bill, my impression was that the $50 load testers (electronic, not pile, and typically good for 1000-1200 cca ratings at that price) wre also a good way to measure real capacity. While they are "just" in theory measuring how much of the batteries rated CCA capacity is left, isn't that the same thing? If you're expecting a battery to put out xx amps into a starting load, and it only has half that capacity let...? Same same?
I thought they were measuring internal conductance and the price had just ramped down because they were a little less sophisticated, lower power rated, and some electronics had dropped in price.
Not sure which new meters you're referring to. Can you be specific about makes/models? Have you tested or used any?
The good ones still cost a bundle. My MDX-650 still costs $650-$750 new. The cheaper ones that I've seen all have some limitations.
But, hey...it's always possible. The Chinese have a "conductance tester" that sells for $10 :-)