Classy Meopta binos a winner with Chris Redlich
It’s hard to imagine that just a little more than a comparative stretch from Brisbane to Sydney is the Czech Republic’s distance from the war in Ukraine, yet despite the conflict many European countries close to the hostilities are still manufacturing and exporting strongly. Czech firm Meopta have been sending out high-quality optics for more than 80 years and their brand is definitively familiar to the Australian shooting scene. I’ve never owned a Meopta product but know many friends who have and hold them in high regard.
I received an invitation by sole distributor Winchester Australia to review two pairs of Meopta MeoPro Optika binoculars and was keen to form my own opinion. Beautifully presented, both come with rubber lens flip covers, cleaning cloth and neck strap with a hard case for the 8x42s and a quality softer nylon, felt-type padded case for the 10x42LRs (laser rangefinders). Noticeable at first glance is the 10x42s are a lot bulkier, though this was expected as they’re housing a substantial amount of electronics to enable their range-finding capability.
Very robust by feel, both binoculars look as though they can take a beating, though I was particularly impressed by the 8x42s as they’re the most compact hunting binoculars in that configuration I’ve ever laid my hands on. As with most modern binos the parallel lens barrels are of a roof prism design with Optika’s made from magnesium alloy coated in Meopta’s distinguishable, protective, olive-coloured durable rubber. Both review models measure a tad over 140mm with the 8x weighing a miniscule 713g compared to 933g for the 10xLR.
MeoPro Optika features
Strangely the 8×42 eyepieces have three firm adjustment clicks for eye relief and the 10x42LR only two. I found clicks on the 10x42s much softer compared to the 8x42s which became a minor concern for readjusting after removing from the pouch during field testing. The 10x42LR has dual dioptre adjustment compared to single for the 8×42. The dioptre dials were firm but easy to manipulate, enabling a customised clear image and their closed bridge design moved freely to allow correct interpupillary distance for the operator’s eye width.
All MeoPro Optika binos are ergonomically designed for ease of use and the review pairs felt comfortable in my large fingers yet suited my wife Sue-Ann’s smaller hands just as well. The focus wheel, sitting central to the bridge hinge, is easily rotated by either index finger thanks to a zig-zag pattern on the rubber surface. Meopta engineers have done a great job squeezing all the laser range-finding electronics into the 10x42LR bridge. Its battery compartment is neatly housed within the focus wheel and sealed to be waterproof, while the main binocular bodies of all Optika models are purged with nitrogen for trouble-free viewing in humidity, rain and snow.
The 10x42LR power is drawn from a single CR2 3-volt battery which provides up to 1500 range calculations before swapping out. Manual operation of the 10x laser range-finding capabilities are two buttons within easy finger touch, located either side of the top of the bridge hinge. Interestingly, the button pads have tiny rubber fins which provide a distinct and superb grip surface in cold or wet weather, the right button for range-finding and the left handling all mode functions. The user manual clearly states all the functions and not once did I feel challenged during operation.
The head-up digital display has five brightness settings and the circular reticle makes for rapid target acquisition. Scan mode facilitates fast, updated ranging on the run and the ‘Class 1’ laser capability enables accurate range-finding out to an impressive 2380m (2600 yards) with a forgivable plus or minus error parameter of 2m when ranging past 1000m.
The added feature of angle compensation for shots on steep up or downhill targets isn’t uncommon on modern LR binoculars but a handy inclusion all the same and a useful aid in terrain such as the New Zealand Alps. At the business end of both pairs are their 42mm high-definition (HD) lenses providing clear images and a wide field of view extending 131m at 1000m for the 8x and a slightly narrower but generous 108m at 1000m for the 10xLR.
During a few months on loan I was able to rigorously test both binoculars in varying conditions and enjoyed their use, though the setting on one particular hunt challenged the abilities of the lenses. Both pairs gave excellent resolution in lowlight situations and this is a major advantage in poor visibility during inclement weather, typical of heavily forested land. The Optikas gave no grief at all while stalking shaded areas of our hunting grounds and the laser range-finding capability of the 10x42LRs performed flawlessly.
I was able to effortlessly range objects freehand beyond 1500m and the scan feature provided split-second range updates when sweeping target areas. While able to easily assess three chital deer through thick lantana at a ranged distance of 230m on the shaded side of a gully, I was surprised to discover the lenses’ ability to diffuse bright light in sunny conditions when my attention turned to glassing the opposite side of the ridge. Initially I thought there must have been fine dust reflecting on the objective lenses but both were spotless. By no means were the binoculars staring into direct sunlight (and nor should they) but my view was partially affected by glare as the afternoon sun had started sinking beyond the heights.
Making a few Di optical adjustments some glare remained, slightly reducing resolution and when Sue-Ann passed me the 8x42s they were affected in the same way. I can only assume Meopta had gone to a lot of effort to improve the Optikas’ lowlight performance in their northern hemisphere backyard while perhaps overlooking essential glare filtration experienced in our sunny Queensland conditions.
In fairness to the binoculars Sue-Ann couldn’t distinguish this discrepancy and thoroughly enjoyed their use, particularly the 8x, and my personal critique (or fussiness) can be put down to comparing numerous brands over the years.
During our field-testing period, both Optikas were used extensively for months in thick and mountainous country and assisted in locating a meat deer and numerous feral pigs. I thoroughly enjoyed having the ability to range objects easily and accurately at long distance and the 10x42LRs laser ranging capability is one of the best I’ve seen on binoculars in their price bracket. For a substantial increase in field of view the Optika LR binos are also available in an 8×50 model and additional to the standard Optika 8x (non LR) is a 10x42HD model.
Although the HD lenses’ clarity fell marginally short when filtering glare in bright light, the images through both European-made binoculars were of high definition, especially in lowlight. Impressed overall, we bought the 8x42HD model purely on its merits and compact size. Well priced for quality entry level laser rangefinder binoculars, the 10x42LRs retail for $2150 (at time of writing) while the compact 8x42s are a bargain at $695. Both are covered by Meopta’s standard two-year warranty with an extended 10-year warranty available when the product is registered. More at www.winchesteraustralia.com.au