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Trinovid is a hallowed name in binocular-world. Leica have risked that name by updating the Trinovids to compete with their mid-market peers. In this review I find out if that risk was worth it.

Leica Trinovid 10x42 HD Review

Leica’s Trinovid mid-market sub-brand has a long history and earlier versions were loved by many. These new Trinovids are more compact and boast HD optics too. To compete with Zeiss’ Conquests, Leica make much of their ruggedness and utility.

The big news about these Trinovids is that they are made in Portugal, not Germany, presumably to allow them to compete on cost with other premium mid-market (if that isn’t an oxymoron) models, like Nikon’s Monarch HGs. And indeed, this pair were very reasonably priced – less than the Conquests at the time of writing.

So have the Trinovids lost their Leica character in moving firmly into the mid-market? Has moving production to Portugal compromised build quality? And where have Leica cut corners to get to such a modest price? Read on to find out.

At A Glance

Magnification

10x

Objective Size

42mm

Eye Relief

15mm

Actual Field of View

113m/1000m

Apparent field of view

61°

Close focus

~2m (me)

Transmissivity

90% (Leica)

Length

14cm

Weight

745g bare (me)

Data from Leica/Me.

What’s in the Box?

Leica have long had some of the most elegant packaging in the business and they’ve taken the decision to use the same premium materials on the Trinovids that you get with Ultravids or Noctivids.

Design and Build

Almost all binocular manufacturers seek to distinguish their premium models with a different look and feel, a different build quality. Not here. The Trinovids look remarkably similar to a pair of Noctivids – similar-looking armour, focuser knob, detailing. Give most people both and they’d struggle to spot which one cost three times as much. It’s almost as if that Portuguese factory is trying to show the German one it can do just as well.

Body

The body is compact but easy to hold. Despite being quite light (for a 42mm roof-prism binocular) at 730g (745g measured), It’s supposed to be really rugged and is waterproof to 4m.

The armour is comfortable to hold, well fitted and attractive, with no roughly finished seams or loose areas. It doesn’t feel tacky to the touch like some, but it’s an absolute magnet for fluff and dust in a way the best armour is not (so much so I struggled to keep them clean for the photos).

Interior build quality looks high, with no rough edges or castings.

 

Focuser

The Trinovid’s focuser is another stand-out feature for a mid-range binocular. It is smooth, progressive and accurate with almost perfect weight and feel across its full range, significantly better than Zeiss’ 10x42 Conquests when I compared them side-by-side. If they’ve been unused for a while, the focuser does feel ‘dry’, but soon goes back to feeling smooth again after a few twirls.

Close focus is remarkably good. Leica claim 1.6m and these easily merge the image of a painting across my study and still just about merge down to two metres.

Close focus to infinity is just under two complete turns – not the fastest, but plenty fast enough to follow birds in flight. The only minor caveat is that these don’t focus much past infinity: I hit the stop focusing stars at the field edge.

The dioptre adjustment is one area where the Trinovids depart from premium Leicas. Instead of adjusting dioptre on the focusing knob, the Trinovids have a conventional ring underneath the right eyepiece. There is no lock, but the mechanism is very smooth and well-weighted, better than most. Getting perfect dioptre adjustment proved easy, a sure sign of a good binocular.

Optics - Prisms

These are a ‘standard’ Schmidt-Pechan (a.k.a. Roof) prism design. That means they need and have (probably multi-layer) mirrors and phase coatings too. Claimed transmission is 90% - typical for modern roofs, but slightly less than Porro or Abbe-König prism models that avoid the lossy mirrors.

Optics - Objectives

From a laser test, it looks as if the objectives are a cemented triplet. The ‘HD’ tag suggests they contain an ED glass element to control false colour fringing on high contrast parts of the view.

The lenses are well recessed and are fronted by micro-ridged lens rings to combat veiling flare. The barrel interiors behind the objectives are micro-baffled too.

The coatings are excellent – the kind of muted purple-green typical of Swarovskis and not the tobacco-colour more usual for Leica.

Coatings are first rate and the objectives are well baffled, front and rear.

Optics - Eyepieces

From what I can see with a laser, the eyepieces are a sophisticated design with several thick lenses and at least one large air space.

The Trinovids have big (22mm diameter) eye lenses, but unlike some the eye lens is flat rather than dished. That tends to make for more realistic eye relief measurements in my experience (because they always seem to be quoted from the glass) and that’s the case here.

Eye relief has always been a bugbear of mine because many binoculars, even expensive ones, don’t have enough for people who view with specs on. Leica used to be among the worst in this respect. But not these new Trinovids. I measured eye relief at around 15mm from the rim of the eye cup, just as claimed. It’s enough to just see the whole field with my glasses on.

The soft rubber eye cups have five clicked-out positions to cater for any variations in faces and glasses, given the long ER. True, the click-stops aren’t as progressive and smooth as Swarovski’s and can re-seat poorly (just as Zeiss Conquests’ can), but they are good enough and generally work well.

High eye-point binoculars often come with a problem – kidney bean blackouts (spherical aberration of the exit pupil) when you change eye position. This can be a real nuisance, especially at night. The Trinovids just don’t suffer from this defect, which really adds to comfort.

Eye-cups have multiple click stop positions.

Accessories

The strap is Leica’s standard issue – just the same as a pair of Ultravids get, so it’s good quality, ‘nuff said. You can get a special ‘Adventure’ harness which included a protective pouch and looks good for extended field use.

The case – a place where mid-price cost-cutting often appears - is a bit strange. It’s a soft Cordura pouch with a fine zip that will probably wear quite badly and doesn’t offer a huge amount of support or protection: stylish perhaps, but not as functional as a traditional case.

Case looks funky but doesn’t offer much protection, likely won’t wear well.

In Use – Daytime

Ergonomics and Handling

Handling is good, but these are such a small binocular that really big hands may find them less comfortable to hold. Still, the focuser knob is chunky for use with gloves and falls nicely under my index finger. That focuser is smooth and precise, ditto the dioptre ring. Weight is very reasonable for a 42mm binocular, so carrying for long periods won’t be an issue.

As I’ve said, lots of eye relief and no blackouts mean eyepiece comfort is up there with the best.

Leicas are generally among the most elegant binoculars in my opinion; and whilst I don’t like the styling as much as a pair of Ultravids, these Trinovids still look classy and understated to wear, if that matters to you.

Plenty of eye relief for my glasses.

The View

The daytime view is very good indeed: sharp, bright, wide and detailed, with a cool, natural colour rendition. Focus snap is perfect (no softness in either barrel), as is collimation. Resolution seems very high and depth of field seems good (i.e. typical for a quality 10x42).

Excellent though the view seems to be on its own, compared side-by-side with Nikon’s 10x42 SEs, the Trinovids lack the last little bit of crystal-clear fine resolution. This is not any optical fault – focus snap is perfect in both barrels – but perhaps shows just a little lower level of optical fabrication quality than the best and that makes sense at this price.

Another small negative point is that depth of field seems a bit shallower than the best. Watching a flock of blue tits foraging and flitting around my garden, I find myself re-focusing more than with the Nikons.

Overall, though, the Trinovids deliver a view that’s very similar to a high-end model like an Ultravid. Mostly I just enjoyed using them – watching waders on the bay sands; tits and wrens and finches foraging in the garden; crows strutting about the neighbouring fields. At this stage I quickly become annoyed by obvious flaws and the Trinovids just didn’t have any.

Flat field?

In casual use you’d think these have a flat field, but in fact it does curve off towards the edge, so that the last 35% or so blurs progressively to the field stop. However, most of that blurring can be focused away and isn’t the problem it can be with some binoculars, at least during the day, when the field remains usable to the edge. The photo below makes it look worse than it feels in use.

I suspect Leica might argue they’ve gone for the best compromise for panning comfort. But, as we will see, there is more of a downside to the curved field when it comes to astronomy and this is quite typical of Leicas, including premium Ultravids and Noctivids.

Off-axis field curvature and softening is worse than the best, but quite typical of Leica.

Chromatic Aberration

The Trinovids carry an ‘HD’ label and they curb false colour reasonably well. The highest contrast and brightness subjects do show a little more than the very best, though.

That means some flashing purple and green when panning through branches in silhouette against a bright cloudy sky. Watching a fledgling Jackdaw leave his home in my neighbour’s chimney pot, his fluffy grey feathers are edged in bright green and violet against a cloudy sky. The best don’t do that and this is one area where Zeiss’ Conquests beat the Trinovids.

In Use – Dusk

The Trinovids are a bright binocular and they work well into deep dusk, still providing views when it’s almost dark and giving a moderate ‘light intensifier’ effect. Modern 10x42s can be a good choice for low light use, much better than say an 8x32.

The well-recessed and baffled objectives meant I didn’t notice any dusk veiling-flare washout from skyglow at dusk.

In Use – The Night Sky

My first view of a dark night sky with the Trinovids was good, really good. Here were most of the things I like in an astronomy binocular – a wide field, plenty of eye relief for use with glasses and nicely pinpoint stars that focused up crisply with a smooth and accurate focuser.

Closer examination proved that the Trinovids aren’t perfect. Stars start to distort progressively from about 50% field width, but this doesn’t become a problem until perhaps 70-80% where they become more and more linear to the field stop.

The wide field means you can put both Orion’s belt and sword into the field, but doing so means that both Mintaka and Nair al Saif are both quite distorted (though less so than through some). Most of that distortion can be focused away – it’s field curvature, with not much astigmatism. But you do get that tunnel effect I dislike, where fainter stars in the last 20% or so of field width smear and vanish. In fact, field curvature is the biggest downside of these Trinovids for astronomy.

Looking at a bright security light in field produces long ghost spikes – probably from the prisms - which the best do not. But this is an extreme test and neither Venus nor the Moon showed similar spikes.

The Moon

The Trinovids gave an excellent view of a waning Moon with Alphonsus near the terminator and clearly visible at 10x – crisp to focus in both barrels and perfectly sharp and contrasty. There was no significant ghosting or spiking with the Moon in field, and minimal flare when working around it, an impressive result for a mid-range binocular.

Compared to the very best, though, there is just a little more flare of unfocussed light around the Moon and a bit more false colour – a trace of purple and gold around the rim.

Overall the Trinovids give a view of the Moon comparable to my Nikon 10x42 SE reference standard, but with resolution and sharpness noticeably just a touch inferior.

Planets

A tiny low Mars nonetheless showed itself clearly as a planet (i.e. as a minute disk) and not a star, with no nasty flare or smearing. Similarly, a brilliant Venus in the pre-Christmas dusk revealed no nasty prism spikes or flare and just a trace of false colour.

Deep Sky

Despite their field curvature, the Trinovids turn out to be really enjoyable for deep sky viewing. The good eye relief, wide field and lack of blackouts just make things easier when viewing under really dark conditions.

I enjoyed finding open clusters – including M39 - in the Milky Way above a setting Cygnus. The Double Cluster was bright and populous and other open clusters, like the Pinwheel and Starfish in Auriga, showed masses of resolved stars with a touch of averted vision.

Star colours were good and Albireo easily revealed its sapphire and gold components.

The Great Nebula in Orion looked as bright and detailed as through most 10x42s, but the nebulosity was perhaps not as distinct and structured as through the very best at this aperture. I struggled more to see the extended arms and central spike than with Nikon’s very high transmission 10x42 SEs, for example.

However, M31 was easy to find, extending far across the field of view, its core and companion bright. A tougher pair of galaxies are Bode’s Nebula – M81 and M82 – but the Trinovids found them easily and distinguished their different shapes.

Night testing around the trees in my garden.

Leica Trinovid 10x42 HD vs Nikon 10x42 SE

Nikon’s 10x42 SEs were widely held to be among the best binoculars you could buy … 15 years ago. Nowadays, they hold their own in some areas, not in others. I’ve owned a pair as my knock-about pair for years. Interestingly, they would have been a very similar price to the Trinovids when available new.

Sharpness, brightness, depth of field and resolution seem quite similar. The Nikons should be a bit brighter with a few more percent transmissivity, but I struggled to notice any difference. In fact, the Nikons’ warmer tone gave a slightly murkier view in low light to my eyes. The wider field of the Trinovids is very noticeable, though, and they have the more pleasing daytime view as a result.

Both have excellent eye relief, but the Trinovids are less prone to blackouts and so are more comfortable. Careful inspection reveals that in fact the Nikons have a flatter field, especially noticeable on starry skies. The Nikons have slightly better resistance to ghosting with a bright light in-field and don’t produce prism spikes like the Leicas, but neither are up with the best in this respect.

The Nikon’s focuser is smoother but slower. The Nikons are slightly lighter. The Leica’s are waterproof; the Nikons are not.

For dedicated astronomy use I perhaps still just prefer the Nikons. Otherwise, I like the Leicas better – their wide, bright and sharp field and comfortable eyepieces are just more enjoyable during the day. The world has moved on since the Nikons’ day and that’s a good thing.

Summary

The Trinovids offer something you couldn’t buy (in roof-prism binoculars at least) just a few years ago: a near-premium view at a mid-market price. That view is sharp, wide and bright, full of detail and contrast, with minimal false colour.

There just aren’t any obvious faults like mid-price bino’s used to have, at least for daytime use. The only real fault is a bit too much in the way of ghosting and prism spikes with a very bright light in-field at night.

So what does paying two or three times as much for an Alpha binocular get you, then?

1)     Freedom from the last trace of false colour, which is more noticeable in the Trinovids than the best

2)     The very highest resolution, which is noticeably just a bit lower in the Trinovids

3)     Freedom from spiky ghosts when viewing bright lights at night

4)     Slightly faster focusing

5)     In some (but not all), a slightly wider, flatter field that gives a better view of dark starry skies

But in practice many (most?) users just won’t notice, because those differences really are quite subtle. Most will just love the view through their Trinovids.

In terms of comfort, the Trinovids are up there with the best, too. They have plenty of eye relief for specs wearers but without any nasty kidney-bean blackouts. The focuser is smooth, progressive and snappy. Dioptre adjustment is positive and easy to use. The eye cups offer plenty of click-stops and operate positively.

Build quality is high, almost a little too much like a pair of Noctivids for marketing comfort. The icing on the cake for me is that the Trinovids are still European-made and should be repairable like premium German bino’s.

So during the day at least, the Trinovids are perhaps my favourite mid-market binocular to date. They do work well for astronomy too, with the wide field and good eyepiece comfort helping. But that tunnel effect from field curvature does spoil things just a little for star fields and DSOs.

Leica’s Trinovids get my highest recommendation for daytime and casual astronomy. They are a ‘real’ Leica in appearance and use, but for a very reasonable price. For a dedicated astronomy binocular, I might consider a flatter-field model.

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