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Leupold 7/12x32 Switch Power
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Location: United States
Leupold Switch Power 7/12x32
I’ve had these for awhile now and time to post an evaluation. I had been interested in these ever since they first appeared. What appealed to me was the availability of a small binocular that would work for most uses at the 7x setting and have the added utility of having the ability for occasional use at 12x. I finally got a chance to at least look at them at the Leupold booth at the Pacific Northwest Sportsman’s Show. They seemed like they might actually be as advertised. A couple of weeks ago I won these at the auction site, NIB at a too good to pass up price.
First off, they look like a Katmai on steroids. They are not at all big or bulky, but have a beefier look than the Katmai. They also bear a quite similar appearance to my Swift 7x36 Eaglet.
These come with a first rate assortment of accessories. The case is a heavy duty nylon affair that is almost big enough for the binocular and a bird guide. They come with both a nice wide stretchy and quite comfortable neck strap and a rather typical all elastic harness. They have interchangeable eyecups, with on of the eyecups being angled to block side light. Normally I prefer this sort of arrangement, but not here. The angle of the eyecup begins too low on the inside and the angle is too shallow for the eye cup to really be good a blocking side light. I started liking the standard eyecup. However, as I have used them more, I am tending to favor the angled eye cup.
This is a very good 7x compact binocular. The 374’ fov will put some off, but any binocular with a single magnification is a collection of compromises anyway, let alone adding the switch power feature. So, I will gladly take the 7.2* fov. The image is bright, sharp and quite pleasant with a mostly neutral bias. The contrast is the best of the 6-7x binoculars I have to compare them to. The apparent depth of field does not seem to be negatively affected by the switch power feature. In that regard it is on par with the Eaglet. These seem to control CA very well, and edge distortions are pretty minimal.
I rate the image quality in the following order, best to worst among the binoculars I have to comapre it to.
7x32 Switch Power
7x36 Swift Eaglet
6.5x32 Vortex Raptor, Vortex Fury, and Minox IF
6x30 Leupold Yosemite
7x36 Vortex Diamondback and Bushnell Archer EX
The 6x32 Viper is the obvious exception, but I did not have one. Same with the 6x32 Katmai.
I would have to see it for myself to see if anyone could consistently seperate the images of any of the 6.5 binoculars. There is really nothing to pick from between them image wise.
The image is the best of any of the 7x30 something binoculars currently on the market. There are not too many of those, but I have had a Swift 7x36 Eaglet for quite awhile, and I really thought it would be good enough to beat the Leupold. It does not do that. The Leupold is a bit better. Not much better, but it is a bit sharper and the contrast is a bit better than the Swift. The 6.5x32 Vortex Fury is a bit further behind in producing a crisp image, but the Fury fov certainly has an appeal. These might not be quite alpha class, but very close. I have both the Bushnell 7x36 EX and a Vortex Diamondback 7x36 ordered, and I will post a more thorough 6.5-7x compact comparison when I get them.
The 6x30 Yosemite would probably rank higher, but the image seems to appear smaller at 6x than the others at 6.5-7x.
The switch function moves a lens either into or out of the optical path to change the image. The switch mechanism is secured by spring tension. Looking through the objective during the switch you can see a square plate with a lens moving back and forth with the switch lever. As noted, this is either 7x or 12x, nothing in the middle.
The real surprise to me came at 12x. The image is not as good as the 7x version, but I was surprised at how good it is for a 12x32. There are two shortcomings with 12x. The first is that the depth of field is quite shallow. However, that is just about to be expected anyway. The second is that there is more edge softness/distortion at 12x than 7x. These will be a distraction if you think of this as a primary 12x binocular. If you think of these as a more than decent 7x that you can pop up to 12x, then the 12x image seems fine. The high magnification is really nice close in. Find your target at 7x, flip the power lever and your target is right-there-dead-center. There is usually just a tiny touch of the focus wheel needed. The binocular is amazingly easy to hold quite steady at 12x, something that did surprise me. Before the butterfly watchers dismiss the 7.2* fov, you need to try the WOW you will get when you flip a 7x butterfly up to 12x. I was somewhat surprised at how nice the 12x looked close in. I was primarily thinking of it as a more useful distance feature.
The focus will take some getting used to. I thought my Swift was fast until the 7/12 GR. It focuses counterclockwise to infinity. The whole movement takes just .8 turns. Mark 12:00 on the focus wheel at one end of travel and it stops at 10:00 on the other side. There is also nearly ¼ turn left past infinity. There is little discernible difference in focus movement from close focus to infinity.
There are a couple of quirks I need to mention. The first is that the whole binocular works best if the initial focus setup is done at 7x and on something at least a mile away. The 7x seems not to mind so much, but the 12x behaves much better. When I first set up the focus on a 200 or so meter target, 12x didn’t act like it wanted to focus properly, except for very close distances, say 50’ or closer. When I finally tried the focus set up on a radio tower on top of the Rattlesnake Hills at what Google Earth claims is 4.5 miles from my driveway, the little binocular started working at 12x too. The diopter eye (right) is just a tiny bit out of focus at 12x. Leupold told me to send it in because the guy said that did not sound right. So off it goes this week. This came from Internet auction and sold as NIB with all of the paperwork. I have bought several binoculars that way and I always leave myself an expectation of the possibility of service.
I did send the binocular back to Leupold. They replaced it and the issues pretty much went away with the replacement binocular.
What these are, in my estimation, at the current retail of $950.00 US is a $550 7x glass with a $450 12x backup. I think these are going to prove very useful binoculars. The key to understanding these is to think of them as a primary 7x glass that has a back up switch function at 12x. The 12x setting is far better than I anticipated. The 7x is at least as good as any existing 6-7x 30-36 binocular. I will very likely keep these. I will use them as a primary binocular for at least part of the upcoming season.
Edited by Klamath - July/09/2009 at 18:12
"Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted". Albert Einstein
Thank you very much for the mini-review.
They have been a curiosity for me as well, my interest lies with the 10/17x42mm.
Maybe someday someone will do a review on the 17x.
Keep up the great work.
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