The Trinovid Legacy

(Editor’s Note: Ernst Leitz was the founder of the Leica company. The name “Leica” was derived by combining “Lei” from Leitz, with “ca” from camera. Until the 1990′s, binoculars manufactured by Leica were given the name “Leitz”. In 1990 the well-known red dot began carrying the Leica name as they do today)

The story behind my Leitz 8×42 armored Trinovids – by Frank Kohn

Before graduating from Hobart and William Smith College in Geneva, NY, in 1977, I took an ornithology course with Professor Richard Ryan, a graduate of Cornell and an expert birder. Dr. Ryan, although wearing hearing aids, reliably found more species of birds on every field lab we took throughout the spring semester. Twelve sets of eyes regularly failed to find the same number of species as Dr. Ryan’s.

One day during an afternoon field lab, Dr. Ryan passed around his 8×42 non-armored Trinovids. I have no idea when he obtained them but they were obviously old and well-worn. Once we all got a look through his binoculars, we understood just why he saw more species than any of us. The clarity, brightness and ease of handling surpassed any of the binoculars used by us poor students. At that moment I vowed that someday I too would own a Leitz.

On our last field lab, an early morning one, we decided that no matter how difficult to keep up with him, we would match the number of species seen by our esteemed professor. Each one of us stayed close to Dr. Ryan to try to see everything that he saw or heard, while simultaneously looking for more birds. At breakfast we huddled around the cafeteria table and compared notes totaling all the species we had recorded. In class the next hour Dr. Ryan, asked us as he always did, how many species we had seen that morning. I nervously looked at my classmates and then at Dr. Ryan.
“We saw 42 species this morning.” I said with an ambivalent confidence.

“That’s funny” Dr. Ryan said. And then he paused for what seemed like an eternity. “That’s how many I saw.”

A silent cheer ran through our team.

I purchased my first pair of Leitz armored Trinovid 8×42 binoculars in 1983 after landing a job as a zookeeper at the National Zoo.
I got my second pair, an identical pair in 1984 after my apartment had been broken into and the Leitz’s, along with my camera, had been stolen. The Leitz had come with a promotion, a beautiful laser etched box to store them in. I remember coming home and, upon seeing the open windows, first checking the Laser-etched box, now empty. I was devastated. Within a week I had ordered the new pair even though I had to put it on credit. I couldn’t be without my Leitz.

Since then, every time I use them I pass them around. When my friends and colleagues look through these now 30-year-old Trinovids they have the same reaction I had when I first looked through the Leitz owned by Dr. Ryan: Wow!

Frank Kohn with his 8x42 Leitz Armored Trinovids

Frank Kohn with his 8×42 Leitz armored Trinovids