My Favorite Binocular – Jennie Duberstein

I’ve always thought that the best pair of binoculars are the ones that feel right to you. That is what I have told countless young birders and tour participants. The best binoculars? The ones that you’ll use. When I started birding I had an old pair of 8×32 porro prisms that I’d found in my parents’ house. They had “insta-focus”—a triangle-shaped knob that toggled back and forth to focus. These were not great binoculars, but they got me through my first jobs in the field. As soon as I could afford it, I upgraded to slightly more expensive binoculars, a solid entry-level pair which I still own.

Then came Leica.

I love my Leica Ultravid 8x32s. I admit, the first time I used them they almost felt TOO small. They were so lightweight that I overcompensated when bringing them up to my eyes. I felt unbalanced, as if I was carrying a toy. After about a day of using them, though, my muscle memory figured it out and now I can’t imagine going back to a bigger pair. They are small enough to easily stick in a purse or bag, so it is easy to always have my binoculars handy.  I spend a lot of my birding time in the field with young birders. This means I am carrying a huge backpack with a fat first aid kit, sunscreen, an extra water bottle, snacks…the list goes on. Add a spotting scope and a camera to the mix and the last thing I want to lug around my neck is a heavy pair of binoculars. My Leicas are so lightweight that I don’t really even notice that they are hanging around my neck, and I don’t have to sacrifice quality. The view is crisp, clear, bright, and true. They focus close enough to look at butterflies, but with a quick twist of the focus I can look up and focus on a raptor in flight in the distance (no spinning the focus knob four or five rotations to get from close to far focus for this girl.)

See that tiny girl with the huge yellow backpack in the lower left-hand corner of the picture? That's me during 2014 Camp Colorado.

See that tiny girl being swallowed up by the huge yellow backpack in the lower left-hand corner of the picture? That’s me during 2014 Camp Colorado. No heavy binoculars here, please.

But really, it isn’t just the quality of the optics or the portability of the binocular that makes me love my Leicas (and I do love them). I’ve been a big fan of Leica since 2000, when they sponsored the first ABA/Leica Young Birders Conference in Fort Collins. It feels really good to have binoculars around my neck made by a company that so stalwartly supports one of the things nearest and dearest to my heart: young birders. Leica’s dedication and commitment to young birders has made me a fan from Day 1.

I still think that the “best” pair of binoculars are the ones that feel right to you. For me, those are my Leicas.

Jennie after seeing her first bird with her brand new Ultravid 8x32s--a Swainson's Hawk carrying food to the nest.

After seeing my first bird with my brand new Ultravid 8x32s–a Swainson’s Hawk carrying food to the nest at Barr Lake State Park in Brighton, Colorado.