After promising so many folks that I would review the new Bushnell Legend Ultra HD binocular, I finally got one to put through its paces and, even better, managed to find the old standard Bushnell Legend 10×42 for a direct comparison. The standard Bushnell Legend binocular tested was a black Bushnell 10×42 Legend 130142. The Legend Ultra HD binocular tested was also a Bushnell 10×42 Legend Ultra HD 191043, but in camo.
Bushnell does a good job with both Legend binoculars and, in true Bushnell fashion, you get a lot of binocular for the dollar with each. In fact, the old model of the Bushnell Legend binocular still remains one of the very best $200 class binoculars you can buy and one of my favorites at that price point. Indeed, I have always stated that you would have to spend much more to see a serious improvement in performance with the old Legend, So, the big question: should you spend the extra $80 to get the Legend Ultra HD binocular?
We need to clear the air, right way on these two Bushnell Legend binoculars. They are completely different binoculars. The Legend Ultra HD binocular is not just the old familiar Legend binocular we have known for many years with an ED element added to the objective. Far from it. The Bushnell Legend Ultra HD binocular is a completely new binocular from top to bottom, inside and out. Don’t let the Legend label mislead you. It is much the same situation I saw when I reviewed the new Legend Ultra HD spotting scope and compared it to the old Legend spotting scope it replaced. In fact, the old Legends and the new Legend Ultra HD products are so different, I suspect they are being made in different factories for Bushnell.
When I opened the boxes on the two Legend binoculars, the first thing I noticed were the accessories. The old Legend gets you the standard leatherette case and padded strap, but the new Legend Ultra HD gets you a very nice, zippered hard-sided nylon case, with quick a quick detach strap system and even a neoprene field cover for extra protection in rough weather (note that the neoprene cover supplied with the camo bino version is not camo – it is a gray color).
On to the binocular.
BODY and HANDLING
Bushnell says magnesium for the body material on both. The Legend weighs in at 24.9 ounces and the Ultra HD at 22.5 ounces. Not a significant difference and either one is well within a comfortable to carry range for a 10×42, but picking them up, you can feel the difference. The Ultra Legend does feel lighter. The old Legend is about 1/4 inch taller than the new model, not enough to worry about. Body contours and armoring, though, are quite different. The old Legend has thumb grooves, the new Ultra Legend HD does not, though it has a flattened area around the focuser not present in the old Legend. The old Legend has a ridge at the top of the bino body, the new Legend Ultra HD does not. Armoring on the old Legend offers a more secure grip. Armoring is much slicker on the new Ultra Legend HD. .
Overall, I preferred the handling on the old Legend, despite the weight. The armoring on the old Legend, coupled with that old familiar body ridge allows for a more secure and confident grip. It sit in my hand, nicer and I would trust it in cold and/or wet weather much more than the Legend Ultra HD binocular. Hunters take note.
Eyecups on the old Legend had two intermediate stops, the new Legend Ultra HD, one intermediate stop. Eye relief on both is rated right at 15mm, but beware! I have seen this time and time, again. The eye relief you actually get can be quite different than what is published (for several reasons I don’t need to cover, now). My preferred eye relief with my glasses is a solid 14mm. No problem at all with the old Legend to see the entire field of view right out to the field stops. The old Legend gets you a true 15mm of eye relief in the 10×42. Not so on the new Ultra Legend HD. I could not see the full field of view. I rate the effective eye relief about 12 or 13mm on the new Legend. The advertised slightly wider field of view for the new Legend Ultra HD disappears in a hurry if you wear glasses, especially if you need more eye relief than I do and most eyeglass wearers need more than my 14mm.
Likewise, the diopter adjustment, on paper is the same for both versions of the Legends, but they are, in practice, quite different animals. Both use a right eyepiece ring that locks, but there the similarity ends. The old Legend has a much easier to move and lock ring with a better quality feel than the new Legend Ultra HD. I was not at all impressed with the new legend Ultra HD diopter ring. I actually had to twist up the eyecup to even operate it. The old Legend is an easy winner, here.
Both focused quite well. I could focus with one finger on both, though it took a bit of effort, but both were smooth throughout their adjustment. The old Legend, however, focused faster.
The biggest surprise, here, was not the improvement provided by the legend Ultra HD, but rather how darn well the old Legend did. The difference in resolution – ability to separate grid lines on an optical chart – between the old Legend and the Legend Ultra HD was not significant. You would need to use an optical chart to see the difference and you would also need to have some experience using such a chart to see the difference. Don’t get me wrong. BOTH the Legends scored an excellent; it was just a bit of a surprise to see that old Legend hang in there so well. Also note that at the price range for either binocular, there is often a wide variation in optics from box to box. I may have just scored a home run with this individual Legend.
Here, the ED on the Ultra provided a difference. Side by side, the Ultra HD colors were richer, blacks were blacker, whites were whiter. I expected this, but, again, the difference was not night and day and both Legends scored well.
Again, the Ultra HD proved the winner – I could detect very little color fringing and that’s what ED is all about. The old Legend did show a bit of green fringing around bright objects, but it was by mo means objectionable or out of line, especially for a $200 binocular.
The Legend actually did better than the new Legend Ultra HD on this one. Scanning back and forth on straight, vertical lines produced noticeable bending with the Legend Ultra HD, but very little on the old Legend.
The old Legend did well out to about the 80% of the filed, the new Legend Ultra HD, even a touch better, out to about 85%. Good job on both, Bushnell.
Is the new Bushnell Legend Ultra HD worth the extra $80? It will, as always, boil down to what feature or features you value most, not what I value most. On the basis of handling and mechanics and eye relief, I will take the old Bushnell Legend. On the basis of optics, the new Ultra Legend Ultra wins, in my book, by a slight margin, but I would not at all feel deprived with an old model Bushnell Legend 10×42 around my neck.