Nikon Monarch Binoculars
Beginning in 2012, Nikon significantly expanded and remodeled their popular line,
coming out with ultimately three main branches of Monarchs, named, oddly enough,
the Monarch 3, the Monarch 5 and the Monarch 7. And that doesn’t include the
36-mm Monarchs or the 50-mm Monarchs, at least so far. Confused? Don’t worry
about it! We all are. All you need to know is that the world’s most popular
binocular, the old 42-mm Monarchs, are the ones now called Monarch 5 binoculars.
The quality hasn’t changed, except to go up a bit, and the price is pretty
much the same. The Monarch 5 is still Nikon's medium-cost binocular that includes
many features usually found only in higher-priced optics. All Monarch 5 binoculars
are compact, lightweight, 42-mm, roof prism designs available in 8x, 10x and 12x
magnifications which sell for $279.95, $299.95 and $329.95 respectively. All three
are available in Team REALTREE® camouflage versions, which typically cost about
$30 more than the non-camo models. The binocular is nitrogen-purged, and sealed
to be waterproof, dust-proof and externally fog-proof. Our assessment is that for
these prices with the kind of features these binoculars have, Monarch 5s are an
excellent value for a 42-mm roof prism binocular.
At just 5.8 inches long and 5 inches wide, and weighing a feather-light 21 oz.,
the Monarch 5 binoculars won’t cause anyone fatigue. Nikon made the binocular
even more comfortable with ergonomically-designed molding to the black rubber armoring
(non-camo models!) and a nice no-slip surface with shallow thumb grooves just below
a flange on which the strap attaches. The strap attachment does not interfere notably
with the hands. Overall, this binocular is very comfortable to use.
The 8x42 Monarch 5 has a 330-foot field of view at 1000 yards while the 10x and
12x models come in at 314 and 262 feet respectively. In our hands, all three versions
close-focus to about 7 feet with some field separation. The focus knob is large
and easily accessed, and needs just about 1.25 turns to go from close-focus to infinity.
The action is smooth and easy, making sharp focus quick and simple to achieve. Overall,
the Monarch 5 is of average brightness for a 42-mm objective binocular. The lenses
and prisms are fully multi-coated and phase-coated to improve optical performance.
Additionally, Nikon has added a new dielectric coating to the prisms of the Monarch
5s for enhanced light transmission. There is some field curvature to the Monarchs
so the focus gets a bit soft towards the outer 20% of the field. In bright light
when focused on high-contrast objects, the Monarch 5 shows a notable chromatic aberration:
a separation of the visible light to yield a prism effect.
The 8x42 Monarch 5 has eye relief of 19.6 mm, which is excellent, but the 10x and
12x versions are only about 15.5 mm which is a bit on the short side. The eyecups
twist up to full extension, and click-stop both there, in fully closed position
and in two stable positions in between, meaning there is a comfortable setting for
everyone. The click-stops lock them in place, preventing accidental collapse in
the field. The eyecups are made of pliable rubber, and are comfortable against the
face. And while we’re talking about comfortable, the Nikon Monarch 5 binoculars
have an interpupillary distance range of 54-74 mm. That’s a huge spread relative
to most roof prism binoculars, and that means that there is a comfortable position
for just about everybody with the Monarch 5s. The diopter adjustment is on the right
barrel and traditional: it is a rubber ring that twists in either direction to adjust
the focus of the right ocular. The mechanism is stiff enough to prevent it from
slipping much in the field.
The rainguard is a pair of hard rubber cups joined by a flexing linker. The cups
do not fit very snugly over the oculars and can sometimes dislodge easily when accidentally
bumped. However, the strap threads through a bracket on the left side, and the similar
bracket on the right side is gapped so it can be affixed or removed from the strap
on that side, which prevents loss of the rainguard if it is accidentally dislodged.
This is an adequate design for a rain guard. The objective lens caps are hard plastic
and are anchored in place by an attachment on the underside of the barrels. Having
tethered objective lens caps is an improvement over the old design.
The strap is a simple nylon one, widening at the neck, with a patch of cloth padding
sewn into the inner side for extra comfort. On a regular roof-prism binocular it
would be insufficient for comfort, but on the flyweight Monarch 5s, it is all that
is needed. The cordura case is spacious and features a flap that closes with a Velcro
patch, leaving the binocular strap comfortably free so the whole ensemble can be
comfortably worn over the shoulder or around the neck. Alternatively, there is a
wide, nylon, belt-mounting loop on the back of the case, allowing it to be conveniently
worn at the waist. The rational design of the case adds value to the binocular –
it too will be useful in the field.
In the end, there a lot of good things to be said about the Nikon Monarch 5 binoculars.
Their small size and lightweight design make them very comfortable to carry and
their ergonomic refinements make them feel great in the hands. And while the optical
performance is not in the class of Nikon’s superb EDG LX binoculars, it is
not by any means poor. While obviously aimed at the hunting sector (birders typically
don’t request camo!), the Monarch 5s clearly have a much broader market appeal.
Nikon Monarch 5 Binoculars - current price