I just got the Meade Bak-7 10x50 from sportsmansguide.com for $20. I wasnt expecting much but I needed a lighter, handier pair. Something that can ride in the car, or go camping with and not be overly worried about....ie CHEAP! I considered a lot of sub $100 dollar binos...but my curiosity got the best of me so I ordered the Meades and also just for comparison, the Barska Blackhawk Bak-7 10x50(they were only $15). I figured one would outshine the other...I was right
The build quality of both is quite good, very simliar to other chinese binos ive looked at. I was suprised at the fit and finish at this price. Both came with the typical chinese bino carrying case, lens covers, cloth and strap. Both binos have the threaded brass fitting for use with a tripod adapter.
The coatings show a difference. The Meades show a darker blueish purple on the objectives, the Barskas a VERY light blue. Using the technique described by Edz(looking at my reflection in the objective end) the Barskas show a lot of facial detail. The Meades show much less, more simliar to my Oberwerks..though not quite as good. Shining a flashlight into the objectives of either bino, both appear to be coated only on one surface. The Barkas eyepieces dont look to be coated at all(white reflections) the Meades show a light blue reflection off the eyepieces.
Both pairs arrived out of collimation, but using the link here in the "Best Of" posts...I had them collimated(conditionally aligned?) in short order. (nice training tool before I attempt adjustments on the Oberwerks). The eyecups on the Barskas are more comfortable. (the Meades are soft and pliable..but very shallow) Neither pair has enough eye relief for eyeglass wearers. Also when adjusting the right diopter setting on the Meades the eyecup tends to slip around the eyepiece forcing you to squeeze it harder to get it to turn. The whole eyecup/diopter area could be rethought.
I like the Meades overall, the focuser is quite nice, slow and precise with a very similiar feeling to my Oberwerk. Optically id rate the Meades higher than the Barskas. However, if your intention is to use them on the night sky only...then save your $20 for a better bino. But for a all around, handy, lightweight knockaround pair..or as a teaching device..you cant beat them. Also, they leave something to be desired on very bright objects. They arent bad on stars, achieving quite good pinpoint focus, my son and I could see Jupiter as a disk and count 4 moons. The moon itself was very detailed and bright, it was enough to convince my son the Barskas were now his! Scanning the milky way is surprisingly pleasant. Also I could just make out M2 directly with both pair. But, put them on a bright moon or a streetlight/porchlight and youll get some serious secondary reflections. The edge performance falls off around the 60-70% mark or so. But...for the price how can you complain?
The Barkas exhibit the same problems...but worse. The edge performance seems only slightly better but not by much. The focuser is not as usable (too quick) and the secondary reflections are quite bad...unacceptable for me personally even at this price. Both binos were out of collimation, the Barskas were unusable until adjusted.
Neither bino is anywhere near the performance of my Oberwerk 11X70s, but they are cheap! In fact I like having a lower quality bino handy, its a constant reminder of just how good the Oberwerks are.
Intended use and expectations are the key here. If you can live with some shortcomings and want them for terrestrial use as well, they are a great deal for the price.
Im going to keep the Meades. I gave the Barskas to my 12 year old son...(at $15 not worth the shipping to return them) if the sole purpose of these binos was to spark a childs interest in the sky....then they more then fit the bill. He doesnt know (or care) about coatings, reflections or build quality, only the pure excitement of seeing. And if he happens to drop or bump them....not a big deal. Perfect in this regard.
Even though these two binos are nowhere near the equipment most CNers would consider adequate, I hope that that my semi-review may be useful to anyone considering a cheap pair for all around use.
FYI: Sportsmansguide.com also has(among other deals) Meades in 12x50 and 7x50 for $24.97 and 8x42 for 14.97.
Edited by Tpalmer (07/26/04 11:07 PM)