Birdwatching was first introduced to me at around the age of 8, when my father would take us off for the day on a Saturday or Sunday. It was our ‘thing’, one of those rare father and son quality bonding times. Perhaps initially I was reluctant, but I quickly embraced it; being outdoors and the challenge of seeing what you could spot. I recall having a little note book in which, for each trip I would record the time, date, weather conditions and every bird we saw on that day’s bird spotting.
Since those early days, I have taken a more passive approach towards bird watching, indeed for the last couple of decades. But it is there, always in the background, as I think things rooted in those formative years often are, manifesting themselves in some form, forever. There has been the odd occasion of heightened activity more recently, such as Dad and I heading to an RSPB reserve like old times (it also happened to coincide with a need to escape the kitchen on a rather stressed Christmas eve!!).
Ever since the foundation was laid as a boy, I’m subconsciously listening and looking out for birds every day; a greater spotted woodpecker on the cycle to work through Hyde Park, a pair of Mandarin ducks just this very weekend near Richmond whilst going for a run on the Thames Path; a grey wagtail bobbing outside the window at work. It is such a wonderful thing to have had that sense of nature and surrounding built in from such a young age, and I am so very grateful for that. One’s head is always up, one’s ears are always pricked.
More recently, in the last year or so, I have been taking a more active line once again with ornithology. In fact over the New Year just gone, I was fortunate enough to head to the Swiss Alps, for what was meant to be a week’s skiing. With the snow so terrible [and the weather so good], this actually ended up being more of a hiking holiday. Fortunately I had foreseen this by checking the forecast and webcams, and having being caught with no binoculars whilst hiking in the Alps previously, this is THE most frustrating thing, and I was determined to right that wrong. All these fascinating new birds around you, so much to look at, but simply no means to identify them…! This time I was prepared, and very well equipped …
Leica Noctivid 8×42 Binoculars
I was lucky enough to get my hands on a pair of Leica’s latest top of the range binoculars for a couple of weeks, to take on my trip to Switzerland. They were the Leica Noctivid 8 x 42. Taking it to the basics, the ‘8’ is the magnification, and the ’42’ is the field of vision seen through the binoculars.
After two years of development, Leica were sure to make these binoculars the business, and they really are just that. These are without doubt the BEST binoculars I have ever put my eyes to, and put my hands on! My father has always used Zeiss binoculars, and I have always begged, borrowed and stolen these – and don’t get my wrong, I still love them – but these Leica’s were phenomenal and a joy to use.
Here is a summary to the main points I noted whilst using them:
- The colours you see through the lens truly reflect reality, performing particularly well at dawn and dusk in low light levels. You see every detail of the thing you are looking at;
- They are very easy and light to focus, so when needing to re-focus on something very quickly, nearer or further, you’ll be sure not to miss a fleeting sight of your desired target;
- They weigh just 860 grams, so you can happily have them around your neck all day whilst you’re walking, without nuisance or making your neck sore;
- They are waterproof to 5m, so you can happily have them still out when drizzling or raining and not worry about it;
- The body is a magnesium chassis with protective rubber varnish make them both comfortable in hand as well as hard wearing, so you don’t need to be precious with them;
- You can also focus on things so very close to you, just 1.9m away. My father was particularly impressed by this – the older pair of Zeiss binoculars he uses need a good couple of car lengths distance in order to be able to focus on something;
- They are a beautiful and tactile size, and pack away easily. The Noctivid’s competitors, Zeiss Victory SF and the Swarovski EL 42 equivalents are slightly longer in length, and just don’t have you lusting after them as much as the Leicas; and
- They come with a ten year warranty too, and you can be sure Leica won’t ask questions when you call them, they’ll just sort any problems right out.
As well as the more quantitate points outlined above, there is also just something so very difficult to put your finger on with all things Leica. They just somehow make you like an 8-year old boy again; you just want them, and they are just so beautiful to look at and to have in your possession!
I was so very reluctant to hand these back, I had really fallen in love with them! The only particular hiccup with these is their price tag. Just like anything which includes the best ‘optics’, with absolutely no shortcuts taken, they don’t come cheap. They will set you back £2,025. BUT, these are one of those investments, quite irrational in many ways, like an expensive watch. If you’re grafting, working for most of your life to earn a buck, I think one is justified on occasion for a splurge like this.
Leica 8×42 Noctivid, retail at £2,025