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on September 15, 2012
After years of suffering with dark, weak, wobbly binoculars (thank you, Magnacraft), I found myself needing two types: the best quality I could find (1) at any weight but under $250 for use within a drive of home (home binocs), and (2) under 10 oz, easy to travel with in tour groups, simple for impatient family members, and ideal for night concerts and day baseball games (travel binocs).

After studying reviews and comments thoroughly, I concluded there are brilliant experts commenting regularly on Amazon - much more insightful than the professional reviewers who focus on expensive, heavy devices purchased by others of their ilk. From my fellow consumers' insights, I purchased 11 binoculars with at least 70% five-star ratings that fit my general specifications for home or travel.

GENERAL CONCLUSIONS. After exhaustive examination - reading a DVD box at 46 feet, finding individual cattle from a moving minivan, and watching stars and planets in my backyard - I concluded the essential attributes for binoculars across categories are:

(A) Plenty of Light brought to your eye. Light is determined by the diameter of the light-gathering lens divided by the magnification. In other words, an 8x42 pair has a ratio of 5.25 and produces LOTS of light, while a 10x21 pair has a ratio of 2.1 and always appear dark. Conclusion: About 3.0 is adequate and the best available for compact binoculars.

(B) Good Stability of View. View stability depends on (i) the degrees of field of vision (can you find what you are looking for), (ii) the depth of visibility (do you have to refocus for every few feet of depth), and (iii) wobble (which is itself determined by (i) and (ii)). Conclusion: field of vision is rarely as broad as advertised, depth of visibility depends on the lens quality and you just have to check it out, and any binoc with a magnification of 10 or higher proved to have poor stability of view without a tripod, at least for me. There is a big difference between 8x and 10x, particularly below a 42 lens diameter.

SPECIFIC CONCLUSIONS. (Home Binoculars) The best Home Binoc was the Nikon Monarch ATM 8x42, and it outperformed all other 10 by a wide margin. I could read a DVD box at 46 feet, keep a broad and stable view to find the cow with three white spots while bouncing in a minivan, and find and watch Mars. At 24 oz, it's too big for constant lugging, but oh what a treat. At $230, it was comparable in price to the Vixen 14502 Foresta 8x42 and the Bushnell Ultra HD 8x42, but it performed noticeably better, particularly on view stability. Several cheaper, heavy models under $100 had cloudy lens.

(Travel Binoculars) The Pentax 8x25 UCF XII and the Olympus 8x25 PCI were best in class, although the Pentax had less wobble, more clarity while the Olympus provided more light and more accurate color tones, but a smaller field of vision. (Forget finding the cow, but if you found it, you could count its ear hairs at dusk). Both were 10 oz, and about $65; the Pentax, which gets slightly better overall reviews, is larger but felt better in my hand. Small hands, viewing at dusk, standing still = Olympus. Larger hands, viewing in daylight, on a bus = Pentax. Lastly, the itty bitty Olympus 7x21 PC III at 7 oz in metallic blue is adorable and $24 (refurbished), with fantastic clarity and ease of use, but a very narrow field of vision, despite its 7.5% claim.

So what did we do? I decided to travel with the heavy Nikon Monarch, but kept the Pentax 8x25 in reserve. Different members of my family preferred the Pentax 8x25, the Olympus 8x25, and the Olympus 7x21, each predictably on the basis of the decision maker's age, size, and goals. None showed any interest in the other six binocs.

As a final note, Beware of imperfection and non-Amazon sellers. Two of the 11 binocs arrived with lens imperfections. The heavy Bushnell Falcon (7x36) at $30 had a cloudy lens, and Amazon accepted the return promptly. The lightweight but expensive Nikon Travelite 10x25, already with little light and a small field of vision, had a defective lens, making it darker. The vendor wanted me to pay shipping in both directions plus a restocking fee to return the defective item.

Good luck with your decision. I hope my odyssey was helpful to you.
88 comments198 of 205 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on January 24, 2012
I am not an optics "expert" by any means, but I do spend well over a month in the field hunting every year. I got some new binoculars this year, the new Nikon Monarch 3 ATB 10x42's. For the past four years I have been using the original Nikon Monarch ATB 10x42's. I kept my old Monarch ATB's and did some side by side comparisons. I have to say I am impressed. The Monarch ATB's have long been the best selling binoculars in their price range for a reason. Nikon has managed to make them even better, while keeping them at the same price, about $250. The Monarch 3's are slightly larger, a bit heavier (by only 3 oz.), and the body has an even better rubber coating. They "feel good" in my hands and are very easy to focus. They are fog proof and water proof like the original ATB's. The eye-cups on the "3's" have click settings now and allow for even greater eye relief. This is important for folks like me that wear glasses. My favorite new feature on the "3's" though, are the silver-alloy coated roof prisms which replace the old Monarch's dielectric roof prism coatings. What this translates to for non-techies like me is better low-light performance, about 7%+ according to Nikon. I hunt a lot at first and last light, and also at night for predators and hogs, so low-light performance is very important to me. Comparing the old and the new, I could see a definite improvement with the "3's", and the old ATB's were already very good! Nikon has also upgraded the attached objective lens covers. They are "beefier" and stay on better. The bottom line is that the new "3's" are very bright, sharp, user friendly and have even better low-light capabilities. As good as the original Monarch ATB's were, the new Monarch 3 ATB's are a step-up.......and at the same price.
33 comments102 of 108 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on October 1, 2011
This was a first time binocular purchase...so I am by no means an "expert reviewer" What I AM is 100% satisfied with the purchase of the 10 X 42 monarch 3. I did my due diligence, about three weeks of net research and hands on at sporting goods stores. I found nothing in this price range that compares...in fact, I couldn't find an equal until I hit the $750 dollar range...on another manufacture.
22 comments59 of 65 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on December 22, 2011
It's hard to believe that one can own this much optical quality for a hair over $200. I've been a big fan of Nikon for many years and currently own four pair. I'm also a big fan of compact binoculars and this is the first full sized Nikon I've owned. I did a lot of research and it came down to these or the PENTAX DCF CS 8x42. Both quality companies with very good reviews and similar price range. Unfortunately I didn't have access to either pair to do my own visual comparison so I went with the company I knew which was Nikon.

Anyway, I took the Nikon out today and was immediately impressed by the clarity and light gathering ability of these fine binoculars. Images were crisp and clear and looking at a Redtailed Hawk in a dead tree at 30 yards was a beautiful experience. The detail was amazing. Even dream like as one friend said who took a look. "More real than real"

UPDATE: Well I've had them out several times now and while I like them more and more I still wasn't sure how good they actually were not having much to compare them to. But today I got to compare them to some Kowa 8x42 BD binos and they did very well. It was a cloudy day so I couldn't compare them in bright light but in the conditions present it was hard at times to tell that much difference optically. (The Kowa's cost almost twice as much) I compared them thinking I was going to be disappointed but ended up really appreciating these Nikons. What a fantastic deal for $200 bucks. If you are on a budget buy these binoculars.
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on November 2, 2011
These met and exceeded my expectations. I had a set of Zeiss I was using before but while falling down ravine mountain goat hiking they were lost. I ordered this set shortly before my second departure to Mtn Goat hunt and they arrived in 2 days making it before I left. The conditions were tough, wet and freezing making the trek difficult at best. These binoculars were crystal clear while remaining fog proof everytime they were brought to my eye. They rolled down 100' plus rock face in my pack when a strap broke and I was certain they would be damaged if not ruined. But when I pulled them out on the boat returning to the harbor, they were just as clear and crisp as when I pulled them fromn the mail. Great set of glass, tough, and quality way beyond the price. I will buy these before going to the $1,000+ glass everytime. Plus they helped me bag the monster destine for my wall. On a solo hunt you need good equip. These are that good and I will take them everywhere from now on.
55 comments34 of 37 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on September 17, 2012
A lot has been written about these binoculars. However, not much is written about binos for those of use who wear glasses. These binos are bright, well built, and very clear. Another real benefit that isn't often discussed is the long eye relief (24mm) which works great for those of us who wear glasses, which, let's face it, is most of us. If you're outside, you're probably at least wearing sun glasses if not prescription glasses. If you don't want to keep taking off and putting on your glasses, these binoculars are for you.

UPDATE: After having the binos for a year, one side fogged up. I sent them back to Nikon, which fixed them quickly. I still really like them, and the long eye relief is still a terrific feature about them. I haven't had any issues since.
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on February 10, 2012
Brighter image, color rendition, lighter than my previous 10X42 porro prism binocs. Handy objective caps stay on barrels. Quicker focus and bird location. Slim profile with roof prisms. Long eye relief great for glass wearer. Lightweight case. Added Nikon shoulder harness fits right with no twisting. Many friends paid much more for this type. Off to TX to see whooping cranes and their friends wintering.
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on February 28, 2015
The binoculars themselves are nice. Well made and easy to use. The eye cup feature makes viewing without glasses easier. Where this product seriously fails is the lense covers. I read someone complain about the cheesy plastic cover for the eye lense but how nice the objective covers were. When I received mine, it did seem odd how different the front and back covers were, and agreed the rubber objective covers were nice in the way they fit into the front. But after only a few months, I suddenly see the rubber cracking and now just breaking down, splitting and falling apart! I'm really angry about this. So it seems the cheesy plastic eye covers are actually better?! Extremely disappointing, especially from a company like Nikon. The nocs are good, but I depend on convenient easy to use covers too, and don't understand why the rubber on *field* glasses would degrade like this. It tears the whole product down and makes me regret the purchase. I'd look elsewhere.
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on September 3, 2012
Nikon 7540 Monarch 3 - 8x42 Binocular (Black)Monarch 3 8x42

I don't have any other binoculars to compare these to but these performed adequately for our wildlife viewing. We used the Monarchs for land-based stationary viewing, viewing from moving van, viewing from small boat and from ship. Waterproofing seemed important when we purchased these binoculars in anticipation of our trip. We were in misting rain and there was some ocean spray when we were on the small boat.

My only complaints are the lense caps will not stay on and the strap holder on the lens cap broke from light use. The binoculars are relatively heavy and that affected how often we carried them with us. By the time I strapped on a small pack, the binoculars, an SLR camera and a few other items, the weight began adding up.
0Comment10 of 10 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on March 9, 2012
I bought this binocular for a safari to Tanzania. I just returned from the safari. This binocular performed exactly in the way I expected it would. The images were bright and sharp. The focussing was fast and accurate. Its weight is on the high side but I was able to hold it for a few hours each day without too much strain.
0Comment9 of 9 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

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