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Nikon Monarch 5 8x42 Review

These perform well for the price, offering a smooth focus knob and decent brightness and clarity
Nikon Monarch 5 8x42
Credit: Nikon
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Price:  $290 List | $256.95 at Amazon
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Good clarity and brightness, smooth focus knob
Cons:  Mediocre close focus range, mediocre field of view
Manufacturer:   Nikon
By Max Mutter & Steven Tata  ⋅  Jan 11, 2022
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77
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#9 of 15
  • Clarity - 25% 8.0
  • Brightness - 20% 8.0
  • Ease of Adjustment - 15% 8.0
  • Construction Quality - 15% 8.0
  • Comfort - 10% 8.0
  • Close Focus Range - 7.5% 7.0
  • Field of View - 7.5% 5.0

Our Verdict

The Nikon Monarch 5 8x42 performs very admirably for its price range. These binoculars manage to provide high-end optical quality and impressive brightness while shielding themselves from the astronomical prices typical to a quality set of optics. Nikon also paid attention to the small touches with these bins, designing a smooth focus knob and using a grippy rubber coating that makes them feel secure in your hands no matter what type of grip you like to use. However, the somewhat average field of view and close focus range is nothing to write home about. Most people probably won't care too much about these aspects, but if you do, there are several similarly priced models with slightly better performance in these areas.

Editor's Note: This product review was updated on January 11, 2022 with information on the updated version of the Monarch 5.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Nikon Monarch 5 8x42
Awards  Best Buy Award  Best Buy Award Best Buy Award 
Price $256.95 at Amazon
Compare at 2 sellers
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Good clarity and brightness, smooth focus knobExcellent brightness, great clarity, comfortableGood clarity, easy to focusInexpensive, good clarity and brightnessGood clarity, small and lightweight, relatively comfortable
Cons Mediocre close focus range, mediocre field of viewSlightly heavy for backpackingDimmer than competing modelsAverage construction quality, mediocre low-light performancePoor low-light performance
Bottom Line These perform well for the price, offering a smooth focus knob and decent brightness and clarityAn excellent balance of price and all-around performance with particularly impressive brightnessA good pair of binoculars, but is easily outdone by other models in the same price rangeThe most budget-friendly option we've found that offers a good introduction to birdwatchingAn inexpensive, small, and packable model that offers surprisingly good optics
Rating Categories Nikon Monarch 5 8x42 Vortex Diamondback... Athlon Midas G2 8x4... Celestron Nature DX... Vortex Diamondback...
Clarity (25%)
8.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
8.0
Brightness (20%)
8.0
9.0
8.0
6.0
5.0
Ease of Adjustment (15%)
8.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
Construction Quality (15%)
8.0
9.0
8.0
6.0
8.0
Comfort (10%)
8.0
9.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
Close Focus Range (7.5%)
7.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
Field of View (7.5%)
5.0
8.0
9.0
8.0
5.0
Specs Nikon Monarch 5 8x42 Vortex Diamondback... Athlon Midas G2 8x4... Celestron Nature DX... Vortex Diamondback...
Glass Type ED HD UHD ED HD
Multi - Coating FMC FMC XPL FMC FMC
Magnification 8 8 8 8 8
Field of View (at 1000 yards) 335 ft 393 ft 426 ft 388 ft 332 ft
Close Focus 8.2 ft 5.0 ft 6.5 ft 6.5 ft 6.0 ft
Eye Relief 19.5 mm 17 mm 17.2 mm 17.5 mm 18 mm
Prism Roof Roof Roof Roof Roof
Waterproof/Fogproof? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Size (Length x Width) 5.7 x 5.1 in 5.7 x 5.1 in 5.7 x 5.2 in 5.3 x 4.9 in 4.6 x 4.5 in
Weight 22.2 oz 21.8 oz 23.3 oz 22.2 oz 14.0 oz

Our Analysis and Test Results

Product Update Note — January 2022
The successor to the Monarch 5 we tested is the Monarch M5. This updated model has new streamlined aesthetics, better resolution, and a slightly wider field of view (335 feet at 1,000 yards, compared to the Monarch 5's 330/1000.) The close focus distance dropped a few inches, from 7.8 feet to 8.2 feet. They're also waterproof, fogproof, and a couple ounces heavier than their predecessor. The two models can be compared below; the Monarch 5 we tested is shown on the left, and the updated Monarch M5 is on the right.




The Nikon Monarch 5 8x42 earned a high overall score in our testing, standing out for solid performance in its price range, and even rivaling some binoculars that cost considerably more.

Performance Comparison


Nikon Monarch 5 8x42 binoculars
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Clarity


The Monarch 5 is exceptionally clear, earning it a high score in this metric. It's able to produce a crisp and striking image that really pops. In our testing, we could easily pick out inconspicuous identification marks on small birds and could even count individual pine needles at 100 feet. The Monarch 5 presents a slight bit of blurring around the extreme edges of the image, which makes it slightly less immersive than the images produced by the top-tier models. However, this feels like a very small sacrifice, considering how much more affordable these bins are.

Compared to other binoculars in this price range, the Monarch 5 is just as clear or clearer. For example, it is equally as clear as the Vortex Diamondback 8x42 and has much less edge blurring than the Athlon Midas G2 8x42.

Nikon Monarch 5 8x42 binoculars - the monarch 5, just as clear and noticeably brighter than the...
The Monarch 5, just as clear and noticeably brighter than the competition.
Credit: Steven Tata

Brightness


This is where the Monarch 5 separates itself from other binoculars in the same price range. Its impressive brightness earns it a solid score, and it outpaces its main competitors like the Vortex Diamondback 8x42 and Athlon Midas 8x42.

Nikon Monarch 5 8x42 binoculars - the monarch 5's lenses soak up more light than other models in this...
The Monarch 5's lenses soak up more light than other models in this price range.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

We think the Monarch 5 is one of the most affordable pairs of bins you'll find that can still produce truly good images at dawn on an overcast day. To get any better, you're going to have to spend a lot more money.

Ease of Adjustment


Here again, the Monarch 5 was towards the top of the scoreboard. Its focus knob is solid yet smooth, allowing for easy adjustment and the ability to quickly lock in on the perfect focus once you find it. The diopter knob is small and stiff, so it's very unlikely that you could move it inadvertently. However, when you do need to make a diopter adjustment, it moves smoothly after overcoming a bit of initial inertia. The eyecups twist in and out and have four distinct stopping points (one more than most models), so you'll easily be able to get the eyecups even and at an acceptable distance from the lenses.

Overall, the Monarch 5 checks pretty much all of the boxes in the ease of adjustment category, as do most models in this price range. The only thing that could make them better would be a locking diopter and possibly more eyecup settings.

Nikon Monarch 5 8x42 binoculars - the focus knob has nice, smooth action.
The focus knob has nice, smooth action.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Construction Quality


The Monarch 5 is generally well constructed. The rubber coating is high quality, and the hinge and all moving pieces feel solid and smooth. The materials feel slightly lesser quality than some of the more expensive models, but we certainly don't have any long-term durability concerns for these bins.

Comfort


The Monarch 5 binoculars feel very comfortable in hand, which mostly boils down to the rubber coating. This rubber is tacky enough that the grip feels very secure, but not so tacky that your hands are left feeling sticky when using the bins on a hot day. The rubber coating also gets thinner on the bottom of the barrels, providing some extra space for your thumbs. To boot, the Monarch 5 comes with a padded neoprene neck strap with a non-slip coating on the inside.

Nikon Monarch 5 8x42 binoculars - the rubber coating is shaped ergonomically for a comfortable grip.
The rubber coating is shaped ergonomically for a comfortable grip.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Overall, the Monarch 5 is comfortable to hold. The small thumb indents on the Vortex Diamondback 8x42 can't match the Monarch's ergonomic feel, and the Athlon Midas G2 feels a bit too small for those with larger hands.

Close Focus Range


This is one area where the Monarch 5 8x42 is slightly below average. The close focus range of 7.8 feet doesn't feel particularly limiting in day-to-day use, but it might cost you a fantastic look at an interesting bug that happens to land near you. It also doesn't quite live up to the close focus ranges of other similarly priced models.

Field of View


Here again, the Monarch 5 is slightly behind the competition. Its field of view at 1000 yards is 330 feet, well short of the 393 and 426-foot fields of view on the Vortex Diamondback 8x42 and the Athlon Midas 8x42. However, while these differences are noticeable when looking at far-away landscapes, they're almost indiscernible when looking at something a couple hundred feet away.

Nikon Monarch 5 8x42 binoculars - the monarch 5's included case.
The Monarch 5's included case.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Should You Buy the Nikon Monarch 5 8x42?


The Nikon Monarch 5 8x42 is among the best pair of bins we've found in its price range. The Monarch provides solid all-around performance and super crisp images, whether the sun is shining or not.

These fall within a common budget for those looking to invest in a good pair of bins, and we think the Nikon Monarch 5 8x42 is a great way to spend that budget. Combining good construction, a nice focus knob, high-quality glass, and great low-light performance, the Monarch 5 will be able to keep up no matter where your adventures take you.

What Other Binoculars Should You Consider?


These are a great pair of binoculars for the price. However, you can get the Vortex Diamondback HD 8x42 for around the same price, and they slightly bested the Monarch in almost every test metric. If you're loyal to the Nikon brand, the Monarch 7 is another pair to consider. However, one of our favorite models, the Vortex Viper HD 8x42, is just a slight step up in price from the Monarch 7 and performs better overall. If you have a bit more to throw down on a pair of bins, we'd go with the Viper.

Max Mutter & Steven Tata
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