MeoStar 15x56 HD
MeoStar 15x56 HD
This is a brief review of the Meopta MeoStar 15x56 HD, on the market in Europe and USA since 2015. I have compared it to my other similarly sized binoculars – Docter Nobilem 15x60, Zeiss Conquest HD 15x56, Swarovski SLC 15x56, Nikon Monarch 5 16x56 -, which I had been using for several years before acquiring the new MeoStar.
From left: Monarch 5, SLC, MeoStar, Conquest HD, Nobilem
Why 15x56 ?
Isn’t this size sort of „neither here nor there“, between the 12x50s and the the „real“ astro binos of 15x70, 16x70 or 18x70 ? Maybe asking the question already gives the answer away: the 15x56 is perhaps a nice compromize in many ways, more powerful but not that much bigger than a 12x50, at the same time lighter and smaller but not that much less powerful than the 70mm models.. You travel relatively light with it, but still have a decent magnification at hand, and when thy sky is not very dark, you may sometimes even have an advantage with the 56mm objective against a 15x70 or so. I know people who use their 15x56 unmounted for brief periods of time, e.g. to follow a bird flying off. But the 15x binos exhibit their full potential only when mounted, at least on a good monopod, ideally on a tripod.
The MeoStar 15x56 comes into a market in which you find many categories of binoculars in a wide price range; in the upper price segment, you find glasses like the Monarch 5 at the bottom of the segment, the Nobilem and Conquest HD in the middle to upper third and the Swarovski SLC at the top. Price-wise, the MeoStar comes in at the middle somewhere between Docter and Conquest HD.
The MeoStar appears very well finished and every bit an „upper class“ instrument. The new body armor has, compared to previous MeoStar Models, a slightly more „grained“ surface and provides excellent grip; in wet conditions, it’s grip is even better than that of the four competitors. It weighs just over 1'300 gr with strap and eyepiece covers, about the same as the SLC and the Monarch, a bit less than the Docter and the Conquest HD. As usual with Meopta, the ergonomics are good, although the 15x56 HD appears just slightly „front-loaded“.
Meopta supplies a dedicated tripod adapter, but any other "narrow" one, e.g. the one from the Nikon Monarch, work as well. For quick and easy sessions (more daytime use than astro), the MeoStar can also just be strapped on a Berlebach tripod mount.
The central hinge is quite stiff, which I like; people with a narrow IPD (below 61mm) will have to arrange the objective covers, in a way that allows the folding down of the hinge, there is very little space left between the barrels (I therefore fully removed the front covers, which I generally don’t like on binos). The retractable eyecups don’t have click-stops, but are sufficiently tight to maintain a chosen position during use. The focusing wheel works well, with no play; it’s gear ratio is faster than the (very slow) one of the SLC, but not as fast as the Conquest HD. The nearpoint is 5m (measured). The diopter adjustment mechanism sits, as usual with MeoStars, on the central focusing wheel and works smoothly and with click-stops; on the sample reviewed, the zero-position was slightly shifted (about -0.5 dpt).
The exit pupil, when looked at from an angle, exhibits very little vignetting. Both eyepieces show two small distinct false pupils on each side; they appear sufficiently remote form the exit pupil, however, that it is unlikely they will affect the view even in the dark, when eye pupils are dilated. Collimation and „ease of view“ („Einblickverhalten“) are excellent. The eye relief is 15.2 mm (factory spec); this is not huge, same as the Nobilem, slightly less than the SLC (16mm), and much less than the Conquest HD (18mm).
The field of view is with 4.2 degrees (73m / 1000m) just minimally above the Monarch and the Docter (both 4.1 degrees), but clearly less than the SLC (4.5 degrees) and the Conquest HD (4.6 degrees). In practice, the difference appeared smaller to me than expected, for whatever reason.
The MeoStar shows a bright, sharp image with nice contrast and almost zero CA. I would consider it quite color neutral; the SLC and the Conquest HD exhibit an even „whiter“ image than the MeoStar, which appears just a tiny bit „warmer“ in tone, not much. The image of the MeoStar is quite „homogenous“ over the entire FOV, so you can let your eyes wander comfortably across the image. I found on-axis and off-axis sharpness to be very good, comparable to the SLC and Conquest HD. Whereas the Conquest HD exhibits significant amounts of CA when the eye is not fully aligned with the exit pupil, and whereas both the the Docter and Monarch show the same effect to a lesser extent (the SLC does it only minimally), the MeoStar is quite „tolerant“ in this respect . Even when your eyes are not well aligned behind the eyepieces, it is not easy to produce significant amounts of CA, the MeoStar in my experience wins this category quite clearly.
Distortion in the MeoStar is minimal, but nevertheless I found very little globe effect when panning the binoculars across various backgrounds.
When observing the moon, I found no ghost images, also with the moon just outside the field of view. Spikes are visible on bright light sources, but not dominant at all, and flares appeared minimal.
Stars are point-shaped across most of the field of view, getting just slightly blurred towards the very periphery of the image.
The SLC and in particular the Conquest HD produce an even brighter image than the MeoStar (again, tested e.g. on the moon). However, surface structures and textures appear in my eyes even more distinct and very contrasty in the MeoStar
Testing for stray-light, I chose the „worst observation condition ever“: watching birds on the bank across a river, observing against a low (15 degrees) sun which produces lots of shiny reflections on the river surface (i.e. observing in between the sun and the shiny river surface). This produced lots of stray-light effects in the MeoStar, all sort of glares and reflections, but almost no „veiling glare“ (across the whole field of view). The other 15x56 binos exhibited more or less veiling glare - the Conquest HD the most - and similar amounts of glares and reflections, even the SLC proved not „fail-safe“ in this respect. This was relatively disappointing, and as I was not sure I did something wrong in this test, I performed the same test with my trusted MeoStar 10x42 HD, which I know to be well shielded against stray-light, and the result of the 10x42 was clearly better than in any of the 15x/16x glasses.
I am aware that this stray-light performance is more relevant for birders under certain conditions, but less relevant for astro use.
I found the MeoStar to compete very well in the upper segment of the 15/16 x 56 market. Overall, there is little I dislike and very much a like about it. It is a very well made instrument that performs close to the top glasses such as SLC and Conquest HD, but at about half the price of the SLC. Sharp image, good contrast, overall good handling. And based on my experience with other MeoStar binos (I have 9 in total), I expect the 15x56 HD to continue performing well over many years of use. I think Meopta has done a very good job again.
Edited by Pinac, 07 September 2016 - 11:45 AM.