My Favorite Binocular – Steve N.G. Howell

Leica 8×32 Ultravids – Steve N. G. Howell

For me, good binoculars require 4 basic things: waterproof and reasonably knock-proof (if not, stop here); close focus (without multiple turns of the focus wheel); good depth of field (so you’re not constantly tweaking the focus wheel); and a reasonably wide angle of view. If they’re small, lightweight, and easy to hold and pack, then even better; and of course the optics need to be excellent, providing a bright, clear image.

These factors combine to create the numero uno in what a good binocular should do: enhance your viewing and not interfere with it. When looking through my Leica 8×32 Ultravids I am not really aware I am using binoculars, they just form a seamless part of the viewing experience; I am at one with the subject and not being distracted by fiddling, distorted view, or any number of other things that can happen with some binoculars. I liken it to good writing or good illustration: smooth transmission of information is lost by poor writing, poor illustrations, and poor optics. Good writing should transmit imagery to the mind without one having to re-read a badly written sentence in an attempt to understand what the writer is trying (and failing) to say. Good illustration should convey the bird as it looks, without its eye being in slightly in the wrong place, or the bill at slightly the wrong angle, or any number of things that the human eye perceives, things can cause hesitation in interpreting an image. Something is wrong but you don’t know what. For me, the 8×32 Ultravids offer the paradoxically simple yet complex fusion that enhances and does not interfere with watching birds. Sure, they come at a price, but I only have one pair of eyes and I want to treat them well!

The author enjoying coconut milk and showing off his favorite binoculars. Nendö Island, Santa Cruz Island, Solomons.

The author enjoying coconut milk and showing off his favorite binoculars. Nendö Island, Santa Cruz Islands, Solomons.