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Trinovid BAs still a 'sweet spot' among Leica binoculars? (1 Viewer)

Mike F

Well-known member
Hello,

Before the pandemic, my binocular of choice was a 2006 8x32 Zeiss FL, which had replaced my 8x32BN. The Zeiss had better eye relief and was in a smaller, more ergonomic package. I had forgotten that I have an 8x50BA. Today, as I was only going to the garden, I took it with me. It is a handful but the views were quite nice. As the focussing was tweaked between the BA and the BN, I am the beneficiary in that I can now focus to infinity without my specs. It may not be the ideal glass for hunters or stargazers, but many could use it without a tripod for those purposes.

Stay safe,
Arthur
I wish I would suddenly remember that I owned a binocular as nice as a Leica 8x50BA! Ha! :)
 

LarryO

Member
United States
Lens-coating colors of Leica binoculars, as well as of other brands and optics, have been discussed at some length in several birdforum threads as well as elsewhere. Some examples are the following, in chronological order, oldest first:

Coatings questions
<https://www.birdforum.net/threads/coatings-questions.116599/>

Leica Trinovid 10x32BN lense coatings
<https://www.birdforum.net/threads/leica-trinovid-10x32bn-lense-coatings.144632/>

Evolution Of Trinovid Coatings
<https://www.birdforum.net/threads/evolution-of-trinovid-coatings.68039/>

UVHD+ coating change between 2015 and 2019?
<https://www.birdforum.net/threads/uvhd-coating-change-between-2015-and-2019.402206/>

Re: coating color on new, very-high-end refractor, with interesting comments by a coatings engineer:
Refractor lens multicoatings. What determines colour?
<https://www.cloudynights.com/topic/704545-refractor-lens-multicoatings-what-determines-colour/>

A consensus seems to be that little about the quality of coatings can be determined by their color, that being somewhat at the whims of marketing groups. Nonetheless, there seem to be periods of 'style' in reflected coating colors, so they might provide some clues to vintages and, by extension, contribute to the question of whether coatings might have changed in significant (but relatively inexpensive) ways during the run of the Trinovid BA design. For that reason, I offer the following observations, based on personal inspection of the models listed:

Trinovid binoculars:
-- Trinovid BCA 8x20 SN 1,287,xxx (very early, model with uniform 'ribbing' on armor, like that of larger Trinovid BAs, changed in later BCAs): blue
-- Trinovid BA 8x32 SN 1,082,xxx (mid or late in series?): yellow-green
-- Trinovid BA 8x42 SN 1,115,xxx (mid or late in series?): yellow-green

High-end telescopes:
-- Astro-Physics 130 Starfire EDT/EDF f8.35 (around 1998-1999): blue
-- Astro-Physics 92 Stowaway f6.65 (very recent, around 2018-2020): green
-- AstroTech 92 f5.5 (late 2017-present): green

This small sample of my own observations is consistent with some more general reports supporting the inference that older optical-coating colors, in general, tended toward blue, while more recent ones are yellow-green. This would also be consistent with the idea that the Trinovid BA models did, at some point, acquire newer coatings, or, at least, newer-style coating color, part of the idea that they benefitted from some easy improvements along the way (lens coatings?), while retaining advantages of older designs (leaded glass?)..

Larry
 

brocknroller

A professed porromaniac
United States
Trinovid BA (or BN) was my first optic and I didn't realize how good it was until I compared it to other devices. Nothing can beat it resolution-wise, it resolves so fine and has an awesome picture quality. I upgraded to a Swaro EL primarily because EL has a greater diopter correction at infinity than Trinovid and because it's a bit brighter. But the Trinovid remains competetive well into the 21 century. It's very well made. There is nothing wrong at all with it whatsoever.

I think out of the big 3, it's the best made optic. The armor is the most durable out of alpha brands. On the ISS, in orbit they have a Trinovid BA floating around. Because they needed the best they could get.
Update: The Trinnie is no longer floating around on the ISS. NASA had to secure it to the hull with Velcro after astronaut (and space toilet engineer) Howard Wolowitz smashed into it with his head after drinking some Russian Vodka given to him by one of the cosmonauts onboard. :)

I feel about my 24-year-old Swift 804 FMC Audubon porros the way others do about their old Trinnie roofs--it's robustly built, nothing can beat it resolution-wise, and it has an awesome picture quality. However, looking at it more critically through contemporary eyes, what it lacks compared to my modern porro (100th Anniversary Edition Nikon 8x30 E2) and Nikon 8x42 EDG roof is superfine contrast and enhanced color rendition, which is due to their more advanced AR coatings.

While our old stalwart binoculars still satisfy after many years, they could benefit from the latest AR coatings. Too bad the coatings can't be upgraded, because I prefer the 804 Audubon to the 820 model that replaced it.
 

eitanaltman

Well-known member
I'm going to take a contrary stance, now that I have an 8x32 BA in my possession.

For the record, I also have these binoculars in house at the moment: an Ultravid 8x32 HD, an Ultravid 7x42 HD, a Nikon EDG 8x42, and an Opticron Traveler 8x32 ED. So pretty stiff, much more modern competition.

My hot take: the BA is not a sweet spot, it's just an older, crapper, heavier Ultravid. Unless you're a Leica fan who wants to own one for personal reasons (nostalgia, mystique, etc), a "normal" birder looking to plop down $600-700 for a premium 8x32 would be much happier spending that money on a more modern 8x32 like the Zeiss Conquest HD or Meopta Meostar, both of which are IMO far superior and sell for the same (or less!) than the BA/BN do on the used market.

Examining the 8x32 BA vs the 8x32 UVHD, it's apparent these are essentially the same binocular. The interior design and construction appears practically identical, the ocular is the exact same size, the FOV and distortion profile is basically the same. The "character" or "personality" of the view is the same, they both appear close enough to equal in terms of sweet spot size, aberration control, sharpness, curvature, even the CA you have to look hard to see that the UVHD is a bit better. Which makes sense, because the consensus is that the Ultravid is just an evolution of the Trinovid BA/BN -- same basic optical formula with gradual improvements in glass and coatings over time, wrapped in a lighter, slimmer, more modern skin.

But several decades of advancement in glass quality, coatings, engineering, materials.... it adds up. Time moved on, and the Trinovid is now a dated design. The UV does nothing worse, and in several key respects it's markedly superior. The UV is lighter and sleeker, brighter and clearer, with no downside (other than cost). Simply a much better, more modern, more refined version of the same thing.

I also believe most of the BA/BN reputation for "ruggedness" vs the Ultravid is bias based on the increased size/weight. Under the skin it's mostly the same thing. Either one is likely to outlive you, and both are built to extremely high standards.

And the reduction in weight and chunk is not minor. My 7x42 UVHD is only an inch longer, and ~100g heavier, than the 8x32 BA. And it feels slimmer in the hand because of the smooth, tapered shape. And it absolutely obliterates the 8x32 BA optically in all respects.

Even taking out the magnification / exit pupil variable, comparing the 8x32 BA to the 8x32 UVHD, when I switch to the UVHD it's like I took a pair of sunglasses off. The UVHD is MUCH brighter, MUCH more neutral, both of which result in MUCH better vividness, clarity, sparkle, pop, you name it. And it's ~100g lighter (i.e. a more meaningful >200g reduction vs the 7x42). And (for me at least) I much prefer the texture and feel of the Ultravid in the hand.

Perhaps the gap would be closer with a later model BN vs a BA, perhaps I'm just very biased towards superior color neutrality and brightness, but I was quite surprised at how much better the UVHD view was.

Now of course that's the case! you say... the Ultravid is newer and costs a lot more. But the BA/BN still sell for $600-800 used. I've seen Ultravid BR go in that price range. With a bit of patience a UVHD can be had in the $1000-1200 range (sometimes less). And, as I noted up top, if $$ is the motivating factor, a used Meostar or Conquest HD will be superior and probably cost you less money. Based on memory, I bet even the MiJ Vortex Viper 8x32 HD is superior overall, and (if you can find one) it would probably be 1/2 the price on the used market.

I totally understand why someone may enjoy for subjective, personal reasons -- for example ergonomic preferences, or nostalgia, aesthetics, or fuzzy warm feelings from using something "old school". Maybe you actually prefer a darker, less neutral image. That's fine, I've certainly bought things for far worse reasons. But other than your own personal fandom, I don't see any reason to seek one out anymore. Why would I want a heavier, crappier, older version of what I already have?

TL;DR + Summary:
  • The Trinovid BA/BN is still competitive with premium binoculars in terms of resolution, contrast, etc., but in most respects it's a dated design and well behind more modern options that sell for the same or less on the used market (like Meopta Meostar or Zeiss Conquest HD).
  • If there's a "sweet spot" there it's arguably a late model BN, not a BA, which will provide more modern coatings and therefore be brighter, with better color, and more durable (HDC advance).
  • The Ultravid is a better, brighter, lighter, more refined version of the Trinovid BA/BN, and an Ultravid BR is not much more $$ on the used market. So if you're looking for a used Leica for birding (not as a collector's item), unless you just love the feel of that thick, ribbed, harder plasticky exterior, target an Ultravid instead.
  • IMO - the true "sweet spot" for used is actually the ULTRAVID HD (not Plus). They are only marginally worse than the HD+ and sell for a lot less than HD+ on the used market, but aren't much more than the BR used. And, for the extra ~$200 you spend used vs a BR you get (1) the AquaDura coatings, (2) a bit more brightness and color neutrality, and, reportedly, (3) additional refinements in the focus mechanism to make it smoother and more reliable.
 

LarryO

Member
United States
Re: eitanaltman's "contrary stance" comparing Trinovid BAs and Ultravids

An extensive discussion of coatings and color transmission for Leica Trinovids and Ultravids is in the following birdforum.net thread, also mentioned previously:

Coatings questions
<https://www.birdforum.net/threads/coatings-questions.116599/>

It includes personal evaluations from some experienced observers and, importantly, bandpass tables for Trinovid BA 8x32's and Ultravids, plus spectral transmission plots for Trinovid BN 10x42's and Ultravid (non HD) 10x42's.

The discussion, viewing comments, and data offers some background on how "crappy" the view through Trinovid BAs might or might not be compared to that through Ultravids.

Larry
 

brocknroller

A professed porromaniac
United States
To be fair, I said “crappier”, not “crappy” ;)

.... a worse Ultravid is still a very good binocular.
Actually, you said "older, crapper, heavier Ultravid," as in it's in the crapper. :)

I haven't tried the 8x32 BA, so I can't comment on it, but as I wrote above about my older porros, advancements in AR coatings make a big difference in the perceived "sharpness" of the image (not to be confused with resolution even though the terms are often used interchangeable on these forums).

And as you pointed out, there's also been advances in glass although Nikon's "Eco-Glass" was initially a step backyard, because Nikon and perhaps other optical glass manufacturers at the time had not yet found suitable substitutes for the lost lead and arsenic in lead glass, which increased chromatic aberration, and hence the rise of ED/HD models.

Lead free glass has improved markedly. My Cabela's 8x32 Guide, which sold for $200, and has lead free glass but no ED or FL elements and dieletric coatings on the prisms, shows no more CA on axis than my Nikon 8x42 EDG with ED glass and dielectric prism coatings, and it sold for $2,000. They both also have excellent flat transmission AR coatings that enhance contrast and color rendition.

Although I have serious doubts about the efficacy of "trickle down economics," when it comes to advances in sports optics technology, they have trickled down to less expensive roofs, which can deliver as good or in many cases better images than older, much more expensive roofs.

There are several 8x32 BAs for sale on the bay, priced from to a "new" one for auction for $1275 with a starting bid of $975 to a well-used pair for $549 with some small scratches on the EPs.

And just as it does here, there are different opinions on how they are.

The high priced seller has this to say about his "new" pair:

A new pair of Leica Trivovid 8X32. These are the brightest binoculars of their size I have ever looked through, making the Swarovski 8x30 look muddy and the Zeiss 8x30 look a little dull. These are not v heavy because of their size but are built like a tank.

The low priced seller has this to say about his well-used pair:

I'm sure I don't need to sell anyone on the cult appeal of these original Trinovid BA/BN series models. I also have a pair of Ultravid 8x32 HD and the BA has the exact same view, just not as clear and bright (because of advances in glass and coatings). But in terms of sharpness, size of sweet spot (almost edge to edge), and outstanding aberration control they are equal.
 

tenex

reality-based
Why would I want a heavier, crappier, older version of what I already have?
A strange and irrelevant question for most people, who wouldn't already have UVs. There's a sort of FOMOC[*] this forum can inspire, which I've felt for example upon hearing so much praise for 7x42 FL. (Fortunately I never tried to find one; I'm sure I would have been underwhelmed.)

Why didn't you try a later model? It's really all about coatings, so for practical use (rather than collecting) you don't want to go back to the earliest BAs. We have an early 10x32 BN (2001) that I just compared again with our HD+, and the differences really are quite subtle: essentially the same view (overall color, sharpness etc), the UV a bit brighter and with somewhat better color discrimination and microcontrast if you look for it in A-B comparisons. ("Darker, less neutral"? Not.) By view alone without feel I'd be unable to tell which I was looking through, and these have been my regular bins for 20 years. Even the BN focuser has held up well; it's not as silky as UV but still has no play or unevenness. You can call the 42mm a brick but the 32 always felt good (indeed more stable) in my hand. The HD+ is great but simply as a replacement (which this wasn't) it would be very hard to justify the upgrade from a BN.

We went on a lovely group bird walk last evening, our first in a year, and three of seven people had Trinovids. (I had SLC 15x56 as we were viewing across a lake, and couldn't identify several old/nondescript models without prying.)

[* - fear of missing out on a classic]
 
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dries1

Member
I have a few Leica BA/BNs and there is a difference between the two. I find that the BAs have a bit of a green hue compared to the BNs. Also the resolution between the two is the same - this I determined between two samples of BA/BNs 8X42s I have, so subjective to these two. The 10X50 BA is still the bomb, albeit over 20 years old. However The weight for many though is too much. The 8X32 BN I have is a very nice 8X32 and on a bright day, provides great views in a small tight glass.
 

brocknroller

A professed porromaniac
United States
A strange and irrelevant question for most people, who wouldn't already have UVs. There's a sort of FOMOC[*] this forum can inspire, which I've felt for example upon hearing so much praise for 7x42 FL. (Fortunately I never tried to find one; I'm sure I would have been underwhelmed.)

Why didn't you try a later model? It's really all about coatings, so for practical use (rather than collecting) you don't want to go back to the earliest BAs. We have a late-ish 10x32 BN that I just compared again with our HD+, and the differences really are quite subtle: essentially the same view (overall color, sharpness etc), the UV a bit brighter and with somewhat better color discrimination and microcontrast if you look for it in A-B comparisons. ("Darker, less neutral"? Not.) By view alone without feel I'd be unable to tell which I was looking through, and these have been my regular bins for 20 years. Even the BN focuser has held up well; it's not as silky as UV but still has no play or unevenness. You can call the 42mm a brick but the 32 always felt good (indeed more stable) in my hand. The HD+ is great but simply as a replacement (which this wasn't) it would be very hard to justify the upgrade from a BN.

We went on a lovely group bird walk last evening, our first in a year, and three of seven people had Trinovids. (I had SLC 15x56 as we were viewing across a lake, and couldn't identify several old/nondescript models without prying.)

[* - fear of missing out on a classic]
I'm guessing that Leica knows about the cult appeal of the early Trinnies and designed the Retrovids to bridge the gap between FOMOC and LOLAGO* with its Retrovids, which pair a classic design with the latest and greatest glass and coatings, so they can make new sales on an old design instead of losing sales to owners of old Trinnies on eBay. :)

[* - lust of (the) latest and greatest optics]
 

eitanaltman

Well-known member
Actually, you said "older, crapper, heavier Ultravid," as in it's in the crapper. :)

Oh crap!

Inopportune typo, at least I got it right the second time :p

I haven't tried the 8x32 BA, so I can't comment on it, but as I wrote above about my older porros, advancements in AR coatings make a big difference in the perceived "sharpness" of the image (not to be confused with resolution even though the terms are often used interchangeable on these forums).

Exactly, it surprised me how much better the newer UVHD was. Assuming mine was an early-ish BA (a bit of greenish/yellowish color cast), there's probably 4 "generations" of coatings upgrade, with early BN (and probably late BA), late BN, Ultravid BR, and then Ultravid HD. Each one may be small, such that someone comparing a late BN to an early BR probably says "what's the big deal"?, but lot of small incremental refinements add up!

Although I have serious doubts about the efficacy of "trickle down economics," when it comes to advances in sports optics technology, they have trickled down to less expensive roofs, which can deliver as good or in many cases better images than older, much more expensive roofs.

The aspects that have really trickled down, based on what I've seen, are (1) bright, flat spectrum dielectric coatings, and (2) big oculars providing wide FOV + long eye relief.

The Opticron Traveler ED 8x32 in my possession totally smokes the old Leica 8x32 BA when it comes to brightness and color neutrality. The gap between these two is larger than the gap between any two other of the modern binoculars. And they have a huge FOV with solid eye relief.

Virtually any $400-500+ modern room prism is going to have excellent transmission with close-to-neutral color, the variation is just much smaller than it used to be. People often talk about how the best binoculars these days may have a slight "lean", but they have all converged so close to neutral, with high transmission, that it's hard to notice without direct A/B comparison. Not so with the old BA's, it's from an era where I can tell immediately without comparing that they are duller than modern roofs and visibly non neutral.

What has not trickled down though is the engineering quality / optical refinement, especially the outstanding aberration correction. Cheap binoculars cause some mild fatigue / eye strain with extended use, whereas very highly corrected optics like a Leica or Swaro don't. The Trinovid BA still has the "feel" of the Ultravid HD, as I noted above, which is why it's still competitive with alphas in that respect. But the coatings/glass has come so far.
 

etc

Well-known member
The selling point for me is how compact the whole Trinovid / Ultravid line is. The design is more compact than Zeiss SF or Swaro EL.

I don't mind the weight. I want my binoculars to be a heavy, quality made instrument. I don't want them to feel like a cheap device from Walmart.

Every time I pick up a Leica, it generates a "wow" feeling. Even older Trinovids and the newer incarnations can only get better. If I wasn't blind as bat, I would chose Leica over Zeiss or Swaro, I think. Problem is, the latter two have a lot more diopter correction at infinity than Leica. And I don't want to get a custom made Leica device when I get a working unit out of the box.
 

brocknroller

A professed porromaniac
United States
The selling point for me is how compact the whole Trinovid / Ultravid line is. The design is more compact than Zeiss SF or Swaro EL.

I don't mind the weight. I want my binoculars to be a heavy, quality made instrument. I don't want them to feel like a cheap device from Walmart.

Every time I pick up a Leica, it generates a "wow" feeling. Even older Trinovids and the newer incarnations can only get better. If I wasn't blind as bat, I would chose Leica over Zeiss or Swaro, I think. Problem is, the latter two have a lot more diopter correction at infinity than Leica. And I don't want to get a custom made Leica device when I get a working unit out of the box.
etc,

You aren't the first person to experience this issue or to chose another brand because of it. Why Leica has never updated its EPs to increase the eye relief is puzzling. I think the ER on the 8x32 model has been the same (13.3 mm) since the 8x32 Trinnie BA yet the price goes up every time Leica makes an incremental improvement, which is now over $2k. The 8x30 E2 has about the same ER, but fortunately, I don't wear eyeglasses, so it works for me.

Et al.
 

etc

Well-known member
etc,

You aren't the first person to experience this issue or to chose another brand because of it. Why Leica has never updated its EPs to increase the eye relief is puzzling. I think the ER on the 8x32 model has been the same (13.3 mm) since the 8x32 Trinnie BA yet the price goes up every time Leica makes an incremental improvement, which is now over $2k. The 8x30 E2 has about the same ER, but fortunately, I don't wear eyeglasses, so it works for me.

Et al.

I am not talking about ER, I thought it was just fine and I actually loved the Trinovid on-off type extended eye cup, with no intermediate modes. It was either fully extended or fully collapsed. And the fully extended position fit me perfectly without eyewear and the fully collapsed was adequate with eyeglasses.

The problem is the focus wheel does not move far enough if you are myopic, seriously so. You know how if you have some "minus", like -2.5 Diopters in your eye, one or both, you can adjust the focus to make up for that? Just keep turning it to the right all the way.
Binoculars can do that. They can't of course compensate for astigmatism. Leica has much less overdrive past infinity than Swaro or Zeiss or Nikon. It's downright substandard. It is OK for you if are less than -4 Diopters but at all OK if you are more than 4 diopters.
 

LarryO

Member
United States
...
The problem is the focus wheel does not move far enough if you are myopic, seriously so. You know how if you have some "minus", like -2.5 Diopters in your eye, one or both, you can adjust the focus to make up for that? Just keep turning it to the right all the way.
Binoculars can do that. They can't of course compensate for astigmatism. Leica has much less overdrive past infinity than Swaro or Zeiss or Nikon. It's downright substandard. It is OK for you if are less than -4 Diopters but at all OK if you are more than 4 diopters.

This was one of the advantages of the BA models mentioned in my original post:

"-- focus range extending beyond infinity, of some help in particular to myopic users: There was a general change of focus range between BA and BN models. The BNs had a well-advertised closer near focus point, highlighted by the 'N' (for 'near') in their designation. A loss of most or all of the focus range beyond infinity, characteristic of BAs, went largely unadvertised."

Larry
 

Patudo

Well-known member
This was one of the advantages of the BA models mentioned in my original post:

"-- focus range extending beyond infinity, of some help in particular to myopic users: There was a general change of focus range between BA and BN models. The BNs had a well-advertised closer near focus point, highlighted by the 'N' (for 'near') in their designation. A loss of most or all of the focus range beyond infinity, characteristic of BAs, went largely unadvertised."

Larry

But with these models being designed for glasses/spectacles-wearers (denoted by the "B"), there was every reason to suppose that the majority - indeed, it would not be unreasonable to suppose the great majority - of myopic users would use them with their glasses, and therefore that significant focus beyond infinity would not be needed...
 

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