Nikon Monarch 7 10x30 Review
Cons: Neck strap is uncomfortable
Our Analysis and Test Results
Light, compact, and powerful, the Monarch 7 10x30 is a great addition to the Nikon line as well as OutdoorGearLab's Editors' Choice Winner.
Nikon released the Monarch 7 in mid-2013 with some significant updates over past models. First and foremost, the clarity of the Monarch 7 is superior to the Monarch 5 and Monarch 3, as well as some of the other models we tested. When reviewing clarity, there are a few key features we look for when testing out in the field: the ability to perform well in multiple lighting conditions, uniform light refraction, so there are no spots or discoloration when viewing an object, and the lack of fuzzy or blurred lines around a focused object
These three criteria are dependent upon the way the lens is manufactured and what types of coatings, if any, have been applied to the lens. The Monarch 7 uses extra-low dispersion glass for chromatic aberration compensation and clearer viewing, and a dielectric high-reflective multiplayer prism coating for superior transmittance uniformity across the visible range. For the average binocular user, this description is not the easiest to understand and requires either a refresher course in physics and optical design or a very intensive day on the internet researching.
To simplify, the Nikon Monarch 7 has a lens design that focuses the different wavelengths found in colors more correctly to a single point than your average binocular.
As you can see from the above picture, when the light hits the objective lens of binoculars, the wavelengths refract in a way that disperses color when your eye processes the image. This causes images you are viewing to be become blurry or for the colors of the image to run. Often this presents itself as a purple fuzziness to the outline of the object you are looking at. To prevent this, Nikon has designed an objective lens that differs from the traditional lens size and comoposition, called extra-low dispersion glass, which compensates for chromatic aberration and reduces the fuzziness of colors when viewing your image through the Monarch 7 lens. ED glass is also used in the top-socring Swarovski EL 8.5x42 and the Vanguard Endeavor ED.
The next technology that Nikon uses to improve its clarity is the dielectric high-reflective multiplayer prism coating. This is a proprietary mélange of chemicals that improves the clarity as well as polarizing the lenses. Nikon has leveraged their experience in optics to create a lens that allows only certain wavelengths to enter through the optical lens, preventing images from appearing washed-out or distorted.
As a result of these technologies, the Monarch 7 performed excellent on sunny days without the appearance of white spots or ghosting that we noticed with the Vanguard Endeavor. With an optical lens size of 30 and an exit pupil of 3, the Monarch 7 performs well in multiple lighting conditions, including dusk. If you are an avid wildlife viewer or hunter, you know that the optimal time to catch a sighting of most animals is at dawn or dusk. As a result, you need a binocular that can perform well in very dim lighting, and the Monarch 7 does. To learn more about the importance of the exit pupil, optical lens size, or ED glass, check out our Buying Advice article.
The Monarch 7 has a 10x magnification rating, on par with the Swarovski EL 10x32 and the Olympus Trooper 10x50. When assessing magnification there are two things to take into consideration: the actual magnification rating of the binoculars and if there is any shakiness when viewing the image due to a high magnification.
One thing to always keep in mind when looking at binoculars is that bigger is not always better. In the case of the Canon 10x30 IS, it is incredibly difficult to view an image clearly since the binoculars magnify the slightest movement in your hands. To combat this issue, Canon included 'Image Stabilization' technology into this model, which requires you to hold down a button while viewing an image which removes the shakiness. This technology also adds a significant increase in price to the binoculars. Nikon revised the design of the binoculars in order to reduce shakiness in high magnification models. The size and weight of the Monarch 7 was reduced in comparison with the Monarch 3, and as a result, the Monarch 7 is easier to hold steady while enjoying a clear view of objects in the distance.
Ease of Adjustment
During our tests, the Monarch 7 was passed around to over 30 different users. The goal of having so many different people use the binoculars is to truly understand how easy it is for anyone to adjust binoculars. Due to different hand sizes, different face shapes, and varying levels of familiarity with binoculars, we tried our best to get as many people focusing, adjusting the diopter, and fitting to their faces as possible. Throughout this round of testing, there was an overwhelming chorus of "wow… this is so easy! How do I get a pair?" Due to the compact nature of the Monarch 7, it is simple for a person with any size of hand or face to use and fully appreciate these binoculars. The central focusing knob is easy to reach while the diopter setting allows for different vision abilities to adjust the knob and meet their eyesight needs. Furthermore, while trying to identify a warbler in a far off tree, testers were able to pass the binoculars around and adjust the settings quickly and easily.
The Monarch 7 comes with a set of optical lens covers that are attached to the individual barrels, as well as covers for the eye pieces that attach to the neck strap. With covers directly connected to the binoculars, it becomes nearly impossible to lose them and ensures that you will always put them on and keep your pair protected.
The Monarch 7 also comes with a durable, grippy plastic outer coating, protecting the barrels if they happen to fall on the ground or are crushed inside of a backpack. They are waterproof to a certain depth, and will still perform on a rainy day.
At only 15.5 ounces, the Monarch 7 is one of the lightest pairs of binoculars we tested, while boasting superior clarity and magnification. Due to the small size and light weight, you can take this pair of binoculars anywhere, and you won't be sacrificing quality. With a durable case, you can pack the Monarch s into your pack and not worry about scratching the lenses or the barrels while hiking.
The Monarch 7 won Editors' Choice above all the other pairs tested because they provide high magnification and immaculate clarity in a portable package. Throughout our testing they were packed into the backcountry for a ski trip, carted around during the Leavenworth Spring Bird Fest, thrown into a pack during a hunting trip, dropped into a river while fly fishing in Montana, and were left on a living room table to catch who would happen to visit the bird feeder 40 feet away. In every situation the Monarch 7 out-performed the competition, and surprisingly, it remains reasonably priced. The Monarch 7 can go out on any adventure you see fit, or can sit happily on your coffee table, waiting for the next bird to fly by.
At around $400, this pair is seven times less expensive than the top-scoring Swarovski EL. The Swarovski offers top-of-the-line performance, but it is more of a luxury pair of binoculars. We wouldn't say they are seven times better than the also high performing Nikon Monarch 7. We find this pair to be the best bet for your money.
We have tested over thirteen different pairs of binoculars while running them through a whole host of different challenges and adventures. At the end of each day, testers would return the Nikon Monarch 7 and ask where they could buy a pair. Available for an incredibly reasonable price while also delivering exceptional clarity and quality; the Monarch 7 is our Editors' Choice for best all-around binocular.
— Stephanie Bennett