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The Binocular Advisor

The Scopes Advisor

The Tripod Advisor

High-end Scopes Review

For Bird Watcher's Digest, November, 2009

by Michael and Diane Porter

Best Overall Image Quality

Overall image quality, while including the objective measurements of a scopes's resolution, is more a holistic, subjective evaluation of the viewer's experience. Multiple factors interact. So to assign image quality scores, we made composite scores based on the opinions of all the members of the judging team.

We asked our judges to consider sharpness, contrast, brightness, field of view, color fidelity, and freedom from chromatic aberration. But ultimately they were trying to determine which images simply looked best to them overall. The score for each scope is the average of all the judges' ratings.

The new Leica 82mm APO Televid got the top score, closely followed by the Swarovski and the Kowa 88mm.

Leica APO Televid Scope
Copyright 2009 Michael and Diane Porter

This is a beautiful-looking scope.

As we have come to expect from Leica, the optical quality is extraordinary, with virtually no chromatic aberration. With Leica's new wide-angle 25-50x zoom eyepiece, you get an eye-filling sensation of total immersion in the scene. The eye relief of 19mm holds not only at low power but also at maximum power, a great boon to glasses wearers.

Here's an experience we had that gives a sense of how the Leica Televid outdid the other scopes in overall image quality.

The Leica experience

One day we watched an eastern kingbird 80 yards away, in a willow tree at the edge of a pond. The kingbird repeatedly bashed a cicada against a branch, softening it up for ingestion. We looked through the 88mm Kowa, admiring the bird and even the details of the veins in the cicada's transparent wings.

And then we looked through the 82mm Leica and its wide-angle zoom eyepiece. We were struck by the rich, beautiful image of the bird in its habitat, framed by willow leaves. The visual field was more completely filled and delivered a more satisfying subjective experience.

Eye relief in the topmost of top scopes

Note that the Swarovski's new 25-50x wide-angle zoom gives an experience similar to the Leica's. Leica edged out the Swarovski in scoring because of its slightly wider field of view at 50x and better eye relief.

House Wren Evaluates LeicaWith both of the new Leica and Swarovski eyepieces, the image circle, the picture frame, stays the same size when you zoom in or out, compared to most zooms, in which it grows and shrinks. You get better immersion in the image at all magnifications.

But there is a price. With the new 25-50x eyepieces you do lose the 60x maximum magnification and its higher resolution. If you need that that last bit of resolution to identify a shorebird, the 50x limit could be a minus.


The Leica Televid 82 comes with a 25-50x zoom eyepiece, with a bayonet style attachment. It locks into the body of the scope with a satisfying click when you turn it 45 degrees. A valuable safety feature is the lens release button on the back of the scope below the eyepiece. This eyepiece won't turn on you and drop out of the scope while you're climbing up a scree slope looking for black rosy-finches.

Leica's dual focus system gives you one knob for gross focusing and another for fine focusing. The slow/fine focus knob is beautifully smooth, but it has a small degree of slack when force is initially applied to turn the knob. This does not interfere with the precision of the focus.

The focus knobs are sheltered by the body of the scope, so they won't catch on anything and are protected from being banged.

The body coating is excellent—grippy, semi soft, and pleasant to the touch. The scope looks like it would withstand a lot of knocking about without showing scratches--which is good for birders, who may carry their scopes through thickets of branches and load it in and out of a car many times on a birding trip.

Good design in that it's easy to pick it up by gripping around the waist. The dual focus knobs are recessed, so nothing impedes a comfortable grip on the scope.

Leica DigiscopingDigiscoping

Leica scopes are designed for digiscoping. See the Leica Televid Digital Adapter III in the sidebar to the right.

A special word of thanks

Here's our appreciation for a certain female house wren who took a liking to the Leica scope.

Wren Likes LeicaShe visited often while we testing the scopes out of doors.

Of all the scopes in the lineup, she clearly preferred the Leica and landed on it many times. Whenever she did, we had to stop work to admire her.

Price info

Copyright 2010-2015 by Michael and Diane Porter.

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Leica Televid
Digital Adapter III

Digital Adapter

Price info

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The Tripod Advisor



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