on March 20, 2012
When it was time to replace my aging binoculars used for birding (how old were they? it was still called birdwatching), I did the mandatory paper analysis. Having had a half dozen pair of binoculars, a few telescopes, and a few Japanese made 35mm cameras, I figured I had enough experience with optics to skip the in person testing.
On paper, the Nikon Monarch 8x42 was coming out on top, in all but price and product name. There were a perplexing number of names- 3, 5, ATB, dielectric, etc., and eventually I sorted that out (by going to several other websites; Amazon seems to be combining them in their collection of reviews), but that left the price. And when visiting the other websites, I learned these were made not in democratic Japan, as one can easily be led to believe, but in communist China ("mainland" or PRC).
Politics aside, I also believe in truth in advertising and I wasn't happy with Nikon for hiding the country of origin from the consumer. Maybe it doesn't matter in terms of quality control or performance, but I've given two reasons why it matters to me, and you may think of more.
Not wanting to spend several hundred plus on a piece of equipment made outside China, that I could easily break or lose in the field, I resigned myself to finding the best binocs for the price, regardless of factory location. These Celestron Nature 8x42 'nocs scored on top (e.g. Bak 4 prisms, *** close focus of about 9 feet ***, long eye relief, FOV), largely from reviews on other websites, and I'm overall content with the choice.
For the price of the Celestron, I could buy 2 or 3 Monarchs.
So, I'll worry much less about these in the field, or if I go to a sports event or concert, I won't sweat as much if someone wants to borrow them. By the way, my last pair of 8x40s- not used for birding but concerts-that x42 does make a BIG difference for BIRDING, were lent out and... became the bird, flying away. You know what kind of stuff happens.
Given all the other things to contend with in the field (things that can mess with any lenses- eyes or binocs- rain, bugs, pollen), I'd say these do just fine and they may get a 4.5 for optics, OK, I'll go 5, based on two field trips.
However, before hitting the trails, on unpacking, I noticed the flimsy strap, and immediately replaced it with a strap from an old video recorder. I noticed the eye pieces were a bit wobbly but functional. I later noted a machining error, slight, but I'll give it the benefit of doubt and live with that. I had a Celestron 10 inch telescope and it was far from perfect, but it got the job done.
Then on the first birding trip, I lost an eye cap- one of the big ones I thought were held securely to the binocs. They're not. Take 'em off and store them in the case, they just get in the way, and they can be used to keep dust out when you're sitting at home reading the books and checking on the migration hot spots.
Knowing the conditions under which the workers likely labored, I don't want to give it more than a 3. But given everything else I've written, I'll make an exception here and not considering geography or politics, they get a 4.0. Mull it over, if money is no object, go with something made in Germany or US or Japan. But don't be misled by Nikon! (there goes any chance I have of picking up a product endorsement deal when birding becomes an Olympic sport... so it goes.)
It's a decent product at a low price. They work- could note differences in the wing patch colors of perched, red winged blackbirds at maybe 250-275 feet. Not bad when it's a 1-2 inch patch. And the close focus came in very handy when a warbler dove into the brush, almost at my feet.
Copyright 2012 by Tal Carawan