Recently I reviewed Leica’s most “cost efficient” pair of binoculars, their Portuguese-made Trinovid 10×42 HD. They were awesome on every trip I took them on…including a coastal Alaska hunt that would chew up and spit out lesser gear.
Like any good drug dealer, Leica recently escalated things by sending me their Cadillac…the Noctivid 10×42 HD. While I couldn’t be more impressed with them, it’s hard not to compare them to the less costly Trinovid and differentiating between the two is really what consumers are most likely interested in. Basically, are they worth the extra money?
Yes and no.
To someone who hunts casually…maybe 30-45 days per year, the Noctivid may be a bit overkill. To someone who hunts harder, needs gear that takes them to the edge of performance, or just wants the best, the Noctivid is the pair to get.
The Noctivids beat the Trinovids in optical clarity, but you need great eyes to notice this. What’s more noticeable is the low light performance between the two -with the Noctivid giving you more time to observe game early in the morning or at dusk. Having killed a few older and more crafty whitetails when they think they’re safely moving in very low light, I place a high value on the extra time the Noctivids will buy me so I can accurately judge a trophy in the field before moving to a shot setup in my rifle scope.
The reality in optics is that incremental increases in performance always carry a high price tag…but it really is a representation of what it takes the manufacturer to produce these next level products.
A few years ago, a top-level employee at one of the high-end European optics manufacturers leveled with me when we were drinking many cheap beers. He explained why their products cost more than others featuring decent quality glass. It’s very simple and it stuck with me.
When you buy the top-of-the-line European optics, here’s what you really get:
Glass: They’re using the best lenses available in the product.
Internals: Fewer plastic parts that can wear out over time.
Coatings: This is very important. You can have two identical lenses and still get completely different performance out of them in the field depending on the coatings. Lower end binos may look just as good when you’re comparing them in a store, but in the field and in low light, the lens with the better coatings will perform far better than the lens with subpar coatings.
Labor: Proper lens polishing takes time, but the coating process is also labor intensive and requires even more time in production. Each coating has to properly dry so another coating can be applied. With some of the elite European optics, they repeat this process four times.
Geography: You’re going to pay a premium for a product manufactured and assembled in Germany or Austria. Do badges from the countries mean the product is better? Not necessarily, but you can bet that the quality inspections are being conducted in-line with the manufacturer’s strictest standards.
The Leica Noctivid 10×42 is the best of what Leica has to offer and it’s the best set of binos I’ve used to date. They have multiple lens coatings the names of which you can Google but basically, they’re coated for anti-reflection, color accuracy, performance in wet weather, and light transmission. They’re over-engineered in typical German fashion and they get the white glove quality inspection in the motherland. All of these things are reflected in the $2,700 street price.
For the serious hunter, absolutely.