At 24.9 ounces, the Nikon Monarch 3 8x42 is not only one of the best binoculars for viewing, it is also one of the lightest. Compared to other models that we evaluated, the Nikon Monarch performs well in all lighting conditions and has the highest exit pupil metric. It is designed with a roof-prism system, so the barrels of the binocular are small in diameter yet maintain a powerful optical lens size of 42 mm. All of these attributes add up to make it one of the highest scoring models we tested.
Nikon Monarch 3 8x42 ATB Review
Cons: Higher price than other models
Our Analysis and Test Results
A lightweight and compact binocular that still retains a high magnifying power and amazing clarity, the Nikon Monarch 8x42 is a simple and versatile binocular.
The Nikon Monarch 8x42 was one of two pairs, along with the Bushnell NatureView 6x30, to score a 10 out of 10 when evaluating clarity. The Monarch is able to receive such a high score due to the balance of a magnifying power of 8 and an optical lens size of 42. This combination gives the binoculars one of the highest exit pupil metrics (5.25) of any of that we tested. With this high exit pupil measurement, the Monarch is able to perform in varied lighting conditions; dawn, dusk, sunshine, and very cloudy days. The ability to perform well in dawn and dusk is a huge bonus for hunters that are seeking out crepuscular animals and require a binocular to perform in this lighting scenario. Also, with an optical lens size of 42mm, more light is able to enter the barrel, as opposed to a 30mm lens, creating a crisper and brighter image. The only down-side that hunters may find with this binocular is the limited field of view. Listed as 330 feet / 1000 yards, the Monarch 8x42 did fall short compared to other binoculars tested with a 400 feet plus / 1000 yard rating. The Bushnell NatureView was the only other binocular with a rating of 10 out of 10 due to its crisp, clear image coupled with a wide field of view of 419 ft / 1000 yards.
Another key aspect attributing to the amazing clarity is the use of a magnifying power of 8 instead of 10, like the other high-powered binoculars. This magnification power, while still very strong, masks tremors that result from shaking hands while holding the binoculars, unlike the stronger binoculars with a magnifying power of 10 which exaggerate this shakiness and result in a less-clear image. Years of experience in creating high quality equipment including cameras, binoculars, and spotting scopes really shines through in the clarity and design of the Nikon Monarch 8x42.
What is incredibly impressive about the Nikon Monarch 8x42, is that it does not fall victim to sunspots or clarity issues around the edges of the lens, as did other competitors such as the Vanguard Endeavor ED and the Nikon ProStaff 7.
How to Choose Binoculars article, bigger is not always better; and that holds true with the Monarch 8x42. We find that a magnification power of 8 hits the sweet spot: you are still able to see small objects at a very strong magnifying power, but the amount of shakiness that would typically appear in a higher power binocular is reduced. Though a binocular with a magnification power of 10 increases the detail you may see, we feel that 8 is just strong enough to allow for adequate detail and noticeable clarity.
The magnification and viewing power of this binocular was very prevalent while out in the field. During one field test in the Methow Valley, WA, the binoculars were used on a two-day birding extravaganza where we identified the Red-breasted nuthatch, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Cassin's Vireo, Warbling Vireo, Say's Phoebe, Yellow-throated Warbler, American Redstart, Vesper Sparrow and an additional twenty species. The Monarchs were able to perform while identifying birds in different lighting situations based on the ecosystem we were traveling through; Aspen groves, dense Douglas Fir canopy, open marshland and shrub-steppe. As birds flew from a well-lit tree-branch ten feet away, to the darkened canopy one-hundred feet above the forest floor, the Monarchs were able to easily follow the object while still providing a sharp and clear image when the bird landed far-off.
The Monarchs also performed well while sitting in a bird blind by allowing a sharp and clear image to filter through the lens while leveraging the 8x magnification power. As birds were startled and flew out from the reeds, it was easy for our testers to quickly focus in on pintails and continue to follow them as they flew-off without the binoculars compromising their view.
Ease of Adjustment
Vanguard Endeavor ED.
What ultimately sold us on the Nikon Monarch 8x42 was that it is one of the lightest (24.9 oz) and most compact of any of the larger and more powerful binoculars that we tested. This pair joined us on a twelve day backpack through the North Cascades. It was easy to store in the top pocket of a backpack without crushing a Clif Bar, and was light enough that we would sometimes forget they were there. While out in the field, this pair passed through the hands of over ten different graduate students studying to become Naturalists and Environmental Educators in North Cascades National Park. Unlike some of the other models that were tested, we never heard one complaint when the Monarchs were in use.
The Monarch 8x42 also comes with an incredibly comfortable neck strap that lays flat under pack straps on your shoulder. Other models use a cheaper and more abrasive nylon strap that would rub around the back of the neck and under backpack straps. The material and design used on the Monarch strap alleviated this problem, resulting in a near comfortable fit where some testers even forgot they had them on their neck!
The Nikon Monarch 8x42 is an incredibly versatile pair of binoculars and can join you on any of your adventures. This pair will work great for hunting, wildlife viewing, bird watching, backpacking and hiking.
The Monarchs can be used on a boat as well, but there are better versions out there with a better grip for wet conditions, such as the Bushnell H20 10x26.
At a price of $229.95, these binoculars are a great value for what they offer. If you are on a budget, there are less expensive options with the same magnification and similar clarity, such as the Bushnell Legacy 8x42. But, with an outstandingly clear image, versatility of use in different lighting conditions, and a light and compact design, the Monarchs are the ultimate choice to take on all your adventures!
The Nikon Monarch 3 8x42 came out near the top in every category we tested; clarity, magnification, ease of use, durability, and compactness. You will not find a better pair of binoculars at this price. When tested by hunters, birders, wildlife enthusiasts, sportsmen, and hikers, the Nikon Monarch 3 8x42 always came away with rave reviews. Hunters did mention was that they appreciated the camouflaged barrels of the Nikon ProStaff 7 10x42 and were disappointed that the Nikon Monarch did not have the same option when purchased. Otherwise, the function of this pair sets a high bar.
— Stephanie Bennett