Leica Geovid Rangefinding Binoculars
- By Chris Parkin
- 0 Comments
- Last updated: 22/02/2021
Leica has lead laser rangefinding technology across multiple markets for decades. In the shooting world, I’m lucky to have been tagging alongside with regular updates to the HD-B binoculars for seven years and counting.
These were immediately distinct both visually and electronically. Using the patented Berger-Porro prism system, gave their characteristic longitudinally curved body shape with a conventional twin bridge layout and single finger focusing dial on the rear. Combining that superb optical quality with innovative use of a ballistic system within, to not only measure range, but calculate long range ballistic solutions from preprogrammed SD cards, or using onboard manufacturer supplied solutions was a game-changer and ever since other brands have chased to keep up. Premium glassware updates like the 56mm objective lens option, suited low light situations, yet advancing market-wide electronic evolution saw Leica leapfrogged by other companies going wireless first.
I reviewed the 2800.COM monocular last year and was secretly hopeful Leica would apply this wireless communication to the HD-B binoculars, with the 3200. COM, they now have. So as well as range, temperature, shot inclination and atmospheric conditions measured and accounted for, you can program, re-program and update personalised ballistic profiles on a smartphone or using data from a Kestrel. No need for a PC or laptop with an internet connection and transferring via micro SD cards. The clue for the final function update is in the name, various 2*** series iterations have increased as laser strength and range finding capability extended, now peaking at ‘3200’ yards/2900m, which in the ‘hunting’ world, is beyond long-range.
Unboxing Leica’s wellarmoured packaging, reveals binoculars, neck strap, carry case, CR2 battery and instruction manual, which as usual is, let’s say, compact. It contains multiple languages in small text but masses of detail, so you might want your reading glasses on.
After physical setup and familiarisation with the Cordura carry case, threading the strap through and attaching flexible ocular caps and the objective lens covers, you are ready to get into the serious detail.
A screwdriver cap under the front hinge reveals the battery compartment that used to also hold the micro SD card, but now just a tiny circuit board that looks suspiciously like the Bluetooth electronics. Anyway, now powered up, there are two buttons on the right arm of the rear bride which are essentially ‘Laser’ (convex) and ‘Mode’ (concave).
The eyecups have eight extension positions - which is the most I can remember from any product- allowing you to tailor the 16mm optical eye relief perfectly to your personal positional needs, accounting for the head position and eyebrow shape or glasses.
Pressing the convex laser button will initiate the internal display which appears in the right tube. The first step is to adjust the ocular collar on this side to get a clear picture, but concentrate on the red LED, don’t worry about the actual sight picture. It is worth doing this a couple of times, making sure your eye relaxes the ciliary muscles to focal infinity between each viewing. Now, look at an object in the middle distance through the binos, use the central focusing dial to focus a clear picture, but again, concentrate first on the right eye. Once you have a clear picture of whatever you are concerned with, then repeat the ocular dioptre focus for the left eyecup and you now have a perfectly balanced image which should need no more than the central focus knob adjusting when changing viewed distance in the future. Think ‘Rightmiddle- left’ in that order.
Image quality is delightful, with rich colours and flat edge to edge clarity I was using the 10x42 model, but an 8x42 version is also available as well as a significantly larger 8x56 too. The latter shows a 25% increase in objective lens area, for superior low light performance.
With the LED initiated, a second press will fire the laser and a range readout will appear in less than half a second, followed three seconds later by whatever ballistic data you want to display after internal calculation. There is also a scan mode giving constant updates on the range. I will interrupt at this point by commenting that maximum range capability isn’t always about the specific distance that can be measured, it indicates the strength of the laser. I have always found the Leica rangefinders to be relatively strong compared to their peers, the latter often needing scan mode to target objects the Leica’s engaged with a single ping.
The red circle in the Leica binoculars is well aligned and seems to ‘hit’what it is pointing at, which cannot always bee said. It is a hunting tool and won’t engage crows at extreme range but deer-sized quarry at 800m were caught in the beam, and again, laser strength seems to penetrate poor air quality and mist quite well.
Low light will always see better performance form a laser rangefinder with less background light interference, yet I was happy with Leica’s specification even if I was never in a position to engage a 3200 yard elephant. Large skyline buildings gave me the opportunity to assess the claims satisfactorily.
Referring back and forth to the instructions enables trying any of the 12 ballistic setups pre-calculated within the device’s firmware that approximate your rifle’s ballistics. I often used this when swapping rifles regularly during reviews and find for hunting requirements, it’s very good, unless venturing to extreme ranges. However, the holy grail of the Leica system always was the ability to customise and refine setup and now, do it wirelessly. The instructions will talk you through the setup to initiate Bluetooth and how to pair your phone with the Leica app installed. I won’t kid you and say it takes seconds, it is more of a minutes process and you may find the unit wanting to do critical updates. Once done the first few times, the procedures become clear and relatively intuitive.
The procedure is too extensive to describe within 1500 words so follow the instructions. You will be given options to use true distance or ‘Equivalent horizontal range’ (EHR) and can generate corrections in basic holdover or dialled corrections based upon this, and internal calculations for which details like precise muzzle velocity, ballistic coefficient, zero range and other firearm details are mandatory. Like any ballistic solver, quality information in leads to superior output info. Units can be chosen, metres/ yards, atmospheric data and perhaps most critically click value, Minutes of Angle (MOA) or Milliradians, cm clicks or ¼ MOA etc.
Once set up, your choices are stored unless specifically changed, but it’s well worth running through the menu systems on both phone and binoculars in detail, as specifically on the binos, the seven segment LED abbreviations used aren’t always utterly clear until you have familiarised a few times. I have been using HD-B’s for five years so have a head start.
Refining ballistic data is part of the longer-range shooting process and now if travelling to vastly alternate atmospheric locations, because it’s all Bluetooth you aren’t restricted to a computer. Leica has done it well, with a clear app that seems weighted towards ballistic technicality, not quite as critically detailed as the Kestrel (with which it is compatible), but not as romantically simplistic as I have used before on competing products. Don’t be tempted to think you can set up for extended shots in a couple of minutes, time in equals success out and beware small variables with significant effect if incorrect.
Electronics aside, the Berger- Porro system is combined with state of the art lens grinding and coatings. This is paired to internal mechanics designed to prevent unwanted reflections and a mechanical focusing system running from 5m to infinity in 1.75 turns of the rubberised focus dial. This enables precise focal position to pinpoint quarry in detail. In the mid-range, there is plentiful depth of field for scanning landscapes in daylight, relaxed without the constant need to re-focus until something does ‘pop’for further investigation.
AquaDura external lens coatings offer high abrasion resistance which I can agree with. My similar 10x42 HDB’s have withstood five years of carefree use and storage. The rubber armoured, light magnesium chassis has proven tough and waterresistant on all occasions.
The Leicas retain 91% light transmission, with a bright edge picture seen through the 4.2mm exit pupil. Given the additional lens elements in the right tube for what is effectively a heads up display, there is no visual imbalance from the glassware. EHR calculations are available to 1100m which seems plentiful for hunting, where these certainly have the legs both optically and mathematically.
Field of view is not compromised and the automated brightness control ensures there is rarely any flare from the LED display within. In some conditions, I still prefer to set this manually because of colour contrast in extremes of brightness.
Laser scatter is minimal, offering 0.5m accuracy to 200m and 1m accuracy to 400. Perhaps more than needed, but importantly, the minimal beam divergence allied to the precise aim of the laser has proved accurate when selecting specific targets within additional clutter. The Blue Tooth is the final gnasher needed to complete Leica’s bite into the optical masterclass!