Adventures with a “Go Anywhere” Binocular Part II.

The Leica Ultravid 8 x 20 at home in the great outdoors.

Continued from Part 1 

A Work Commenced January 11 2022

 

Writing for Birdwatching Magazine

Now that the darkest days of Winter are behind us, I delight once again in the lengthening of daylight, as the Sun begins its advance northwards. Even at the end of the first week in January, I perceive a stretch in the evenings more so than in the morning. Throughout the winter, I’ve continued to use the 8 x 20 Leica pocket glass, more or less routinely, during the best of the daylight hours, which invariably occurs between about 11 am and 2pm. I have spent much of this time searching out and observing birds popping up at one or more of my local patches. I’ve recently added a most excellent 10 x 32 GPO Passion ED binocular to my birding binocular arsenal, as it provides greater magnification and brighter, richer colours than the smaller Leica pocket glass when I need it, particularly in dull, lower light conditions. That said, I’ve proven to myself that a high quality 8 x 20 can be used as a stand-alone, all-rounder binocular, serving many useful purposes during daylight hours.

Adventures of a Birding Tyro.

On the morning of January 11, I received the latest (February 2022) issue of the UK’s best-selling birding magazine, Birdwatching, where my debut article has now been published on pages 22-24. Entitled A Fresh Start, it recounts my first year as a birding tyro, where I describe how many of the skills I cultivated as an amateur astronomer can be effectively applied to the hobby of bird watching. Most of the inspiration for this article was gleaned using my Leica Ultravid 8 x 20.

Needless to say I’m chuffed to bits! My next feature article appears later this Spring. Incidentally, in the same issue, editor Matt Merritt, reviewed the newest pocket binocular from Swarovski, the CL Curio 7 x 21. He seems to have concluded the same as I have regarding the suitability of a small binocular like this as a general purpose birding optic:

“The view is very sharp,” Merritt writes, “right to the edges, with good natural colour and impressive brightness considering that the objective lenses are only 21mm. In most birding situations, they did a great job…”

pp 95

I wholeheartedly agree. That said, 7x interests me less than 8x or 10x, but your mileage may vary!

Weathering Well

After nearly a year of frequent use, the little Leica Ultravid is still going from strength to strength. It’s been out in all weathers, including some very wintery days, with snow, ice, hail and driving winds. It’s been caught in very heavy downpours, so much so that the chassis has gotten soaked. But I’m not complacent enough to leave it wet for very long. I know for a fact that the instrument can develop slow leaks if the water is not quickly removed from the rubber armouring. To avoid any such calamities, I use a small cotton cloth to quickly dry off the chassis the minute I get back in from the great outdoors so that water seepage is minimised. The Leica patented AquaDura coatings applied to the exterior lenses are very impressive. Condensation quickly disperses, with water droplets pooling together before rolling off the optical surfaces, and without leaving water spots. I have to agree that these coatings help keep the outer lenses remain dust and moisture free and drastically cuts down the frequency with which the lenses need to be actively cleaned.

Cormorant Watching

Culcreuch Pond, February 8 2022.

Towards the end of January 2022, a visit to Culcreuch Pond showed up yet another Cormorant. I’ve logged a few more over the last few years. It’s usually during Winter or early Spring, when they come. But during the first week of February, more observations carried out with either my 8 x 20 or 10 x 32 showed up more than one Cormorant. Indeed, I was stunned to see four birds perched on the same fallen tree at the far end of the pond.  Three look like juveniles, based on their white bellies and pale plumage. On the very unsettled afternoon of February 8, I inched my way around the pond to a spot some 40 yards away from the fallen tree. Holding my 10 x 32 still beside a tree, I focused in on one of the Cormorants, taking this handheld shot with my iPhone 7 held up to the eyepiece:

 

A Cormorant at Culcreuch Pond. Handheld shot through my 10 x 32.

On the afternoon of February 10, I once again ventured to the pond with my 8 x 20 and went to the same spot where I took the shot above. This time, three birds were perched on the fallen tree, and two took to flight as soon as I got within 50 yards of them. The aerial display I was treated to was absolutely awe-inspiring. These large aquatic birds take quite a bit of time to gain altitude. One of them circled the pond several times, spiralling gradually upwards. The other shot off across the surface of the pond flying much like a Swan before breaking the water. The little 8 x 20 threw up sublime views of these amazing birds. I particularly enjoyed following the ascent of the first Cormorant  for a few minutes as it circled the sky above the pond, the little binocular delivering beautiful details of its wings and outstretched neck in the brilliant February sunshine. The Leica Ultravid is a phenomenal performer, never ceasing to amaze me with its superb sharpness and wonderful contrast, from edge to edge. It has proven its worth several times over as a fine birding binocular that can be used all year round.

Optical perfection.

To top the day off, the editor of Birdwatching Magazine informed me this evening that my third article on Jay watching, will be published later this year. Way to go!

The View from the Conic

The Conic, Stirlingshire, overlooking Loch Lomond, March 6 2022.

After an abysmal February, which brought several storms to our shores, the first week of March turned out clear blue skies by day and frosts by night, with temperatures plunging to -6C. We made the most of the fine seeing conditions with long walks in the sunshine and a climb of Conic Hill, Balmaha. Taking about 45 minutes in all, the first stages were quite steep and difficult to climb, but as we neared the summit, the terrain become easier to negotiate. Towering about 1200 feet above the eastern shore of Loch Lomond, it rewarded us with stunning views of one of Scotland’s most picturesque fresh water reservoirs, which made for excellent glassing opportunities of the landscape. Indeed, the conditions were so good that Sunday afternoon that it was possible to just make out Ailsa Craig in the Clyde Estuary, some 50 miles to the southwest! The small size and feather light weight of the Leica 8 x 20 proved to be the ideal optical companion on the journey. It’s large and smoothly operating focus wheel made it easy to use even with gloves on. And while there were moments where I genuinely missed the power of my 10x glass, its greater weight (520g as opposed to 240g for the 8 x 20) meant that it would not be ideal for carrying during our ascent.

Small, high-quality instruments, such as the Leica Ultravid 8 x 20, are a popular choice among hillwalkers and photographers alike. Indeed, Birdwatching Magazine photographer, Tom Bailey, considers instruments heavier than about 350g prohibitive to transport during his many climbing adventures in the Scottish Highlands.  Another reason to consider a top quality pocket binocular while climbing is their excellent performance in low temperature environments, when the grease and oils used to lubricate lower quality instruments renders focusing much more of a chore to execute properly. What’s more, climbing during winter and early spring makes one far more likely to encounter situations where the ocular lenses fog up, accidently or otherwise. The considerable amount of engineering built into each Ultravid binocular means that you will rarely hit a snag, what with its hydrophobic coatings on the exterior lenses, as well as operating flawlessly down to temperatures as low as -25C(data not tested).

Built to Last

After a year of regular use, I’m constantly impressed by the wonderful images the 8 x 20 serves up. It is certainly true that Leica pay exceptional effort to supressing internal reflections and stray light. Have a look at the entrance pupils on the instrument. They are perfectly round and there is absolutely no light leaks anywhere near them.

Left ocular.

Right Ocular.

Indeed, millimetre for millimetre, this is the finest optical instrument I have personally had the pleasure of using, with wonderful contrast, great edge-to-edge sharpness and exceptional focus depth. Indeed, I still consider it the standard by which I judge every other binocular I’ve tested. The only issue the Leica Ultravid has pertains to its control of veiling glare(pronounced as “vale ing”). But that’s due to the very narrowly recessed objectives on the instrument: an acceptable compromise in my opinion, necessary to keep it small and ultraportable. And besides, any occasional veiling glare it shows up can be eliminated, simply by shading the objectives with one’s hand.

Serendipity

 

 

 

To be continued……………………

 

 

 

De Fideli.

4 thoughts on “Adventures with a “Go Anywhere” Binocular Part II.

  1. Thank you very much for Your review, very interesting.. The Ultravid 8×20 … Wow, that marvelous instrument!!

  2. Hi Paul,

    Thanks for your message.

    Yes indeed, my little Leica is going from strength to strength!

    With best wishes,

    Neil.

  3. Fantástic notes!!
    My Friend have the Leica Trinovid 8×20, a marvelous cute binocular..
    How is the Trinovid 10×25 model in comparision?
    Best regards,
    Paul

    • Hi Paul,

      Thanks for the feedback.

      To be honest I would be happy with any of the Leica pocket binoculars. I have owned and used them all.
      The 10x 25 BCA is a very nice piece of kit. It’s only weakness is its close focus, which is several metres as opposed to 2m or less with the 8 x 20s . But if you can live with that it sure is a great little pocket binocular. I loved mine.

      With best wishes,

      Neil.

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