Binocular Review: Leica Noctivid 10x42 vs. Nikon HG 10x42

Discussion in 'Scopes, Optics, LRFs, Spotters, BoreScopes' started by Ledd Slinger, Feb 12, 2019.

  1. Ledd Slinger

    Ledd Slinger Gold $$ Contributor

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    I have had the Nikon HG 10x42 binoculars for about a year now. Picked them up last spring for $900. For the money they are amazing. Made in house at the Nikon plant in Japan with ED glass and Field Flattener lens system, they really deliver one hell of an image at a very affordable price. Very comparable to binoculars costing over twice as much.

    But me being a bit of an optics nerd...I'm always curious and looking for the best. I appreciate great optics at value prices, but I still believe sometimes purchasing the best money can buy is also worth it. About a week ago I noticed @Alex Wheeler had his Leica Noctivid 10x42 binoculars for sale at a price I couldnt resist so I pulled the trigger and made the purchase. The Noctivid is the flagship binocular of Leica and represents the pinnacle of optical performance the renowned German company is capable of delivering. No expenses were spared on this new design and from my limited testing so far, it definitely shows.

    I have been comparing the Leica Noctivid side by side with my Nikon HG for the last couple days in various lighting and weather conditions. Here are my unprofessional results.

    The two contenders...
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    To be continued in more posts.......
     
  2. Ledd Slinger

    Ledd Slinger Gold $$ Contributor

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    SIZE, WEIGHT, AND ERGONOMICS:
    Both are very compact binoculars with the Nikon being about 1/4" shorter. Not much of a difference and both fit the hand well. Tho I do prefer the open hinge design of the Leica as it is a little more comfortable when holding them in one hand. But I have no issues operating the Nikons in one hand so they are fairly even in this regard.

    They both have excellent armoring and very positive clicks on the eye cups that are a pleasure to use. They are two of the best sets of eye cups I have ever used on binoculars. Great job by both companies!

    Both have stay on objective covers that is a feature I really appreciate in a binocular. Covers are very nice and insert on the internal portion of the objective barrels. One difference is that the Leica covers 'stay put' a lot better than the Nikon. The Nikon covers tend to fall out from time to time due to a slightly less than perfect fit. This gets a little annoying at times when trying to put them in a case or set them down. No issues with the Leica covers falling out. Leica definitely wins here.

    The Nikon HG is significantly lighter than the Leica Noctivid. However...Leica did such an excellent job of balancing the the weight in hand that I dont really notice it. I thought for sure that I would prefer the Nikon here based on it being 6.8 oz. lighter, but was completely surprised when I found that I couldnt really "feel" the difference. Just goes to show how important balance is in an optic and Leica was obviously well aware of this when they designed the Noctivid. I havent conducted extended period glassing sessions with the Leica so I may notice a difference after glassing for a long period, but for right now I'll say "job well done" by Leica for making a heavy bino feel light in the hand :)
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    Both binoculars have locking diopters that work very well. Leica stayed with their traditional center locking diopter mounted to the front of the focus wheel. Nikon doesn't use a locking diopter on most of their binoculars so I was happy to see this on the new HG model. The HG diopter is mounted under the eye cup on the right barrel. I find the Nikon diopter much easier to use because I can easily unlock, adjust, and lock again with one hand. The center diopter on the Leica requires the use of two hands if you want to maintain your view which makes it quite awkward. Otherwise to unlock it with one hand, you have to pull your eyes away from the bino. Both work very well, but of the two designs, I definitely prefer the Nikon for ease of use and quick one hand adjustment on the fly without having to take my eyes off the binos.
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    To be continued in more posts.....
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2019
  3. Ledd Slinger

    Ledd Slinger Gold $$ Contributor

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    Now down to the good stuff.

    OPTICAL PERFORMANCE

    Both of these binoculars deliver a top shelf image. I was having a very difficult time distinguishing a winner while free hand glassing so I had to turn to my trusty Field & Cave scope checker and Manfrotto tripod for assistance. I rigged both binos up on the scope checker so I had a steady mount where I could quickly shift my eyes from one bino to the other. This is my custom "Redneck bino testing jig". LOL! Ugly as hell, but it worked very well for this test :)
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    The testing grounds. Mountainside by my house that allows me to view trees and rocks up to 2400 yards away.
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    To be continued with more posts.....
     
  4. Ledd Slinger

    Ledd Slinger Gold $$ Contributor

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    I find that it is very difficult to distinguish differences between good glass on nice bright sunny days because everything seems to look awesome. So I chose today's conditions for testing since there was solid cloud cover and a slight haze in the air. Bad weather and low light is where you will find why you spend a lot more money on high end optics. That being said, both of these binoculars performed superbly. It wasnt until I got some muggy weather and had them mounted on the tripod that I could finally tell the Leica held an edge over the Nikon optically. The resolution, color contrast, and CA control on the Leica was noticeably just a little better. Not by a whole lot, but I could definitely see it once I had them on a stable platform where I could quickly look back and forth on the same object. I could see every bit of detail with the Nikon that I could see with the Leica, but I found myself finding them "first" with the Leica, then checking to see of I could find it with the Nikon. Why do I mention finding detail first with the Leica? Because I found that the better color rendition and contrast made details stand out better. I would be glassing and say to myself, "oh wow, that's cool...I wonder if I can see that with the Nikon...yep there it is". The color on the Nikon is very good and the resolution is amazing, but it just seems like nothing really "pops" when viewing with the Nikon. The Nikon reminds me a lot of the view thru Swarovski EL. By that I mean while the resolution is top notch, but the colors are fairly neutral.
    Another reason that I seemed to notice things with the Leica first is because it appears to have a higher level of magnification. Although both binoculars are stated to be 10x, it was quite apparent that objects were slightly larger in the view thru the Leica. So you could say that the Leica almost resolves a little better as well because it puts you just a little bit closer to the object you are viewing. If the Nikon is a true 10x, then the Leica is actually more like an 11x.

    Something that really stood out on the Leica is it has very large ocular lenses and 2mm more eye relief than the Nikon. Leica has 19mm of eye relief, Nikon is rated at 17mm. Due to this, the Leica does in fact create a more forgiving and pleasurable viewing experience when you are moving your eyes around the wide field of view.

    Both have a very flat field of view with excellent edge sharpness. Field of view and flatness is nearly identical. Neither binocular has any sort of "rolling ball" effect when panning so well done on both fronts there.

    The Leica did have a slightly better depth of field at long range. Meaning I didn't have to fine tune the focus wheel as much to bring the whole field into focus. Took some messing around to determine this because the Nikon has excellent depth of field as well, but the Leica did have an edge there.

    Low light performance by both binoculars was excellent. Both gave great resolution and detail well past legal hunting shooting light. But again, the Leica's slightly better resolution and color contrast put it out front.

    All in all on optical performance, the Nikon gave one hell of a showing, but the Leica came out on top. Never have I seen colors so true as what the Noctivid delivers. The image is balanced so well and the contrast is perfect. The Nikon delivers an image that is absolutely amazing as well, but it falls just a little short in all aspects when compared with the best glass in the world. Japanese ED glass is getting very good, but still not quite on par with top of the line European Schott HT. Im honestly not sure any other glass out there could match the true color rendition and contrast that the Noctivid provides. Simply breathtaking.

    Nonetheless, the Nikon HG is by far the best glass I have seen to date by any binocular in a price range short of the big 3: Leica Noctivid, Swarovski EL SV, and Zeiss Victory T FL. In my opinion, at only $900, the Nikon HG is the best value for top level glass currently on the market. The only way to beat it in my opinion is to go with one of the big 3 for $2600+

    Pictures of images through the two binoculars to follow in more posts...
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2019
  5. Ledd Slinger

    Ledd Slinger Gold $$ Contributor

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    I tried to take the best pictures I could to give you all an idea of the view through these two amazing pieces of glass. Keep in mind that my camera cannot focus the edge of the image along with the center. Nor can my camera resolve the image at the same level the binoculars can. The image through these two binoculars is razor sharp and amazing across the whole field of view. Without any further delay, please enjoy these photos. Although the photos can't give full justice to the true image you see looking thru the binos, I hope they give you some sort of insight to the level of quality these two excellent pieces of glass deliver :)

    LEICA NOCTIVID 10X42

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  6. dminn1

    dminn1

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    Cool review. Thanks for posting.
     
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  7. Ledd Slinger

    Ledd Slinger Gold $$ Contributor

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    Nikon HG 10x42

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  8. micmac

    micmac

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  9. Ledd Slinger

    Ledd Slinger Gold $$ Contributor

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    There probably would be a larger difference using a chart. My reviews are only based on what 'my' eyes see. I dont normally look at resolution charts ;) The Nikon has excellent resolution, but its lesser color contrast definitely hinders it when compared to the Noctivid.

    I find that lesser color contrast also makes it seem like resolution is degraded because the lines between different colors aren't as definitive. The contrast of the Noctivid is so good that you dont really need to look for lines and fine details between objects because the colors just pop and stand out from one another. But the image does not look artificial either. The colors are as perfectly true as I have ever seen. Dont know if that makes sense...However, the resolution on the Noctivid is also as good as I've ever seen. Second to none. Best way to understand is to look through a set of Noctivids and compare them to your current favorite binocular on a cloudy or gloomy day like I did.
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2019
  10. micmac

    micmac

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    Trick is their charts are designed in specific colors to amplify the weakeneses of the opics ,that can be quantified trough their excel spreadsheet. Only realy way to say this is better than with less subjective.

    The charts are for riflescopes so you would need them much closer on binoculars

    ''The Excel scoring template summarizes your observation and calculates final score of the scope. Measured optical performance has total 65% , 30% for black-white resolution. Subjective contrast assessment 20% . All the rest 15% .

    Scoring is perhaps "too much" on resolution side - but this was done intentionally to keep results as objective as possible. Also, for example, eye position sensitivity may be much more important than 5% for many- but as it is subjective felt feature. Main purpose is to find out actual optical performance in a comparable and objective manner.''


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