In December, I had the good fortune to head to The Lodge at Pico Bonito in Honduras (more on that in coming posts!) to test out the new Leica Trinovid HD. I traveled with a stellar crew from across the blogosphere to, in true Leica fashion, bird the area hard, and get an honest impression of the new bins under a variety of challenging conditions.
If you love the style, prestige and workmanship of Leica, but feel a bit apprehensive about dropping $2,500 for the top of the line Ultravids, you are the the prime target for these new binoculars that Leica is positioning as an “entry-level premium” binocular. The Trinovid HD comes in two models, an 8×42 and a higher powered 10×42, both squeaking under the $1,000 mark.
I am an avid fan of the red dot and love my personal Leica Ultravid HD 7×42, so that will be my primary point of comparison. So how did the new binoculars hold up? Read on…
Let’s start with the outside appearance. These are compact, rugged looking binoculars. The Trinovid HD rubber shell will be familiar to users of the past model of the Trinovids as well as Leica’s flagship Ultravid HD binoculars. I found them comfortable to hold for long periods of birding, and it felt very rugged and waterproof. This is something that many lower-priced binoculars (and some much more expensive!) are unable to replicate in my opinion.
The diopter is interestingly placed on the right barrel, just behind the adjustable eyecup. This is a common feature on much lower priced binoculars, and it was a surprise to see them on a Leica. I didn’t personally have any issues with this, but others noted it was easy to bump the diopter when using the bins.
The Trinovid name holds a lot of nostalgia for many birders and the new edition comes with the sleek appearance expected from Leica.
The view through both models was bright and sharp. I was happy with the view all the way to the edge of the decently wide field of view (400′ and 370′ in the 8x and 10x, respectively.)
The tropical forest around the lodge was also perfect for testing the Trinovid HD in challenging light under thick canopy. While they weren’t as bright as my favored Ultravid 7×42, the comparison was not entirely fair because there is no 7-power Trinovid HD. Compared to the comparable 8- or 10-power binoculars and there was still definitely a difference when the lighting was tough, but I didn’t find myself struggling at all with the Trinovid HD, even when looking for a Scaly-throated Leaftosser deep in the undergrowth.
Close focus is a requirement for binoculars I use. I primarily bird in eastern deciduous or mixed forests, and the breeding warblers are often close, sometimes close enough that it’s a real decision between watching it in bins and being able to see the insect parts still stuck to its bill, or dropping the binoculars all together for a naked eye view where I can really enjoy its behavior in the broader context of the habitat. The Trinovid HD promises a close focus of under 6′, and I felt like it delivered in this respect. I felt like it took more cranking on the focus wheel to get a close bird in focus than the Ultravid HD or the Zeiss Victory FL’s I am more familiar with. Not so much a complaint as it was just something I needed to get used to.
An interesting addition for the Trinovid HD is the new ADVENTURE STRAP, a multipurpose harness and carrying case replacement. Reviews were mixed, although I think it exceeded everyone’s expectations.
One big question once I saw a photo of the Trinovid HD a couple days before the trip was…what is the Adventure Strap!? I think we were all a bit unsure what to expect, although if we were honest I think we all had very low expectations for it. The Adventure Strap is a neoprene hybrid that is somewhere between a traditional strap and a harness system. It does a good job at both getting the weight of the binocular off of your neck, and containing the binocular if you are doing a something more active than a strolling bird walk. Additionally, when you wrap it up, it serves as the Trinovid HD carrying case. You can read a more thorough description of the Adventure Strip on the Leica Birding Blog and watch the video below to see it in use.
The Trinovid name already holds a lot of nostalgia for many birders and I think these binoculars will create a whole new generation of happy Trinovid users looking for stellar optics but at a more affordable price point.
A more affordable binocular does have to make some compromises, but I found them to be minor in typical use. A typical strategy for optics companies to cut costs is to outsource production to Asia, but the Trinovid continues to be made in Europe, at the Leica plant in Portugal.
The three year Passport Warranty of the more expensive Leica products still applies to the Trinovid, covering about anything that might happen to the binoculars in that period, followed by a limited lifetime warranty covering manufacture defects after that. The Trinovid HD does use lower quality glass than the Ultravid models, but as I have mentioned previously, it’s a suitable trade for the cost savings.
I was thoroughly impressed during my time with the new Trinovid HD, and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone looking for premium binocular with a great legacy under $1,000. Check it out at the next birding festival in your area, or a local optics dealer to make the comparison with other models, as every person is going to have their own preferences on what makes the best binocular for them.