Learn About Leica Binoculars with Whitney Lanfranco on Redstart Live

Sarah Clark

Posted on July 06 2021

Curious about the differences between Leica's three major binocular lines? Want to know what makes them some of the best birding optics on the market today? Find out all about it in this interview with Whitney Lanfranco of Leica and Wendy Clark of Redstart Birding.


No time to watch the whole video right now? Below is an edited and abridged transcript to get the key points!

Redstart Live Interview with Whitney Lanfranco

Wendy: One thing that's unique about Leica is that, unlike some of the other top tier binocular providers and optics providers, they actually have three different lines of binoculars at three different price points. 

Whitney: I refer to them, not as good, better, best, but as better, better, amazing, because they all have great attributes. And like you said, they kind of cover some different price points too, which is nice. And you don't necessarily have to go for the higher-tiered one. Leica is a camera company, so a lot of that technology that goes into their cameras goes into the binoculars.  

Leica Trinovid HD Binoculars 

Whitney: The Trinovid HD is right at that $1,000 price point, but as far as comparing it to other binoculars on the market, going up to the under-$1,400 range, this is the best one. We call it our rugged, reliable, all-arounder, because it's so good for everything. And it has a really good close focus. So not only is it good for birding, but it's also good if you're into dragonflies and butterflies when it gets hot in the summer. It has a very rugged armor that makes it impact resistant. The reason it's coming in at this price is not because Leica made something that isn’t as good [as their other binocular lines]. The Trinovid HD is just made with different materials: It has an aluminum body and a stainless-steel rod, instead of a magnesium body and a titanium rod like the other lines have. And it's made in Portugal instead of Germany. 

Wendy: It is one of our staff picks for best binoculars under $1,000. 

Leica Ultravid HD-Plus Binoculars 

Whitney: The middle one is the Ultravid HD-Plus. This is the toughest, most compact binocular on the market. It's more shockproof, waterproof, and fog-proof than any binocular out there, but it's also lightweight—that magnesium body makes it a little bit lighter-weight—and it's bright. 

One standout is the 7x42. It’s the only 7x42 binocular on the market in this class. When you have the slightly lower magnification, you get a larger field of view and something of a brighter image. When you have a natural tremble to your hands, the higher the magnification, the more you're going to notice that shake. Everybody's got it, and sometime as you get older it gets a bit worse. 

Wendy: Weren't the Ultravid HD-Plus binoculars originally designed for people doing long hours of field work? 

Whitney: One thing about the Ultravid is, if you look at the specs, you’ll notice that it does not have field-flattening lenses. Another one of our binocular lines does, and a lot of other optics at this level do, but we left them off the Ultravid on purpose. 

We have a natural concave to our eyes, and the Ultravid is made to mimic your eye. When you're scanning for a long time if you're doing field work or are on a pelagic or scanning with your binoculars, the Ultravid is going to give you a lot less eye fatigue. It's a natural extension of your eye. 

Wendy: I think about people preparing to take a birding tour where they're going to be birding for hours at a time, or even burning guides or people that are leading birding tours or doing field work where they're documenting the birds of the day. This binocular is really something to consider. 

Leica Noctivid Binoculars 

Whitney: The Noctivid is the best binocular Leica ever made. It was made to mimic the M-lens (so if you're a photographer, that would mean something to you). It has edge-to-edge clarity with the field-flattening lenses, so it is more for picking it up and putting it down, which a lot of birders like. The depth of field lets you looks at something that’s 50 or 200 yards in front of you and not lose what’s going on around you or that 3D image complexity. 

Leica’s eye relief is measured from the eyecup to the cornea, not to the eyelid like other manufacturers measure. And so, you might see that the statistic in our product listings are a little lower [compared to other brands' eye reliefs]. 

Wendy: You know that scene in The Wizard of Oz, when it goes from black and white, the color, and Dorothy was like “Whoa.” It was like that moment for me when I picked up the Noctivid. My eyes see a little darker than most people. For me personally as a birder, when I'm shopping for a binocular, I need light. 

Whitney: Last week at the Leica store in Bellevue, I was helping a customer to buy binoculars for a fish and wildlife program. I was like, “I want you to look at that plant over there in the shadows using the Noctivid.” She bought five of them because she could see. We all know how malls are dimly lit. Not only in malls, but also at dusk or dawn. And who here has gone jungle birding? Who knows what it’s like under that canopy?  

Wendy: And I was birding recently in a situation where everything was gray. It was a gray landscape, gray sky, snowy landscape. We were looking at whooping cranes and the light wasn't great, it wasn't sunny. It was dark and dim and I grabbed the Noctivid. I just had the brightest picture and it was so great.  

Shop for Leica Binoculars

Ready to try out one of Leica's fine binocular lines? Explore Leica products on our site, give us a call at 833-262-1568, or send an email to sales@redstartbirding.com to get started.

Want to view more episodes of Redstart Live? Find them all on Bird Watcher's Digest's YouTube channel!

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