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Leupold Wind River Katmai Binoculars

Katmai 6x 8x 10x32 Leupold is an optics manufacturer that has been making high quality spotting and rifle scopes for many years. The Wind River line is comprised of low-priced binoculars optimized for nature watching. Of the various Wind River binoculars, the Katmai, Pinnacle, and Olympics are best for birding. Each is available in multiple configurations. Katmai binoculars come in 6x32, 8x32 and 10x32 models, all of which are distinguished by their compact size and superior close-focus capability. We received the two smaller Katmai models for review.

As noted, Katmai binoculars are incredibly compact and lightweight. Fully folded down, Katmai binoculars are 4.5 inches wide and 4.25 inches long. The 6x model is slightly lighter at 18.2 oz. relative to 18.9 oz. for the 8x version. This makes them among the lightest roof-prism binoculars we’ve reviewed. They are fully sealed and nitrogen-filled to be completely waterproof, dustproof and fogproof. Katmais feature BK7 glass, fully multi-coated lenses and feature a new proprietary “L-coating” for the prisms to optimize light transmission by increasing surface reflectivity. And the Katmais are very bright. The 6x version is slightly brighter than the 8x, but the difference is only detectable under low light conditions. Both models showed a slight edge effect, the tendency for straight lines to bow inward at the edges of the field. The 6x model showed a slightly greater edge effect, but no color aberration, the tendency for high-contrast objects to separate white light prismatically at the edge of the field. By contrast, the 8x model had only a minor edge effect, but a fairly significant color aberration. As this property is only notable under very specific conditions, it is a relatively minor flaw. There seems to be a slight color bias as well – both models showed a mild yellowish wash to pure white tones. But you have to look very hard to even see this.

The 8x model has a relatively modest 335-foot field of view at 1000 yards, but the 6x model sports an impressive 425-feet field. Leupold lists both Katmai models as having a minimum close focus of 4.9 feet. Our tests found that both models delivered a sharp image down to about 4 feet. With the 6x model, the image stayed at essentially full field all the way down to 4 feet. With the 8x model, there was a tendency for the ocular fields to separate (the image was sharp through only one barrel at a time) at distances of less than 5 feet. Still, this is very impressive performance in this regard, and these binoculars should appeal to the butterflying crowd. Both models offer 16 mm of eye relief.

Mag x Obj Eye relief Field of view Close focus Weight Length
6x32 16.6 mm 425 ft/1000 yds 4.9 ft 18.2 oz. 4.1"
8x32 16 mm 325 ft/1000 yds 4.9 ft 18.9 oz. 4.1"
10x32 17.6 mm 272 ft/1000 yds 4.9 ft 18.2 oz. 4.1"

The focusing knob is relatively large, given the compact design of the Katmai. It is covered with grooved rubber armoring that imparts a sure grip and a good feel under the fingers. Both models go from minimum close focus to infinity in just 1-1/8 turns of the knob, which is excellent. The knobs turn very smoothly and easily, making sharp focus rapid and easy to achieve, particularly since the Katmai binoculars have a fairly generous depth of field to them. Overall, we rate the focal mechanism very good. The diopter adjustment ring is on the right ocular. A white spot on the ring lines up with a ridge on the barrel to indicate the setting equality for equal eyes. Although the mechanism doesn’t lock and lacks graduations to mark unequal settings, the adjustment ring has a series of closely set detents so that the ring holds any set position. It’s a neat mechanism.

Ergonomically, the Katmai binoculars are well designed. A disadvantage of their small size is that there is no way to place the strap attachment lugs in a way that doesn’t fall under the hands. Leupold got around this by setting the lugs in a raised ridge designed to fall on the webbing between the forefinger and thumb. It really doesn’t work for people with large hands, but the lugs don’t protrude much and the strap is thin so that it isn’t uncomfortable. The armoring has little thumb grooves hollowed out of the inner surface of the barrels for additional comfort. Leupold obviously limited the thickness of the armoring to keep the weight low, but the textured surface has a nice, secure feel in the hands.

The eyecups adjust in a twisting mechanism through three positions: fully in, halfway and all the way out. The middle position was a bit unstable and tended to collapse down. In the models we received, the rubber armoring on the eyecups tended to come loose in the hands, or else the bottom lip of it got caught on the rim of the barrel when twisting the eyecups in. The range of interpupilary distance is 55-72 mm, which is big for a compact binocular.

The rainguard is a type we’ve seen often: soft rubber cups that fit snugly over the ocular lenses and are joined by a flexible bridge region. The strap threads through a bracket on the left side of the guard; the right bracket is gapped so it can be slipped on or off the strap. This rainguard is common to several binocular manufacturers, and it’s the best design out there. The objective lenses are covered by a pair of caps that fit tightly over the rubber armoring of the barrels. The strap itself is thin cord where it attaches to the binocular and inch-wide, padded neoprene-like material, curved where it fits over the neck. On binoculars this lightweight, this strap is more than comfortable enough. The case fits snugly over the binocular, and includes a loop for belt attachment, a nice feature.

The Leupold Katmai is an interesting hybrid in the mid-range optics class: it feels like a compact binocular in the hand, and performs like a classic roof-prism binocular in the field. The 6x32 Katmai retails for $370 but can be found for as little as $300. The 8x32 model retails for $390, but may be discounted to $340. Typically, birders won’t opt for something as low as 6x magnification, but this little binocular might be a trendsetter. The 8x32 configuration is one that most birders today have experience with. This binocular will fit easily in a glove compartment, the rear pocket on a backpack, or into a suitcase or briefcase. Good optics in a highly portable package – Leupold may well have re-invented a niche here!

Find more info for the Leupold Wind River Katmai Binoculars Here.