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Fascinating Interview with Meopta Product Manager

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Old Wednesday 29th August 2018, 10:49   #1
Troubador
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Fascinating Interview with Meopta Product Manager

One of the big surprises for me in the last couple of years has been the discovery of a company making world-class optics in Europe, but of which I had only occasionally heard: Meopta. After trying and using some of their products, and knowing that they are well-respected by other Birdforum members, I decided to take advantage of the British Bird Fair and ask Meopta’s Product Manager, Miloš Slaný, to not only give us an introduction to this company (which definitely deserves to be better known) but to also comment on many other topics ranging from eye relief and eyecups, the ISO standard governing high quality binoculars, to the potential for carbon fibre as a material for optical tubes.

I have included sub-headings to help you go to topics that interest you.

The dialogue below is not a perfect verbatim transcript but distils Miloš’s responses and our frequent diversions into something that I hope is readable.

T stands for Troubador and M for Miloš.

Introduction to Meopta.

T: Miloš, thank you for agreeing to leave the Meopta stand and take part in this interview. Please tell us a little of the history of Meopta in both the Czech Republic and the USA.

M: Thank you for the invitation. Well, Meopta is a company privately owned by the Rausnitz Czecho-US family, led by Paul Rausnitz, who twice fled from Europe, once from the Nazi invasion in 1939 and then in 1946 also from the Russians. Paul Rausnitz established a successful optics company in the USA called TCI and when the Iron Curtain fell he returned to the Czech Republic to look for investment opportunities and bought Meopta. Paul, who celebrated his 90th birthday this year and is still very active in the business (although his nephew Gerald is playing an increasing rôle) briefly contemplated bringing both companies under the same name, but soon realised that the value of the Meopta brand made this unwise, and so decided to keep Meopta name both for the USA and Czech companies. The companies are separate entities under one roof (Meopta Group), so this means they are sister companies on an equal level rather than parent and subsidiary.

Concept behind the B1 MeoStar binoculars.

T: Tell us a little about the present family of B1 binoculars. When were they launched and what was the concept behind them.

M: Before the Iron Curtain came down Meopta produced many optics for military use but afterwards this demand fell away and we turned to the sports optics market for new opportunities. We already produced some sports optics products but at that time we didn’t make any binoculars. Visits to the British Bird Fair convinced us of the opportunity to supply high quality optics at a reasonable price into the birding and nature observation market segments, which at the time was not as crowded with brands as it is today. And so the B1 family was launched in 2005 and it comprised 8x and 10x in 42mm, 10x50 and then 8x and 10x in 32mm and 8x in 56mm.

Developing new products.

T: Please tell us about Meopta’s process of developing a new product.
M: An easy question to ask, not so easy to put together an answer because it is a complex process. The most important beginning is listening to the market and in the case of the B1 binoculars, we had customers asking us why we don’t make binoculars and others simply asking ‘when will you make binoculars’. Even in those times we visited the Bird Fair and listened to what people wanted from binoculars. In fact we asked our agents and dealers as well as potential end-users what was needed and then our engineers put these ideas together to create a concept for the product. This concept needed to provide the right balance between the end-user’s desires, what was technically achievable and also what could be manufactured in an efficient way. All optical instruments are a compromise between these different requirements. At the same time we had to make an assessment of the likely sales of such products and to take account of the necessary investments, and when this was thought satisfactory, the project moved to prototypes and then made the big step from prototypes to full production, with investment in the necessary tooling, and also the equipment and training for after-sales service.

Meopta, Cabelas and HD glass

T: Miloš, what is the relationship between Meopta and Cabelas and how is it that only some B1 binos have fluoride-doped HD glass?
M: This at least three questions in one. When Meopta began to be more active in the USA market there was an idea, an opportunity, to enter into a co-operation with a retail chain and this was Cabelas. Cabelas was well established and respected and the idea was that this would help the Meopta brand to become accepted in the USA market. Technically speaking there is no difference between Cabelas Euro/Instinct and Meopta B1 binoculars and from the beginning these were clearly marked Meopta, Made in Czech Republic/Europe.. Now, our non-HD B1 binoculars are significantly better performers than the average binocular on the market, but nevertheless we realised that for some markets, in particular the USA market, you need models with fluoride HD glass. This was especially true for the bigger binoculars demanded by the western USA, so as well as the general purpose 10x42 we also equipped the 12x50 and 15x56 with this glass.

MeoStar prism coating

T: There has been some confusion on Birdforum about the kind of coating that is applied to the surface of the prism that needs a reflective coating because the prism at this point cannot achieve full internal reflection.
M: The coating is silver and it has a dielectric coating for protection, and with this protection, the sealed body, and inert gas filling, the silver coating will not deteriorate.

Are MeoStar binoculars made by Meopta in Prerov?

T: Am I correct to say that all B1 binoculars are manufactured in Prerov by Meopta and not assembled from parts manufactured by other companies, apart from parts such as rubber armour.
M: Yes. Absolutely. Of course it is normal to buy components in which we have no expertise, so from approved suppliers we buy rubber armour, rubber O-rings, plastic parts and of course the raw optical glass which we make into lenses and prisms. Let me explain in an additional way. Mr Rausnitz has invested $40 million in technologies and equipment in the Prerov factory including 7 Syrus vacuum coating chambers at €Euros1.1/1.2M each. We have 40 vacuum chambers some of which are of a traditional kind, others can deposit up to 130 layers of coatings giving very, very specific performance characteristics all the way from the ultra-violet through the visible spectrum to the infra-red. I should especially mention our production of prism systems for digital projection which requires an extremely precise splitting of white light into three channels and this we are able to supply. So, yes, we make B1 binoculars ourselves with a few components such as I described already, bought from our trusted suppliers.

Meopta's Business by Category

T: That is very impressive for a binocular manufacturer but Meopta is a maker of optical components for other companies too, isn’t it?
M: Actually, today, making optical components for this purpose is less and less important, and we are concentrating more on very specific and sophisticated components, for example aspherical elements. To illustrate this the turnover of Meopta is 50% or more industrial optical systems for example to the semi-conductor manufacturing industry, plus sub-components and devices for measuring, as well as digital projection systems, then Sports Optics accounts for about 20-25%, loose optical components 10-15% and finally 5-10% is military devices.

MeoPro binoculars.

T: Is true that MeoPro binoculars are made using out-sourced components?
M: Yes but the precise components and where these are sourced from can change over time. We have a ‘make or buy committee’ which discusses what is the most efficient combination of making ourselves or outsourcing, and ‘most efficient way’ doesn’t always mean the cheapest way. It depends on our own manufacturing capacity and what else we will be making. Anyway this difference is reflected in the MeoStar binoculars being marked ‘made in Czech Republic’ and MeoPro marked ‘assembled in Czech Republic’. But to be very clear, MeoPro design is engineered in-house and so is final inspection before shipping to the customer.

Eye relief and eye cups

T: Eye relief. Does Meopta measure this from the crown of the top lens of the eyepiece to the exit pupil, this being the place where the full field of view can be seen without obstruction? Do you know of any brand which does not use this definition?
M: Yes, Meopta uses this and no, I don’t know of any brand which does not, but it is more complicated than this. This measurement is indeed defined by an ISO standard and it is absolutely the correct definition of ‘eye relief’, however there is a DIN standard which defines another helpful measurement and Meopta uses this as well. This measurement is called the ‘span of eye relief’ and it is the distance along the optical axis ‘above’ the eyepiece, from which the full field of view can be seen without obstruction through a 2.0 mm aperture. I think I remember correctly the 2.0 mm, as this is typical of the human eye for viewing in good daylight.

T: OK, Meopta uses two kinds of measurement but which do you publish in catalogues and on the web-site.
M: Well, this is decided on a case-by-case basis, I mean it depends on the model of binoculars, we take into account both measurements, and the process by which this is done is difficult to describe, but what we publish is, we hope and intend, what we believe to be the most helpful to the end-user.

Note from Troubador: the ‘span of eye relief’ concept sounds very much like what Swarovski has called a ‘light-box’ in some recent publicity material.

T: Back to eye relief and related topics, how do you set about designing eyecups to deliver the eye to the correct position? Complaints on Birdforum swing between ‘eyecups are too long’ to ‘eyecups are too short’ all the time.
M: This is a really tricky area of design and it’s why we use the both eye relief and span of eye relief measurements to help. Everybody in the world has a different face from every other person and what fits one person may not fit his neighbour. It is incredibly individual. We use both measurements to help define the eyecup and then of course we offer eyecups with some adjustability of position to help out. We aim this to be usable for the greatest number of people but actually it can never be perfect for every single person and if they are wearing spectacles then the problem is even more complex. I can only assure you that we do absolutely the best we can to solve this problem.

Meopta Website Errors

T: I have to mention that the Meopta website is full of mistakes which need correcting.
M: This is true and I apologise for it. The website is still under construction and is being corrected but it is a slow process due to the availability of persons competent to do the job and whether they can be released from other responsibilities. Again I apologise to everyone for this.

ISO standard governing high quality binoculars

T: It has been said that ISO 14133-2, governing the performance of high quality binoculars is not at all demanding. Do you agree with this, and in particular, do you think the resolution requirements are ambitious enough?
M: Strictly speaking the standard is not especially demanding but the fact is if you produce a binocular which exceeds the resolution requirement, the image which reaches the retina will not bring better resolution because the standard is already equal to the best resolution the average human eye can produce. BUT. While this standard is used by Meopta, resolution is really just one small part of the perception of optical performance. Contrast is really very important too and there are many other parameters which must be taken into account. In fact there is no single figure that can define or summarise optical performance so Meopta uses many and these include not only resolution but Modulation Transfer Function, Strehl Ratio, as well as measurements of several aberrations and of course light transmission.

Stopped-down testing

T: Thank you for that excellent summary. Do you agree that testing should be done at full aperture or should it be done stopped-down?
M: Testing at full aperture is definitely required but testing stopped down makes a kind of sense for providing information about the performance of the instrument when the observer’s pupil is ‘stopped-down’ during bright sunlight. This can provide useful extra information, but testing at full aperture, especially in twilight conditions, is very revealing of optical performance.

Supplying other brands

T: Without mentioning names, does Meopta supply optical components or finished products to any other bino or scope brand?
M: Meopta co-operates with many optical companies around the world but unfortunately the details of these are confidential, but anyway this means the answer to your question is ‘yes’.

Scope update coming?

T: Do you have any plans to update the S2 scope or introduce a 50mm travel scope.
M: We do have plans that include scopes, but for the moment we know that S2 is still very competitive in performance and price so we don’t have any immediate plans and are working on other sports optics priorities.

Carbon fibre in optical tubes

T: Carbon fibre has been a great success in the making of tripods. Do you foresee this material being used for binocular tubes?
M: This is an interesting question. The first thing to say is that tripod tubes are simple in shape and this is absolutely not the case with binoculars. There are questions to be answered in how to achieve these shapes, how to locate optical components within the tube and how the tube will react over the range of operating temperatures. The risks that need to be assessed include whether optical components will move position and so compromise the performance, and whether the glass components might be damaged or distorted. It is also the case that carbon fibre is terrifically stiff and will transmit shocks from being dropped or knocked in an entirely different way from conventional materials such as aluminium or magnesium, which are shock-absorbing to a certain extent. To answer your question, carbon-fibre is almost certainly going to play a part in the future of binoculars but much needs to be discovered and quantified before this can happen. It will not be simple.

Finish

T: Miloš, thank you for taking part in this interview and for devoting so much time to it. On behalf of Birdforum members, a big thank you.
M: Thank you for the invitation, I enjoyed it very much.

I hope you enjoyed this wide-ranging interview. The photos below show Milos and a MeoStar B1 8x32.
Lee

Photo: Copied with thanks from: https://archiv.ihned.cz/c1-66187180-...y-v-myslivosti
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Old Wednesday 29th August 2018, 13:16   #2
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....and the answer as to why there is no Meostar 8x42 HD?

CG
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Old Wednesday 29th August 2018, 14:13   #3
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....and the answer as to why there is no Meostar 8x42 HD?

CG
CG

Sorry this wasn't clear from the interview. Meopta USA decided that the models likely to be most attractive to the western USA market, with its huge landscapes, were the 10x42, 12x50 and 15x56. They also felt that to be competitive in this market these models needed HD glass. Clearly they didn't see sufficient demand for an HD 8x42.

Lee

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Old Wednesday 29th August 2018, 14:48   #4
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Lee,

Thank you for that very interesting and informative interview with Mr. M. Slaney'

I enjoyed reading it very much and I am going to book mark it.

Bob
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Old Wednesday 29th August 2018, 15:16   #5
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Thanks Bob it was a real pleasure meeting Milos (pronounced Mee-losh, with the ee sounding shorter than it looks) and interviewing him. He tackled all the questions with frank openness and great sense of humour.
Glad you enjoyed it.

Lee
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Old Wednesday 29th August 2018, 15:37   #6
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Two Czechs left Srb & Stys (early Meopta) and escaped to Sweden.

They then made Nife binoculars, which often have the Swedish three crowns marking on the back plate.

The Srb & Stys binoculars that I have seen are very good.
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Old Wednesday 29th August 2018, 16:02   #7
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Two Czechs left Srb & Stys (early Meopta) and escaped to Sweden.

They then made Nife binoculars, which often have the Swedish three crowns marking on the back plate.

The Srb & Stys binoculars that I have seen are very good.
David

One day we need to get you wired up with a USB port and connect you to a memory stick and download all your knowledge and then create a portal to it on Birdforum.

Thanks for this little gem.

Lee
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Old Wednesday 29th August 2018, 16:12   #8
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Lee, post 1,
Thank you for the interview of Milos of Meopta, very nice and informative. During our visit to Meopta in Prerov we also had a long conversation with him in the company building and later at a dinner which was organised for us as visitors. Upon our question: wil there be new developments and he told us that there were plans for a complete new binocular line. As yet we however did not see it, so the Rausnitz family may have decided to postpone it for some time.
On the other hand shortly after that the new Meorange binocular came on the market: a beautiful binocular both to see as to look through came on the market, a binocular with built-in rangefinder. We have seen with great admiration how the complex housing was made by an excellent craftsman on his CNC machine. We also watched the many quality control steps for every binocular and telescope made. That made it very clear to us, that Meopta is a top quality company.
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Old Wednesday 29th August 2018, 16:25   #9
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Lee, post 1,
Thank you for the interview of Milos of Meopta, very nice and informative. During our visit to Meopta in Prerov we also had a long conversation with him in the company building and later at a dinner which was organised for us as visitors. Upon our question: wil there be new developments and he told us that there were plans for a complete new binocular line. As yet we however did not see it, so the Rausnitz family may have decided to postpone it for some time.
On the other hand shortly after that the new Meorange binocular came on the market: a beautiful binocular both to see as to look through came on the market, a binocular with built-in rangefinder. We have seen with great admiration how the complex housing was made by an excellent craftsman on his CNC machine. We also watched the many quality control steps for every binocular and telescope made. That made it very clear to us, that Meopta is a top quality company.
Gijs van Ginkel
Thank you Gijs. When discussing possible new products Milos certainly had a 'twinkle in his eye' but at this stage was unable to comment.

Lee
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Old Wednesday 29th August 2018, 16:31   #10
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Thank you very much, Troubador!

As a compleately satisfied Meopta user (Meostar 8x32 and a Meostar S1 75 APO with both oculars: 20-60X and the GREAT 30X WW angle), I really like your post!

Best.

PHA
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Old Wednesday 29th August 2018, 17:08   #11
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Lee,

Many thanks for the interesting and informative interview.
I don't think there is a future for carbon fibre in binocular housings except perhaps as a reinforcement for thermoplastics analogous to Makrolon. Apart from the difficulties in maintaining dimensional tolerances, the layup costs fo a laminate would be prohibitive for marginal weight savings. Glass makes up a large proportion of binocular weight and it is here we may see or are already seeing the use of optical plastics. These would also make aspherical elements affordable.

John
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Old Wednesday 29th August 2018, 19:15   #12
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Thanks PHA and John

Your kind words are much appreciated.

John the rubber armour contributes to the weight and I have wondered if an inner layer of rubber foam ie rubber with cavities. with a tough outer layer might be a possible weight saver and shock absorber.

Lee
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Old Wednesday 29th August 2018, 19:59   #13
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Lee,
Many thanks also from my side for the highly informative and well written interview!!!
I am myself a fan of Meopta binos which I find compete very well in the upper segment of the market, and own several of their models.
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Old Thursday 30th August 2018, 03:09   #14
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Wow Lee!

GREAT interview and really lots of nice information. Mr Slany comes across as straightforward with lots of good info. He really didn't seem to dodge too much.

I WILL agree that Meopta is missing out a little my NOT offering a Meostar HD 8X42.
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Old Thursday 30th August 2018, 07:09   #15
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Canip, thank you and I totally agree.

Chuck, you could be right (you usually are) but the MeoStar 8x32 is so good I do wonder whether HD glass (as Meopta calls it) would be worth the cost. I am hopeful of reviewing a MeoStar 8x42 soon so I will get the chance to see how it performs. I tested the HD 10x42 a couple of years ago and it was really sweet. CA was very hard to find and it took several high contrast subjects before I found any right at the edge of the field but you know the 8x32 isn't that far behind.
Way back then I mentioned the stiffness of the 8x32's focus which actually contributed to the precision feel of the focus but nevertheless slowed the focus down. Well it eased off over the months and now is smooth and speedy enough.

Milos was great to interview for the reason you say and the only issue he dodged was confirming anything about a new family of binos, and which is perfectly understandable.

Lee
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Old Thursday 30th August 2018, 13:30   #16
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Thank you Lee for obtaining that interview
and designing it to be of maximum use to members of this forum.

Now here is a link to an amazing source of information on many binocular makers.
(I am not aware that it has been mentioned before in this forum.)

PS. After reading Lee's response below, for which thanks, I thought of adding this in here rather than a new post which might divert the thread. I linked that webage here not at all for ethical issues that it addresses, but for more general info on binocular companies, including Meopta, on which I have never seen anything even near as comprehensive as that.

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Old Thursday 30th August 2018, 13:32   #17
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Great stuff Lee. Thanks for posting. Meopta is a real sleeper alpha IMO. Wonder when a tweak of the Meostar's will happen?
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Old Thursday 30th August 2018, 13:53   #18
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Thanks Lee for taking the time and relaying the info, it is appreciated. I own three Meostar Binos and really enjoy the quality optics and build quality. The later model Meostar in 8X42 made in 2018 is a fine glass, and the 7X42 is a pleasure to use and consider my self lucky to have bought one prior to them being archived.

Andy W.

Thanks Andy it was a real pleasure and I can only agree with your comments about the wonderful MeoStars.

Lee

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Old Thursday 30th August 2018, 14:49   #19
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Thank you Lee for obtaining that interview
and designing it to be of maximum use to members of this forum.

Now here is a link to an amazing source of information on many binocular makers.
(I am not aware that it has been mentioned before in this forum.)
Hi Adhoc and thank you for your kind words. Yes, that source of info has been mentioned on the forum. As you know we do not discuss hunting as such on Birdforum although we welcome optics enthusiasts from all backgrounds. If you want to discuss this and related topics the place to do it is on Ruffled Feathers on the bottom of the Forums list.

Lee
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Old Thursday 30th August 2018, 14:51   #20
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Great stuff Lee. Thanks for posting. Meopta is a real sleeper alpha IMO. Wonder when a tweak of the Meostar's will happen?
JG Thanks pal. You ask a good question and you can bet its a question I bugged Milos with more than once. For the moment he is not prepared to offer a comment but he was smiling.

Lee
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Old Thursday 30th August 2018, 21:23   #21
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Great interview Lee. I hope the new Cabela's armor style is strictly to differentiate it from the standard Meostar. I like the Meostar just like it is!
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Old Friday 31st August 2018, 02:49   #22
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Great interview Lee. I hope the new Cabela's armor style is strictly to differentiate it from the standard Meostar. I like the Meostar just like it is!
That is a good point, when the first image of the new Cablea's Instinct
(Meopta) binoculars came out, I mentioned this wild armor design deserves
a nomination for the ugly binocular award.

I get their catalogs, as I am a loyal customer, and now they present photos
of the new models in a dark photograph, and I know why..

Note, this has nothing to do with Meopta, Cabelas's made a mistake here,
their unique design, I expect to be short lived, on this armor thing.
I would buy the Meopta, just for that.

I like the interview also, well done, and just what you would expect from
a top manufacturer.

Jerry
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Old Friday 31st August 2018, 06:43   #23
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Thanks Peatmoss and Thanks Jerry.

Oddly enough when I first saw pictures of the Meopta MeoStar I was put off by the swirl of rubber 'dots' near the eyepieces and didn't like their appearance at all. In real life it was totally different. They are such a handy size and shape (maybe a bit like Leica BA/BN?) that I was won over enough to try them out and the rest is history, as they say.

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Old Friday 31st August 2018, 18:03   #24
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I got some Meoptas today, both binos and scope. Cracking bits of kit.
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Old Saturday 1st September 2018, 06:17   #25
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I got some Meoptas today, both binos and scope. Cracking bits of kit.
Great news. When you have had time to use them why not open up a new thread and tell us about them? You have lots of wonderful places near Durham (where my uncle lives). Weardale - Alston area is beautiful (always a chance of interesting birds on Derwent Reservoir) and the coasts of Yorkshire and Northumberland are not so far away.

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New interview about Verreaux's Eagle: First interview about African raptors!!!! Markus Jais Birds Of Prey 7 Thursday 19th August 2010 18:57
Task Manager Gone Funny delia todd Computers, Birding Software And The Internet 3 Tuesday 22nd July 2008 12:13



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