The Meade 20 x 80mm Astro binocular offers the equivalent light gathering capacity of two 3.1” rich field refractor telescopes – one for each eye – to provide bright wide field views of large and faint deep space objects. Using two eyes to observe increases the resolution of small details by as much as 40% over the resolution visible when using only one eye, as you do when looking through the single eyepiece of a telescope or spotting scope.
While the Meade 80mm Astro offers admirable wide field astronomical viewing on its own, it also serves as a good wide-field observing complement to the narrower field of a telescope. You can sweep the skies for objects of interest before going in for a close-up with your telescope. It’s a great grab and go instrument for a quick peek at the sky when you don’t have time to set up your telescope. And one person can use the binocular while another uses the telescope, doubling your observing enjoyment.
At a little over four and a half pounds, the Meade 20 x 80mm Astro binocular is realistically too heavy to hand hold for any length of time, so a tripod adapter is built into the binocular to take its weight off your hands and wrists. Using the Meade 80mm binocular on a tripod is virtually mandatory, as few people will have the wrist strength needed to hold them steady enough for extended hand held use.
A reinforcing bar runs from the prism housings to the objective lenses. In addition to providing structural rigidity that keeps the optics firmly collimated, the bar provides a sturdy support for the integrated tripod adapter. The tripod adapter can slide along the bar to balance the binocular on your photo tripod, no matter what part of the sky you are viewing. Once you find the correct balance, a large hand-tighten knob locks the adapter in place.
The 20 x 80mm Meade uses high light transmission BaK-4 prisms and multicoated optics for bright images of faint deep space objects. With a good 3.2° field of view, the Meade excels at sweeping the star clouds of Sagittarius, searching out the Great Galaxy in Andromeda, taking in open clusters like the Beehive and the Wild Duck, and much more. There is some minor barrel distortion (straight lines at the edge of the field are curved), and some visible astigmatism and chromatic aberration at the edges of the field. However, these flaws are minor considering the Meade Astro’s aperture and price and are unobtrusive for all but the most critical and nitpicky of observers.
Eye relief is specified at a good 17mm. While this is technically correct, the actual usable eye relief typically measures a few mm less due to the recessing of the eyepieces when the eyecups are rolled down for eyeglass use. A shorter eye relief than specified is typical of all binoculars. There will be some minor vignetting of the field for those who must wear eyeglasses while observing.
Soft roll-down eyecups shield the unaided eye from stray light when rolled up, and cushion eyeglass lenses when rolled down. The prism housings are lightly armored to protect against bumps and shocks. A padded nylon carrying/storage case is standard equipment, as are protective snap=in lens caps and an eyepiece rainguard.
The Astro is designed strictly as a long-distance observing tool from a tripod-mounted fixed location. With a close focus of nearly 100 feet, The Meade 20 x 80mm is not a general-purpose binocular. That said, the Astro is a good choice for long distance terrestrial viewing under low light conditions. Nesting eagles or ducks across a lake at dusk are prime candidates for this big binocular. As a first serious astronomical observing tool, as a long distance nature study instrument, or as a highly useful companion to take into the field with your telescope at night, the Meade 20 x 80mm Astro is a worthwhile balance of performance versus price.