Gear review

Bird Watching (UK) - - Contents - LE­ICA NOCTIVID FROM £2,130 RE­VIEWED BY DAVID CHAN­DLER

The new kids on the Le­ica block un­dergo our rig­or­ous test­ing, but how do they fare?

THIS YEAR’S BIRD­FAIR saw the un­veil­ing of the Noc­tivids – billed as Le­ica’s best ever binoc­u­lar and new con­tenders at the top end of the market. The Ger­man-made Noctivid range is small and very well put together, just like the bird that in­spired it, the Lit­tle Owl, Athene noc­tua, which Le­ica de­scribe as “a sym­bol of wis­dom and per­fectly adapted to its en­vi­ron­ment”. That’s quite some­thing for the Noc­tivids (which come as an 8x42 and a 10x42) to live up to. Le­ica lent me a pre-pro­duc­tion 8x42 binoc­u­lar to check out.


Th­ese are open-bridge binoc­u­lars of a sim­ple, el­e­gant de­sign with no in­dents or ridges to tell you where to put your thumbs, which is fine by me! The Noctivid feels solid and has sub­stan­tial bar­rels to wrap your hands around – I liked that and could hold and fo­cus with one hand, al­beit with a lit­tle wob­ble. At 860g they are not light but the bal­ance is very good and I never found the weight an is­sue. And, of course, they’re wa­ter­proof. The fo­cus­ing wheel came to hand eas­ily enough, is one-and-half fingers wide and moved very smoothly against light re­sis­tance, clock­wise to­wards in­fin­ity. There are two rev­o­lu­tions of travel, and you do have to wind it in for very close fo­cus; but for stan­dard bird­ing you won’t move it more than about a quar­ter of a turn. The eye­cups have two in­ter­me­di­ate po­si­tions and do some­thing pe­cu­liar at around full ex­ten­sion – it’s hard to ex­plain, but once I had them fully up they stayed there. And with 19mm of ey­e­re­lief, th­ese should work for glasses wear­ers. Diop­tre ad­just­ment takes the tra­di­tional Le­ica ap­proach – pull up the fo­cus wheel, ad­just, push down to lock.


The view is easy on the eyes, nat­u­ral, com­fort­able and re­laxed, with ex­cel­lent fo­cus­ing pre­ci­sion. The Noctivid can de­liver a great view – clean and crys­tal clear, a view you can ex­plore, let­ting your eyes wan­der around a lit­tle. It’s a binoc­u­lar that you can en­joy birds with. Le­ica talk about “im­age plas­tic­ity al­most like in 3D” and “un­com­pro­mis­ingly large depth of field”. I don’t know how they’ve done it but think I can see what they’re on about – a view that isn’t flat­tened onto one plane. Sharp­ness is ex­cel­lent across the field of view with just a very small amount of fall-off at the edges. Plenty of light comes through. I tested them post-sun­set in late Oc­to­ber un­der a more or less clear sky. The Le­ica glass dragged colour out of the shad­ows 10 min­utes after sun­set. About 20 min­utes later it strug­gled to pull colours from close shad­ows, but man­aged it fur­ther away, where more light hit the sub­ject – im­pres­sive. Colour fring­ing seems very well man­aged. I did see some fring­ing on a wooden gate – but shifted my eye po­si­tion and the gate re­turned to nor­mal! The “com­plex and in­no­va­tive baf­fle sys­tems” do their job won­der­fully – cop­ing ex­cel­lently against the light. Re­flec­tions were no­table by their ab­sence. I did see the oc­ca­sional flare spot on the eye­pieces, but th­ese dis­ap­peared when I shielded the eye­cup with my hand. Field of view is good but not ex­cel­lent. I mea­sured the close-fo­cus as 1.86m, close to the quoted fig­ure, again, good, but I’d like it a bit closer.


Yes, I’d like it a bit lighter, a bit closer­fo­cus­ing and a bit wider. But in prac­tice, for me, none of that is par­tic­u­larly sig­nif­i­cant. This is a very fine binoc­u­lar. Le­ica’s best ever? I wouldn’t ar­gue.

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