During our last major scope review (Winter 2008), one model was conspicuously absent. So when the long-awaited Leica Televid APO 82mm spotting scope arrived, I was eager to test its prowess on some distant, heat-wavy shorebirds that were gathering along the shore of Cayuga Lake. As I hefted the new scope onto my tripod (the Leica is the heaviest in its class at 67.4 ounces with the 25–50x zoom eyepiece), I was pleased to find that the solid, one-piece “shoe” locked directly into the head of my Bogen tripod. This innovative feature—previously offered only by Swarovski—makes a quick-release plate unnecessary and thus eliminates any jiggle caused by a loosening screw. Nice!
The view through this scope was superb, with an exceptionally bright image, crisp from edge to edge, and perfect eye-relief for my graduated bifocals through the entire zoom range. Scanning at an unusually wide-angled 50x, I could easily discern the subtle feather edgings that distinguish juvenile Semipalmated and Least sandpipers. The dual coarse and fine focus knobs on top of the scope were smooth and fast, quickly allowing for subtle changes in focus for birds at different distances.
So, the Leica scope is excellent—but one nagging question remains: is it worth the money? This new scope and eyepiece costs a whopping $3,995 at discount outlets. And when I compared the Leica side-by-side with my Swarovski HD scope (which costs significantly less and is 20 percent lighter), both scopes delivered the same top-quality image at 50x—and I must admit I appreciate the extra 10x of magnification on my 20–60x zoom.
So given the scope’s current price—more than $1,000 above the cost of a top-of-the-line Swarovski, Zeiss, or Kowa spotting scope—I’m not sure how many birders will opt for the newest Leica.