September 28, 2022
By David Draper
I got my initial introduction to Meopta when I was working for Cabela’s not long after the turn of the millennium. The outdoor outfitter had contracted with the Czech optics company to build a line of binoculars that were marketed under the Euro model name, and soon enough a set crossed my desk. Cabela’s Euro binoculars sported quality optics, had a decent form factor and, in true Cabela’s fashion, were priced below the market in terms of the performance they delivered. I invested in a couple pair, and at least one set is still bouncing around my farm truck more than a decade later.
For those unfamiliar with Meopta, the company has long been making optical devices and were at one time the largest manufacturers of photo enlargers and cinema projectors in the world. Not long after WWII, Meopta moved into consumer optics, and started grinding and polishing glass for some of the more popular, and expensive, sports optics makers, including a few names any hunter would be familiar with. Under their own brand, Meopta sport optics are known for that value proposition that I first encountered with those co-branded binos back in the day. So, I wasn’t surprised to find out that’s still true with the company’s new Optika series of rangefinding binoculars.
The Case for Rangefinder Binoculars
For a long time, the argument against rangefinding binoculars was valid. Unless you broke the budget on a top-of-the-line set, you were trading on optical quality for the usefulness of having an all-in-one package. What’s that saying: why do two things poorly if you can do one thing well? That epitomized a lot of the mid- and bottom-tier rangefinding binoculars available. Lucky for hunters, the barrier has been broken and once you get into the $1,500+ price range, combination rangefinder/binoculars are worth considering.
That said, that’s still a fair bit of money to spend on hunting equipment. But I argue the convenience, and opportunity it offers, is worth the spend. Seconds often matter in the woods, and the time it takes to glass up a buck or bull, swap to a separate, handheld rangefinder and then raise your rifle or bow, could mean a lost opportunity. Better to see your target, range it quickly and get that shot off before the trophy moves out of view.
Plus, if you’re going to spend money on quality binoculars, and then buy a separate rangefinder that is accurate and functional in tough conditions, you’re already pushing your costs into the territory occupied by good rangefinding binos.
When shopping for a pair of rangefinding binos, I’d argue that you should put the optical quality first. After all, if you can’t see what you want to range, what good are they? And, while high-end models do have pretty impressive rangefinding capabilities and are loaded with features, most of the midtier versions have accurate and capable lasers built in.
Meopta claims their Optika LR HD binos transmit up to 85 percent of available light. What I find more impressive than that number is that the company advertises it at all. Most companies couch their performance in general terms like “full” or “maximum.” What that exactly means is anyone’s guess and I’d surmise most combination rangefinder/binos are playing in a similar ballpark. And while I don’t have the optical equipment to measure Meopta’s claim, I will say they were adequately bright during testing both low light and full sun. The BaK-4 porro-style prisms allow for the highest level of light transmission and clarity, though do result in a bit bulkier package when compared to slimmer roof-prism binos.
I found the Optika’s clarity to be excellent, and I could detect no aberration or blurring at the edges of the field of view (which is an ample 325 feet at 1,000 yards). Contrast, too, was good, allowing me to pick up antelope and mule deer from the tall, brown grasslands of western Nebraska at both dawn and dusk. Meopta uses a high-definition optical system throughout, with fully multi-coated glass to enhance all aspects of performance.
Picking Up Distance
The rangefinding capabilities of the Optika LR HD binoculars was equally as impressive as the optical quality. I found the laser to be much quicker than some of the other midlevel brand rangefinders I’ve tested in the past. Even on distances nearing a mile the LED readout would pop up in less than a second. The display, in the right eyepiece, was easy to read and can be adjusted for brightness by toggling through the menu using the ridged button sitting atop the left barrel. (The activation button sets on the right.) The menu button also allows for meter/yard selection and toggles through auto, scan and brush modes.
Meopta lists an accuracy rating within +/- one yard at 1,800 yards and +/- two yards at 2,600. In my tests, the latter number seems optimistic. I couldn’t return a range of more than 1,960 yards, even when targeting a tall, bright grain elevator more than a mile distant. The 1,960-yard range came from a slim tree row a section over from my home. On smaller objects, say a deer or elk, I’d expect to receive ranges a little more than 1,000 yards, should you be able to hold your hand steady enough to range it. (The Optika is fitted with a threaded tripod mount, which is most welcome for hunters in the West.)
When I pulled the Optikas from the box, I had flashbacks from my old cubicle at Cabela’s. The design of the Euros was a bit more, well, European, but the heft and feel were much the same. Weighing a little more than two pounds, the Optikas are not light. To be fair, I’ve yet to find a pair of rangefinding binoculars that are anything but hefty, but they’re all still comparable to a standard pair of binos plus the weight of a separate rangefinder. The Meoptas are a bit more compact than most, measuring right at six inches in height. The magnesium body is rubberized for a comfortable grip that also provides some protective against drops. And the classic green coloring may as well be trademarked by Meopta at this point. I tested the 10x42s, but the company also offers an 8x50 version for about $300 more.
The Essentials Gear Box.
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