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Meade 9x63
Submitted: Monday, 21st August 2006 by Chris
meade9x63binocular.jpg

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Meade 9x63 binoculars

I noticed there is no review of the Meade 9x63s. I thought this odd as it would seem that this particular Meade binocular are reasonably popular and is sold as an 'Astro' binocular from camera and astronomy shops world wide.

I had previously owned a pair 4 years ago for about 6 months but sold it as at the time I was gathering funds for an APO Telescope. My brief impression was then 'average to good optics, some ghosting on bright objects, and best on dark skies'.

I acquired a new pair 6 months ago and have used them 2-3 times a week in the dark and clear skies of New Zealand. They are reasonably expensive in N.Z. [most good optical equipment is] and cost the equivalent of $275NZ. They had 25% off at the time.

However, when first buying I had to exchange 3 separate 9x63s binoculars [!] prior to getting an optically sound pair. The first one had a prism so badly misaligned that half the view was non existent and the other 2 had noticeable dust spots on the prisms.  Not a good start or indicator to Meade’s quality assurance procedures.

Optics / Mechanics

Being 9x63s they have a large exit pupil of 7 mm. Much has been written on exit pupil size, especially around 'age' and 'wasted light', the impression being that binoculars with 7 mm exits are best suited for 'dark skies' and 'younger' eyes where the light will not be 'wasted'. Being 50 years old my eyes are not 'young' anymore so this was a concern.

On testing during day time the images appeared sharp and 'bright'. However, there does appear to be some 'whiteout' areas. This is seen as a 'jelly bean effect' and occurs primarily on one side.This does not appear during night time viewing even with a full moon.

Presumably my ageing eyes are getting most of the available light at night.  Alternatively excess day time glare may be producing this ‘whiteout’ effect. [This daytime 'jelly beaning' may be related to my eyes only as it appears in my less dominant eye].  However my pupils would not be using all the available light for day time use due to the large pupil exit.

During day time there is no obvious curvature and edge distortion appeared low. The eye relief is a generous 22mm, and the eye cups are soft rubber however some stray light does appear to get in, not an issue on dark skies however.  Exit pupils appeared round.

The 9x63’s are advertised by Meade as 'multicoated' with BAK-4 roof prisms. They display a light green reflection when looking at the main lens in the day light. My face was reflected fairly distinctly from the objective lens. [Not so good sign - better coatings reflect less light]. There were no white reflections visible. [Good sign]. 

Some advertising websites have the Meade’s listed as 'fully coated' but I feel they are ‘muticoated’ - at least on the objective lens. As a reference there is noticeably less internal reflections and secondary ghosting with the Meade’s then my 'fully coated' Barska 15x70s during day / night time use.

The Meade site list the FOV at 305 ft at 100 yards this equates to 5.8 TFOV. This enables Orion’s belt to fit approx twice in the FOV.

One negative issue is they do not appear to be the full 63mm's aperture as advertised. There is a ‘cell holder / baffle’ more or less immediately behind the main lens. Measuring the effective aperture comes out to be 'approx'. 58 - 60mms.   It is curious as to why this cell ‘holder / baffle’ is so close - as any loss of light is a major negative.

It may be that the objective lens magnifies this ‘cell holder / baffle’ to appear closer then it is. Therefore the focal light path is not interrupted. This front baffle 'may' help to reduce day and night C.A. [via increased focal length]. as there is only very minor purple fringing on day time objects like TV aerials.  [Good quality binoculars with lower power [below 10x] color is usually not an issue.] There are no other major baffles.

They have a centre focusing mechanism - there was some 'play' however - enough just to be a minor nuisance - again another Q.A. issue.

They weigh 44 oz and due to the roof prism design are reasonably long at 10.5 inches. I find them easy to hand hold which I think is related to the roof prism design they do not feel 'bulky'. Others may find them slightly too heavy / long and prefer a tripod mount. They are rubber coated and non waterproof.

Night Observing

Collimation appears good on stars. No obvious spurious color on bright objects. Craters on the moon appeared well defined.  The terminator was sharp. There was what I would consider ‘minor’ secondary ghosting - primarily on the moon. This was more pronounced when the moon was full - enough to be a minor nuisance. There is minor off axis glare on bright objects like Jupiter. There were also minor spikes on very bright stars.

I feel their strength however is on really dark skies with lower magnitude objects. They do show pin point star images towards 80-90 % of the field of view.  Most of my viewing has been by 50mm binoculars previously. The 9x63s do noticeably bring in more light. The rich regions of the Milky Way are more luminous and overall resolution is improved.

In the Southern Hemisphere we have some splendid sights, Omega Centauri, an impressive globular cluster, visible with the naked eye, looks impressive and the 'Jewel box' an open cluster next to the Southern Cross shows its multiple colors nicely. M31 and M33 show mildly more detail than my excellent Japanese ‘Yashica’ 7X50s.

On more light polluted skies the Meade’s can have a mild 'washed out out' image others have noticed this with binoculars with large pupil exits. I use them more then my 'Barska' 15x70s as the view is primarily sharper with better off axis definition. I also enjoy the ease of hand held 9X magnification.

The more I use them on dark skies the more impressed with them I become. I have currently 12 mostly hand held binoculars and the Meade’s have become my main binoculars esp. on moon-less nights.

Impressions

  1. Meade have issues with Q.A. - check them before you buy!
  2. Optically ‘good’ - except for ghosting on bright object at night.
  3. Mechanically ‘good’ - except for mild play in the focuser and limited baffling.
  4. Not so good for day time use - related to glare / loss of light. [However they are advertised as 'Astro binoculars']\
  5. Good eye relief - esp. for glass wearers.
  6. ‘Relatively’ easy to hand hold.
  7. Query actual lens aperture [? high 50mm's]
  8. Cost effective? Debatable. Yes - if at discounted prices.
  9. Finally - they are impressive in really dark skies - scanning the milky way on moon-less nights reminds me of why I have been hooked on Astronomy for most of my life.

I am fortunate living in N.Z. as away from the larger cities the skies are inky black the air is clear and the seeing is good. We have one of the least polluted skies in the world. 

Will I keep them - yes!

Review by Chris Lewis. Discuss this review on the IceInSpace Forum.
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