Leica Geovid 10x42 Rangefinder Binocular
By Erin Boyd
The second generation Leica Geovid rangefinder binoculars have been available for a little while now, and it has taken most of that time for John Evitt of Lacklands New Zealand, the Leica importers, to be able to send me a pair to review. This is due to the high demand for these binoculars--they are on constant backorder from the manufacturer.
Ten years have passed since Leica forged new optical frontiers with the introduction of the Leica Geovid 7x42 BDA rangefinder binocular. While this was a sharp, efficient and groundbreaking hunting glass, ranging to 1000 meters, it was also a very expensive and bulky binocular at 206mm (W) 178mm (H) and 81mm (D), and weighing in at 1402 grams. The MSRP was around $5000 NZ.
The second generation replacement has been released about a year now and many significant changes have been implemented. The Leica Geovid BRF series rangefinder binocular comes in 8x42 and 10x42 models and must be ordered to read the range either in yards or meters. There is no selector switch provided to choose the distance ranging method.
Here are some specifications for the yard readout model sent for review.
Included are a Cordura carry case, contoured neoprene neck strap, eyepiece and objective lens covers, CR2 Battery, and a 30 year guarantee. As can be seen from a comparison in size and weight, the new 10 x 42 Geovids have been slimmed and trimmed considerably, losing 500 grams, which is a substantial weight saving and places the combined rangefinder binocular in a similar weight and size bracket to most other manufacturers standard 10x42 roof prism models.
The Leica's are covered in black rubber armoring and the rangefinder 'on' switch falls conveniently under the left forefinger while using the binos for viewing. The CR2 battery chamber is tucked unobtrusively under the bridge in the left barrel and the laser is in line with the front of the central hinge pin.
As to be expected from a product of this quality, the optics are excellent. The view is sharp, contrasty and crisp, with P40 phase coated roof prisms and HDC (High Durability Coating), a recent Leica lens coating technology.
One thing I did notice is that there is a definite color bias towards the blue-green spectrum, instead of the neutral and accurate color rendition of the 8x20 Leica Ultravids that I also had for review at the time. As the Geovids are hunting glasses this has no affect whatsoever on the optical quality of the view, which is excellent.
I did contact Geoff Evitt at Lacklands regarding this slight color bias and he in turn arranged to contact Leica in Solms, Germany as to why this was so. A couple of days later I received an email from Rhys van Kan at Lacklands that included an explanation from a gentleman named Stephan who is a Leica technician from the factory in Solms, Germany.
He informed me that, "The Geovid binoculars have on the prism a beam splitter coating separating the laser beam from the light which is used for the image itself. Due to the red shift caused by the eye safe laser, there is a slight color cast towards the blue/green built into the optical path to balance this. This has no negative influence to the contrast on the image. In practice for most people, an image color which is 'moved' slightly to blue/green appears more rich in contrast."
This explanation sounds logical to me. Most people would never even notice this color shift. It's just that I am often required to do accurate color correction as a photographer and have an experienced eye for such anomalies. I also have a similar awareness for chromatic aberration (color fringing) that is apparent in most roof prism binoculars and could not see any obvious examples of it in these new Geovids.
The red LED ranging square that comes up in the center of the field of view when the 'on' switch is pressed has a self-dimming function so that in low light the intensity of the LED is decreased. It switches itself off 4 seconds after your finger is removed from the button.
If a range is achieved, it comes up in LED numbers that are superimposed in the view in a non-intrusive manner. If a range cannot be achieved three horizontal LED lines appear in the view.
The eyepiece covers are practically designed and easy to remove and replace. They can be permanently attached to the neck strap. The objective Lens covers have a band that goes around the ocular housing to keep them in place and are a push fit that I found to be rather tight and not easy to slip off.
The Geovids are well designed ergonomically and are comfortable to use. The screw in eyecups stay where set and all adjustments, including interpupillary distance, focus and diopter are smooth as silk. The gearing of the center focus knob is very low compared to all other binos I had at hand, which some people will like and others will not. The neck strap is contoured to fit the neck correctly and supports the weight of the binos well.
There are two diopter settings, one on each barrel. One is for the rangefinder LED and the other is the conventional method for adjusting the binoculars to suit your individual eyesight.
As some expectant owner was patiently awaiting his new Geovids and I had promised The Evitt brothers to have them back in a week, I was a little limited in time to give them a real workout. However, I did run them up against my reference 8x32 SE Nikons for a resolution test using the Edwards USAF resolution chart set up thirty meters from my car. This time I did the comparison after sundown.
After resting both pairs of binoculars on a sandbag I had placed on the roof of my car and carefully observing the chart, by the virtue of being 10 power binos as opposed to the 8 power, the Leica's resolved one scale further down the chart than the Nikon SEs. All said and done, these Leicas are damn sharp!
I then headed out to a deer farm that is on rolling country covered with short green grass at this time of year, while the deer are a deep red with their winter coats. I walked up to the fence and ranged on several deer in the approaching twilight. The distances varied from 500 to 850 meters from where I stood, and the rangefinder gave me a good reading, hand held every time, even though sometimes I was ranging from the ground beside the animals.
"Hell, this is too easy'' I told myself and jumped in the car and headed to a farm that has rough, rolling terrain with dry brown grass and a large mob of domesticated variegated goats. I was sitting in the car and wound down the window. The goats were a long way off, too far for the rangefinder to register an individual animal. But on groups of 3 or more, "1280 yards, meinherr" the Leica's whispered, and would give consistent readings off contrasty or broken ground where the goats were foraging.
I found that I needed to rest the binocular against something solid to get consistent readings. With my own Leica LRF 800 Rangefinder I often sit down and brace my elbows against my knees to steady myself. The light was getting well down by this time, but that is the best conditions for an eye safe laser rangefinder to achieve its rated range. The binoculars themselves were still clearly revealing distant detail.
The next day I took the Leica binos up to a small lake in bright sunshine with a road close by. I sat against the car bonnet and engaged the scan mode, which just involves holding down the "on" switch for more that 4 seconds. It was impressive to see a car going past at around one hundred KPH, and the binos easily reading out the increasing distance about every second up to 1250 yards. I also took various readings of trees, ducks, geese, foliage, fences and sundry objects, with a high success rate out to over 1200 yards in the bright midday sun.
These fine second generation Leica rangefinder binoculars are another option for the discerning hunter who would like to simplify his load and save a little weight by incorporating the rangefinder into his binos. While not cheap at $3195 NZ, they are a decided step up in utility value on comparatively priced top of the line 10x42 roof prism binoculars from brands such as Zeiss Victory 11, Swarovski's El, and Nikons HG L.
Copyright 2006 by Erin Boyd. All rights reserved.