Hands-on Gear Review

Nikon Monarch 5 8x42 Review

Best Buy Award
Price:  $280 List | $276.95 at Amazon
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Good clarity and brightness, smooth focus knob
Cons:  Mediocre close focus range, mediocre field of view
Bottom line:  The best pair of bins for those that have a $300 budget
Editors' Rating:   
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Glass type:  ED
Multi - Coating:  FMC
Magnification:  8
Manufacturer:   Nikon

Our Verdict

If your bino budget is $300, you really can't do better than the Nikon Monarch 5 8x42. These bins manage to provide high end optical quality and impressive brightness whilst shielding themselves from the astronomical prices you can easily run into when shopping for a quality set of optics. Nikon also paid attention to the small touches with these bins, designing a nice and 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. The aspects of these bins you could call average are the close focus range and the field of view, both of which are nothing to write home about. Most people probably won't care too much about these aspects, but if you do you might want to check out the Vortex Diamondback 8x42. These bins are just as clear and only slightly less bright than the Monarch 5, but have a better close focus range and wider field of view.



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Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
OutdoorGearLab Review Team

Last Updated:
Wednesday
July 4, 2018

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The Nikon Monarch 5 8x42 provides the best overall image we've seen in a sub $300 pair of bins. If that is your budget you should definitely be considering these bins.


Performance Comparison


The Nikon Monarch 5 8x42 earned a high overall score in our testing, besting every other model in its price range and even rivaling some models that cost considerably more.

Clarity


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


When 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 $270 Vortex Diamondback 8x42 and has much less edge blurring than the Athlon Midas 8x42.

The Monarch 5  just as clear and noticeably brighter than the competition.
The Monarch 5, just as clear and noticeably brighter than the competition.

Brightness


This is where the Monarch 5 really separates itself from other binoculars in the same price range. The Monarch 5's impressive brightness earned a score of 8 out of 10, outpacing its main competitors like the Vortex Diamondback 8x42 and Athlon Midas 8x42, both of which scored 7 out of 10.


We think the Monarch 5 is the cheapest pair 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 on something like the Vortex Viper.

The Monarch 5's lenses soak up more light than other models in this price range.
The Monarch 5's lenses soak up more light than other models in this price range.

Ease of Adjustment


Here again the Monarch 5 was towards the top of the scoreboard with an 8 out of 10.


The focus knob of the Monarch 5 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 is moves smoothly after overcoming a bit of initial inertia. The eyecups twist in and out and have 4 distinct stopping points (1 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.

The focus knob has nice  smooth action.
The focus knob has nice, smooth action.

Comfort


The Monarch 5 binoculars feel very comfortable in hand, which earned them a high score of 9 out of


The comfort of the Monarch 5 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 stick 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 that has a non-slip coating on the inside.

The rubber coating is shaped ergonomically for a comfortable grip.
The rubber coating is shaped ergonomically for a comfortable grip.

Overall the Monarch 5 is slightly more comfortable to hold than its main, similarly priced competitors. The small thumb indents on the Vortex Diamondback 8x42 can't match teh Monarch's ergonomic feel, and the Athlon Midas feels a bit too small for those with larger hands.

Construction quality


The Monarch 5 is generally well constructed, earning an 8 out of 10 in this metric. The rubber coating is clearly high quality, and the hinge and all moving pieces fell solid and smooth. The materials do feel of a slightly lesser quality than some of the more expensive models, but we certainly don't have any long term durability concerns for these bins.


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 the close focus ranges of the Vortex Diamondback 8x42 and the Athlon Midas 8x42, which boast 4.5 and 6.5 feet, respectively.


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 420 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 a far away landscapes, they're almost indiscernible when looking at something a couple of hundred feet away.

The Monarch 5's included case.
The Monarch 5's included case.

Best Applications


The full sized Nikon Monarch 5 8x42s work best for dedicated wildlife viewing trips, whether that be hiking to find some interesting species or hanging out in a bird blind. At 20.8 oz these bins are light enough to wear around your neck while hiking for multiple miles, but are probably too heavy to make it into your pack on longer excursions (unless that longer excursion's purpose is to find a rare migrant species).

Value


The Nikon Monarch 5 8x42 is the best pair of bins we've found in the sub $300 range. If you have $280 to spend on a nice pair of bins, the Monarch 5 will provide you with years of super crisp images, whether the sun is shining or not. The $270 Vortex Diamondback 8x42 comes somewhat close in term of performance, but we think the superior brightness of the Monarch 5 makes these bins a better value.

Conclusion


$300 is a common budget for those looking to make an investment in a good pair of bins, and we think the Nikon Monarch 5 8x42 is the best 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.

OutdoorGearLab Review Team

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Most recent review: July 4, 2018
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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 (4.0)
Average Customer Rating:  
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