Leica Ultravid 10 x 42 Binoculars Review
By: Mike Schoby
Comfortable to use, optically perfect and built rugged enough to stand up to a lifetime of use. What more could anyone ask for?
Serious big-game hunters, especially those in the western states, realize how important good optics are - they often mean the difference between going home with a buck or bull or just going home. Where time behind glass is measured in hours not minutes, and the last moment of light is critical, there is no substitute for fine optics. If you are an aficionado of high-quality optics like I am, you will absolutely love the Leica Ultravids. I recently tested them in the field on a mule deer hunt and put them through the paces. In all honesty, the results were what I expected. I have tested several Leica products before and have always been impressed with their rugged design, optical clarity and overall performance and I was not let down with the Ultravids. As Leica simply describes their flagship binoculars, they are designed for "extreme demands".
Built from the ground up for unsurpassed ergonomic control, lightweight and durability, the main housing is made of ultra-lightweight, yet extremely durable magnesium with a titanium center-hinge for lightweight stability and strength. These two strong metals create an almost bomb-proof design that can withstand the worst conditions a hunter can ever experience, yet tips the scales at only 28 oz.
After using the 10 x 42 Ultravids for more than a week, the one thing that stuck out in my mind is how bright they were. From dawn till dusk, images were sharp, clear and offered extreme contrast regardless of ambient lighting. To achieve this level of performance Leica starts with optical-grade glass then enhances it with their proprietary Highlux System (HLS) and their extremely durable multi-layer lens coating for nearly 100% light transmission. All and all the optical quality of these binoculars is the best I have ever witnessed.
Little things, like ergonomics, often get overlooked when shopping for optics, but after using binoculars that simply don't "feel" good, ergonomics quickly becomes a main concern. The 42mm model I tested (along with the 50 mm model) feature integrated thumb rests which encourage natural hand placement for comfortable extended viewing sessions, which for the hunter relying on his optics for hour-after-hour of glassing, this makes a big difference. In addition to the ergonomic thumb rests, the multi-function center drive features comfortable, easy focusing and individual eye diopter setting.
It is known around the office that I can be somewhat rough on gear from time to time - an opinion that I don't feel is always justified. So I have dropped a Kahles binocular into a muddy slurry once, and I may have sent a broadhead through the edge of a prototype pop up blind and so what that a high-dollar digital camera got fully submerged in water on a photo shoot - that does not make me "hard on gear". But this general opinion seems to prevail and so it was with some surprise that I was allowed to take the Ultravids afield for some testing. However the Leicas were up to the task. The Soft-Touch rubber armoring protected the binocular and ensured a slip-proof grip, even when wearing gloves or with wet hands. After a week of hard use, the optics looked like new even though they had been over hundreds of miles of the roughest mule deer country around. While it didn't get cold on the particular hunt I was on, Leica has tested the Ultravids under all environmental conditions from -13 F to 131 F and they have worked flawlessly. In addition to being impervious to scratches, shocks and the spectrum of temperatures, they are waterproof to over 15 feet and nitrogen filled to prevent moisture and fogging, which is a huge plus for hunters pursuing game in the worst conditions.
After a week parked behind these optics, it is really hard to imagine any binoculars performing better. Simply put, the Leica Ultravids are the best binoculars I have tested to date. They are comfortable to use, optically perfect and built rugged enough to stand up to a lifetime of use. What more could anyone ask for?