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Hands-on Gear Review
Leica 10x25 Ultravid BCR Review
Cons: Short field of view
As Leica says on their website, this pair of binoculars is "the reference standard". These are the compact binoculars that everyone compares other compact models to. They are the smallest and lightest pair we tested. Though Leica had to make compromises to make them that small, it is hard to tell. They scored pretty high in our comparison, which is why they win our Top Pick award for travel and hiking.
RELATED REVIEW: Best Binoculars of 2017 for Birding and Hiking
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
These are the standard for compact binoculars, and you can tell that when you look through them. As the smallest and lightest pair that we tested, this is the perfect pair to pack with you on an adventure when size and weight matters. You won't be sacrificing too much in performance either.
Leica claims to have shrunk down the elements that are used in the company's larger binoculars to keep the same sharp image in this compact pair. We wouldn't go so far to say these are on par with larger pairs, but they did do a good job. On the ISO 12233 chart in our clarity test, we could make out zone 8 from edge-to-edge. In the center of the optics you could make out zone 10 with no noticeable fringing or color aberrations. All the curved and slanted lines looked clear. Though Leica doesn't have any information on its website about the type of glass used, it is suspected that the company would use a preparatory type of ED glass on the BCR line, though this cannot be confirmed. That would explain why its scores were up there with other vendors that use ED glass, like the Nikon Monarch 7 or the Vanguard Endeavor II.
With an objective lens of 25mm you would expect these to be at the bottom of the list for brightness. Smaller objective lenses have less light gathering ability, all things being equal. Things are not equal though, and Leica's multi-coating on all air-to-glass surfaces keep what light enters the lenses from straying. Leica uses a dielectric coating on the prisms, which they call Highlux-System HLS, along with phase corrected prisms. All this makes it hard to tell that the objective lens was almost half the size of some of the larger and bright binoculars we tested, like the Nikon Monarch 7 ATB 10x42 or the Vanguard Endeavor II 10x42.
Ease of Adjustment
The top hinge design allows the lens barrels on Leica Ultravid BCR 10x25 to fold up under the bridge right next to each other. This allows for a very compact design when folded up. The center focus knob is small and some people found it hard to use when compared to the size of the controls on the Vortex Diamondback 8x28. The diopter is adjusted from the center focus by pushing a button. This does lock the diopter in place, unless you accidentally press the button while focusing, which did happen to one tester. The knobs all adjusted easily and you could quickly move from close to distant objects once you got used to the size which is smooth when compared to the stiff out-of-the-box feel for both the Vortex Diamondback.
Field of View and Close Focus Range
The Leica Ultravid BCR 10x25 scored low on the field of view with one of the shortest: 273 feet at 1000 yards. This compared to 360 feet at 1000 yards for the Vortex Diamondback 8x28 or 340 feet at a 1000 yards for the Vanguard Endeavor II 10x42 is pretty small. The close focus range of the Leica BCR is in the middle of the pack with 10.3 feet, with the Vortex Diamondback focusing down to 13.1 feet and the Vanguard Endeavor II 10x42 focusing down to 6.5 feet.
Some people with big hands or larger faces found the Leica Ultravid BCR 10x25 a little uncomfortable or hard to use. Those testers scored the Vortex Diamondback higher on comfort even though this pair is fairly compact as well. Most people had no issue with holding or focusing the Leica. The rubber eyecups were smaller than most, but still comfortable for a compact pair of binoculars. It only used a thin piece of webbing for a strap, but at 9.4 oz you could barely notice the Leica when around your neck.
Leica uses an aluminium body on the Ultravid BCR 10x25. This helps to keep the weight down and, along with the rubberized coating, makes the it comfortable to hold. It is missing a lens cover for the objective lens, but it wasn't found to be an issue because most testers kept them in the case since they were so small and light. The Leica Ultravid BCR has a lens coating on the objective lens and eyepiece that helps to repel water and oil. We didn't notice any misalignments or flaws. Everything moves easily and stays in place. Just holding them in your hands, you can feel the quality of the build.
These are the go-to binoculars for people who want something that is small and lightweight but don't want to make huge compromises in other areas. The Leica Ultravid BCR 10x25 are perfect to use for hiking if birding or wildlife viewing is not your main objective. They won't take up much room in your pack. These binoculars are so small that most testers kept them in a pocket so they were easy to get to if an interesting bird flew by. They also make a great pair of binocular to take on your next national or international trip.
The Leica Ultravid BCR 10x25 are not value oriented binoculars. These are a German performance sports car of the binocular world, and as such cost what a high-performance sports car costs. The quality and performance of the Leica are there, but so is the price. At $749, these are the second most expensive binoculars we tested after the almost $3000 Swarovski EL 8.5x42. If the price is a determining factor, then we suggest you go with the Vortex Diamondback 8x28 which earned our Best Buy Award. The Vortex DiamondBack is only a 2 inches wider and 4.6 oz heavier, but costs around $500 less.
The scenario: you are doing a 1200 mile bicycle tour along the Pacific Coast, what pair of binoculars do you take? In our lead tester's case he had 12 models to choose from, and he took the Leica Ultravid BCR 10x25. Lightweight and small, they didn't take up much room or add a lot of weight. While he was on this trip he ran across people all the time using binoculars to enjoy the beautiful scenery and view the various marine mammals. He handed over his small binoculars and asked them if they would like to take a look. They politely refused because they already had a pair of binoculars. He explained that he was writing a review on them and would appreciate their comments. They graciously accept your offer, and after looking through, in some form everyone says "those are nice, who makes them?" He replied with "Leica" and the response was always somewhere along the lines of "makes sense."
As stated in the beginning, this pair is the reference standard. Though the Leica Ultravid BCR 10x25 is the smallest and lightest pair of binoculars we reviewed, it compares almost on par with full-sized binoculars like the Vanguard Endeavor II 10x42. That quality and size does come with a compromise, and that is the price. It still doesn't distract from the fact that the Leica Ultravid BCR earned OutoorGearLab's Top Pick award for hiking and traveling.
— Michael Payne
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