First look: Leica Televid Extender 1.8x

Leica Extender 1.8x
We are excited to share an exclusive first look at a prototype of the new Leica Extender 1.8x for the APO-Televid scopes. As with all prototypes, it is likely that the Extender 1.8x will be further refined before the actual product release. That being said, the Extender 1.8x that I tested felt very polished and I had no trouble popping it on the Televid.

So what exactly is the Leica Extender 1.8x? Photography buffs will likely be familiar with teleconverters, or tele-extenders, which are secondary lenses that are mounted between the camera body and main lens to provide a boost in magnification. The Leica Extender 1.8x works in the same way for the APO-Televid scopes, connecting between the Leica APO-Televid body and the 25x-50x WW ASPH zoom eyepiece, boosting the effective magnification to 45x-90x. Adding the Extender 1.8x to the scope is a snap, it pops onto the scope exactly like the eyepiece and snaps securely into place. The eyepiece then fits onto the extender in a similar manner, with another lock mechanism to keep it secure. With the Extender 1.8x, Leica now offers the highest magnification of any premium sports optics company.

So a higher magnification is great, but only if the scope actually performs at the same level in regards to depth-of-field, field-of-view, and flexibility in different situations. How does the Extender 1.8x fare? Read on.

Leica Extender 1.8x on APO-Televid 82mm

If I had to find a fault with the APO-Televid scopes, it would be that the 25x-50x zoom doesn’t reach as far as I would like, or at least what I am used to from years using my 20x-60x zoom Zeiss Diascope. It’s really not a big deal most of the time, but occasionally I would like to dial up the power to 11 to see if I can pull in more detail. You know, to really exaggerate the heat shimmer on that distant Aythya that might be a Tufted Duck. The Televid Extender 1.8x finally allows me to do that. When I first heard about the Extender, I was curious how it would perform on the smaller APO-Televid 65mm, since less light is available to make the scope usable at 90x. In short, the Extender exceeded my expectations on both the APO-Televid 65mm and 82mm scopes.

Since this is a prototype, technical specs have not yet published by Leica so we had to do some testing on our own. With the addition of a tele-extender, it’s important to determine how the usability of the scope is affected, from the depth-of-field, the field-of-view at full magnification and whether the 45x-90x range is good for general use. As easy as it is to pop the Extender 1.8x on and off, it would be preferable if the scope was

Jeff Bouton, manager of the Birding and Nature Markets for Leica Sports Optics had some time to test some of the basics before I got the Extender and what he found was pretty exciting. First, the minimum focus distance did not change throughout the entire zoom range from 25x (sans extender) to 90x (full zoom with extender). At all zoom levels, the minimum focus distance was just a touch under 10 ft. I am excited to train the scope onto a nearby American Woodcock or roosting Common Nighthawk to see it in stunning detail. The field of view is also an important consideration when using a high zoom. In the field, I found the full range from 45-90x very usable, and Jeff’s tests seemed to indicate it had roughly half the FOV at 90x as it did at 45x, which should put it near a very respectable 40-45ft at 1000 yards when maxing out the zoom.

The bottom line for me after using it for a full day was that depending on what type of birding I was doing, I would be very happy to leave the Extender on the scope for the whole day of birding, and wouldn’t have to worry about switching it in and out. For hawk watching and scanning waterfowl and gull flocks, the 45x-90x zoom range was perfect, with enough field-of-view at the lower end to pick raptors out from the sky and enough zoom on the higher end to key in on feather details. The resolution of the image was fantastic the whole way through the zoom range. On my one day of birding with the Extender 1.8x, I took it to Braddock Bay Hawk Watch to test it out. I was hoping to do a lot of digiscoping but birds were not cooperative, and so I ended up stopping at Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge to digiscope some waterfowl. In the video you can see a comparison of the zoom levels and some samples of long-range digiscoping. Video was taken using an iPhone 5s and Phone Skope adapter, and while that is a pretty great camera, the Extender 1.8x will really shine when someone pairs it with dSLR digiscoping or one of Leica’s point and shoot cameras.

Jeff Bouton shot the following images and video of the struggle between a Great Blue Heron and a Florida Banded Water Snake. They really demonstrate the power of and quality of the Leica APO-Televid coupled with the Extender 1.8x.

Leica expects the Extender 1.8x to be available for sale beginning in May 2014, but if you want to try it yourself visit the Leica booth at one of the following Spring Birding Festivals – Galveston Featherfest, Godwit Days, the ABA Convention in Corpus Christi, Biggest Week in American Birding, or this weekend’s Birding Optics and Gear Expo.

NOTE: the Extender 1.8x only works on Leica’s angled spotting scopes — there is no straight version). Leica designed the new Extender 1.8x to be optically, mechanically, and ergonomically matched with the APO-Televid spotting scopes to work flawlessly as a modular kit. Expected MSRP for the Extender 1.8x is $449.00.