Leupold Wind River Katmai Binoculars
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
Field of view
425 ft/1000 yds
325 ft/1000 yds
272 ft/1000 yds
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.