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Meopta S2 HD Angled c/w 30-60x WA Eyepiece

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Old Wednesday 8th June 2016, 14:40   #1
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Meopta S2 HD Angled c/w 30-60x WA Eyepiece

At the 2015 British Birdfair I spent some time trying out spotting scopes from some of the big names and along the way came across the S2 scope from Meopta, a company that has been swimming around the periphery of my perceptions for some years. I was impressed enough to file away the name ‘Meopta’ as a target for testing at some point in the future. An opportunity duly arose and I was offered the MeoStar B1 8x32 and the S2 to test: perfect.

Meopta is based in the Czech Republic, with a subsidiary company in the USA, and has been producing a wide range of optical products since 1933. For more information about the full range of products and technologies visit: http://www.meopta.com/en/ . They are strongly rumoured to produce high quality components and even full products for other brands and when you learn that they have a staggering 40+ vacuum chambers for coating lenses and prisms at their factory in Prerov, you can believe it.

In the UK Meopta nature observation instruments are handled by Avisum (go to: http://www.avisum.co.uk ) and are sold through selected dealers.

I have already reported on the MeoStar B1 8x32 on the binoculars pages and found it to be a very well made instrument that was delightful to use, so I looked forward to trying out the S2 scope. I used the S2 in a variety of situations including my usual review site where there is a large lake and abundant waterfowl. I also took it on an expedition to Ardnamurchan in west Scotland where we stayed on the coast overlooking a small salt marsh, a tidal basin and a rocky shore.

The S2 is an attractive instrument with a smooth and graceful outline that bears some similarities with Swarovski’s ATX scope. For example they both share a focusing ring that forms the narrowest part of the barrel and that falls readily to hand when needed. The resemblance finishes there, however, as the Swarovski is a modular system allowing the fitment of different objective lens modules as well as different eyepieces. This versatility comes at a price of course and I don’t just mean in monetary terms. Swarovski’s 85 mm body weighs in at 1910 grams (68 ozs) and while the larger diameter objective certainly plays a part in this, it is worth noting that Zeiss’s 85 mm Diascope weighs only 1480 grams (53 ozs) All of these weights are without eyepieces.

I tested the S2 with the wide-angle 30-60x eyepiece that maintains a constant apparent field of view of 66 deg throughout the magnification range, whereas the alternative 20x–70x eyepiece varies from 45 to 63 deg apparent field of view. There have been reports of some folks experiencing some mild distortion when panning at lower magnifications with this eyepiece but in normal use I just couldn’t see this myself. However when panning with the view seriously out of focus I could see the effect, but this was hardly an issue. The eyecup screws up and down to accommodate spectacle wearers and the adjustment action was smooth and sufficiently stiff to stay-put at any setting (there are no click-stops). At the objective end there is an integral sun shade that slides out and stays in position and did a good job in Scotland when the setting sun was shining low across the sea.



The focuser is smooth and precise with no back-lash / free play and the speed an excellent balance between getting on target quickly but not overshooting. As for the view, well, it is just superb. I couldn’t find any chromatic aberration in the main field of view and just a tiny bit at the field edge in high contrast situations. Colours, contrast and apparent sharpness were all brilliant.

In front of our cottage on Ardnamurchan is a tiny salt-marsh at the head of a tidal basin through which a fresh water stream runs. At different states of tide this was visited by a pair of Greenshanks (a relative of Greater Yellowlegs), a pair of Common Sandpipers (just like Spotted Sandpiper, but without the spots) and many Meadow Pipits and Wheatears. The scope rendered the breeding plumage of the Greenshanks and the subtle tones of the Wheatear males and females perfectly. The fine markings hidden within the Sandpiper’s mantle plumage were easily seen and the high contrast image made the dark eye-stripe and supercilium so prominent that with a careless glance I could have mistaken it for a Wood Sandpiper. These were all viewed at 30x but further out in the bay were Great Northern Divers (Common Loons) and twisting the smooth-acting zoom eyepiece around to 45x was enough to reveal their breath-taking plumage and dark red eyes. When they surfaced to swallow their fish or crabs and looked around, the dark band at the base of their necks gleamed a metallic green in the sunshine.

Using the scope to slowly scan the sea-weed fringes of rocks for signs of otters I noted that the field of view was sharp to just short of the field edge and it handled glare from low off the water due to the lowering sun with ease, a quality I have noted also with Zeiss’s Diascope and found lacking in Swarovski’s ATX.

We also took with us some kit to convert the scope for digi-scoping. This was a full-sized kit to accept a DSLR rather than a pocket camera. The equipment required is the Photoadapter itself and a converter ring for both fitting it to the camera and the scope, so, three items in total, and you can see the set-up on the accompanying photo.

Unfortunately our lightweight tripod was not steady enough for any serious photography and the rocky shores too uncertain of footing to risk such a valuable borrowed instrument. However I can say that all of the kit fitted together securely and felt really well-built.

In the UK the Meopta and its top competitors are approximately priced like this:

Meopta MeoStar S2 82 mm with 30-60x wide angle eyepiece, £2325
Swarovski ATX 85 mm with 25-50x wide angle eyepiece £3070
Zeiss Diascope 85 mm with 20-75x eyepiece £2,225
Leica APO Televid with 25-50x eyepiece £2,000

In the USA the prices are approximately:

Meopta as above $2300
Swaro as above $4740
Zeiss as above $3400
Leica as above $2550

Take care when comparing prices though as these scopes differ in their objective lenses, eyepieces and other features such as Zeiss’s two-stage focusing incorporating a fast focus and a slower fine focus, and of course Swarovski’s modular arrangement. More than ever this is a case of try before you buy, but to conclude I can say, hand-on-heart, that the S2 is right up there with the offerings from Zeiss and Swarovski (I haven’t sufficient experience of the Leica APO-Televid to comment) and should be on the short-list of anyone considering buying one these high-end instruments.

Lee
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Old Wednesday 8th June 2016, 19:48   #2
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Lee,

A nice review. My impressions of the Meopta S2 were equally favorable when I tested one a couple of years back. It truly is a first-rate alpha scope made every bit as well as the best competing models. One area where we differ slightly is the distortion behavior, where I found the rolling ball effect at low magnifications slightly disturbing while you did not. This may very well be due to me viewing without glasses and you with glasses, and in any case was not something I would consider a deal breaker anyway. However, I ended up preferring the other zoom, the 20-70x, over the 30-60x wide, as the added reach at both ends of the magnification range was nice to have and the image quality equally great.

You should correct your figures for weights, though, since although the weight you give for the Swarovski ATX 85 itself is correct, it most certainly does include the eyepiece weight since in the Swaro the eyepiece is integral with the prism unit. Therefore, to have a fair comparison with the Diascope, you would have to include the weight of the Diascope eyepiece as well.

Kimmo
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Old Wednesday 8th June 2016, 20:44   #3
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Nice review Lee,

I spent a couple of hours with the S2 and 30-60x zoom last autumn in a side by side comparison with my rather ancient Nikon 82EDA.
I agree that right from the off you can tell this a quality instrument and I wish I'd had the opportunity to give it a more prolonged test.

I must say though that whilst never having experienced RB in any of the many Swarovski bins I've tried (which are often cited for this distortion) I was more than mildly disturbed by it at the wide end of the zoom while panning. I certainly wasn't panning with the view out of focus (why would you?) and I found it a most uncomfortable experience. It's also unfortunate that the distortion disappears at higher magnification - as I usually pan at the lowest mag and then zoom in when I find something.

Maybe with more use it would have become less noticeable and the 20-70x zoom wasn't available for me to compare.

It just goes to show that we all see things differently, and I'm sure most people would want to "try before they buy" but with some very attractive savings to be made over the Internet I was nearly tempted.

One other scope that bears comparison is the Kowa 88 series especially with the extender now available.

All the best,

Phil
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Old Thursday 9th June 2016, 15:10   #4
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Originally Posted by kabsetz View Post
Lee,

A nice review. My impressions of the Meopta S2 were equally favorable when I tested one a couple of years back. It truly is a first-rate alpha scope made every bit as well as the best competing models. One area where we differ slightly is the distortion behavior, where I found the rolling ball effect at low magnifications slightly disturbing while you did not. This may very well be due to me viewing without glasses and you with glasses, and in any case was not something I would consider a deal breaker anyway. However, I ended up preferring the other zoom, the 20-70x, over the 30-60x wide, as the added reach at both ends of the magnification range was nice to have and the image quality equally great.

You should correct your figures for weights, though, since although the weight you give for the Swarovski ATX 85 itself is correct, it most certainly does include the eyepiece weight since in the Swaro the eyepiece is integral with the prism unit. Therefore, to have a fair comparison with the Diascope, you would have to include the weight of the Diascope eyepiece as well.

Kimmo
Hey Kimmo

Thanks for your kind words. I was alerted to the possibility of distortion behaviour at lower magnifications by a friend from this forum, but even vigorous panning didn't reveal it until, by accident I panned with the telescope de-focused.

Many thanks for drawing my attention to the weights of the units. I am so sorry for this and I will make a correction. I had not realised that the eyepiece was integral with the prism unit on the Swaro.

Lee
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Old Thursday 9th June 2016, 15:13   #5
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Originally Posted by Torchepot View Post
Nice review Lee,

I spent a couple of hours with the S2 and 30-60x zoom last autumn in a side by side comparison with my rather ancient Nikon 82EDA.
I agree that right from the off you can tell this a quality instrument and I wish I'd had the opportunity to give it a more prolonged test.

I must say though that whilst never having experienced RB in any of the many Swarovski bins I've tried (which are often cited for this distortion) I was more than mildly disturbed by it at the wide end of the zoom while panning. I certainly wasn't panning with the view out of focus (why would you?) and I found it a most uncomfortable experience. It's also unfortunate that the distortion disappears at higher magnification - as I usually pan at the lowest mag and then zoom in when I find something.

All the best,

Phil
Hi Phil

Thanks. It was a pure accident that after looking at some ducks, I rolled the focus wheel backwards and forwards to reinforce my impression of how it feels and I began panning at the same time and immediately noticed the distortion. Refocusing and panning again, the distortion was not apparent to me.

Lee
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Old Thursday 9th June 2016, 15:25   #6
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Correction to Weights

Thanks to Kimmo for pointing out that I was not comparing like with like when quoting the weights above. Also note that the Swarovski is available with angled or straight eyepiece units but not a choice of magnifications. The magnification varies only with the size of the objective unit to which the eyepiece unit is fitted.

Here are the weights including eyepieces for all three:

Meopta 1815 grams
Zeiss 1810 grams
Swarovski 1910 grams.

Apologies to all for the error.

Lee

Last edited by Troubador : Thursday 9th June 2016 at 15:29.
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Old Wednesday 15th June 2016, 13:44   #7
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Thanks, Lee, for this thorough, in-depth review. Bravo! I've been using the S2 for over three years now and honestly you'd have to show me something pretty spectacular to get me to change.

I have grown especially fond of the fast, tight, helical focus. It has a very solid, robust feel to it and works extremely well with gloves and all. I doubt I'd want to go back to smaller dual focus knobs at this point.

I do (still) see the panning distortion every time at lower mags on the 30-60x, but I figure that's the price for the great wide field that's sharp to the edges. The distortion ends around 40-45x. Perhaps because of the really wide field, I find the scope very easy to aim at 30x, even higher up to 45x. It's much easier than my little ED 50 at 27x. Maybe it's just the length, or the fact that the Nikon has an offset eyepiece. All I know is it remains uncannily easy to aim.

And in person I think it looks fantastic. Great streamlined shape and nice dark-green and black color. You can see both in Lee's photo.

The price ($2500 at Eagle Optics) has gone up $300 since I bought mine, but yikes that's still $1600 less than the ATX 85! That's some nice travel money!

If you're in the market, check it out.

Thanks, again, Lee.

Mark
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Old Wednesday 15th June 2016, 15:50   #8
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Originally Posted by Kammerdiner View Post
Thanks, Lee, for this thorough, in-depth review. Bravo! I've been using the S2 for over three years now and honestly you'd have to show me something pretty spectacular to get me to change.

I have grown especially fond of the fast, tight, helical focus. It has a very solid, robust feel to it and works extremely well with gloves and all. I doubt I'd want to go back to smaller dual focus knobs at this point.

I do (still) see the panning distortion every time at lower mags on the 30-60x, but I figure that's the price for the great wide field that's sharp to the edges. The distortion ends around 40-45x. Perhaps because of the really wide field, I find the scope very easy to aim at 30x, even higher up to 45x. It's much easier than my little ED 50 at 27x. Maybe it's just the length, or the fact that the Nikon has an offset eyepiece. All I know is it remains uncannily easy to aim.

And in person I think it looks fantastic. Great streamlined shape and nice dark-green and black color. You can see both in Lee's photo.

The price ($2500 at Eagle Optics) has gone up $300 since I bought mine, but yikes that's still $1600 less than the ATX 85! That's some nice travel money!

If you're in the market, check it out.

Thanks, again, Lee.

Mark
Hi Mark
Totally agree with your remarks especially about the focuser. As you know I have recently acquired an old model Diascope with separate focusing wheels and there is no doubt that the Meopta's big wheel is more comfortable, always accessible and very accurate.

Lee
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Old Tuesday 26th July 2016, 17:42   #9
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Here is a comparison with other scopes...

http://www.topoptics.biz/comparatif-longues-vues.html
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Old Wednesday 3rd August 2016, 16:14   #10
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Some interesting comments on a scope I've never considered. But tell me how easy are they to purchase in the UK, I am under the impression none of the main optical retailer's stock them?
The above threads indicate that it is a good quality product.

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Old Wednesday 3rd August 2016, 16:57   #11
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Some interesting comments on a scope I've never considered. But tell how easy are they to purchase in the UK, I am under the impression none of the main optical retailers stock them?
The above threads indicate that it is a good quality product.
Robert

The agent for Meopta in the UK is developing a new company called Avisum and I am sure they want to improve their distribution in the UK.

In the meantime Meopta will be at Bird Fair so why not drop in to see them and find out more?

Lee
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Old Wednesday 3rd August 2016, 18:24   #12
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Thanks Lee am hoping to visit the bird fair on the Saturday.

Robert
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