As my friends know one of my passions in life is high end optics. I have an extensive collection of WW II binoculars and optics as well as post war optics or various types. I don’t consider myself an expert by any means but I definitely know quality when I see it. I have a real weakness for binoculars in particular and after owning, using, and studying over 20 pairs of binos in my growing collection I feel I can pass on some of my “observations”.
1) Best kept secret in binoculars; Post War East German Carl Zeiss Jena. I own several different types of Carl Zeiss Jena binos and for the money they are hard to beat. The birthplace of high quality coated optical glass as we know it is Jena, Germany and the Zeiss name was made famous from the superb optics coming from this region. The East Germans kept up this tradition from behind the Iron Curtain. Some of the features are a bit dated but the overall quality and clarity of the glass is superb. When the wall was up G.I.’s stationed in Germany and Berlin could go into East Germany on pass and buy binoculars and Carl Zeiss Cameras for peanuts. Those days are long gone but Carl Zeiss Jena binoculars can be purchased on eBay regularly for very reasonable prices. I have a total of nine pairs of Carl Zeiss Jena binoculars so I feel safe revealing my secret. For the money, they represent the best value in binoculars today.
2) Best quality binoculars at any price; Leica. I have a total of four different pairs of Leica binoculars/laser rangefinders and without a doubt in my mind they are the best that money can buy. The overall quality of construction, attention to detail, and optical quality is second to none.
My personal favorites at this time are the compact 8 x 20 BCA Trinovid and the magnificent 8 x 42 Geovid. The very compact Leica 8 x 20 binoculars have better overall performance than most full size 8 x binoculars from other makers. Normally compact binoculars suck big time but these Leicas are truly in a league of their own. My good friend Larry Bullock before he passed away turned me onto these superb little binos and I am forever indebted to him for it. If you have never looked through a pair do yourself a favor and try them; trust me you will be impressed. Leica has recently introduced the Ultravid series. Other than at trade shows I have yet to seriously shake out any binos from this new line. From what I have seen and heard they take Leica Binocular excellence to an even higher level. I look forward to an extensive T&E with a pair.
In my opinion the most impressive binoculars/laser rangefinders I have ever had the pleasure of using are the new Leica Geovid Series. I have the 8 x 42 version in yards and if I could only own one pair of binoculars this would be it. As is the Leica standard overall quality and attention to detail is impeccable. Hell, even the box and packaging it comes in reeks of quality. With only a very slight weight and size penalty compared to standard 8 x binos they double as an excellent laser rangefinder with an effective range of approx 1300 yards or 1200 meters depending on the version. In addition they have the Leica range finding scan feature that allows the user to move the laser from one target to another and get updated ranging information every couple seconds. They are only available in black at this time. I am hoping Leica will offer them in different tactical colors (OD Green and Coyote Brown for starters) and I would also like to see a ranging/mildot reticle for a backup to the laser rangefinder. These two items would put this binocular over the top. They sell in the $1900 – $2000 range and they are worth every penny.
If you can only buy one pair of binoculars in your lifetime this is it. Absolutely top of the line.
There you have it – a Reader’s Digest version of the world according to me regarding binoculars. Enjoy.