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Author: Mike Schoby
High performance at a great price.
Almost any decent binoculars will work well when the light is good and the conditions are right, but the true test of quality is under lighting extremes. Last light, early morning, strong direct sunlight, and dark shadows all tax the ability of binoculars. Good optics will transmit large amounts of light, will be perfectly clear, will have enough resolution to discern between dark shadows and hidden objects such as bedded deer easier and will generally have internal coatings that cut down glare from direct sunlight. Aside from optical performance, niceties like rubber coating for durability, waterproof, fog proof, adjustable eye cups, and quick focus rings separate quality binoculars from poorly performing ones.
There are a lot of binoculars for consumers to choose from today covering the spectrum of performance. As a writer, I get to test many of them under field conditions. Most recently the Nikon Monarch ATB (All Terrain Binocular) 10 x 42s came across my desk. At first glace these Nikons had all the obvious marks of a quality set of optics. They have adjustable eyecups, easy focus ring, quick center focus and are waterproof and fogproof. In the optical department they utilizes phase-correction prisms and fully-multicoated Eco-Glass lenses.
Real World Testing
In order to effectively test the Nikon Monarch ATBs, I took them along on a Colorado elk hunt to see how they would perform in the field. Along with them I brought several other comparison models including a Leica Ultravid 10 x 42, Kahles 8 x 32 and a Leica 10 x 50. To be honest this is not a real "fair" comparison as all the other sets of binoculars cost anywhere between two to three times the amount of Nikon Monarchs and in the world of optics, where price usually is a pretty good indication of quality, the Nikons where outclassed from the start - or at least so I thought.
During the mid-day I tested the Nikons in a side-by-side comparison with the Kahles on distant ridges, shaded depressions and dark timber patches. The Nikons looked good and were almost as sharp as the higher priced Kahles.
The size, weight, fit and feel were excellent for a 10-power hunting binocular. The overall sharpness of the image, resolution and available light were likewise excellent, rating the Nikon well in my book.
During the evening I used the Leicas, Nikon and Kahles interchangeably to effectively evaluate all the glass under trying, low-light conditions. When the light grew dim, the differences between the Nikon and other models became increasingly apparent, namely in the light gathering abilities and contrast, but the Nikons were still very good and performed well until the last available shooting light.
Before anyone thinks the Nikons did not stack up against the competition, let me reiterate that I was comparing them with binoculars that cost several times the amount. The Nikon Monarch, in the configuration I tested, costs about $300, the Kahles run right around $800 while the Leica Ultravid ring up at $1,300 and change. In my opinion the Nikon Monarchs were 90% as good as the other optics under all conditions and only cost a fraction of the price. To achieve this level of performance while still keeping the price low enough for anybody to afford, Nikon should be praised.
After the Colorado elk hunt I used the Nikon Monarch binoculars on several other hunts from dense hardwood forests, to brush-choked river bottoms, to the open plains. Under a wide range of conditions the Nikons proved their worth and demonstrated the solid performance one would expect from high-quality binoculars. Last light, deep shadows, morning fog and harsh bright days - it really didn’t matter how trying the condition, the Nikons just worked well and always delivered a crystal clear image.
Aside from performing well, the Nikon Monarch ATBs are also tough. I have dropped them on rocky ground, carried them over lots of rough terrain, and bounced them around in my pickup for an entire hunting season and they still work and look fine.
I even performed the infamous "coffee test" on them. Right after I got them, I had them lying on the seat of my pickup and when I got in, I slopped about half a cup of hot coffee all over them. Picking up the sugary-sweet binoculars, I took them inside the house, and ran them under the kitchen tap to remove all the coffee. While this is probably not the recommended method for cleaning optics, I was curious to see how reliable the Nikon claim of fog proof and waterproof was. I returned to the truck and put them on the dash by the defroster which was going at full bore...now hot and wet, the situation was a perfect recipe for fogging if it was ever going to happen. I examined the Monarchs several times on the way to my deer spot and they never showed a hint of fogging - nor have they ever since.
High Points For Hunter
With a relatively wide, 314 feet at 1,000 yards field of view these binoculars work great for all day glassing of large areas. And when the light grows dim the brightness factor of 17.2 rates well with other binoculars in its class. Most notable though for the big-game hunter is the overall weight. Tipping the scales at only 21 ounces, these binoculars can be carried all day long on simply a neck strap or slipped into a large cargo pocket for easy access.
The old adage of "you get what you pay for" does not quite ring true with the Nikon Monarch ATB binoculars - you actually get quite a bit more than you pay for. Where else can you find waterproof, fog proof, rubber-armored binoculars - all wrapped up in Realtree camo - that perform almost on par with the best optics in the world for a fraction of the price? For less than most states charge for a nonresident deer tag Nikon offers high-performance, optical clarity, legendary durability and should be considered a "buy" in anybody’s book.