Hands-on Gear Review

Nikon Monarch 3 8x42 ATB Review

Nikon Monarch 3 8x42 ATB
Price:  $230 List | $209.22 at Amazon
Pros:  Crisp and clear image, compact and easy to use, works well in low light situations
Cons:  Higher price than other models
Editors' Rating:   
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Focusing System:  Central Focus
Magnification:  8x
Field of View:  330 ft / 1000 yds
Manufacturer:   Nikon

Our Verdict

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.


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Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Stephanie Bennett

Last Updated:
Tuesday
June 2, 2015

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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.

Performance Comparison


Arielle Furtado zooms in on a Gray Jay perched on a nearby tree using the Nikon Monarch 3 8x42.
Arielle Furtado zooms in on a Gray Jay perched on a nearby tree using the Nikon Monarch 3 8x42.

Clarity


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.

Magnification


The eyepiece of the Monarch 3  with the easy to reach focus knob visible in the center and the diopter visible on the individual barrels.
The eyepiece of the Monarch 3, with the easy to reach focus knob visible in the center and the diopter visible on the individual barrels.
As mentioned in our 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


The Nikon Monarch 3 proves easy to use and adjust for a first-time user.
The Nikon Monarch 3 proves easy to use and adjust for a first-time user.
One would think that binoculars would be pretty easy to use, but you would be surprised. During testing, one pair was passed off to a seasoned environmental educator to view a tree in the distance. She took them, moved a ton of buttons and knobs around, and then handed them back in less then thirty seconds expressing her anger and frustration that she couldn't get them to focus easily at all.

The Monarch 3 is simple to adjust to the proper face fit. The binocular size is ideal: not too large and heavy to carry around  and large enough to provide a strong  clear view.
The Monarch 3 is simple to adjust to the proper face fit. The binocular size is ideal: not too large and heavy to carry around, and large enough to provide a strong, clear view.
The Nikon Monarch 8x42s are incredibly easy to adjust, and are also easy to pass off to others quickly and effortlessly. The location of the adjustor knob in between the two barrels is intuitive for adjustment and is not finicky or sticky like other models tested, such as the Bushnell NatureView. They are also easy to adjust to different face sizes within seconds of handling them. If you find yourself sharing binoculars quite frequently with your hunting partners, birding group, or loved ones, the Nikon Monarchs will make your viewing experience significantly more enjoyable.

The Monarch 3 is a good size for fitting in the hand  though the Monarch 7 is even easier to hold. This size makes it portable  easy to focus with one hand  and adjust for fit.
The Monarch 3 is a good size for fitting in the hand, though the Monarch 7 is even easier to hold. This size makes it portable, easy to focus with one hand, and adjust for fit.
When first picking up the Nikon Monarch 8x42, you will immediately notice how comfortably they fit into your hand and how the focus knob is at a reasonable distance for easy reach with your index finger. The Monarch also provides a diopter knob, which is beneficial for those users who require corrective lenses and have one eye stronger than the other. The diopter is incredibly easy to use, and makes a marked distance instantly versus other binoculars tested.

Durability


The monarch objective lens with permanently affixed lens caps  which helps increase the longevity of the binoculars.
The monarch objective lens with permanently affixed lens caps, which helps increase the longevity of the binoculars.
When testing binoculars, the first thing we look for when removing them from their case is if the lens caps are attached or not. We let out a huge sigh of relief when we saw that the Nikon Monarch 8x42 has lens caps that are attached at both the optical lenses and the eye pieces. In our book, having lens caps that are attached is one of the most important features in terms of durability. If your lenses ever become scratched, you will more than likely need to purchase a new pair of binoculars or suffer through always having a scratch distort your vision. We appreciate that Nikon took the care and additional cost to add these lens covers, and also to ensure that they are always attached, helping us to keep this expensive piece of equipment in pristine condition. A majority of the binoculars that were tested did not have the lens caps attached, or had the lens caps attached to the neck strap. Even though the neck strap/lens cap combination prevents loss of the caps, it can be cumbersome and awkward to use the binoculars with the lens caps crimping the neck strap or getting in the way of your hands while trying to hold the barrels. The Monarch 8x42 design connects the optical lens cap directly to the barrel through a plastic gasket that allows the caps to hang down while the binoculars are in use. This allows the lens cap to still be tied to the binocular without losing it, and it is not obtrusive while using the binoculars. The only other binocular that shares this same lens cap design is the Vanguard Endeavor ED.

Portability


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!

Best Application


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.

Value


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!

Conclusion


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

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