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A KamaTech flub, a Tract Toric Schott HT review, and my 10x42 quest... (1 Viewer)

eitanaltman

Well-known member
Brief Preamble

I was an active participant here many years ago, but I took a 5+ year break from the binocular merry-go-round (and this forum, to remove temptation!) after having kids + buying a house and the resultant lack of disposable funds. I sold off everything except a single pair of Minox BD 8x32 BR (and my wife's Nikon M7 8x30) and just stopped worrying about gear for a few years. But now I've rejoined the party in the past ~6 months. A combination of the kids getting older, financial situation getting healthier, and the free time/budget afforded by the current Covid shutdown meant that I could re-engage my binocular sickness at a level of quality I couldn't afford previously.

Long ago, I decided that 8x32 was my preferred format and stuck with that during my hiatus. But after too many walks at the local ponds/lakes where I didn't feel like dragging the scope with me and got frustrated trying to ID distant birds, I decided to enter the 10x42 world and began hunting for good deals. Previously, I had stuck to binoculars in the $200-300 range (new or used) like Zen-Ray, Vortex, etc. I learned the truism that you need to pay more for a quality 10x than an 8x, since every flaw will be magnified proportionately. Now, almost a decade later, with several vacations cancelled and finances generally in better shape, I decided to dabble in the mid tier to "sub alpha" range. I even snagged a used Leica Ultravid HD 8x32 as a present for my wife (this was her dream binocular, and it has come in handy as a benchmark "alpha" optic against which to have a reference for comparison).


Chapter 1: The 10x42 Saga Begins

I started with a snap decision to grab a pair of Tract Toric UHD 10x42 (original version, not the newer Schott HT) from the classifieds here back in Dec/Jan. I was blown away by the brightness, clarity, neutral color, and especially the razor sharp views. I could see distant details that my trusty little Minox BD 8x32 BR could not resolve, this was a new level of optical performance and a new itch that had to be scratched!

In late Feb, I led several local tours at the San Diego Bird Festival as I do every year. The Torics continued to impress -- one of my favorite moments was at a local grassland valley which is known for its variety of wintering raptors. The Torics enabled me to identify birds at distances, at one point I picked up on a soaring raptor at an enormous distance and was able to make out the subtle aspects of color and proportions that indicated the desirable Ferruginous Hawk, when most folks (those who could even see it) were assuming it was a Red-tailed Hawk. There is NO WAY that I would have made that ID with the old Minox.

Also, one of the highlights is the Festival's optics fair where each year I get the opportunity to sample a wide variety of glass. The vendors there are great, and let birders take the optics outside for extended stretches to compare in real conditions. My primary goal was determining how well the Toric UHD held up to the ~$1 sub-alpha competition.

I was able to compare closely to the Zeiss Conquest HD 10x42 and Vortex Razor HD 10x42, which I am convinced all share a very similar lineage and are essentially the same basic Kamakura platform (and this was only reinforced by close inspection of their physical proportions and mechanicals). Long story short, as I have commented elsewhere, although the differences were slight I felt the Tracts had the best optics of the pack overall. Specifically, they excelled in clarity/sharpness for long-distance viewing, which is my primary criteria for using a 10x over my typical 8x option (as in my raptor ID anecdote above). All three had very similar optics overall, with the differences coming down to subtle things like color balance (the Tract and Razor are much more neutral than the Conquest) or CA (the Razor HD beats the Toric and Conquest).

The Tracts also clearly beat some of the well respected mid-price options I tried including the Kowa BD XD II and the (MiC) Vortex Viper HD. The subtle improvements in brightness, clarity, and sharpness / micro-contrast were relatively easy to pick out, as opposed to the Toric vs Razor vs Conquest comparison where I really had to work hard to see clear differences (which to me means they are likely not differences worth worrying about, i.e. they are on the same tier).

The Tracts were only clearly beaten by the uber-alphas (Swaro SV / Zeiss SF / Leica NV), and even if it could be argued that the Razors or Conquests were better, the point was that the Tracts are clearly playing at the $1k+ level optically, which is a good thing! The Kowa Genesis felt a little "crisper" with that special sauce micro-contrast they have and the near total absence of CA, but otherwise wasn't clearly better either. So I moved having assuaged any nagging doubt that I should have waited for a used Conquest or Razor instead (which still would have cost 50-75% more than what I paid for the Tracts).


Chapter 2: Tract Toric UHD 10x42 (gen 1) vs Minox HG 10x43 MiG

Once of the small things that bothered me about the Torics was the weight, having been used to 8x32 for so long. So, when I stumbled upon a Minox HG MiG 10x43 on eBay for only $400, I snapped them up. Not only do I have a soft spot for Minox, I figured this would be a good opportunity to compare the Tracts to a premium, well reviewed $1k German optic with good reviews, equal FOV, and lighter weight in actual field use over the course of several weeks.

Long story short, the Tract Torics win again on optics, the Minox HG win on build quality, mechanics, and "luxury feel" of the materials.

To be clear, the Minox HG are VERY good glass. They are very bright and clear, pretty darn sharp, with a relaxing wide FOV and that nebulous "clarity" and "depth" you get from high quality, well corrected optics The Torics however were not only a bit brighter and sharper, but have more neutral color and superior CA performance (the latter a known weakness of the Minox HG series). Field of view was essentially equal (as the specs imply), both have generous "apparent sweet spots" in real world use, minor pincushion, and blurring towards the edge that is mostly field curvature. The only area optically where the Minox HG were clearly superior was in glare/flare control, where the Torics are very good but the Minox are stellar.

The Minox however LOOK and FEEL much more expensive. If you handed these two binoculars to a random person and asked which cost more money, I am confident everyone would say the Minox HG without hesitating. Like other Minox binoculars I've used, they just FEEL solid the moment you pick them up, not just the "density" but the quality of the rubber armor, the texture and feel of the focus knob and diopter mechanisms, the operation of the twist-up eyecups, etc. It's like when you slam the door of an expensive Mercedes vs a Toyota/Honda, just the feel and the solid "thunk" sound makes your brain go "yeah, that's well made."

Not that the Tracts don't feel "solid". They do. They also have a reassuring weight and solidity to them when you pick them up, hinge tension is excellent, the eyecups are robust. However, the quality of the rubber armor, eyecups, focus knob, and overall "workmanship" is clearly a big step down from the Minox HG, and more in line with ~$400-500 binoculars like Vortex Viper HD, Kowa BD XD, or Meopta Meopro. The difference is really apparent when comparing the accessories -- the objective covers and rainguard provided with the Tract are clearly generic off-the-shelf options like you'd get with a random $300 ChinaED clone, whereas those provided with the Minox HG are basically equal to what Leica provides with Trinovid/Ultravid models (thicker, more durable rubber, more secure fit, and a contoured shape that was clearly custom designed for that model).

Interestingly, however, despite the Minox being a few oz lighter on paper, they do not feel any lighter in the hand. I attribute this to the Tracts having superior balance and ergonomics for me, I suppose. But whatever the reason, the reduced weight of the Minox HG did not do much for me in actual handheld field use.


Chapter 3: Adventures with KamaTech, and the Leica Trinovid (2012-2015) enters the picture

As noted in the Kamakura anecdote thread, over time I became more aware of a focusing problem with the Torics (the barrels' focus was aligned turning CCW but when turning the focus knob CW the barrels were not focusing together). So I reached out to Tract and they asked me to send them to KamaTech with a note describing the problem.

While the Tracts were in the shop, I spent more time using the Minox HG as my primary optic, and solidified my impression that while they were very good, they weren't for me. The deal breaker was (1) they didn't feel as "razor sharp" at long distances like the Torics, and (2) the below-average CA control, in this respect the Minox HG was comparable to my 15 year old Monarch ATB 10x42 (which isn't praise). I don't need perfect CA control, it just has to be good enough that it's not bothersome for real world viewing.... the Minox HG did not qualify..... that said, if I ever see a sweet deal on an APO version of this optic I might have to try it, as if that flaw was corrected they would be a serious contender for the top tier of ~$1K sub-alpha glass.

So I sold the Minox HG to a buddy who was looking for an upgrade from his entry level Vortex and was stoked to get a premium $1K German optic for only $400. Then, I snagged a pair of 2012-2015 vintage Leica Trinovid 10x42 from the classifieds. A step up in price ($700 used vs $400 for the Tract and Minox) but worth it. More on that later....

Fast forward 3-4 weeks. The "repaired" Tract Torics show up. I open the packaging, anxious to compare them to the Trinovids. The moment my finger touched the focus knob, before I even looked through them, I thought "uh oh". Whereas before, the focus knob was smooth with consistent tension, I could tell immediately the action was now loose, uneven, and sloppy, with significant free play. It took less than a minute of observation to confirm that not only was the focus knob operating worse than before I sent it in, the core problem of "dragging" focus in one barrel when turning the knob CW was exactly the same as before.

I reached out to Jon LaCorte from Tract, with whom I had been corresponding, to relay the bad news. To his credit, he responded promptly and declared this unacceptable, and offered to send me a brand new replacement.

Moreover, my suspicion that the KamaTech service folks had not even understood the problem or done a basic visual inspection to confirm that it was fixed was strengthened. Best I can tell based on my correspondence, they never read my note and instead just took it apart, saw nothing obviously broken, put it back together (and did a sloppy job), and then sent it on back to me as "repaired". Anyone who understood the problem would be able to test and confirm it in 30 seconds, so it's clear they had zero idea what they were fixing.

I also asked JL if I could send him my pair so he could see for himself what KamaTech was doing to his company's reputation. He agreed, and of course confirmed that the problems I described were 100% real.

So, while this was a frustrating chapter in the saga, perhaps some good will come out of it and Tract (and perhaps Maven as well) can crack down on the sloppy repair work being done at the KamaTech facility here in San Diego. And JL was always very responsive and attentive, so kudos to him for doing the right thing and taking these problems seriously and trying to make them right. Thus are the perils of relying on subcontractors to represent your company, I really hope they work it out as the Tracts are honestly a phenomenal value optically and the founders seem to really care about the product quality and customer satisfaction.
 

eitanaltman

Well-known member
Chapter 4: The Final Showdown, Leica Trinovid 10x42 (2012-15 edition) vs Tract Toric UHD 10x42 (Schott HT edition)

So after the KamaTech repair saga, I was please to find that the replacement Jon L sent was a brand new Schott HT version of the Tract Toric UHD 10x42. Thankfully, the focus on these works correctly and (after dialing in the diopter adjustment, which IMO is a bit finicky) they provided very sharp focus.

So now (about a week ago really) I had ended up with two excellent 10x42 options. The well regarded 2012-2015 edition Leica Trinovid HD 10x42 (aka the "secret Ultravid", see my more expansive review here), and the Schott HT version of the Tract.

This should be no contest, right? The Leicas (being essentially Ultravid BR level glass) are unambiguously alpha quality on axis and are "real" Leicas, whereas the Tracts are outsourced Kamakura products like the Conquest HD, Razor HD, and the newer Trinovid HD.

I've always felt that there was a little extra "special something" with the "real alphas" that wasn't quite there in the "almost alpha" class of bins at the ~$1K price point. The Kamakura clan provides lovely views, but feel just a wee bit flatter and less "lifelike" than the "real alphas". To my eyes, the break-point is the Swarovski SLC WB at the ~$1.5K mark, where you have clearly stepped up to "real alpha" optics. The only ~$1K optics I've tried that had that nebulous extra "something" are the Meopta Meostar, which IMO have that clean "European alpha" quality to the view, and the Kowa Genesis models which rise above due to their exceptional CA control and micro-contrast.

Well, let me tell you something that I am almost shocked to write: optically, to my eyes, the 2012-15 Trinovid and the Toric UHD Schott HT are an absolutely dead-even draw!!

Like most of the nuts here, I've owned and/or compared a lot of binoculars, and I've got my wife's Leica UVHD 8x32 on hand to serve as a benchmark. Given extended time to compare them and use them in the field, I can nearly always find differences and I almost always end up with a preference. I have NEVER had a comparison of two different brands' binoculars be THIS close optically.

When I briefly compared the 1st gen Toric UHD to the Leicas before sending the wonky focus Torics to Jon L, the Leicas stood out as being a bit better (a hair sharper, slightly better contrast / saturation / depth, a bit of that extra "alpha intagible" clarity I mentioned above). As I mentioned above, I already felt the 1st gen Toric UHD was equal to or better than any of the other $1K Kamakura glass I've tried. But the slight improvements to the glass and coatings on the 2nd gen Schott HT have taken the performance up another notch to where IMO they are really sniffing at the heels of true alpha performance.

I mean, I tried. I really, REALLY tried. I spend several days and many hours with these two binoculars, staring at birds near and far, my cats, flowers, trees, the fine filaments of spider webs, clouds, mountains, reading signs outdoors or the nutritional info on boxes of cookies in my kitchen. I took them out in bright daylight, I used them at dusk, I took them into my back yard at night to stare at Jupiter and Saturn. But every time I swapped, the views were just as good, just as bright, just as clear, just as sharp.

This is literally the complete list of differences I could see optically:

- There is a *slight* difference in color balance. The Leicas are a bit on the warm side of neutral with very saturated reds and slightly desaturated blues; the Tracts are almost perfectly neutral due to a what appears to me to be an extremely broad and flat transmission with a *very* slight loss in red saturation vs the Leica. In terms of brightness and color neutrality, the Tracts compare very favorably to my wife's Leica UVHD 8x32, and in comparison feel just a touch "cooler" and "crisper". The Tract's strong blue transmission and extremely neutral color overall, with just a hint of "cool" balance, gives a "crystalline" view that reminds me very much of modern Swarovskis.

- The Tracts are, I think, just a *tiny* hair sharper. Maybe. I doubt this is a measurable difference in resolution -- both these binoculars clearly resolve far better than the human eye at 10x magnification -- but there is something about them (maybe the slightly cooler color?) that makes them feel a tiny bit "crisper" than the Leicas when I get that critical focus dialed in on axis.

- The Tracts appear *slightly* brighter, but I'm unable to decide if it's due to higher transmission or just the aforementioned difference in color balance impacting my perception. The relatively cooler color cast makes whites a bit "whiter", so specular highlights tend to "sparkle" a bit more. But despite extensive comparison there was nothing I could see with one that I couldn't see with the other, regardless of light conditions. And peering into dark shadows I felt like the Leicas brought out just a bit more texture and detail, so whatever advantage the Tracts have on bright highlights is balanced by the Leicas having a bit of an advantage in the shadows.

- On the flip side, the Leicas have a hair more contrast and "depth"; again, I don't know if this is a "real" difference or just an artifact of the warmer color balance, but something about the Tract image felt a wee bit "flatter" than the Leicas which felt a bit more "3D".

- The Tracts have slightly more relaxed, "walk in" view. On paper it's a ~5% wider real FOV (6.5deg vs 6.2deg), but the apparent FOV feels more like 10-15% wider subjectively. I don't know what it is exactly, but the image through the Tract feels slightly larger and "wider", even though when I do a hard comparison of the true FOV there's only a minimal difference. It's possible there's a slight difference in true magnification (e.g. maybe the Tract is 10.1x and the Leicas are 9.8x) or maybe it's an optical illusion due to the different distortion pattern which provides the wider AFOV, but the magnification feels a bit larger than that of the Leica. Comparing straight lines, while both have mild pincushion, the slight curving of the lines felt more gradual on the Leica, whereas the Tracts seemed to stay a bit straighter in the center and then bend a bit more abruptly closer to the edge. The Tracts also have much larger oculars. Whatever the reason, the Tract view is "easier" and a bit more "immersive" and "relaxed". The Leicas feel like a ~60deg AFOV (wide, but not "immersive") whereas the Tracts feel more like a 65-67deg AFOV.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is it. And since it's possible the first four items I listed are really all due to color balance / transmission differences, in reality there may only be two important differences in real world use:

1) Slightly different color balance imparting a different "personality" (warmer Leicas feel a bit more vibrant, contrasty and 3D with slightly better shadow detail / cooler Tracts feel a bit flatter but more crisp and crystalline with whiter highlights)
2) FOV / AFOV / ocular size

Everything else optically was just dead even. They both have a large apparent sweet spot (feels like ~70%+) with slight pincushion and a "classic edge" (mild, gradual softening which is mostly field curvature). Both are absolutely deadly sharp on axis. CA performance is very similar, pretty mild in the center such that it is rarely bothersome in real world use, but obvious broad, fuzzy green/magenta edges as you move to the periphery. Both present extremely true, well saturated colors (just a slight difference in the balance at the extremes).

Overall, I think I ever so slightly preferred the view of the Leicas, as I enjoy the warm, saturated colors and "depth"... whereas the Tracts are perhaps a bit more accurate but feel slightly more "sterile" or "analytical". BUT they were so close that a nagging "be conscious of bias!" voice in the back of my head made me wonder if I really just wanted to like the Leicas more because they are Leicas.

That's how close they were optically, I cannot even be confident that my preference was "objective" vs being influenced by powerful expectation bias due to brand name!

Every time I looked through the Leicas and though, "oh wow, that looks amazing, there is no way the Tracts will do that", I would switch to the Tracts and think "oh, wow, the Tracts CAN do that!" Back and forth, back and forth, whether a sparrow perched on a twig 20 feet away, a raptor perched on a tree 200 feet away, or picking out 4 moons of Jupiter in the night sky, there was NOTHING that popped in one that didn't pop in the other.

To be honest, if you set these two binoculars up on tripods and masked off the exteriors and had a bunch of people look through them, it would not shock me at all if a majority preferred the Tracts. The larger oculars and wider AFOV give them a more relaxed, walk-in view, and they feel a bit "crisper" which as I noted above provides just a hair of improvement in apparent sharpness.

To put it another way, if a genie appeared and said with a snap of his fingers he could magically swap the optics of the Tract into the body of the Leica, I would have to think long and hard about it. I've never worked so hard to see so little difference optically between two completely different binoculars.

Once you step away from the pure optical quality, the differences become more obvious:

- Focus: interestingly, these two binoculars have virtually identical fast focus gearing. Both are only around 1 1/4 turns rack to rack, with a minuscule 1/3 turn or less required to go from ~10m to infinity. The Tracts have a bit more travel past infinity focus, and both have at least half the total travel used in the near focus range (<10m). However, the "feel" of the knobs is very different. The Leica's action is looser, with a bit of stiction and a tiny bit of slack, so I find it difficult to make precise one-finger adjustments and prefer to use two fingers to dial in perfect focus. Thankfully that double-length Leica focus knob is very accommodating to the two-finger method. The Tracts on the other hand feel like a much slower focus, with very smooth action but a "thick" or "heavy" feel that encourages very small, precise adjustments. In this sense it feels like it's designed for hunters who want to be able to ease into that perfect focus snap on long-distance objects without the action being so loose that it overshoots. I much prefer the size and texture of the Leica knob, but the Tracts' heavy, smooth focus action makes it easier to dial in absolutely perfect sharpness. Perhaps this is why they feel a bit sharper in use than the Leicas?

- Glare: both are well above average, but not perfect. Both only share flare/glare in when glassing in the direction of the sun, no annoying veiling glare with overcast lighting like I got with the 8x30 Monarch 7. The Leicas, when pointing in the direction of the sun, show bright crescents at the edge of the exit pupil, but it somehow stays contained to the edge and never intrudes into the center of the view until you get perilously close to staring directly at the sun. The Tracts are similar, but the crescent glare at the edge sometimes spikes a bit more into the center of the field with some small flare spots. Again, this is only in fairly extreme conditions, and the rest of the time both are virtually glare free.

- Diopter: huge win for the Leicas, obviously, as the classic two-piece Leica focus knob is unparalleled IMO. The 1st gen Tracts have a standard tension ring on the right eyepiece, which was OK, and the 2nd gen Schott HT version has a locking version which clicks up and down. The latter is an improvement, but it feels a bit "cheap" mechanically. The Minox HG for example has a similar click-lock right eye diopter mechanism and it feels much more well engineered.

- Eyecups: another huge win for the Leicas. The Tract eyecups are very large diameter, without any taper, but they are very comfortable due to the thick, soft round-over at the end. But the sheer size of them (combined with my ~60mm IPD and relatively wide nose bridge) means that I can't fit them into my eye sockets far enough to see the full field of view, so I prefer to use them with the eyecups one click down from fully extended. However, while they seat fairly firmly at the detent, they do not "lock", so at times I have to readjust in the field. The Leicas of course have amazingly engineered eyecups with a whopping EIGHT potential stops that rock solid LOCK into place (nine if you're willing to pull the eyecups out past the last click). The eyecups are also nicely tapered (an advantage of the much smaller ocular) so at full extension they seat perfectly in my eye socket and I can see the entire field of view. As far as eyecups go, the Tracts are good, but these Leicas are perfection.

- Build Quality: spoiler alert! no surprise, the Leicas are a friggin tank, so this is no contest. The Tract build quality is fine, but nothing special. They do feel very solid and robust, with excellent hinge tension, so they aren't "cheap" feeling at all, but the quality of the rubber armor, eyecups, and other surface materials is just not in the same ballpark as the Leica which is basically impeccably finished. It's like a $20-25k entry level sedan vs a $50-75k luxury sedan, the quality of workmanship, finishing and materials is just on another level in the Leica.

- Ergonomics: interestingly, other than the eyecups and double-length focus knob, this is a close match. While it's cheaper feeling, the Tract soft gray rubber armor is quite pleasant to hold. They also have very good balance, and there's plenty of open barrel to wrap my extra fingers around. There are no thumb indents, but the barrels are slimmer than those of the Leica so it's easy to find a nice grip. They are also very compact and handy, as you can see in the photos they are no bigger than the Leicas which are known for being among the most compact premium 42mm bins. The Trinovids on the other hand, while compact in terms of length, feel "chunky" with the slightly fatter barrels and especially the large bridge that doesn't leave much barrel exposed. Also, as you can see in the attached photo comparison, at my relatively narrow IPD setting the Trinovid bridge sticks up pretty far, whereas the Tracts are "flatter". The Leicas of course also have the large protruding thumb rest "ridges" on the bottom. It's taken a bit of time, but I've found a happy place holding the Trinovids (thanks to Mike F for suggesting the alternate hand position with the non-focus hand gripping the front of the left barrel!). And despite being slightly heavier, once you get the thumbs behind the ridges the Trinovids have such amazing balance that they feel almost weightless in the hand (until eventually your arms and shoulders start feeling the weight!).

- Accessories: again no contest, the Leica Trinovids come with a standard cordura case, the Tracts do not include a case at all. The Tract strap, rainguard, and ocular covers are all standard generic type offerings. Perfectly functional, but generic and inexpensive feeling. The Leicas on the other hand come with the same excellent strap and rainguard as the Ultravids, with high quality fitted ocular covers.


Conclusion: the 10x42 quest reaches its end

In the end, I decided to keep the Leicas.... but, shockingly (to me at least) the optics were NOT the reason! Rather, I felt the price difference ($700 used vs $400 used) was worth it for the superior build quality and mechanics, durability, and the "name brand" appeal (which is sure to help retain that used value as well if I decide to sell them later). And I know Leica will be around in 10 years, 20 years and beyond.

Plus, lets face it, there's just something sexier about the Leica, not just the brand cachet but the lovely industrial design and the warm fuzzies I get when I hold them. The Trinovids manage to blend the optical quality of an Ultravid BR with the more "workmanlike" rugged feel of the old school BA/BN models, like an Ultravid that changed out of its fancy designer clothes and put on its work boots. I feel like I can use these hard for the next 10-20 years and they will still keep chugging along, and if I drop them in a muddy ditch I can just hose them off and continue on my way.

I do feel, in the end, the Leicas are perhaps a hair better optically. But I'm not 100% sure, honestly. There's something special about the "Leica view" with the vibrancy and contrast and more 3D depth. Or maybe I just have a subjective preference for the warmer colors and everything else is self-delusion. Perhaps the Leicas are, overall, slightly better corrected for optical aberrations which makes the view a touch "cleaner" and imparts that extra depth. Of course, I wouldn't mind a slightly wider FOV and a bit less CA, but since 10x42 is a secondary "long distance specialist" format for me, the 6.2 deg FOV and low CA on axis is "good enough" since the on-axis sharpness and contrast is so outstanding. I have lower power, wider FOV options for general use.

That said, the original Tracts were already excellent optically, and the upgraded Schott HT glass and coatings on the 2nd gen version have taken it up a notch. I imagine this is similar to the relative difference between Leica UV HD and HD Plus... the image feels even sharper, colors (especially blue) pop more, and overall there's a little more clarity and "pizzazz" than the originals. Not a huge difference, but enough where I felt the prior pair was a tick behind the Leicas and the 2nd gen replacement were virtually dead even.

In terms of pure optical quality, I feel confident that the 2nd gen Schott HT Torics are equal to any of the major ~$1K contenders, and superior to most of them. The 1st gen pair I had already seemed superior to the Razor and Conquest as I've noted, and the 2nd gen is even better. Wrap it up with solid build quality (nothing fancy, but good enough to get the job done), a very comfortable hold, and smooth and precise focus (when it's not defective like the first pair!) and the Tract Toric UHD is a worthy contender for someone looking for maximum optical bang for the buck. While it seems clear that Tract cut some corners on the fit and finish to bring the price point down, in my view this is worthy trade-off for a budget shopper, and a smart move for an upstart company, since they did NOT skimp on the optics.

Ultimately, this feels like close to the pinnacle of optical quality that can be eked out of this particular Kamakura design. You can't get everything for $700, and I'd rather have optical quality that competes with $1,500 glass in a utilitarian package that feels like a $500 binocular vs $500 optics in a fancy body with more luxury finish. That said, I wouldn't blame anyone for spending an extra $200 for a Conquest HD just for the reassurance of the Zeiss name, even if the Torics are a bit better optically.


So, wrapping up this long tale, I'm done shopping for 10x42 (for now at least). To clearly beat the Trinovids, I would likely have to spend considerably more than $700 on something like a Swaro SLC or UVHD+. I know I prefer the Trinovids to the Tracts, the Razor HD, and Conquest HD (and, by extension, I assume I'd prefer it to the newer Trinovid HD as well). The only other serious contender I can think of at this price level would be the Nikon Monarch HG, which is slimmer and lighter and has a much wider FOV. But as I noted above, 10x42 is ultimately a secondary "specialist" format for me, so I'm going to close this chapter for now. If I try the Monarch HG it will be in the 8x42 format as a larger exit pupil alternative to an 8x32 for general use.

What next? I've been thinking of dabbling with the 10x32 format, which I've never really tried due to preconceived biases. One thing I've learned in this saga is that I don't love carrying around a bigger, heavier binocular all the time. And since my long-distance needs are nearly always in daylight, perhaps the lighter weight of a 10x32 will be a worthy tradeoff for the smaller exit pupil. The Kowa Genesis is a binocular I've always loved when I tried it, and now they are on sale for $800, and that 10x33 Genesis has a huge 6.8deg FOV and an extra 0.1mm of exit pupil.......... to be continued......
 

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eitanaltman

Well-known member
Final wrap-up, here are some 1-10 scores of the models I own/owned, with the 8x32 UVHD and 9x32 Pentax (Sightron clone) thrown in as benchmarks at opposite ends of the spectrum (note that I haven't looked through the Minox HG in a few weeks, and never compared them to the Trinovid head to head, so this is my best recollection). Forgive the decimals, but I wanted to indicate to some degree how close the top bins are and how they generally play on a level above the Pentax/Sightron, despite the latter being decidedly above average all around:

Code:
Attribute      		UVHD  Trinnie Toric/g2 MinoxHG Pentax
Apparent Brightness	9.0	8.0	8.5	8.2	6.5
Apparent Sharpness	9.8	9.5	9.6	8.0	7.0
Contrast/Pop		9.9	9.5	9.0	7.5	7.0
Color Accuracy		9.2	8.5	9.5	7.5	6.0
Color Saturation	9.5	9.2	8.5	8.0	7.0
Immersiveness/FOV	8.0	6.5	7.5	7.5	6.0
Apparent Sweet Spot	8.0	7.0	7.0	6.5	7.0
CA Control		8.0	6.0	6.0	3.5	7.0
Glare Control		8.5	8.0	7.0	9.0	6.0
Ease of View		7.0	8.0	9.0	8.5	6.0
Build Quality		9.7	9.5	6.5	9.0	5.0

OVERALL OPTICS		9.0	8.5	8.5	8.0	6.5
 
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A2GG

Beth
Supporter
United States
That was an enjoyable read. I owned the same version Trinovid in 8x42 several
years ago and thought it was great. It became too heavy for me and I eventually had the same issue
with 7x42 HD+ even though it's a bit lighter. Now I only use smaller, lighter bins.
Ultravid 8x32 is also my dream binocular. I tried the 8x32 hd+ right after it came out , but ER
was too short with my eyeglasses and I went with the 7x42 instead.
Now I have super thin eyeglass frames and sometimes wonder if the 8x32 could work but I'm
too lazy to order one and try and I'm also trying to refrain from big purchases at this time.

I think the Shark at your pool was looking through the Toric.
 
Last edited:

jgraider

Well-known member
Wow, what a great in depth review. I have to say that, as a Toric owner, I'm not the least bit surprised at your findings, as they mirror mine. Under $1500 there's not a superior prsduct out there than the Torics. In fact, I had one of the first one's anyone had ever seen, and was able to compare it to many different bins that hunters brought into camps. When I posted my findings, years ago, many people here merely dismissed them because they didn't have Z,L, or S logos imprinted on them. Biases around here are amazingly strong.

I'll go ahead and say this as well......Glad you loved the previous Leica Trinovids, but Tract's customer service is head and shoulders superior to the hit and miss clown show that Leica Sport Optics produces.
 

dries1

Member
Tracts optics are excellent, time will tell if the mechanical construction are as well, along with the current service center - right now my personal feeling is no. I will take Leica any day of the week, they will be there years down the road, I am not sure about Tract.
Tract is a good mid range glass (purly optical perspective), and it can be compared to a Trinovid made 5 years ago, however even a Nikon HG 8X42 is superior to the tract in my book. Until Tract proves to me that their focus system is consistent glass to glass, I will not go on line and say how great they are, period.
Very disappointed 8X42 owner at the moment.

Andy W.
 

lmans66

Out Birding....
Supporter
United States
Final wrap-up, here are some 1-10 scores of the models I own/owned, with the 8x32 UVHD and 9x32 Pentax (Sightron clone) thrown in as benchmarks at opposite ends of the spectrum (note that I haven't looked through the Minox HG in a few weeks, and never compared them to the Trinovid head to head, so this is my best recollection). Forgive the decimals, but I wanted to indicate to some degree how close the top bins are and how they generally play on a level above the Pentax/Sightron, despite the latter being decidedly above average all around:

Code:
Attribute      		UVHD  Trinnie Toric/g2 MinoxHG Pentax
Apparent Brightness	9.0	8.0	8.5	8.2	6.5
Apparent Sharpness	9.8	9.5	9.6	8.0	7.0
Contrast/Pop		9.9	9.5	9.0	7.5	7.0
Color Accuracy		9.2	8.5	9.5	7.5	6.0
Color Saturation	9.5	9.2	8.5	8.0	7.0
Immersiveness/FOV	8.0	6.5	7.5	7.5	6.0
Apparent Sweet Spot	8.0	7.0	7.0	6.5	7.0
CA Control		8.0	6.0	6.0	3.5	7.0
Glare Control		8.5	8.0	7.0	9.0	6.0
Ease of View		7.0	8.0	9.0	8.5	6.0
Build Quality		9.7	9.5	6.5	9.0	5.0

OVERALL OPTICS		9.0	8.5	8.5	8.0	6.5

Good read....we all have our 'must have' lists and that alone is interesting to see how we all differ in what we look for in a binocular. I also do the matrix thing too like you have and find it enjoyable. I also try to not give such large numerical scores but assign more subjectives ones by using symbols and not numbers such as (+ = -). In some cases I might differentiate by saying it is (+- or an =+). .Have you thought of assigning a 'weight' to certain categories so the most important criteira are granted more of a score.?

I notice a few things about your criteria that differ from mine as you split up glare/CA control ....I just lump into 'optics'... but I do include sharpness, sweet spot .

I also have criteria to me such as weight/size, close focus, finger placement on binocular, armor and tactile feel of bin, and edge-to-edge, (which might be what you see in stating the Torics have more FOV opposed to Trinnie).

Either case, really interesting. The Ultravid is tops....agreed. I have never seen a Toric but I can state that the Trinnie is great and yes, excellent contrast, which adds to the POP. Thanks for sharing, jim
 

eitanaltman

Well-known member
Wow, what a great in depth review. I have to say that, as a Toric owner, I'm not the least bit surprised at your findings, as they mirror mine. Under $1500 there's not a superior prsduct out there than the Torics. In fact, I had one of the first one's anyone had ever seen, and was able to compare it to many different bins that hunters brought into camps. When I posted my findings, years ago, many people here merely dismissed them because they didn't have Z,L, or S logos imprinted on them. Biases around here are amazingly strong.

No doubt, that’s why I specifically noted that I’m not 100% sure my preference for the Leicas being slightly better optically wasn’t just bias induced self delusion. It’s not just “around here”, it’s human nature. Expectation bias / placebo effect are very powerful cognitive phenomena.

I'll go ahead and say this as well......Glad you loved the previous Leica Trinovids, but Tract's customer service is head and shoulders superior to the hit and miss clown show that Leica Sport Optics produces.

I haven’t had the “pleasure” of dealing with Leica service but I have no doubt you are right. Jon LaCorte has been terrific, very responsive and attentive. I would expect Maven to be similarly responsive.

On the flip side though that’s basically mandatory for a small binocular startup these days, it’s already tough enough to carve out market share in a crowded market of Asian produced semi-clones. Zen-Ray service was also terrific until it wasn’t.

Since I’m viewing this is a long term investment the fact that Leica is sure to be around in future decades (plus the Trinovids feel bomb proof) is a factor I had to weigh. Were my budget more limited however I would have minimal regrets keeping the Tracts and saving the extra $300 for a secondary pair, optically they do everything I would ever need out of a 10x42.
 

eitanaltman

Well-known member
That was an enjoyable read. I owned the same version Trinovid in 8x42 several
years ago and thought it was great. It became too heavy for me and I eventually had the same issue
with 7x42 HD+ even though it's a bit lighter. Now I only use smaller, lighter bins.
Ultravid 8x32 is also my dream binocular. I tried the 8x32 hd+ right after it came out , but ER
was too short with my eyeglasses and I went with the 7x42 instead.
Now I have super thin eyeglass frames and sometimes wonder if the 8x32 could work but I'm
too lazy to order one and try and I'm also trying to refrain from big purchases at this time.

I think the Shark at your pool was looking through the Toric.

Thanks for the kind words, although Shamu would like to note that you are clearly a bird watcher and not a marine biologist :D

I don’t mind the heavier binoculars for limited use, but often my local birdwatching involves long walks/hikes where I am mostly using my ears and experience to identify birds and occasionally using the binoculars for closer views. I think a more compact, lighter optic will be more practical in most situations.
 

A2GG

Beth
Supporter
United States
Thanks for the kind words, although Shamu would like to note that you are clearly a bird watcher and not a marine biologist :D

I don’t mind the heavier binoculars for limited use, but often my local birdwatching involves long walks/hikes where I am mostly using my ears and experience to identify birds and occasionally using the binoculars for closer views. I think a more compact, lighter optic will be more practical in most situations.

Darn it ... please send my apologies to Shamu the Killer Whale :)
 
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
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