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ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia

Retrovid 8x40: A brief review (1 Viewer)

Canip

Well-known member
I had two brief “shop encounters” with Retrovids over the last three months, one with the 7x35 and 10x40, and a second one with the 8x40. Then, more recently, I purchased the 8x40 (and not the 7x35, see below why) and have used it now for a good week. To rate its performance, I have compared it hereafter mainly to its immediate “siblings”, the Trinovid 8x42 HD and the Ultravid 8x42 HD+.

PRELIMINARY REMARKS

The market introduction of the Retrovid (Trinovid 7x35, 8x40 and 10x40) models had a “bumpy start” to say the least and was probably not what Leica had intended.
First, after Leica had prematurely communicated the project in 2017 and raised high expectations in the market, essential elements had to be redesigned and reengineered over the last two year because the original idea to produce a “retro-binocular” with the nostalgic Trinovid shape and elements, but with modern performance, proved technically more difficult and economically less feasible than anticipated.

And second, once the reengineered binoculars were ready to hit the shelves, not only was the response in several forums like this one less than welcoming. People felt disappointed about the changes to the original design; then, Leica for some reason decided to sell the Retrovids exclusively at their own Leica Stores, giving many loyal Leica dealers a snub (and thereby probably limiting the success of the Retrovid in the market!).
Leica has nobody to blame than itself for that bumpy start. But what is a bit sad in the whole matter is that the Retrovid models, reviewed for what they are, and leaving the unfortunate history aside, seem actually quite decent instruments.

---------------

Regarding the technical aspects of the Retrovid, I refer to the two threads in this forum “New Old Trinovids” and “What if …” which provide a lot of welcome insights (many thanks to Jan, Henry, John and the other contributing members!).

----------------

The following remarks about the Retrovid 8x40 in particular reflect my own personal view and impression – nothing more.


SOME DATA

Eye relief (acc. to spec): 16 mm
Usable eye relief (measured with dynameter from rim of eyecup): > 14mm
IPD: 55 - 75 mm
RFOV: 7.0 degrees = 123 m / 1000m
Close focus (measured): 3.97m
Prism system: Schmidt-Pechan
Waterproof: splash-proof
Weight (acc. to spec): 640g
Weight (measured, with neck strap and eyepiece cover): 698 g

EXTERIOR, FINISH, BUILD

• Very well and precisely finished; apparently solid build quality. Same impression when looking into the tubes from the front end. It feels very much like the Leitz predecessor form the 1960s (which in my own experience proved very sturdy indeed)
• Pleasant haptics; the leatherette is much thicker than expected (and thicker than in the 1960s Trinovids) and gives way when pressed, like a rubber armour
• Keeps good grip in dry or wet conditions
• (with my smallish hands) excellent handling, easy operation of focus wheel and dpt adjustment knob; good overall balance of the binocular, neither front-heavy nor back-heavy
• The Retrovid appears heavier than you would expect form its slim body, however it is one of the lightest 8x40/42s around. In contrast to the 7x35, which appears small compared to some well-known 7x42s, the 8x40 is about the same length as the 8x42 versions of the Trinovid HD and Ultravid (see pic)
• Accessories: the bag is made of fine leather, and allows carrying the binocular around the neck in the bag, pulling it out only when used (like e.g. the Zeiss 8x30 Dialyt at the time). Nice, but not for rough use

MECHANICS

• Central hinge quite stiff, but sufficiently easy to adjust
• Eyecups: Patudo calls them “twist up”, I would call them pull up; positions are: Fully In, two intermediate clickstops, Fully Out. Quite solid stops, as Patudo mentioned. The pull up / twist up operation gets significantly stiffer when temperatures are below freezing. I am not a huge fan of this eyecup mechanism (would have preferred something like on the EDGs).
• The eyecup rims are relatively slim; nevertheless, positioning them on the eye / eye socket works well and is comfortable
• Focusing: solid, precise, even, no play; goes a bit too stiff for my taste, but still ok. No significant stiffening at low temperatures (although I only tried down to -6 C).
Focus speed is slow: 720 degrees, or 2 full turns from end to end; 540 degrees = 1 ½ turns from close focus to infinity; excess travel beyond infinity: 210 degrees, which is not huge, but sufficient
• Diopter adjustment: precise, even, no play. There is no locking mechanism, but the operation is quite stiff and the knob hardly gets turned inadvertently.
On the three different samples I had a chance to inspect, the 0 dpt position was exactly at the 0 mark (which is not always the case even with premium models)

OPTICS

• Nice round exit pupils; some light structures around the EPs, but not too bad
• Vignetting: slightly more pronounced than in the Trinovid HD and UV HD+
• Ease of view (“Einblickverhalten”): same impression as Patudo, good ease of view, eye relief is plenty, field stop visible even with (slim) glasses
• Close focus: just below 4m, which is of course more than many would like
• Field of view: 7 degrees = 123m, this is not huge indeed; but it appears narrower on paper than in the field. As Patudo mentioned, the bright and “even” image with good edge sharpness somehow seems to make you forget that the FOV is only 7 degrees. In fact, the Trinovid HD has virtually the same FOV (124m), but I get much more of a “tunnel impression” with it than with the Retrovid. The Ultravid has a bit more FOV (130m), and when you compare side-by-side, it becomes obvious. But for some reason, I have so far never “missed” much when using the Retrovid alone
• Central sharpness, contrast: very good in my eyes, better than expected, no substantial difference to the UV HD+. Ahead of the Trinovid HD in most circumstances (not on the USAF 1951, though).
• Off-axis sharpness: again, very good for a non-flatfield binocular, in my eyes better than UV HD+ or Trinovid HD (but outperformed by a good flatfield binocular such as the Monarch HG). Image stays sharp up to 80-85% towards the edge, then gradually deteriorates without ever becoming totally blurry (but with increasing CA, see below). Nice point-like star images over much of the FOV.
Note: the FOV is not very wide, so good edge sharpness is probably easier to achieve than in a widefield configuration.
• Image brightness, clarity and “brilliance”: this, together with the excellent panning behavior (see hereafter) is where the Retrovid shines. The image is bright, clear, with no noticeable differences in brightness nor sharpness over the field of view. Image characteristics very close to the UV HD+, brighter and “clearer” than in Trinovid HD
• Distortion / globe effect / panning behavior: quite little (pincushion) distortion, nevertheless almost no globe effect which, together with the good edge sharpness and the “even” image characteristics, provides an excellent panning experience
• Chromatic aberration: there is little in the center, but it is increasing towards the edge. The UV HD+ is bit better in this respect, the Trinovid HD (despite its ED glass) worse in the center of the image and about equal with the Retrovid in the outer parts of the FOV.
From recollection, I found the 7x35 worse in this respect than the 8x40, more CA in the center of the image and also towards the edge, which was the main reason why I went with the 8x40 (otherwise, I found the 7x35 quite impressive after my brief encounter).
• Color fidelity: again very good in my view; image tone not as cool as in the EL SV, and maybe just a tad less warm than the UV; quite natural overall. Very pleasant in my eyes.
• Stray-light, ghosting, flares, spikes: Good suppression of stray-light; no significant reflections when observing against e.g. low-standing sun; only little glare from direct sunlight on the front lenses; no significant flares or reflections from bright light sources in or just outside the FOV; no noticeable ghosting. Overall, compliments to the optical engineers!
Spikes on bright light sources: clearly more pronounced in the UV HD+ and the Trinovid HD, almost non-existent in the Retrovid (another indication of build quality).
----------------------

CANIP’S SUMMARY

As a rating:

++ Build quality, finish, haptics
++ Ergonomics, grip, balance
++ Weight
+ Focus mechanism, diopter adjustment
+ Eye cups
+ Eye relief
+ Ease of view
o Field of view
++ Central image sharpness, contrast
++ Off-axis sharpness
o Chromatic aberration
++ Image brightness
++ Color fidelity
++ Stray-light control

**=outstanding, ++=very good, +=good, o=adequate, v=unsatisfactory


Or in words:

The Retrovid 8x40 (and much of this will also be true for the 7x35 and the 10x40) is well built and very nicely finished. With pleasant haptics, good balance and light weight, it is easy to handle. It’s optical performance is at a premium level in some respects, and a bit below in others (FOV, CA). The pull-out eyecups will be liked by some, not by others (including me). The fact that it’s focus speed is slow (not ideal for birding) and that it is not fully waterproof will be no-go’s for some. I for myself have started liking it a lot as a general purpose binocular “with that special something” for most conditions; for this, it may actually replace the trusted 7x42 HD+ as my most used binocular.

fwiw Canip
 

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[email protected]

Well-known member
Supporter
Brief?:eek!: Nice Review! How do feel the Retrovid 8x40 compared to your Ultravid 8x42 HD +? In what areas was the Retrovid better and what areas was the Ultravid better? No outstanding's? Your as tough as my 8th grade English teacher. I never could get above a C+ on a composition!:-O
 
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dries1

Member
Thanks Canip for your review, your evaluation helped me make the decision on the 8X40 which was the only one I was interested in.

Andy W.
 

OhWeh

Well-known member
Thanks for this interesting review!

I feel, I will use the Zeiss 8x42 SF as I did in the past.

Why should I be satisfied with

123m FOV, when I'm used to 148m
4m close focus, when I'm used to below 2m
No water proof
...

Yes, the SF weighs 790g instead of 640g, but the balance of the SF is marvelous, so it seems to be lighter than it is.

I have too less money, to acquire such bins, because this means I'd need two 8x40/8x42.
 

[email protected]

Well-known member
Supporter
Thanks for this interesting review!

I feel, I will use the Zeiss 8x42 SF as I did in the past.

Why should I be satisfied with

123m FOV, when I'm used to 148m
4m close focus, when I'm used to below 2m
No water proof
...

Yes, the SF weighs 790g instead of 640g, but the balance of the SF is marvelous, so it seems to be lighter than it is.

I have too less money, to acquire such bins, because this means I'd need two 8x40/8x42.
Yes, but the SF is way bigger ,way heavier and way more expensive. The big advantage of the Retrovid and the older Trinovid has always been their compact size and light weight and that is a big reason they were so popular in 60's. You really can't compare the two. They are in a different class. Price wise and size wise. The Leica Noctivid competes with the SF not the Retrovid.
 
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Thomas_M

Active member
Canip,

thanks a lot for the very detailed comparison with well known Leica binoculars, which puts the retrovid into the context of present binoculars.

Thomas
 
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wdc

Well-known member
Yes, but the SF is way bigger ,way heavier and way more expensive. The big advantage of the Retrovid and the older Trinovid has always been their compact size and light weight and that is a big reason they were so popular in 60's. You really can't compare the two. They are in a different class. Price wise and size wise. The Leica Noctivid competes with the SF not the Retrovid.

An SF in the hand is worth 2 Retrovids in the shop window, I think is his point.
Of course they can be compared with regard to their relative merits, strengths, weaknesses, etc

The 8x40 Retrovid is a fairly well made product designed to appeal to collectors, admirers of retro styled gear, and leverages the prestige and heritage of the Leica brand. Its just as reasonable to compare it, as did Canip, to the Nikon Monarch HG, for example. The HG weighs less than an ounce more, focuses closer, has a wider, better corrected field, is waterproof.... AND it is much less expensive. Even the length is the same by a millimeter.

But, but its a Leica! and it looks cool!

I can see both sides of the issue... why folks would want one, as well as why some might stick with what they've got. It begins to make more sense to me why Leica chose to limit sales of the Retrovid to their own boutiques. As appealing as the binoculars might be for many, it wasn't produced to compete with more purposefully designed birding binoculars that are on the market, whether they cost more, or less. Its the same criticism that gets aimed at the Noctivid, and not wholly undeserved, even though I like the Noctivid! At least its got great eye relief (too much for some), which I can't say the Retrovid does.

Bill
 
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[email protected]

Well-known member
Supporter
An SF in the hand is worth 2 Retrovids in the shop window, I think is his point.
Of course they can be compared with regard to their relative merits, strengths, weaknesses, etc

The 8x40 Retrovid is a fairly well made product designed to appeal to collectors, admirers of retro styled gear, and leverages the prestige and heritage of the Leica brand. Its just as reasonable to compare it, as did Canip, to the Nikon Monarch HG, for example. The HG weighs less, focuses closer, has a wider, better corrected field, is waterproof.... AND it is much less expensive. Even the length is the same by a millimeter.

But, but its a Leica! and it looks cool!

I can see both sides of the issue... why folks would want one, as well as why some might stick with what they've got. It begins to make more sense to me why Leica chose to limit sales of the Retrovid to their own boutiques. As appealing as the binoculars might be for many, it wasn't produced to compete with more purposefully designed birding binoculars that are on the market, whether they cost more, or less. Its the same criticism that gets aimed at the Noctivid, and not wholly undeserved, even though I like the Noctivid! At least its got great eye relief (too much for some), which I can't say the Retrovid does.

Bill
Actually the Retrovid 8x40 weighs an ounce less than the Nikon HG 8x42 and the big difference is the Retrovid is fully 1 inch narrower. That is what is nice about the Retrovid. They are really slim and trim compared to a lot of the chunkier binoculars out there like the Ultravid HD. If you see one you will see they are higher quality than the Nikon Monarch HG. They make the HG look cheap by comparison. The cool factor also can not be denied!
 
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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