The huge objective lenses of the Nikon Monarch 5 8x56 provides very bright images and great low light performance. However, the binoculars are quite heavy at over 2.5 pounds, and lack quite a bit of the clarity usually seen in binoculars within this price range. You can get much better clarity without sacrificing much brightness in the Vortex Viper HD 8x42, and the Celestron SkyMaster DX 9x63 offers just as much brightness for a much lower cost. This leaves the Monarch 5 at an odd crossroads of performance and price where there are better, less expensive options for almost every application.
Nikon Monarch 5 8x56 Review
Cons: Small field of view and close focus range
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Monarch 5 is extremely bright. Where it lacks is in field of view and close focus range, but this pair is not designed for close distance viewing. This pair is heavier and larger than the Nikon Monarch 7 ATB 10x42, which is a more general purpose binocular than this one.
Due to the lack of close focusing abilities of these binoculars, it was hard to test against the ISO 12233 chart. Zone 6 was clear from edge-to-edge. The ED glass made for good color representation and contrast with no noticeable fringing or color aberrations. Everything looked sharp and clear like you would expect from a pair of Nikons.
Nikon is not kidding when they say this pair has "low light brilliance," these almost give the exceptional Swarovski EL 8.5x42 a run for their money in brightness. It has fully multi-coated lenses, dielectric coated prisms, and big 56mm objective lenses. The Nikon Monarch 5 8x56 was made to gather and transmit light back to your eyes.
Ease of Adjustment
The Monarch 5 focuses on objects quickly and smoothly. Our testers adjusted the focus from close to far objects with speed but without losing control of the fine focus. The diopter, which doesn't have a locking feature, lives on the right eyepiece. It was initially stiff to move (almost feeling like it was stuck), but it loosen a bit over time. Adjusting the interpupillary distance is a piece of cake and comfortable to do.
Field of View and Close Focus Range
While not the smallest field of view out of all 11 binoculars in this test, it did have the smallest out of the 8x binoculars with 325 feet at 100 yards. The same thing could be said for its close focus ability of 23 feet. However, like the Celestron SkyMaster DX 9x63, these binoculars are not made for close objects. They were designed for spotting distant objects in low light.
There is just something about big, heavy binoculars that we find comfortable, especially when compared to small and awkward compact binoculars like the Leica BCR 10x25. Some testers did not agree with this and found the Monarch 5 uncomfortable for hand holding. The eyecups are made with soft, comfortable rubber and features the best eye relief out of all the binoculars we tested. A rubberized exterior makes them easy and comfortable to grip.
Nikon produces this model in China, similar to other optical companies. Bucking stereotypes, the Monarch 5 feels high-quality all around. The hinges are smooth but not loose, minus our first few experiences moving the diopter. It feel solid in hand, looks great, and doesn't have any noticeable alignment issues.
The Nikon Monarch 5 8x56 is best used for situations when you would not be wandering far from your car, home, or vessel because of the large size and heavy weight. This pair excels at low light conditions and has a rugged waterproof design. These would make an excellent pair of binoculars for your boat or astronomy viewing.
The Monarch 5 8x56 are the third most expensive pair of binoculars we tested. This is mostly due to the size and quality of the 56mm objective lenses. Other Nikon Monarch 5s are in the middle range for value, like the 10x42 which retails for around $250.
The Nikon Monarch 5 8x56 is an excellent pair of binoculars that would work well for marine, car, home, or astronomy use. For those wondering what the difference is between the Monarch 5 line and the Monarch 7 now that the Monarch 5 has ED objective lenses: if we were to compare the 8x42 Monarch 5 to a pair of 8x42 Monarch 7, the difference would be in the dielectric coating on the prism, the weight, and the field of view, all in the Monarch 7's favor. That comes with a price though, the Monarch 5 are almost half the price of the Monarch 7. In the end, both are fine pair of binoculars.
Monarch 7 ATB 10x42
- Price: $499.95 ($250 less than the Monarch 5)
- More advanced optical system than the Monarch 5
- Field of view at 1000 yards: 351 ft (26 ft larger than that Monarch 5)
— Michael Payne