OK, so I have had the Meades for a week or so now. I also ordered a pair of Vortex Vulture 8x56 for home use for my girlfriend, an avid birder. So I was able to do a head-to-head comparison.
To recap, I opted for the Meade 10x56 because:
- I wanted 10x because I have long views at my house, and I tought it would also be nice for stargazing.
- While I kind of wanted a porro, I decided I would like to have the versatility of the roofs, plus I plan to have these for a lifetime and I am certain I will drop them sometime(s)!
- I wanted that extra-lage objective to widen the field of view.
- There are very few 10x56 roofs out there, and most are even more expensive than the Meades at $485.
- I did not care that they have field flatteneing, but it didn't bother me that they had it, either (other than I assume it makes them more expensive).
I bought the Vulture 8x56 for my GF because she will mostly use them for birding, and her property has shorter views than mine. I bought her the Vanquish 8x26 last year, and they are a real gem at $100 and change!. But she also wanted a big set of binos that never leave the house.
Here's my impression of the Meades:
- Excellent build quality and packaged with care. Everything feels robust and solid; all the knobs are smooth, but hold their position well, too. I can affirm that the quality control is there.
- Very clear optics, very bright light.
- Definitely some rolling ball effect from the field flattener.
- Great eye relief.
Compared to the Vulture (keep in mind this is comparing 10x to 8x, both at 56mm objective)
- Meades present a brighter image
- Vultures seem to yield richer color and contrast, but this could be a function of them letting in a little less light?
- Clarity is similarly excellent for both.
- Meades are sharper at the margins of FOV, but you really have to be looking for it. It's not noticable when viewing your subject.
- No rolling ball from the Vulture
- Better depth of field with the Vulture
- Vultures are a good inch shorter than the Meades, and noticably lighter.
- Build quality and all adjusters, plus lens caps are suspiciously similar in look and feel between the two. It would not surprise me if both models were built in the same factory.
- Meades are better for the night sky (more light coming in, better magnification, otherwise no difference or noticable distortion in either model).
Overall impression: The Meades are a nice binocular, but I think they would be better, cheaper, and probably smaller if they didn't have a field flattener. I can't see the benefit of this feature in practical use for most humans, and the rolling ball effect is legitimately annoying. It almost gives me a feeling of vertigo! But given the lack of 10x56 roof prism options on the market under $800, they are a fine set of binos. I think Meade could make something as good or better, without flatteners, at more like a $350-$400 price point.
The Vultures are a winner! I wish they made them in 10x. I got them on sale for $250, and in my opinion they are a better pair of binos than the $485 Meades. Vortex really seems to have a good groove in the mid-price market right now.
Unless you are fixated on field-flattening for some reason, I don't think you would find the Meades to be worth the extra money, though again, they do provide excellent optics and they are a lot cheaper than Zeiss or Swarovski.