The contestants: Shimano SL-BS64 Ultegra Bar End Shifter Set (8-Speed) and Dia Competition Grand competition ENE bar end control. Seem fairly similar and both well loved. I'm aiming at pairing these with something like 26/36/48 and 7 speed 12-32. Am I missing any good possibilities?
If you're friction shifting go with the Dia Compe. They have a ratcheting mechanism in them originally developed by SunTour to counteract the spring in the derailleur. This gives them a very even feel in both directions - you apply as much pressure to upshift as to downshift. They also look better on older bikes. The Shimano shifters OTOH rely purely on friction when in friction mode. This means shifting into lower gears takes more effort than shifting into higher gears. Of course the advantage of the Shimano shifters is that they also have indexed mode though you need an 8 speed cassette.