This review on the Leica Geovid HD-B 10×42 rangefinder binoculars is based on a 3 month long field test. It reflects the thoughts of 3 different precision rifle shooters as they used the product to observe and range targets from 25 to 2,000 yards hundreds of times. The full field test consisted of 8 different rangefinders, so we have a very wide view of what to expect in a good pair of rangefinder binoculars. This post is compiled from our notes of what we specifically liked or didn’t like about the Leica Geovid HD-B compared to the rest of the models out there.
- Best of class optical quality with HD fluoride glass and cutting-edge Perger-Porro prism system
- True one mile ranging performance on 2 MOA targets, and it can range beyond 2,000 on larger targets in ideal conditions.
- Extremely wide field of view for 10x binocular
- Ergonomics are absolutely 1st class
- Allows you to customize ballistics curve for your load via micro-SD card (with some limitations)
- Can display atmospheric conditions (temp, pressure, incline) for input into an external ballistics app
- Expensive – Premium glass always comes at a premium price.
- Secondary/menu button is right next to the main ranging button and the same size, causing confusion on which one to press.
- Objective lens covers slip off the end easily.
If you are looking for accurate ranging out to one mile combined with premium optical quality … look no further. These are what I personally bought after the extensive field tests with virtually every rangefinder binocular on the market.
A Word On The Price
Before I dive into the review, I did want to mention something about the price of Leica Geovid HD-B. Leica actually let me borrow a test unit for my field test comparison, but because of the insane demand for these binoculars the rep for Leica U.S. didn’t have any on-hand he could ship me. He actually had to call the headquarters of Leica International in Germany and talk them into drop-shipping me a pair directly. However, the guys in Germany included the invoice for Leica U.S. in the package accidentally, which itemized the direct cost of the unit (i.e. what Leica U.S. owes the Germany plant to cover the manufacturing costs of the product). While I’ve agreed to never share what that hard cost of the HD-B actually is, I will say I was shocked at how expensive these are to build. I expected Leica to have much higher margins than they actually do. The fact is, there is just a lot of advanced technology and high-end parts that go into these units. And unlike a lot of brands, Leica doesn’t outsource the manufacturing of the units to China or India where they have lower-cost (and lower-skill) workers. They are built in Germany, by experts, in small batches, and each unit is subjected to a rigorous quality assurance process. There is a great article that gives specifics on Leica’s pursuit of perfection with lenses if you want to dive in deeper. Ultimately, I just wanted to say that although the $3,000 price tag might have some sticker shock and definitely prices out some part of the market … it isn’t unjustified. I believe Leica is making a reasonable profit on the product, and nothing more. In fact, I consider them a value. And just as a disclaimer, they aren’t a sponsor of this website and didn’t pay me to say this (in fact, I hope they aren’t mad at me for publishing it).
Optical Performance Review
The Leica Geovid HD-B is a complete redesign, with Leica changing from the roof prism design used in the original Geovid HD to their new “Perger-Porro” prism in the HD-B. It is commonly believed that roof prism binoculars are superior to porro prism binoculars, but that is simply not the case. There is a great article by American Hunter that explains demystifies the roof vs. porro prism argument. Here is the summary of their article:
“If a company put all its resources into a Porro prism binocular, it would be at least as good as a roof prism, if not better. But it would be bulkier. With components and labor efforts being equal, Porro prisms are superior. But like most things in life, the reality is all things aren’t equal. Companies do not put all their resources into Porros, because the public wants compact roof prism binos.”
Well, “Companies do not put all their resources into Porros” was true … until the Leica HD-B. Now Leica is obviously pouring lots of money and research in to porro prisms, just like John Barsness was suggesting would produce the best optical performance possible. And the empirical testing I did for optical performance showed that they did. They also found a way to make it work in a form factor that is similar in size as the other models on the market. It must be magic … or really great engineering.
For the field tests, I tried to come up with an objective, data-driven approach for testing optical clarity and what I ended up doing was placing eye exam charts from 600 to 1,400 yards and then recording what size of letters two different people could accurately read. These were virtually identical to the eye charts doctors use to assess visual acuity by determining how much detail and definition a patient can make out at a particular distance. I combined all that data into a single score for each model so they can be ranked in terms of how much detail my two testers could make out. I provide a lot more detail about how the test was conducted, and compare other optical specs in The Optical Performance Results post.
Here are the overall optical results, and you can clearly see that the Leica Geovid HD-B was the clear winner in terms of optical performance.
The Leica HD-B also offered the widest field of view available in any 10x rangefinder binocular, at 342 feet at 1,000 yards. Note: Some of Leica’s marketing material has a higher number, but that is actually an error. When calculating it, the engineer didn’t properly convert from metric to imperial units. I’ve confirmed with Leica that the real field of view is 342 ft.
Ranging Performance Review
The ranging performance is also a dramatic upgrade from the original Leica Geovid HD. In fact, in my tests they were able to accurately range twice the distance of the original Leica Geovid HD. All of my testing was on 2 MOA targets, which are relatively small, and the Leica Geovid HD-B was able to get accurate readings out to 1950 yards in the ideal conditions on those small targets. When ranging larger objects like the side of a hill, I was able to get readings beyond 2,200 yards a few times.
Here are the results of ranging a 2 MOA reflective target in ideal, low-light conditions from a tripod at various ranges from 600 to 2,000 yards. The exact size and shape of the targets, as well as the surroundings varied, but details of each target along with more details of the test are given in the ranging performance test results post. Each target was ranged 10 times under the same conditions.
You can see that it was very rare for the Leica HD-B to give a reading that was incorrect, and very rare for it to give a “no read” in low-light conditions (i.e. sunset). The test unit displayed an accurate reading 9 times out of 10 on the small, 1 mile target.
In bright light conditions, radiation from the sun can cause interference and limit the range and resolution of readings a rangefinder is able to gather. This obviously has a negative effect on performance. The chart below shows how the Leica HD-B performed at sunset, and how it performed ranging those same targets 3 hours before sunset. Once again, this testing was done from a tripod, with visibility of 10+ miles on 2 MOA, reflective targets.
In bright lighting conditions, the Leica Geovid HD-B could still occasionally give accurate readings out to one mile, but it might take a few attempts. Althought it could occasionally reach further, it was more reliable at ranging targets 1,200 yards or less in bright, daylight conditions. And keep in mind that this was all done from a tripod. If you tried to run these same tests offhand, you wouldn’t get anyway near the distances shown here.
I also tested the rangefinders offhand, but did that on larger targets. Here are the results for ranging 3 foot by 2 foot bright, white rectangles from 600 and 800 yards. The 600 yard target had brush 30 yards in front of the target, which appeared just below the bottom edge from the ranging position. The full target face was visible and unobscured, but just barely. So many rangefinders had a hard time ranging the intended target, and would occasionally show the distance for the brush instead. The 800 yard target was exactly the opposite, with nothing in front of the targets. But there was brush in the background that a lot of rangefinders would get readings off. It was difficult for some rangefinders to get adequate energy off the targets compared to the brush in the background, causing incorrect distance readings. So although these were relatively large targets, the surroundings played into the offhand results and some rangefinders handled it much better than others.
Once again, the Leica Geovid HD-B gave a very low number of “no reads” offhand, which was a major problem with other rangefinders. It would occasionally display a reading for an object in front of or behind the intended target, but overall the standard deviation of the readings from the HD-B’s was one of the best.
Equivalent Horizontal Distance
The Leica Geovid HD-B does allow you to set whether you want it to display the line of sight distance, or the equivalent horizontal distance. This can be an important feature for a long-range shooter (and bowhunter), because it’s that second distance that you should plug into the ballistic calculator. Equivalent horizontal distance is the horizontal component of the distance, which is the distance gravity is going to act over. Honestly, it takes a steep angle to make a huge difference in the ballistic calculation. In fact, Todd Hodnett from Accuracy First has made the comment that there are really just a few locations in the United States that provide the terrain for a true long-range, steep-angle shot. That is why they have facilities in the Texas panhandle where they train on how to shoot in windy conditions, AND facilities in Utah where they train on how to shoot in high-angle conditions (like those found in some parts of Afgahnastan).
The Leica Geovid HD-B provides the most robust ballistic functions available on any rangefinder I’m aware of. Most rangefinders simply allow you to select from 6 to 8 preset ballistic curves, and you just choose the one that best resembles the curve of your load. This is not a great approach, and is completely unacceptable for precision rifle shooters. It just isn’t precise enough to get on target at long-range. In fact, Zeiss limits their ballistic functions so that it will only work out to 500 yards. Past that, it won’t give you anything … because they know the results it gives you wouldn’t be accurate enough to make that shot. Bushnell and Leupold limit their ballistic functions to 800 yards.
The Leica Geovid HD-B also have integrated sensors for temperature, atmospheric pressure, and angle of incline that they use as inputs to the ballistics engine. That means it will automatically adjust your dope on the fly, with respect to those environmental parameters. So if you shoot at sea level, or at high altitude … it will automatically sense that and display the adjustment you need to make for a first round hit (theoretically at least). It also means if you are in a full day long-range competition, and the temp starts at 50 degrees in the morning and gets to 90 in the afternoon it should take that into account as well. However, if you are using a temperature sensitive powder it won’t be able to do that as perfectly as you’d probably need it to in order to get first round hits on small, long-distance targets.
The HD-B’s took a major leap forward by giving you a way to customize the ballistic curve it uses for your load. They do that by providing a web-based ballistic calculator where you can either select the factory load you are using or enter a “custom load” as shown in the diagram below.
While this is a big advancement, it still has some huge limitations for precision rifle shooters:
- It only supports G1 BC (i.e. ballistic coefficient). While the G1 BC works well for shorter, flat-based bullets, a G7 BC works better for longer, boat-tailed bullets. If you are calculating the ballistics curve for a modern, long-range bullet, then using the standard G1 projectile to do that simply can’t give you an accurate curve beyond about 800 yards. I ran the ballistics in JBM for the load I shoot using a G1 BC and a G7 BC will give you a difference over 1 minute at 1,200 yards. That means the trajectory adjustment it suggests would be off by 14″. That’s enough to miss a shot. Then at 1 mile, it’s exaggerated even more with a difference of 2.5 MOA, which means your impact would be off by 46 inches! I have to believe one of those manufacturers will do it at some point. My bet is on Bushnell or Leica.
- The rangefinder only displays adjustments in whole numbers, without decimal places like what is shown in the screenshot.
- It only supports displaying the adjustment in either inches or MOA … not MIL.
- It doesn’t allow you to set the sight height for the ballistic calculations. That is hard-coded to a constant value of 1.9685 inches. This probably isn’t a big deal, but it’s kind of lame. Why?
Ergonomics & Design Review
The open bridge design feels great in your hand, and is a lot more streamlined than the more blocky designs on most rangefinder binoculars. The curved design provides a natural grip, and encourages good support technique, which can reduce fatigue when using them to glass for hours at a time. The optical quality also reduces eye fatigue, so if you are a guide or someone who will be using binoculars continuously for extended periods of time … these are the ones you should get.
It seems like they could have come up with a better button layout if they did about 1 minute of user testing. There are two buttons that are side-by-side, and the same exact size … which do you push to range? I’ve never handed the pair to someone and they got it right the first time. Why put the menu/mode button that is rarely used, right beside the ranging button … which you are constantly using? I’m not saying you don’t get used to it, but I just don’t understand how they could overlook that in the design process. In my opinion, Zeiss got the button right. It is large, light, and has a positive click. It is also a little difficult to reach the ranging button if you are wearing a baseball cap on the HD-B’s.
One thing I do like about them is the diopter adjustments are pretty stiff, which means you won’t accidentally move them. The eye cups have 5 click-stop settings, which are nice. I actually wear glasses, and the eye relief is really long. I actually screw out the eye cups one click even with my glasses on. These are the only binoculars I’ve ever done that on.
And lastly, we noticed the objective lens covers are constantly falling off. This happens because there is no lip on the edge of the tube body to keep them in place, as you can see in the photo above. They even fall off occasionally when removing them from the included case. I’m shocked we didn’t lose the covers during testing. I did end up purchasing a pair of these personally, and I’m sure I will lose them at some point … which means I’ll get to buy replacements from Leica. So although this is a small thing, its not nothing.
Most manufactures make it very tough to compare their product to others out there, but honestly Leica isn’t one of those. They do a better job of publishing complete specs than any other manufacturer out there. I did end up calling them for a few that weren’t listed, and read through user manuals to compile a complete set of detailed specifications. There are almost 40 different specs, including actual measured weights, dimensions, and the max ranges found in my field tests for each model (which can be very different from what the manufacturer claims). Some manufacturers list this specs in metric units and others are in U.S. standard units … I’ve converted everything to the same units to make comparison easy. I also read through each of the manuals to see exactly what each one does or doesn’t have in terms of advanced features like equivalent horizontal range, and ballistics functions. Some of the specs I even measured or calculated myself, because they weren’t available anywhere or were specs manufacturers are notorious for exaggerating.
|Manufacturer Part #||40049|
|Measured Weight in Use²||39.4 oz|
|Measured Dimensions³||7.1 × 5.7 × 3.0 inches|
|Housing||Magnesium with rubber armored exterior|
|Included Strap||Contoured Neoprene|
|Limited Warranty||5 yr, Non-Transferrable|
|Beam Divergence||2.7 × 1.5 mrad|
|Tested Max Range⁴||1,950 yd|
|Tested Min Range||10 yd|
Claimed: 10 yd
|Claimed Accuracy||± 1 to 550 yd,|
± 2 to 1100 yd,
|Tested Repetition Rate||24 ranges/min|
|Receiver Optic (Rx) Aperture Size (mm)||MFR refused to specify|
|Laser Type||904 nm|
|Pulse Duration||50 nanoseconds|
|Battery Type||1 CR2 Lithium|
|Battery Life||2,000 measurements|
|Equivalent Horizontal Range Function||Yes|
|Display Multiple Object Distances Function||No|
|Advanced Ranging Modes||Scan,|
Equivalent Horizontal Range
Allows custom ballistics curves & takes temp, angle of incline, and atmospheric pressure into consideration, provides variety of output
|Objective Lens Diameter||42 mm|
|Exit pupil||4.2 mm|
|Eye Relief||20 mm|
|Field of view at 1000 yards||342 ft|
|Objective Angle of View||6.5°|
|Glass||HD Fluoride Glass|
|Coatings||HDC multi-layer coating, Anti-Reflective coating, hydrophobic Aqua-Dura coating, P40 Phase Corrective coating|
|Relative Brightness (RE)||17.6|
|Measured Focus Rotations||1.7|
¹This reflects the price each model was available for online through a major, reputable distributor as of Nov 2013.
²Includes batteries, lens covers, and included carrying strap
³Measured with lens covers attached
⁴All ranges were on reflective targets approximately 2 MOA in size in 200 yard increments in ideal atmospheric conditions (i.e. low light, great visibility).
Leica’s five year limited warranty is one of the longest offered by optics manufacturers. Zeiss offers a lifetime limited warranty, that is also transferrable. Leica’s warranty is not transferable, which means it only covers it if you’re the original owner that purchased it from an authorized Leica dealer. So essentially if you buy a used pair (even if it is just a few weeks old), you have no warranty coverage.