Equipment Review: Meade 8X42 Travel Binoculars

My Mother always told me that if I couldn’t say something good about somebody, that I shouldn’t say anything at all. Well, after a few weeks of using a pair of Meade 8X42 Travel Binoculars, I guess it’s about time I said something… I just hope you want to hear it.

First Impression of the Meade 8X42 Travel Binoculars

I opened the box and there they were… a pair of Meade binoculars in a plastic blister pack like you’d find hanging on a peg in your nearby discount department store. I couldn’t help but ask myself if I was going to get the same quality as a Meade department store telescope, but I knew I had to be fair. After all, you can’t judge a cake by its frosting, right? Darn, right.

So, I open them up and examined them. According to their advertising blurb; “They are light and portable, and include a carrying case and neck strap.” Well, they’re right about that. These 8X42 binoculars certainly are light. Actually, they’re probably the lightest pair I’ve ever held that had that kind of aperture. Carrying case? Check. Neck strap? Check. Now for the binoculars themselves…

“A rubber coated exterior helps protect your Meade Travel binoculars from bumps and dings, and offers a slip-proof grip.” Right again, the tubes are rubberized and I will give them credit – they definitely are easy to securely grip. Let’s see now. It says “Optics Fully Coated”. Yep. They are. At least the surfaces I’m looking at are coated and apparently well done. What’s next? Right eye diopter? Gotcha’ . It’s there, too… And functional. Interpupillary distance? Check. Spreads wide… Goes to narrow. Everything seems to be functioning perfectly… So let’s have a look!

Viewing Through the Meade 8X42 Travel Binoculars

Well, surprise surprise! With or without eyeglasses, I have no problem hitting focus and the Meade 8X42 Travel Binoculars have sweet eye relief. It boasts closes focus of 21 feet, but I actually got it down to around 10 feet with a nice image. According to their advertising; “Meade 8X42 Travel Binoculars offer bright, clear images for a host of observing opportunities, from nature viewing and birding to sporting events and travel.” Well, let’s just see, huh?

So, out we go. During the daylight I was picking up bright, crisp images of birds, well defined looks at distant objects and am pleased to announce that the claim of “8X is the perfect compromise for those who want to hand-hold their binoculars for an extended period of time but want more magnification than low power models” is correct. The light weight does make them easy to hold and to steady. But, what about twilight viewing? Again, I’m impressed. I was watching deer a good thousand yards away and I could easily distinguish their different coat markings. Yeah, Meade!

Now, what about astronomical implications? Not bad on the Moon. I can see crater detail and hold them steady. Jupiter? Steady enough to see two jovian moons. Star clusters? Yep. M44 is nice and crispy. M67 isn’t resolved, but then I didn’t expect it to be. Globular clusters show up nicely. Again, they don’t resolve – but it’s not the binoculars fault. Galaxies? Yes. M81 and M82 were fine. M51 was faded, but there… and M65 and M66 took some aversion but could be seen. Double stars? Mizar and Alcor…. mmmm… ok. Cor Caroli? Again, just ok. All in all? The Meade 8X42 Travel Binoculars perform well in all applications.

All applications, but one…

Traveling With the Meade 8X42 Travel Binoculars

One of the reasons I enjoy binoculars so much is that I do travel. Something that’s only about the size of a good book is easy to tuck in between your clothes in your suitcase and send up the luggage ramp into the airplane. And this is just what I did with the Meade 8X42 Travel Binoculars. After all, my laptop has been halfway around the world and back in just this same manner.

Ummm… Apparently Meade just needs to take the word “Travel” out of their description.

The laptop in its suitcase arrived fine – but the binoculars in the other didn’t. Absolutely nothing fragile inside the same suitcase was damaged in any way, but the moment I tried to use the Meade 8X42 Travel Binoculars after traveling I got double images. Folks, when you see two perfectly focused images while looking through a pair of binoculars? Something has definitely gone afoul inside the tomato. I readjusted the interpupillary distance. I readjusted the right eye diopter. I readjusted the focus. I tried covering one lens – and then the other. The result? Either optical tube showed a crisp, clean image… But not together. Test number two – give them to someone else to look through. Guess what? Yeah. They saw the same thing. Two images. Just a little bit of active use and this pair of binoculars lost their collimation.

In the long run, maybe you won’t experience the same thing I did with the Meade 8X42 Travel Binoculars. Maybe I just got that one in every hundred pair that had a screw loose. Maybe the suitcase they were in got handled a lot rougher than what it looked like. Maybe both of sets of eyes went bad in a short period of time. Maybe it won’t happen to you… But maybe… Maybe it will.

Sorry, Ma. I really tried.

13 Replies to “Equipment Review: Meade 8X42 Travel Binoculars”

  1. Oh no! Poor old binoculars. I had a similar thing happen with my ancient Yashica SLR camera. Was forced to pack it in my hold luggage, but wrapped it tight in a tough case and towels. Impregnable? Nope. I was flying with Continental, and someone must have taken a sledgehammer to my bag. I found my beloved SLR inside a buckled case and a defined impression in the metal bodywork. Bless it though, there was no damage to the optics or mechanism and it’s working to this day.

    What can I say? The Japanese sure know how to build a camera! As for Meade, I think I’d have to put their products in my carry on luggage.

    Just a thought, do you think the pressure difference when flying can tinker with the inner workings of sensitive optics? I just wonder as it is an airtight compartment between lenses… hmmm…

    Great article Tammy, give the 8X42 Travel Binoculars a shake from me (hear a rattle?).

    Cheers, Ian πŸ˜‰

  2. Thanks, Ian!

    Your camera sure sounds a lot like my old JVC camcorder – and my IBM ThinkPad. Dropped. Kicked. Scratched. Sat on. Shipped. Abused. Funny thing, though… They took the licking and kept on ticking.

    That’s an excellent observation about air pressure differences. There may very well be something to that as many astronomy and optical equipment cases have an air pressure purge valve. But at the same time, I’ve also taken binoculars (ok, dreadfully cheap ones…) along in my suitcase with no problem.

    I want very much to be fair with Meade – but the moment I held them I had this gut-awful instinct they wouldn’t take what I put equipment through. For most people, they’ll more than likely never have a problem with these ultra-light quality binoculars… But for those of us who drop, throw in the trunk of a car and pile groceries on, shove in a backpack or duffel bag on a whim, give to children to use and generally abuse? Oh, my…

    I think sending back a box of little itty bitty pieces parts might void my warranty. πŸ˜‰

  3. Wow Tammy, I’d hate to be packed in your luggage when you go on holiday! My vision would be impared, I’d be battered by you reversing over me in a 1-ton Jeep and I’d probably end up sleeping with the fishes πŸ˜‰

    Actually…. that sounds like the last stag party I went on…

    Just an idea, I reckon these reviews should be called the “Tammy Test” πŸ˜€

    Cheers, Ian πŸ™‚

  4. Ian,

    About 6 years ago, my wife gave me a pair of Bushnell 8×42 binoculars for my birthday. They have been the best pair of binoculars I’ve ever owned. They are lightweight, fully coated, rubberized … all the plus features you mentioned for the Meade. The optical quality is superb, and the lightweight and balance make them easy to hold for extended astronomical viewing. You want rugged? I’ve been hauling these babies around in a backpack almost every week for years, and have never had any problems. And I have not been kind to that backpack.

  5. The above should have been addressed to Tammy, not Ian. Sorry about that.

  6. No worries. We’re friends. πŸ˜‰

    So what’s your opinion? Do you think the collimation should have failed just from having them in a suitcase? Or from the pressure?

    (I had a pair of Tascos once I ran over with a Jeep and they still worked! I imagine they’re still working at the bottom of the lake where I dropped them from the boat, too…)

  7. I’ve had binos that were dropped and knocked out of collimation on many occasions. Fortunately these older versions had accessible collimation (tiny) screws on the barrels under the grip surface. I could access them and re-adjust the prisms with a bit of fiddling. Double images were worked back to unison. I’ve saved heaps on doing this myself. But nowadays binoculars are design to prevent you saving money. The collimation screws are nowhere to be seen. Bump them and you’re up for a service collimation job that can cost the same as the binocular itself!


  8. I think your reviews are awesome. As a non-astronomer (I know how stars work, but I have no clue where to find them!) you present the product in a balanced review. To be honst, I’m not bothered with apertures, focal lengths, super-duper-non-abberation coatings… I want to know if it works and if it does the job. Plus, you tell us how they cope in the real world πŸ™‚ When I get my first telescope, the Tammy Test will be the first review I read πŸ˜‰

    Cheers!! Ian

  9. The “Tammy Test” is realistic. I don’t go out of my way to ask optical equipment to be rugged – but neither do I wear white gloves when I use it. This is why you’ll never see a review unless I’ve had it for awhile. No one wants a telescope that works great for a few weeks and then falls apart… No more than they want a pair of binoculars that work well until they actually are asked to what they claim.

    If no one here feels like I’m playing favourites by telling the honest truth about what lasts and what doesn’t? I’ll be happy to carry on!

    (heheheee… ian? it was a comet party and i laid them on top the tire and then forgot they were there when i moved the jeep. about a year later i was out fishing and went to look for c-bouy and the boat rocked… i let go to steady myself… and down they went! that’s why you should always use a neck strap. that way they’ll know where to find your head. ;))

  10. i think that good piece of equipment ,
    maby you can provide me with the web site i might order one!!!;)

  11. rajaee? Just google in “Meade B120208” and you’ll get various sites to choose from to order a pair. However….

    You might just want to wait a little bit until you hear how competitive versions compare. Right now there’s two others that are going through the “Ooops. I left them in the backseat of my car on a hot sunny day test.” and will be handled by 150 different members of the Ohio Military Police tonight at a program.

    Ian? The quintessential “first telescope” will be showing up here soon! πŸ˜‰

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