Leicas Duovid 8+12x42
Variable-power riflescopes have
dominated the market for 30 years now, along with variable spotting scopes. So why are
variable binoculars almost unknown? They do exist, but only in relatively inexpensive
models, which have not found favor among serious hunters - until now.
Until now, serious hunters have been
forced to pick between magnifications. Usually the choice comes down to 8x or 10x. Most
hunters choose 10x, because they think theyll see better with more
magnification. To a certain extent this is true, but with 8x the spot called the macula
lutea in the rear of your eyeball that perceives detail is effectively over 50 percent
larger. So while 10x is undeniably better for counting the tines on a bucks antlers,
8x works better for finding the buck in the first place.
Far-gone open country hunters often
use even more than 10x. When the countrys really wide and the quarry difficult to
see, I often carry my Leica 12x50, because it provides a definite advantage over even the
best 10x glass. But its heavy as pig iron and slow to use on nearby game, both
because of its narrower field, and because higher magnification means that at shorter
ranges, it must be refocused every time I look at something else. This isnt
necessary with 8x binoculars.
Some hunters use even more
magnification, particularly 15x. But unless they mount a 15x glass on a tripod, theyre
kidding themselves. Most humans simply cannot hand-hold 15x binoculars steadily enough to
see more detail than they could through 12x. Sure, the image is bigger, but the tiny
tremors inherent in the human hand will fuzz important detail.
This problem grows even worse with
inexpensive zoom binoculars, because when turned up to 12x or 15x, they arent
particularly sharp in the first place. Add some hand tremor, and deer antlers dont
stand out any better than through a truly good 10x glass.
Until now, the only serious solution
was to carry a smaller glass for finding game (particularly at under half a mile) and a
big honker for perceiving detail. I often did this, packing an 8x32 or 8x42 for general
glassing and the pig-iron 12x50 for gazing across grand canyons. The big binocular rode in
my day pack, where it often crushed my lunch. Not only was this system expensive but
annoying to anybody who prefers their PB&Js with some loft.
Now we have Leicas solution
that, at just under $1,500 suggested retail isnt exactly inexpensive, but beats the
heck out of a $750 8x and a $1,300 12x, my previous solution. And at 34 ounces, its
also only a little over half the weight of my two-binocular system.
Calling the Duovid 8+12x42 binocular
a variable will get me in deep moose manure with my hunting buddies at Leica.
Please note the + symbol between 8 and 12, which means that its both an
8x and a 12x glass, not an 8-12x zoom. For the moment lets call it a
dual-power glass, as Leica does, then modify that statement later.
There havent been many
high-grade multiple-magnification binoculars before because of some inherent
problems. Variable rifle and spotting scopes are relatively easy to make, since theyre
both single telescopes, but binoculars are two telescopes. Both barrels must
focus at once, which became even more of a problem in the past decade as waterproof optics
became all the rage.
The more moving parts in any optical
system, the more difficult it becomes to seal against moisture. Add multiple-magnification
to a focus system and its tough to really seal any binocular. Leica got around the
problem by putting the power-change into each eyepiece. Instead of turning a single ring
to change magnification, as you do in variable scopes or cheap zoom binoculars, each
eyepiece needs to be turned individually from 8x to 12x. This takes, oh, three to four
A lot of previous
multiple-magnification binoculars also suffered from too wide a power range. While 3-10x
performs many useful tasks in a riflescope and 15-40x works great in a variable, theres
no need for such a wide range in a binocular. Magnification under 8x can be useful, but
nobody will buy it anymore, and anything above 12x runs into the hand-tremor problem noted
(While both Canon and Zeiss make
binoculars with internal systems that dampen the effects of hand tremor, either adds some
weight and bulk. Canon gets around this by making the objective lenses smaller, since
objective lenses are the single biggest source of weight in most binoculars. Ive
tried these while hunting in Africa earlier this year, and the 32mm objectives in its 10x
simply dont provide enough light or detail for serious hunting. A high-grade
Swarovski 10x42 allowed me to see a lot more detail, despite the Canons damping
system. Zeisss system is even heavier and bulkier, the reason the only dampened
binocular it has ever offered is its 4-pound 20x60, which costs just under $5,000.)
So Leicas 8+12 offers the
finest compromise available at the moment. The optics, as you might expect from Leica, are
as fine as any made. Various Rifle staffers used the Duovid on hunts soon after the
binocular hit the market earlier this year, and it worked great. For most glassing we left
it on 8x, where the wide field of view and broader area of detail helped find game,
whether brown bears or prairie dogs. If we spotted something not quite identifiable, we
turned the eyepieces to 12x and could tell if that big brown object across the valley was
a log or a bear or the small tan object across the draw was a prairie dog or a burrowing
Oh, and they can be used between 8x
and 12x. I tried it, briefly, by turning each eyepiece halfway between 8x and 12x. Presto,
10x! But why use 10x when you have 8x and 12x available? Which is probably why Leica didnt
put clicks on the eyepieces at 9x, 10x and 11x.
Obviously the Duovid isnt for everyone,
but for serious hunters willing to pay the price, right now its the finest
all-around hunting binocular on the market. It weighs about 30 percent more than most
roof-prism 8x42s on the market, but 34 ounces isnt too much to hang around your neck
all day, especially with a wide neoprene strap. At 8x its optics are as fine as any on
earth. At 12x it doesnt quite match the optics of its own fixed-power cousin, the
12x50 Leica (the best 12x Ive ever peered inside), but youll still see
noticeably more detail than through the best 10x binoculars, including Leicas.
(Leica Camera Inc., 156 Ludlow Avenue, Northvale NJ 07647.)