No Angry Birds Here, Just Pure Birding Bliss
May 25, 2011
Do the new Nikon Monarch Series binoculars soar to new heights? We take a pair into the field to find out.
Weighing in at 21.5 oz the Monarchs are one of the lightest quality roof prism 8x42 binoculars on the market. They can focus as close as 8.2 feet and provide a 300-foot field of view.
Nikon’s Monarch ATB (All Terrain Binoculars) Series binoculars have been longtime favorites with the birding and hunting crowds, renowned for their precision optics and toughness in the field. Late last year the company unveiled new models with advanced prism coating technology that was previously found exclusively in their much higher-priced binoculars.
The new incarnation of the Monarch ATB binoculars now features a dielectric high-reflective multilayer prism coating that Nikon claims will provide brighter, sharper colors and drastically improved performance in low-light conditions. An upgraded body style is said to offer extra strength and ruggedness in a lighter package that is comfortable to tote around all day long. Does the new Monarch series live up to the claims? I took a new Monarch ATB 8x42 into the field to find out.
Brighter Viewing Options
The dielectric high-reflective multilayer prism coating is a nice added feature to the series. Dielectric coatings can provide more than 99% reflectivity. This feature provides almost the same brightness that is perceived by the naked eye, and clear, high-contrast images that display accurate color reproduction.
The Monarch ATB 8x42 binoculars (approx. $280) I tested can focus as close as 8.2 feet and provide a 300-foot field of view. With twist-up eye cups that give 19.6mm of eye relief, they’re also comfortable for eyeglass wearers. The Monarchs are roof prism binoculars, which are better than porro-prism ones, and well worth the additional money. With roof prism binoculars, the prisms overlap closely and the objective lenses are approximately in line with the eyepieces. The end result is a much slimmer, streamlined shape of what exactly you are viewing. They are also both waterproof and fog-proof.
Scanning the tree line for birds.
Putting the Monarchs to the Test
I visited a local preserve to hopefully catch a number of migratory birds in their natural settings. For viewing in tight quarters in deep woods, scanning the skies for large flocks of migratory birds or even for picking up one fast moving cardinal in your backyard, a wide field of view is essential. The Monarch’s 8x magnification power offered an ideal wide field of view, which was perfect for watching moving birds and also made it easier for me to track them in flight. Overall, it provided subjects that were brighter and sharper with greater depth of field. The 8x power really soared in lower-lit conditions, such as when I was in heavily wooded areas.
Usually, wide-field binoculars tend to be heavier and bulkier than binoculars with standard fields, but this was not the case with Monarch ATB 8x42 binoculars. Weighing in at a light-as-a-feather 21 ounces, and at 5.6 inches long and 5 inches wide, I found them to be quite comfortable. I was able to have a good, steady view while working with them for long periods of viewing time. Nikon made the binoculars even more comfortable to handle with compressible, soft, rubber armor design and an ergonomic no-slip surface. The rubber casing serves as a good buffer to protect them from accidental drops.
Along the trail, I spied a snowy egret fishing for dinner from the other side of a pond about 300 yards away while his mate lay back hidden in the reeds. I was also able to easily track and follow geese and ducks as they practiced their different flight patterns.
The key to a good focusing mechanism on a pair of binoculars is that it will focus from close to far with 1 ½ full revolutions of the dial or less. The focus wheel on the Monarch’s is large and easily accessed, and needed approximately just 1¼ turns to go from close focus to infinity.
I also got to use the binoculars to get an up-close view of the artistry of San Francisco Giants pitching ace Tim Lincecum from the “cheap seats” during a recent trip to Citi Field. So in addition to birding and hunting applications, they get a huge thumbs-up for sports viewing as well.
Getting good glimpse of a snowy egret from about 300 yards away. (Scroll down for a photo of the Egret I spotted!)
More Features and Options
A pair of soft plastic lens caps attach to the body and serve as ideal protection from the rain and other elements. The caps fit securely over the objective lens and do not dislodge easily but can be detached if desired. The ocular lens caps feature a gapped bracket and can be mounted to the strap so you don’t lose them. The nylon strap is wider at the neck and offers patch of cloth padding sewn into the inner side for added extra comfort. A soft cordura case offers a flap that closes with Velcro.
The Monarchs have a tripod socket for longtime use in especially in low lighting conditions. Nikon offers 25-year warranty for manufacturers’ defects plus a “no-fault” warranty, which means that they will repair them from accidental damage for a straight fee of $10.
Nikon Monarch ATB 8x42 binoculars are lightweight, waterproof, and very comfortable to use in the field. They provide an image and feel that surpasses many models on the market costing twice as much. Some say birding is considered the one of the most demanding applications for binoculars and these Monarch’s were up for the challenge. All in all, these portable, versatile 8x binoculars are an excellent value for the money.