The Leica Noctivid 10x42 binoculars sit in that exorbitantly priced pantheon of high-end optics, and they provide the crystal clear images you would expect of such a product. However, while the optical quality is right on pace with that of the other premium models we tested, the Noctivid does lack some of the design touches of its high-end siblings. It is not quite as comfortable to hold as either the Swarovski EL or the Zeiss Victory HT. The Swarovski also has a better close focus range. Neither of these things are dealbreakers, especially if you can find the Noctivid on sale, but if you're going to pay list price we would suggest looking at one of the other high-end brands.
Leica Noctivid 10x42 Review
Cons: Very expensive, not quite as comfortable as other high-end models
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Leica Noctivid 10x42 offers the kind of exceptional quality you'd expect from this venerated optical company. However, both its in hand comfort and close focus range are bested by other models in the same price range, so if those things are important you may be better of investing in Swarovski or Zeiss instead.
While the Leica Noctivid 10x42 was one of the top scoring pairs of binoculars we tested, it fell slightly behind the other two high-end models.
For all intents and purposes the Noctivid is even with the other high-end models we tested, the Swarovski EL and the Zeiss Victory HT. If you do a scrutinous side-by-side comparison like we did below the Swarovski EL is just a tad brighter than the other two, but in practice we never felt limited by the Noctivid's brightness in comparison to the Swarovski EL. In the end all three of these models earned perfect scores of 10 out of 10 in this metric.
Ease of Adjustment
Here the Noctivid was behind both the Swarovski EL and the Zeiss Victory HT. The Noctivid uses a diopter adjustment that requires pulling the focus knob back until it clicks, and then you can use the main focus knob to adjust the diopter. This is akin to the adjustment on the Swarovski EL. While this adjustment is convenient, we found that it's somewhat unlikely but not impossible to accidentally pull out the focus knob during normal use (one of our testers may have missed a Swainson's hawk that way). The Zeiss Victory HT uses a separate knob to adjust the diopter that is just stiff enough that you'll likely never nudge it accidentally.
Another small point of complaint with the Noctivid is its eye cups. Like the other high-end models they twist in and out to adjust. However, they don't have as distinctive stopping points as the other high-end models, so it takes a minute to get both eye cups even. This can be a pian, especially if you're passing the bins around between a few people.
Field of View and Close Focus Range
The Noctivid does have the best field of view of the high-end models we tested. When comparing the 10x magnification versions, the Noctivid provides a 337 foot wide field of view at 1000 yards, compared to the 336 foot and 330 foot fields of the Swarovski EL and the Zeiss Victory HT, respectively. However, in the field we didn't feel like that extra field of view added much to the birding experience, and certainly didn't make it noticeably easier to get glass on a fast moving bird.
In terms of close focus range The Noctivid is dead even with the Zeiss Victory HT's 6.2 feet and slightly behind the Swarovski EL's 4.9 feet. Again, this difference in minor, and in practice you'll only notice the difference if a beautiful butterfly happens to land on your foot. However, if you like to get your bins on insects a lot this may be a selling point for switching from the Noctivid to the Swarovski EL.
Here again we ranked the Noctivid slightly behind the other high-end contenders. The Noctivid isn't uncomfortable in hand, but it lacks any sort of groove indentation to let them nestle into the crook of your thumb. The Zeiss Victory HT also lacks such a feature, but the barrels are slightly thinner and thus sit in hand a bit more comfortably. The Swarovski EL easily takes the cake in this metric. It has two little thumb grooves that make the bins feel like an extension of your hands.
Listing for $2700, the Leica Noctivid's price is right in line with other high-end models. While these bins are great, we think both the Swarovski EL and the Zeiss Victory HT offer slight advantages over the Leica Noctivid, making them slightly better values if you're investing in a new pair of high-end bins.
The Leica Noctivid is a great pair of high-end binoculars, but its rivals are just slightly better in a couple of aspects. If you can find the Noctivid on sale it's worth snatching up, but if you're paying full price you may want to consider the Swarovski EL instead.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata