Best Binoculars For Crystal Clear Viewing

The Nikon Monarch 5 is the king of optics and will bring wonder to all of your outdoor adventures. Check out why these binoculars rise to the top of our list of favorite optical tools.

There’s nothing better than soaking in the breathtaking views of your favorite outdoor site. Whether you’re into nature walks, hunting, birding, sailing, or maintaining your property, a pair of binoculars will get you one step closer to incredible sights. However, with so many models and manufacturers on the market, it can be overwhelming to choose which pair is right for you.

This guide will help to break down optical terminology and what you should look for as you shop. Once you know the measurements and features suited for your outdoor hobby, you’ll be fully prepared to make your purchase. Before you get too far in the buying process, you’ll also want to check out our review of the Nikon Monarch 5 8x42mm, our personal favorite for hiking and glassing. These binoculars will bring you the most realistic and color-rich views possible that will seem as if you are just short of face-to-face with the wild.

What To Look For In Binoculars?

As you shop around for binoculars, you’ll run into a few terms that can make a difference, depending on how you plan to use your binoculars. These distinctions are essential so that you don’t fall prey to features or power you don’t need. We’ll look at a few categories of the qualities you’ll see listed in product specifications.

Prisms

Binoculars, as optical tools, are only as useful as their optical design. When looking at various binoculars, one of the first things you’ll want to check is the prism system. There are two main designs, a roof prism, and the Perger-Porro system. The Porro system is an older technology, and while it might sound complicated, it’s the easier of the two to manufacture and less complex for light waves. With this style of binocular, there are two off-set prisms inside each ocular tube. Light comes through the objective lens (the lens closest to your subject) and reflects in a “z” pattern off of the prisms. The reflected wavelengths from each ocular tube then meet together at the same time so that your eye can perceive the image at hand.

The roof system is a more modern advancement and a straightforward design that is more complicated to manufacture. In a roof system, the two prisms in each ocular tube align with one another, having just a tiny bit of liquid or gas to separate the two. Light enters the objective lens and passes through the prisms in a series of complex refractions. Any decent pair of roof system binoculars will also list in their specs if their lenses are phase-corrected to prevent potential color-fringing.

While there are advantages to both prism designs, the choice comes down to your personal preferences and budget. Since the prisms in a roof system are in line, these models tend to be more compact and lightweight, whereas Porro prism binoculars are bulkier to house the off-set prisms. On the other hand, Porro prism binoculars tend to be cheaper because the technology is easier to manufacture, and they don’t require the extra step of adding a phase-corrected coating.

Lenses

If you’ve ever spent much time shopping for optical tools, you’ll know how much companies love to boast about their multi-coatings. Coatings are important to ensure your optics receive optimal brightness for a crisp, clear image. However, the industry does not necessarily have a standard for the coatings that cover your lenses. To ensure you’re spending wisely, make sure you note the difference between coated, multi-coated, and fully multi-coated lenses. Typically, the more coatings on the lens, the brighter your image.

You’ll also see some companies advertise their light transmission. This number comes from a simple mathematical equation that is expressed as the percentage of light that can pass through a translucent object from the original light source. In the binocular world, typically, anything over 80% is decent. Once you get into the 90-95% range, you’re getting incredible brightness.

Magnification, Objective Lens, and Exit Pupil

Now we’re into simpler territory. Most binoculars use a fixed magnification, which is expressed by a number followed by an “x.” You can find zoom magnification binoculars, but many users find the zoom can lead to a shaky display and makes it more challenging to focus on your subject. We often hear beginners going after the highest magnification possible, but sometimes, less is more. As you increase magnification, you’ll decrease your field of view and sacrifice some level of detail. Most hunters and birders are more than satisfied with an 8x magnification.

Whichever magnification you settle on, you’ll want to make sure the objective lens is big enough to support the power. A larger objective lens will give you a higher light-gathering capacity, equating to sharper colors and finer details. It will also help you to operate in lower-light conditions such as dawn or dusk. Some manufacturers will list their twilight factor, which will give you an idea of how well you’ll be able to see with poor light, based on the size of the objective lens and magnification power. Other companies list their relative brightness, which is the exit pupil measurement, squared. This gives you a decent way to compare the quality of images you can expect from different optical tools.

Another spec you can expect to see for most binoculars is the exit pupil diameter. In short, this is the diameter of the amount of light that will pass through your objective lens. This figure will also help you determine if the magnification and size of the objective lens are working together to produce the amount of light you need for the best views. Running these calculations is even more critical when working with zoom binoculars, so you know which magnification will have optimal light transmission.

Before you buy, it’s essential to consider how you plan to use your binoculars most often. Most hunters can get away with a lower magnification power, with the tradeoff being a wider field of view for tracking game. However, if you’re looking to sight small prey at long-distances or targets for competitive shooting, a pair of high magnification binoculars will be more useful. For stargazers, you’ll be looking at binoculars with significantly higher magnifications and larger objective lenses.

Now that you know what to look for in a product’s specifications, let’s take a look at why the Nikon Monarch 5 is our number one choice for nature lovers at any level of expertise.

Nikon Monarch 5 8x42 Binoculars

Like the name implies, these binoculars are the king of the market and come with all the flair you’d expect from royalty. For starters, the Nikon brand carries heavyweight in the optics world. Nikon has been making sporting optics for decades and is world-renowned for the quality of their lenses. While these binoculars are no exception, let’s take a look at the specifications that set these binoculars apart from the pack.

A Look At The Numbers

A Look At The Numbers

The Nikon Monarch 5 is an incredibly compact, roof-prism design. Somehow, Nikon managed to make this version an ounce lighter than previous generations while still advancing what’s possible in optics.

These binoculars have a fixed, 8x magnification, paired with a 42mm objective lens. The ratio of magnification to objective lens diameter means your views will be bright and precise due to excellent light-gathering capacity. We like that the magnification is just right at 8x, making it accessible for hunters, birders, and nature enthusiasts.

Since this is a roof prism design, we have to point out the phase-corrected coating applied to the prism. This will reduce any color aberrations that could arise from the roof prism system. You’ll also experience less color-fringing due to Nikon’s ED (extra dispersion) glass elements. Most glass elements in binoculars feature apochromatic lenses. Unfortunately, when apochromatic lenses refract light, the individual wavelengths fail to hit the same focal point. This causes annoying green or red halos and blurriness around objects you’re viewing. According to Nikon, their extra-dispersion glass solves this problem by reducing this effect so that the wavelengths are in greater harmony for a clearer image. In other words, you want to look for this type of glass for your next pair of binoculars to get better views.

Nikon Monarch 5 8×42
Magnification 8x
Objective Lens 42mm; ED glass with dielectric high-reflective, multi-layer coatings
Prism Type Roof prism; phase-corrected
Field of View 330 feet @ 1000 yards
Exit Pupil 5.3
Eye Relief 19.5
Eyecups Adjustable, rubber eyecups
Durability Waterproof, fog proof, and non-slip design
Accessories Binocular Harness, 5-Piece Digital Camera Accessory Kit, Lenspen Cleaning System & Microfiber Cleaning Cloth
Weight 20.8 oz

Nikon also takes excellent care to coat their lenses. The Monarch 5 features dielectric, high-reflective, multi-layer coatings. The extra layers of coating will also help increase light transmission so that you can enjoy all the colors and details of your travels and treks.

The last numeric spec you’ll notice is the remarkable exit pupil size. Out of Nikon’s entire Monarch 5 series, the 8×42 mm has the second-best exit pupil size at 5.3 mm. Since the exit pupil impacts the relative brightness, this model also has the Monarch 5’s second-highest score in that category. In terms of bright image and better vision in low-light conditions, you can’t find much better than the Monarch 5’s 8x 42mm.

The Monarch 5 Reigns Supreme

The Monarch 5 Reigns Supreme

Now that we’ve geeked out sufficiently with numbers and jargon, let’s see if these binoculars have what it takes to endure your outdoor adventures. If you spend a great deal of time in the woods or on the water, you know accidents happen that can result in broken gear. Luckily, the Monarch 5 won’t stand for being deposed.

These binoculars are built to last and are 100% waterproof and fog proof. According to Nikon, the optical system can be submerged in 1 meter of water for up to 10 minutes and still come out unscathed. We also love the rubber-armored coating used on the body of this set so that you’re less likely to drop your binoculars in the first place.

The Monarch 5 is excellent for its portability and lightweight build. This model weighs only 20.8 ounces, which will feel light as a feather in your pack compared to other brands with similar power. While a difference of a few ounces might not seem like much as you shop around, imagine an extra 20 ounces of gear versus 30 after a six-mile hike. The lightweight also makes it family-friendly for kids who are learning to use binoculars.

If the Monarch truly is the king of the optics, you’ll likely expect a bit of comfort and luxury as well. These binoculars deliver an incredible 19mm eye relief with twisting rubber eyecups. With the Monarch 5, you can spend less time squinting at your target and more time ranging for the perfect shot.

Lastly, the Monarch 5 comes with all the accessories you need so that your optics are always clean and ready to go. You can expect a Lenspen Cleaning System and microfiber cleaning cloth, which is great for quickly removing smudges and dust off of your lens. The best part of this deal is the convenient binocular harness straps to ensure that your binoculars are never far from your reach.

Our Take - The Monarch 5 Is King

The most important part of buying your first pair of high-end binoculars or upgrading is to understand where your money is going. You’ll find that some binoculars have a higher price tag, not because of optical quality, but perhaps their prism system or lightweight design. While there’s nothing wrong with any of these qualities, you should be sure to have your priorities for what you need most in a pair of binoculars.

That being said, we believe the Monarch 5 8×42 is indeed a superior pick in terms of optics, design, durability, and comfort. While this model is like royalty, it’s still listed at a reasonable price point. We love these binoculars because their magnification is practical for a variety of purposes, and all systems work together for optimal brightness that produces stunningly clear images. This is a fantastic choice for hunters, birders, or those who enjoy being up-close with nature.

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