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Obituary for my Ultravid 8x20 BR, 2006-2022 (1 Viewer)

Joe H

Well-known member
United States
Back in the early 2000s I was in the market for a truly pocketable alternative for when my primary birding binocular, a Swarovski 8x32 EL, was too big. At the time, I looked at the 8x20 Swarovski and Nikon models but both had rear focus knobs that I couldn’t quickly adapt to. Leica only had the Trinovid 8x20 at the time and it wasn’t waterproof. I was and remain fairly active and figured a small, waterproof pocket bin would be just the thing for combining outdoors sports with bird watching. I initially bought the Zeiss 8x20 Victory model but my wife almost immediately claimed them. I found the single hinge design made them a bit too bulky when folded to slip easily into my shirt pockets. I prefer to keep them on a neck strap around my neck and in my front pocket when not being used.

Then the Leica 8x20 Ultravid came out and I readily grabbed one. I bought it at the Anchorage Sportsman’s Warehouse. It ticked all of my boxes: Easily fit in a man’s dress shirt pocket, great view for an 8x20, waterproof, robust...what more could you want? And it provided the best view of any 8x20 in the store. It accompanied me for about 18 years all over the world on work trips and contributed to many life birds I would have otherwise never seen. Sadly, last year they were stolen but I haven’t had time to consider a replacement until now.

After doing a bit of research, I was surprised to learn that the Zeiss and Swarovski 8x20s are no longer made, being replaced by larger 25mm models. In the intervening years things have changed: The optics counter at all of the big sporting goods stores are unmanned – you have to find a sales rep to help you and the selection on-hand is a fraction of what it was 20 years ago. When I checked recently, there were no high-end pocket binoculars at any store in Anchorage. Thankfully Birdforum still has great discussions and there are big internet dealers on-line. The Leica is still available but my experience with the little Ultravid was mixed: The view was great, but fussy in terms eye placement (this isn’t a nock, I find this true of all 8x20s and my wife’s little Zeiss is worse than the Leica was). Early on I learned my pair wasn’t waterproof and in trying to arrange a repair, I found dealing with Leica USA back in 2006 or 2007 more trouble than the time it took, so I used them as-is (I’ve read posts here that Leica customer support is now excellent and I have no reason to doubt it). I just guarded mine against rain or packed them in zip-lock bags when they were likely to get submerged, but otherwise they held up pretty well. At some point the metal strap mounts both broke off (easily fixed by tying the neck cord below the sliding eye pieces) and the top bridge plate fell off (easily glued back on). The left hinge became much more movable than the right, and this started to cause problems as the eye settings would move out of alignment if the binoculars bounced around on my chest. Something inside the right barrel started to rattle during the last few years if I shook them, but it didn’t seem to affect the view, which remained really good. The rubber armor wore through on the top of the hinges, and the edges of the black painted surfaces on the bridge wore through to bare metal. I actually liked the well-used look; they looked like they’d been around the world, and they had. I dearly wish I had a good picture of them as veterans, but alas, they are now just a fond memory.

It would be great to report these trusty companions were eaten by an Alaskan grizzly bear or chomped by an Australian salty but no, in the end I briefly left them hanging in a public place and somebody grabbed them. I hope they are still being used to view birds.

I guess there’s no real point in writing an obit for a little piece of metal and glass, but since my new pocket binocular arrived in the mail today (I went with the Swaro Curio) it seemed appropriate to say something. I’ll end with a picture from 2006 to show what a bird magnet that little Ultravid was; you didn’t even need to use them to find birds, you could just set them down and the birds came to you!
 

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Thanks for sharing such a great story... and you managed to find exactly the replacement that came to mind as I read it, though a bit scarce lately. May your Curio continue to give you such joy.
 
A nice tribute Joe. I have a pair of the 8x20 UV's too. Really a great glass. I think in the compact 20mm binocular world, it's either the 8x20 UV or the 7x21 Curio. If I didn't have my UV's I'd probably get the Curio's (a 7x21 makes more sense than an 8x20). I'll be interested to hear your take on them...
 
I agree the Leica Ultravid 8x20 and the more recent Swarovski CL 7x21 are the only options available in a true pocket binocular with a nice view. To my admittedly bad eyes, after these two the drop off is rather steep. I haven’t really looked at pocket bins from other brands since I got the Leica, so maybe things have improved optically in the last 18 years. And if you don't mind focusing with your ring finger or pinky, probably more options open up. I’ll post some observations in a separate thread (either in the Swarovski section or the non-brand name posts at the bottom) once I’ve spent a bit more time playing with them.
 
Really enjoyed this, Joe. Sounds like you truly got your money's worth out of that tiny little Leica. I last poked around the Sportsman's Warehouse in Anchorage in 2016, and the pickings for binos were quite slim. Sadly, it's the same here in Calgary now that the best shops have closed their doors, and Cabela's/BP don't seem to stock much either. Enjoy your Curio... they look like a sweet little set!

Best,
Keegan
 
A nice tribute Joe. I have a pair of the 8x20 UV's too. Really a great glass. I think in the compact 20mm binocular world, it's either the 8x20 UV or the 7x21 Curio. If I didn't have my UV's I'd probably get the Curio's (a 7x21 makes more sense than an 8x20). I'll be interested to hear your take on them...
I completely agree with your conclusion, but my UV's still cover many more miles with me than my Curio's.
 
Great story and wonderful picture, thanks Joe!

I used the small Eschenbach Club 8x20 that i inherited from my late father in 2001 and used it all over the world before i changed it a few years ago for a much brighter UV 10x25. The old beaten Eschenbach i gave to my brother is treasured by him and still used on weekly walks.
 
Thanks for the nice comments, much appreciated! Having your dad's binoculars as a functional heirloom is amazing, very gracious to share them with your brother.

Tehri, thanks for the picture mods, very impressive! I'll post another picture of the little Ultravids, this time with me wearing them. It's a work picture from a humanitarian aid mission in Vanuatu. I was helping out with the military support to the medical equipment transport. Those little bins did get around.
 

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The enhancement is impressive (also the original photo) 😍 What is the software you used?
Hey, Viraj ;)
Oh that's a quite common op' when you're working, dealing, with images etc... this doesn't always work and obviously depends on the quality level of the base image. Mainly here, did I work quickly with Photoshop and After Effects... the latter is more for animation, film, etc, but has very powerful plugins which can brings 'a plus' also to still images, in combination with PS.
But obviously not everyone works with these softwares, and there are sites online (free or not) capable of improving the quality of a photo, and again, it will depend on the level of artifacts, of the quality of the image you submit.

Here just for example, some op's possible with just Photoshop :

And here an online site which I think is free, at least for a few images... Unblur & Sharpen Image Online 100% Free | PicWish
 
Hey, Viraj ;)
Oh that's a quite common op' when you're working, dealing, with images etc... this doesn't always work and obviously depends on the quality level of the base image. Mainly here, did I work quickly with Photoshop and After Effects... the latter is more for animation, film, etc, but has very powerful plugins which can brings 'a plus' also to still images, in combination with PS.
But obviously not everyone works with these softwares, and there are sites online (free or not) capable of improving the quality of a photo, and again, it will depend on the level of artifacts, of the quality of the image you submit.

Here just for example, some op's possible with just Photoshop :

And here an online site which I think is free, at least for a few images... Unblur & Sharpen Image Online 100% Free | PicWish
Thank you very much for your nice explanation. The noisy and blurred original image improved a lot after your edits. I think it is a must have skill set for a person who use a bridge camera like me 😊
 
I use the Swarovski 8x20 pretty much the same, take them everywhere a full size bino is too cumbersome. They get used a lot! I don't mind focusing with my pinky. It's a shame there is pretty much just the Curio and UV in the true pocket bino world. The new 8x25 Swarovski is a giant in comparison to the old 8x20.
 
The 8x20 Ultravid is still my favorite (only binocular I have more than one of) but if I didn’t have any of them, I could switch back to the 7x21 Curio without missing a beat.
 
The 8x20 Ultravid is still my favorite (only binocular I have more than one of) but if I didn’t have any of them, I could switch back to the 7x21 Curio without missing a beat.
I love my Curio, but there's a 'something' I cannot effectively put into words about the UV's which bring a particular joy and satisfaction owning and using them. I love mine and I love using them, they are little treasures for sure. Mine are BR's and I acquired one of the leather BL cases to make them more easily pocketable, I take them everywhere with me.
 
I love my Curio, but there's a 'something' I cannot effectively put into words about the UV's which bring a particular joy and satisfaction owning and using them. I love mine and I love using them, they are little treasures for sure. Mine are BR's and I acquired one of the leather BL cases to make them more easily pocketable, I take them everywhere with me.
That come close to my description of the reasons I'm carrying the Ultravid and have so many of them, while the 7x21 is up in the display case. I have the BR x 2 and BL x 2, with a slight preference towards the BL and it's always in my pocket.
 
I agree the Leica Ultravid 8x20 and the more recent Swarovski CL 7x21 are the only options available in a true pocket binocular with a nice view. To my admittedly bad eyes, after these two the drop off is rather steep. I haven’t really looked at pocket bins from other brands since I got the Leica, so maybe things have improved optically in the last 18 years. And if you don't mind focusing with your ring finger or pinky, probably more options open up. I’ll post some observations in a separate thread (either in the Swarovski section or the non-brand name posts at the bottom) once I’ve spent a bit more time playing with them.
what about the Nikon HG L 8x20?
 

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