We ran a quick field test on the new Leica Noctivid 8x42 mm binoculars and were impressed by the notable ergonomic qualities and optical performance.
Before going into greater detail though, let’s take a quick look at the instrument itself.
For Leica, the Noctivid is a completely new pair of binoculars, not only as it’s a new project and design introducing new ergonomic elements such as the open-bridge configuration, but also as it represents a notable change in terms of internal optical layout, the result of over two years of work, with twelve optical elements (including the prisms) in seven groups.
A cutaway view reveals some interesting design details, such as an additional apparently biconcave field flattener element between the prism and the eyepiece, which should guarantee edge-to-edge sharpness.
While the system uses classic Schmidt-Pechan roof prisms, every surface is coated with a P40 phase correction coating and the HighLux-HLS propriety system, and the roof prisms themselves are made of Schott HT (High Transmission) glass, which increases the light transmission value of the optics.
Leica has also used a new high-temperature plasma technology to apply the coatings to the lens surfaces, and further improved its diaphragm system to drastically reduce stray light in the optical tubes of the instrument. The frame of the Noctivid binoculars is made entirely of magnesium, with a high-grip outer rubber coating, while the few visible metal parts are protected by an extremely hard-wearing patented surface treatment.
The instrument is watertight to a depth of 5 meters and filled with nitrogen. The single rubber-coated wheel on the hinge of the central bridge is used to adjust both focus and diopter adjustment. In the position in which it is kept during normal use, the wheel can be used to adjust the focus from 1.9 m to infinity, while by pulling it out you can adjust the eyepiece correction by ± 4 diopters.
Video: Leica binoculars test
The eyepiece hoods deploy by turning them anticlockwise and engage with an audible click. The binoculars offer 19 mm eye relief, with a 5.2 mm exit pupil (on the 8x42).
The outer surfaces of the lenses are treated with the HDC scratch-proof coating and the AquaDura water-repellent and oleophobic treatment.
The Noctivid is surprisingly heavy; at 860 grams it’s not exactly a lightweight, but the weight is justified by the technological content and the quality of the materials. The Noctivid is the first pair of Leica binoculars with an open-bridge design: the ergonomics are very good, and you can easily hold and focus the binoculars with one hand, whether it be your right or left. However, the strap attachment lug is perfectly in line with the focusing wheel, and the web of the hand holding the binoculars will fall exactly where the lug is located, when your index finger reaches for the focusing wheel.
Focusing is smooth, precise and perfectly braked, and you can adjust the focus with just one finger. The focusing wheel features an admittedly long two whole turns travel, but most of this range is to focus on close by subjects, from around 12 meters down to 190 centimeters, while just half a turn is enough to adjust the focus quickly and precisely over the rest of the range up to infinity.
Operation of the bridge to adjust the interpupillary distance is dampened in such a way that it is soft and accurate to find just the right adjustment but hard enough to prevent accidental movement afterwards. The brightness of the image produced by the Leica Noctivid 8x42 is surprising, along with the exceptional depth of field and its capacity to make the subjects observed stand out from the background, like in a perfectly focused photograph taken at a wide aperture.
The binoculars produce an extraordinary 3D effect even when observing subjects that are quite far away, despite the fact that the lenses are quite close to each other, producing a sharp, high-contrast image. The color rendering is absolutely neutral, with true-to-life colors. We noticed a slight drop-off in definition towards the edges and minimal purple fringing in the outer quarter of the field of view. Although not record-breaking (135 m at 1,000 m), the field of view is impressive to say the least.
We’ll review the Leica Noctivid in greater detail in a test coming soon on this very website. So continue to come back for more!
With a name like ‘Noctivid’, it would be easy to consider these binoculars an instrument intended for night use (and the performance of the Noctivid in poor light is excellent), also considering the existence of the incredible Leica Noctilux f/0.95 cine lens, but in this case Leica named these binoculars after the little owl (Athene noctua).