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Swarovski 12x42 NL Pure and Leica 12x50 Ultravid+ comparisons (2 Viewers)

CharleyBird

Well-known member
Readers will have seen Roger Vine’s review here
http://www.scopeviews.co.uk/Swaro12x42NLPure.htm
and Holgar Mertlitz's comments here
https://www.juelich-bonn.com/jForum/read.php?9,448229,448410

In January temptation won out.
I found all three NL models stocked at Cambrian Photography Ltd, called them, and the 12x arrived next day.
Comparisons between my Swarovski 12x42 and Leica 12x50 follow, with, if you prefer, a two line conclusion at the end.


I’ve used the 12x50 Leica as my go-to for about a year and it’s a fine view, in particular the centre part where the bird usually is. It’s a big heavy binocular that needs both a considered hold for a steady enough view and a method of carrying them that avoids neck ache. However the Ultravid models are generally compact with an understated elegance and tactile armour I like. I particularly like the fun 10x32 for fit in one hand, though if I could keep only one binocular it would probably be the easy to use all-rounder 7x42. I also find the rather serious Leica 12x50 barrels a nice fit for my hands.

The Swarovski is a different entity, obviously lighter and smaller. The curvy shape may look awkward in photos, but out of the box it is an intuitive grasp, and they feel better balanced than the Leica which is suddenly a bit of a lump! The Swarovski focuser causes no fumble, it is easier to locate and smoother to operate, and images snap in. Changing direction is effortless, in fact it’s so good I’ve since tested it against all my other binoculars. It is the best feeling focuser I’ve ever tried.
I spend some time finding my ocular position, two stops in, and getting used to the smaller exit pupil position. Ideally my sweet spot may be between one and two stops in. This Swarovski personal-fitting was a fussy endeavour, a far fussier process compared to the Leica which has firmer but fewer ocular clicks and a larger exit pupil (but don’t forget the Leica poor eye relief if you wear glasses).
Things that are worth learning take time.

And then using the Swarovski looking down the garden, I experience what I’d read about and was hoping for. Swarovski have actually manufactured a quality portable 12x with a pleasantly wide FOV and which (at least for me) is noticeably easy to hold. I can hold them steady enough in the standard grip. This is very different to the Leica.
I resolve to tackle the strap, having read the tales and watched the video. It takes about five minutes fiddling around fitting one side of the neck strap, and then literally five seconds to fit the other.
And I reckon the zip of the field bag is going to scrape the armour sooner or later.


Next day, cloudy weather brightening, I walk to my local park filled with anticipation. On arrival the lake has a flock of black headed gulls seemingly everywhere, on the water, perched in the surrounding forest trees, and flying around.

The Swarovski 12x FOV view is immediately wide, you really notice the significant difference to the Leica. Following swooping gulls so much easier with the Swarovski. And the white bodies are, well, NL Pure white. It is very like looking through an open porthole. The light is from behind so I swing round and examine the bare branches against clouds looking for CA, none discernible (there’s some at the edges of the Leica), I look for distortion, none discernible (there is some fall off to the edges of the Leica), I look at the view for colour fidelity, brightness/clarity and everything seems better with the Swarovski. (I had a thought that the view is a lovely neutral somewhere between the crystalline clarity of the 7x42 FL and the lush colours of the 7x42 UV+, just twice as close, and then started laughing at myself).
I relax, stop cosseting them, forget the price, and enjoy watching gulls.


“January brings the snow, makes your feet and fingers glow…” and a whole week passes before a sunny day.

Shortly after 3pm I positioned myself in a spot overlooking a school playing field, supporting my elbows on iron railings on the roadside path. The sun would be at about 20 degree altitude and my view is through a small area of leafless trees across a glistening field mostly covered by melting ice & snow, with the sun beyond.
The playing field is cut into the hillside and surrounded by trees on all sides, light reflecting from the icy snow. Light ‘bouncing about’ you would say, and straight in my eyes (should have worn my sunglasses).
I get an unobstructed view, being able to carefully look left, right or under the winter sun, while also able to move to stand in the shadow of a tree trunk. A good testing area?

The Swarovski showed negligible veiling glare, but significant yellow/orange peripheral flare at the lower portion of the view. With the small exit pupil in these 12x42, moving the eye will cut down the flare but causes increasing blackouts. Otherwise the view remained clear with notably low veiling glare.
The Leica showed far less flare on only the very lower portion of the view but still had some faint yellow. They did however have shockingly bad veiling glare. I was rather surprised at this white out, and spent some minutes swapping binoculars, trying to get rid of the Leica veiling glare to no avail.
A reality check, viewing at right angles away from snow and sun, showed everything returned to normal. No flare or veiling glare in either binocular.
In this quite severe (almost artificial) testing situation there is no doubt in my mind that the new Swarovski controls veiling glare far better than the older Leica, but the Swarovski does produce peripheral flare when low sunlight falls directly onto the objectives.
I wish I’d compared my other two UV at the same time (with thicker thermals and a valet to help).

A jay at 250m distance was a mere speck in the shade of the wood at the furthest edge of the playing field. I first noticed five wood pigeons pecking the grass nearby and actually only saw the nearby jay through the binoculars. I stood in the shade of an oak and used both binoculars to examine the bird.
The Swarovski showed more detail, both better shape and brightness for identification.
Unsurprisingly then, the new Swarovski provided a superior resolution to the older Leica.
And again, the wider Swarovski FOV was evident, and when unsupported by the railings, gave a steadier view compared to the Leica.


The NL Pure 12x has proved better in every way except one i.e. when low sunlight is directly on the objectives producing peripheral glare. It is the first Swarovski I’ve truly liked, so much so I may get an 8x.
 

dries1

Member
I found the 12X42 NL the least appealing of the three NLs myself. And would never replace my 12X50 UVHD or 12X50 SV glass. Now if I did not have those 12X50s perhaps I might take a closer look, however the smaller EP was a killer for me personally.

Andy W.
 

tenex

reality-based
I can hold them steady enough in the standard grip. This is very different to the Leica.
How do you find you have to hold the Leica? Is it just weight, or balance also?
The Swarovski showed more detail, both better shape and brightness for identification.
It hardly seems possible the 12x42 could be brighter than the 12x50, in terms of transmission. Perhaps it just seems so due to favoring blue light, as discussed here previously? Thanks for your observations.
 

CharleyBird

Well-known member
Andy, I understand, and birders will prefer 8x or 10x while astronomers will prefer a larger aperture.
I have a theory that binocular use is a bit like learning a piano piece. You get your Chopin sheet music and you learn all the dots methodically until repetition turns into muscle memory. You reach a point where you sit and touch the first note and everything follows without thought.
Same with my 10x32 UV. Small EP, but after lots of use I pick them up and don't notice the instrument much or what my fingers are doing, just see the bird.
 

CharleyBird

Well-known member
tenex, the big Leica I hold right forefinger on my forehead and focus with the next two fingers, the left hand fingers are spread underneath with thumb on my chin, and left elbow against my body. It helps steady any binocular, they all shake to some extent.

You are right, the 50mm must be brighter, but during daytime use I've felt the Swarowski appears to give a brighter view. Don't know why.
 

Conndomat

United States of Europe
Europe
You are right, the 50mm must be brighter, but during daytime use I've felt the Swarowski appears to give a brighter view. Don't know why.
Hello Charley, Tenex,

During the day the pupil is only 2-3mm. open!
If the NL has a little more transmission, it also looks brighter.
A clear blue contrast enhancement makes the EL and NL appear a little brighter during the day.
The Leica's larger aperture and eye pupil have no advantage during the day.

Andreas
 

tenex

reality-based
During the day the pupil is only 2-3mm. open!
If the NL has a little more transmission, it also looks brighter....
The Leica's larger aperture and eye pupil have no advantage during the day.
Charley was talking about standing in the shade, staring at "a speck in the shade of the wood" (in England, in February), so pupil dilation could depend on whether the FOV (at 12x) includes anything brighter, as I imagined it would not. But in any case, the NL has no transmission advantage over UVHD+ (91% vs 92% claimed). So any impression of greater brightness is down to that blue light thing... as I said.
 
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CharleyBird

Well-known member
Tenex, to clarify my amateurish observing, I was in the shade of a tree trunk, and the birds were all near the far right edge of the field in the shade of trees where the snow appeared thinner and patchy. They were pecking in patches of grass among what was still mainly snow in shade some yards from the field edge. The view was still an overall bright white image with, as best as I can recall, a darker segment of trees between (think clockface) 1 and 4. I can't remember if there was sun on the snow the left side of the image but probably yes, a little. The sun was moving left to right. What Andreas says sounds feasible.

Regards
Andy
 

SeldomPerched

Well-known member
CharleyBird, thank you for your review. I really enjoyed it, not having seen an Ultravid 12x50 or an NL Pure 12x42. Do you feel you could hold either without some bracing / resting against railings etc?

Tom
 

CharleyBird

Well-known member
Tom, thanks, you're welcome. For daytime viewing yes I can manage both, but the new swarovski design is very nicely balanced, weighted and shaped for holding in comparison.

We read that some folk can happily hold 15x56 for a while, yet others prefer no more than 8x for a steady view. It appears to be a tolerance thing as much as a physical ability.
For my ninth birthday my parents bought me the newly published Readers Digest 'Book of British Birds' and a pair of big 17x50 binocular (probably American or possibly Japanese) with the silver and black eyecups and focuser. I used them for at least 8 years, so in my innocence perhaps I 'learned' to cope with high magnification, poor field of view, and heavyweight binoculars.

The NL design has made me reconsider making an offer on a mint pair of 8x50UV+. And like you, I have a couple of easy-view 7x42, therefore the 8x42 NL is still under deliberation.

Andy
 

CharleyBird

Well-known member
Regarding glare of the 12x42NL, today is a warm sunny day, so have been in the garden after lunch messing about with them (it's not three weeks since they arrived).

Looking around as usual there's no discernible flare or glare.
There is a thin conifer, 10 ft wide and 40-45 feet high in the neighbours garden, and at this time of day the sun appears about 10 feet to the side at the same height. Using the top of the tree as a reference for safety, I can force the producion of some flare, but have found that just moving the binoculars very slightly (towards or away from my eyes) will reduce/stop it. Very unscientific, just learning to use the bins.
But frankly, this is not the way I would normally be viewing birds, planes or anything, looking up and near to a 1pm bright sun.
 

etc

Well-known member
12x42 makes no sense, one needs at least a 50mm objective for 12x.

I think 8 rhymes well with 42, 10 with 50mm and for 12x, I would want at least 56mm IMO.
Exit pupil size matters.
 

jan van daalen

Well-known member
12x42 makes no sense, one needs at least a 50mm objective for 12x.

I think 8 rhymes well with 42, 10 with 50mm and for 12x, I would want at least 56mm IMO.
Exit pupil size matters.
So we should get rid of all the 8 and 10x25, 8x30, 8x36 and 10x32 samples.........ouch, that's half the stock.
 

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