FrontRunners: For the Birders

During a recent birding festival in Cape May, N.J., the most popular sighting could not be identified in a book of ornithology. According to Terry Moore, vice president of Sport Optics at Leica (800.222.0118, www.leica.com), he was overrun by birders clamoring for a glimpse of the new Leica binoculars. The binoculars, available in 14 models, push the limits of how small—and powerful—scopes can be. At just 24.5 ounces, the leather-clad Ultravid 10×42 BL ($1,600) is as much as 3 ounces lighter and more than an inch shorter than comparable binoculars of the same magnification. (Although they add some weight, green or black rubber coverings are also available.) The frame is constructed of magnesium and titanium, and the fine-grade leather lends the unmistakably classic Leica look.

Peer through one of the new binoculars, and the reason for the birdwatchers’ excitement becomes clear. Leica greatly increased image brightness and contrast by developing a new optical glass and coating that reflects 99.5 percent of light. In addition, mechanical improvements reduce stray light. While hunters and birders alike have embraced the leather versions, Moore says, they were originally designed for travel, cruises, horse racing, polo, and other leisure activities. 

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