broad activity from general users to real birdwatching experts, and every step in between, and therefore the overall market volume and the market development potential for binoculars is significantly higher than the potential for spotting scopes. This is pretty much the same all around the world.

Troubador: Do you see any notable trends in which objective lens sizes and magnifications nature segment observers are purchasing? For example some dealers in the UK report increasing sales of 32mm binoculars.

Herr Albrecht: We see a clear trend towards more lightweight and compact binocular models. Especially in the UK, the sales volume of 32 mm binoculars and compact 42mm binoculars are increasing year by year. To design the most compact high end binocular in the 42 mm class was the major development target for the Noctivid 42 model. Regarding the preferred magnification: customers in Europe mainly choose the 8x magnification while nature observers in the USA very often choose 10x magnification.

Troubador: Are 7x binoculars really a viable product today when most brands report that they are loss makers, and what about 50mm binoculars? Are they as popular as 42mm?

Herr Albrecht: You’re right, 7x binoculars are regarding field of view, depths of focus and image stability a perfect choice – and by the way often my preferred model for nature observation – but as you said the sales volume is lower compared to 8x and 10x. The 50mm binoculars are, in comparison to 32mm and 42mm, not as popular as they were 10 years ago. That is caused by the fact, as mentioned above, that people are now preferring more lightweight and compact models.

Troubador: Is 10x42 still the most popular in most markets?

Herr Albrecht: In the USA the 10x42 is clearly the most popular model. In Europe the 8x42 is the most popular model in the full size binocular segment. In some specific countries – that is for example the case in the UK – the 8x32 is also very popular.

Troubador: Have sales of Noctivid met your expectations, and can we expect a 32mm Noctivid at some point?

Herr Albrecht: When it comes to direct comparison, for example at the Birdfair at Rutland Water, we are glad that many birdwatchers choose the Noctivid. And for sure a 32mm Noctivid would be an attractive addition to our range, to fulfil the market demand for a compact 32mm model.

Troubador: I have seen the exterior of the new Leitz Park in Wetzlar on two occasions and it is a terrifically impressive building, but I have never read about any investment in the production of binoculars there. In addition none of the dealers I know who have visited the Leitz Park have seen binoculars being made there. Should we understand from this that most binocular production is now done in Portugal, where your long-established factory has an international reputation for excellence?

Herr Albrecht: Thank you very much for your positive comments about our headquarters in Wetzlar, and the long established international reputation of our factory in Portugal! In particular we produce components of optics, mechanics and electronics in our factory in Portugal. The manufacture of our products is in Portugal or Germany, and the complete design and development is also done in Germany. For example the final assembly of our Noctivid and Ultravid binoculars is performed in our headquarters in Wetzlar – and this can be seen by visitors.

Troubador: The recently re-launched Trinovids (not Trinovid HD) in 7x35, 8x40 and 10x40 were first announced as reissues of the originals complete with Uppendahl prisms, but they have now launched with modified Schmidt-Pechan prisms. What happened to cause this change and what is the market that these binoculars are aimed at?

Herr Albrecht: We realized with the Uppendahl prism system that it is not possible to reach the targeted field of view in combination with a state of the art level of stray light reduction and vignetting within the, from our designers-required, compact dimensions of the housing. Therefore we decided to redesign the product and to implement a modern Schmidt-Pechan prism.

Troubador: My wife has a 1976 Leitz Trinovid 8x40 and this is one of the most elegant binoculars ever produced. Now you have launched the new version with SP prisms, why did you not take the opportunity to further modernise it with a wider field of view and a shorter close focus distance?

Herr Albrecht: The major goal for the development team was to “reinvent” the elegant and slim design of the classic Trinovid binoculars and to combine it with modern optics. The expected field of view in combination with the targeted vignetting and stray light level has a direct impact on the dimensions of the prism system. Finally we ended up with a similar field of view for the new Trinovids but with improved performance regarding vignetting, stray light and reflections.
The close focus is also a result of the expected dimensions due to the length of the travel range of the focus lens. A more “powerful” focus lens could also reduce the close focus distance, but we preferred to implement the perfect balance of reasonable close focus distance in combination with the precise and user friendly focus system.
Regarding the coatings, chromatic aberration, coma and astigmatism the binoculars are designed and produced in accordance to our actual state of the art standards.

Troubador: If the Trinovids are a success, and by the way, we on Birdforum refer to them as Retrovids to distinguish them from the many other models called Trinovid, is there a chance Leica might revive a porro model or two, with up to date coatings and specifications?

Herr Albrecht: That’s a good point. We have identified a relevant market demand for a real elegant, timeless and slim binocular design. For the more bulky porro prism designs, we would have to review if there is really a demand. Comments from the forum members are welcome regarding this idea.

Troubador: Most serious users of binoculars appreciate and welcome the opportunity to try binoculars before buying them, and to receive advice and guidance from a knowledgeable dealer. It seems a great shame then that Leica has chosen to only sell the new / old Trinovids via Leica Stores which are very few in number compared with dealers’ shops, and are not sited in places that are ideal for trying out binoculars. What was the thinking behind this move and what has been the reaction of your many dealers? It cannot have been popular with them.

Herr Albrecht: The Trinovid classic is a unique binocular, which we see regarding the design and layout as being very close in spirit to our M cameras. Therefore we wanted to place them visually close to the other (camera) products of Leica. Further, we believe that our other premium binoculars allow enough side by side comparison of the different models. Our sales staff received dedicated product training on the new Trinovid models, so that they can suggest to you, either one of the models, depending on your personal preferences. We have received some critical comments from dealers regarding the distribution concept. However most of our partners understand the decision and often, even prefer, to concentrate their marketing and sales activities on the rubber armoured Noctivid and Trinovid HD binoculars.

Troubador: Binocular enthusiasts all over the world have been wondering when Leica will launch a Perger prism binocular for nature observers. What are the challenges in achieving this and do you think Leica will be able to achieve this?

Herr Albrecht: There is no technical challenge to offer the Geovid binoculars with Perger prisms also in a version without rangefinder. On the one hand the unique ergonomic design of the Perger prism binocular would be a strong argument to offer them also for nature observers. On the other hand the optical design is not as compact and lightweight as the existing Noctivid and Trinovid HD models. Therefore we believe that the actual Noctivid and Trinovid models are more attractive for nature observers.

Troubador: Do you think that recycled carbon fibres could play a part in reducing the weight of the optical tubes of spotting scopes and binoculars in the near future?

Herr Albrecht: Carbon fibre would have some potential to reduce the weight of binoculars and even more of spotting scope. The disadvantage is that it cannot be produced and machined with the same precision as magnesium and aluminium as well as having problems with particle abrasion.

Troubador: We live in a digital world now. Should we expect optical instruments for nature observation with digital capabilities from Leica in the near future?

Herr Albrecht: I am sure that the binocular of the future will be digital. The question is only in which way: Digital bird identification, integrated imaging function, video recording, sound recording or a fully digital binocular? I would welcome this kind of thread and participate on www.birdforum.net with high pleasure.

Troubador: Thank you for fitting this interview into a busy schedule.

Herr Albrecht: Again, with pleasure.

Pics show a Retrovid alongside an original and a full frontal of the new 7x35
Lee
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Old Thursday 6th February 2020, 15:07   #2
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Thank you so much, Lee!

I think you did a great job in putting forward all the relevant questions.
Of course, Messrs. Albrecht and Dippel were as non-committal with their answers as you would expect.

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Old Thursday 6th February 2020, 15:25   #3
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Originally Posted by Canip View Post
Thank you so much, Lee!

I think you did a great job in putting forward all the relevant questions.
Of course, Messrs. Albrecht and Dippel were as non-committal with their answers as you would expect.

Canip
Exactly.

Thank you Lee for making the effort.

-Bill
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Old Thursday 6th February 2020, 15:59   #4
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Thanks, Lee! All very interesting. M

Last edited by Mike F : Thursday 6th February 2020 at 16:07.
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Old Thursday 6th February 2020, 20:33   #5
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Another thank you Lee for the thread.
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Old Thursday 6th February 2020, 22:22   #6
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Hello Lee,

Ta!

Happy bird watching,
Arthur
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Old Thursday 6th February 2020, 23:08   #7
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"The binocular of the future will be digital"... that I do not accept. I don't think people want to be walking around looking at birds (or anything else) on a miniature LED screen, as they can do back at home. Direct viewing really matters for appreciation of nature. Whoever also wants the electronic experience will easily carry their phone or digital camera too, for image capture and even identification if desired.
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Old Thursday 6th February 2020, 23:56   #8
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Thank you, Lee! Interesting questions you put to the gentlemen.

Tom
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Old Friday 7th February 2020, 06:59   #9
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Thank you all and thanks especially to Stephan and Andreas who were enthusiastic from the start and never wasted a minute despite all of their other duties, traveling etc.


Lee
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Old Saturday 8th February 2020, 14:32   #10
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This is a great read. Thank you Troubador.
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Old Saturday 8th February 2020, 17:22   #11
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you are welcome Foss.



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Old Monday 10th February 2020, 18:54   #12
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Thank you Lee for conducting this interview! I learned a few things:
  • The standard binocular is a 42mm one; with 10X magnification for US, 8X for Europe.
  • The general design goals are lighter weight and compactness.
  • The future is digital :)

-Omid
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Old Thursday 13th February 2020, 13:44   #13
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mmmh,

so much marketing b...s... so few real information.

Between the lines I read, that we most probably will not see new scopes in the next years. OK, this makes sense for Leica: you can present - insead of using it - binos and cameras, but to present a scope would come out weird.


Thansk Lee! You tried it
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Old Thursday 13th February 2020, 15:54   #14
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mmmh,

so much marketing b...s... so few real information.

Between the lines I read, that we most probably will not see new scopes in the next years. OK, this makes sense for Leica: you can present - insead of using it - binos and cameras, but to present a scope would come out weird.


Thansk Lee! You tried it
Vielen dank.

Lee
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Old Thursday 13th February 2020, 17:49   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Omid View Post
Thank you Lee for conducting this interview! I learned a few things:
  • The standard binocular is a 42mm one; with 10X magnification for US, 8X for Europe.
  • The general design goals are lighter weight and compactness.
  • The future is digital :)

-Omid
Yes Lee, very good job done here!

My working horse bino is a 10x50 (Europe is where I am), so I am out of time and place ...
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Old Friday 14th February 2020, 16:31   #16
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so much marketing b...s... so few real information.
Perfect summary, OhWeh!

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Old Friday 14th February 2020, 20:16   #17
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Perfect summary, OhWeh!

Hermann
OK, if this is the consensus, maybe it would be an idea to ask them (via Lee) to do the interview in a 2.0 version without the correct political attitude, which turned out IMHO to be contra productive for Leica, something nobody wishes.

Jan
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Old Saturday 15th February 2020, 14:34   #18
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Originally Posted by jan van daalen View Post
OK, if this is the consensus, maybe it would be an idea to ask them (via Lee) to do the interview in a 2.0 version without the correct political attitude, which turned out IMHO to be contra productive for Leica, something nobody wishes.

Jan
The answers given to the questions regarding the Retrovids and the choice of prisms, and why the opportunity was not take to increase the field of view or shorten the close focus distance, are already V2.0 answers.

Lee
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Old Saturday 15th February 2020, 15:25   #19
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It is what it is ladies and gents, and that's that. They have done an interview and answered as deemed fit as representatives and employees of Leica. Whatever your thoughts, feelings and quandaries it isnt going to change as one might wish. Also Troubadour has to remain someone whom these companies are happy and willing to engage and speak with, so his report has to be accurate and agreed with the company before publication.

The other option is to contact them yourselves and seek an audience.
JVD, I see where you're coming from as I've read your posts over the years and have a degree of sympathy for businesses such as yours.

P
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Old Saturday 15th February 2020, 16:12   #20
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It is what it is ladies and gents, and that's that. They have done an interview and answered as deemed fit as representatives and employees of Leica. Whatever your thoughts, feelings and quandaries it isnt going to change as one might wish. Also Troubadour has to remain someone whom these companies are happy and willing to engage and speak with, so his report has to be accurate and agreed with the company before publication.

The other option is to contact them yourselves and seek an audience.
JVD, I see where you're coming from as I've read your posts over the years and have a degree of sympathy for businesses such as yours.

P
Absolutely right.

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