Nikon Monarch HG 10×42 binocular review
We love the Nikon Monarch HG 10×42 binoculars because they’re so convenient and high quality. Thanks to their roof prism design these binoculars are narrow so slip into their custom carry case (or a big pocket on an overcoat) with ease. In order to get sharpness from the center of the image circle right to the edge Nikon have developed a Field Flattener Lens System and utilized Extra-low Dispersion (ED) glass to prevent chromatic aberration at the same time. Sure, the binoculars are aimed at a market where buyers have some spare cash, but you’re not just getting quality binoculars at that price. All the other accessories feel polished and refined, whether its the beautiful carry case, the convenient objective lens caps, or the soft, cushioned neckstrap.
They provide a reasonable reach for any birdwatcher or wildlife hunter who prefers a wide field of view in order to track moving subjects. Their 42mm objective lenses also drink in a lot of light and this makes them useful throughout the day and into crepuscular hours as well. Something to note about the Nikon Monarch HD 10×42 binoculars is that they’re completely waterproof. So whether it’s pouring down with rain, sleet or snow, you’ll be fine. Even if you drop them in a lake or a pond they’ll be fine because they can withstand up to five meters of water for about ten minutes (yes, there’s time to find a stick to fish them out).
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Nikon Monarch HG 10×42 (Black) at Amazon for $996.95 (opens in new tab)Nikon Monarch HG 10×42 binocular reviewNikon Monarch HG 10×42: Design
(Image credit: Jason Parnell-Brookes)Balanced feel when using binocularsLightweight and slim making them easy to transportPremium finish all over with gold badging
Nikon seems to have not skimped on anything with the Monarch HG 10x42s. They’re beautifully balanced in the hand, have a soft but grippy rubberized armor over the lightweight magnesium alloy body and every part of the binoculars is finished to a high standard.
(Image credit: Jason Parnell-Brookes)
Design: Roof prism
Exit pupil: 4.2mm
Eye relief: 17mm
Dimensions:145 x 131 x 56mm
Objective lenses: 42mm
Durability: Waterproof and fog-proof
The eyecups twist with solid, confident clunks. The objective lens caps fit snugly onto the ends and hang in place (when taken off for viewing) and the diopter ring even slides and locks once users have set up the focus.
Take a look at the badging on the binoculars and even those are upgraded versions of slightly more budget-friendly models’ designs, thanks to the gold treatment all around the instrument. Even the carry case has a beautiful metal emblem and a safety catch that fastens the lid down, preventing the Monarch’s from falling out – something that is normally left to velcro on more affordable binocular lines.
Nikon Monarch HG 10×42: Performance
(Image credit: Jason Parnell-Brookes)Extra-low Dispersion (ED) glass elementsChromatic aberration pretty much non-existentRazor sharp views from edge to edge
There’s a lot of optical technology in the Monarch HG 10x42s which many bino users may be unaware of. For starters Nikon’s attempt to keep sharpness across the entire field of view (edge-to-edge) is successful thanks to the Field Flattener System. Edge blurring is not so much of a problem because it’s difficult to see right to the edges with direct view due to the natural vignetting that occurs when observers take their eye off-center. But this is particularly noticeable in the peripheral vision and so sharp edges can help aid users when looking for small or camouflaged subjects.
Surprisingly, we found almost zero chromatic aberration (color fringing) with these binoculars. Try as we might it took the most extreme contrasted edges (dark foliage set against a blazing bright sky) to spot small purple and magenta outlines around those edges. Still though, we had to concentrate hard to spot them and to the untrained eye we think it may be almost impossible to tell. If you have even the slightest vision problems marring your view with the naked eye you’d almost certainly never be able to tell. This lack of chromatic aberration is down to Nikon’s Extra-low Dispersion (ED) glass elements.
(Image credit: Jason Parnell-Brookes)
Light transmission is good too because the 42mm objective lenses are large enough to allow light to pass through even in twilight hours. Every single glass element also contains multilayer coatings to help improve the transmission of light, which Nikon reported as being 92% or higher.
Although 10x magnification doesn’t sound particularly groundbreaking this kind of magnification comes with some benefits. One is that the field of view remains relatively wide (121m at 1000m) and that makes it much easier to spot moving wildlife as you track it through the terrain. This, plus the ability to handhold the binoculars steady (aided in part by the minuscule 680g weight) means they won’t need putting on a tripod — though there is a tripod/adapter mount hidden under the Nikon badge on the front of the binos.
Nikon Monarch HG 10×42: Functionality
(Image credit: Jason Parnell-Brookes)Solid, robust feeling when operatingOnly way to improve would be inclusion of image stabilizationLocking diopter ring avoids accidental defocusing
Despite weighing only 680g the Nikon Monarch HG 10x42s feel remarkably solid to hold. That lightweight magnesium alloy construction reinforces a robust rubberized armor that flanks it and, although we wouldn’t want to try it, we feel confident in its durability to heavy knocks or even a short drop to the ground. The grips are comfortable and at no point do we feel like they’re about to drop out of our hands as some other models do.
The primary operating function when using binoculars is pulling focus to see a given subject. True to form, Nikon has given the Monarch’s a smooth focusing wheel that provides just enough friction so as to prevent focus from being accidentally nudged out of place when placing them in the carry case or when picking them back up. The focusing wheel also has plenty of room for focusing, which affords users the opportunity to finely adjust their focusing so that even small subjects can comfortably be brought into sharpness.
(Image credit: Jason Parnell-Brookes)
It’s really hard to find fault with these binoculars, they are just brilliant all the way round. We could argue that because they don’t feature image stabilization like, say, the Canon 10x32IS, that they’re somehow inferior. But their superior optical clarity actually makes up for missing this piece of electronic tech. Though we do love stabilization, and it would be wonderful to see this pair get some IS, or VR (Vibration Reduction) as Nikon like to brand it. If they did include this then we’re pretty confident it would blow every other binocular we’ve reviewed out of the water. If they could do this without pushing the price and weight up too much then they would get full marks in this review.
An unusual function you don’t see every day on a pair of binoculars is the Monarch’s clutched locking diopter adjustment ring. When the ring is in the down position the diopter adjustment is locked in place, preventing unwanted knocks from changing it. Pull it up though and the ring rotates freely around until users can match up focus through both lenses to take differences in eyesight into account. This is such a simple and elegant solution to a problem that persists among every binocular that has a diopter.
Should you buy the Nikon Monarch HG 10×42 binoculars?
These binoculars are some of the best on the market and it’s no surprise when you take Nikon’s history in optics manufacturing into account (spanning well over 100 years at this point). Everything they ship with is manufactured on a different level with a high degree of finish and polishing. This premium package also comes at a premium price though and is not ideal for beginner binocular users unless you have deep pockets or a real passion for wildlife or a similar interest that you plan on pursuing for years to come.
If the Nikon Monarch HG 10×42 isn’t for you
Yes the Nikon Monarch HG 10×42 is outstanding. Optically, some of the best (if not the best) binoculars we’ve ever reviewed combined with solid construction and insane waterproofing (as well as fog-proofing). We think they’re absolutely fantastic. They even come with premium-feeling accessories, which means the price tag is higher, too.
For those that want to drop this kind of money but want a steadier view, the Canon 10x32IS binoculars are a good bet, but they lack the Nitrogen-purging for some reason so they fog up when moving between warm and cold areas.
Want to pay a tenth of the price of the Monarchs but don’t want to drop down to a tenth of the optical prowess? Have a look at the Nikon 10×50 Aculon A211 binoculars. They have bigger objective lenses, which makes them more useful in lower light conditions, but they are a porro prism design which means they’re wider and bulkier which may be a deal breaker for some.
Nikon Monarch HG 10×42: Price Comparison