By David Link
Nikon’s new binocular for 2017 is stylish, easy to use and extremely bright and clear. Couple that with a Field Flattener Lens new to the Monarch series and a record breaking field of view, and you have an exceptional binocular at a great price, especially when compared to similar models.
Nikon had plenty to showcase at SHOT 2017 this year, and aside from the new Black Series scopes and a powerful LaserForce rangefinder binocular, the Nikon Monarch HG was a big part of the upcoming product line. Before the addition of the HG, the Nikon Monarch binocular series consisted of Monarch 3, 5 and 7 models, excellent mid-range options for hunters, birders and wildlife watchers. The Monarch HG is without a doubt the most-advanced binocular to grace the Monarch series, and it comes with a mid-range price ($999.95 on 1800Gear.com) that matches the performance level of many high end binoculars on the market. Let’s take a closer look at the hottest new Nikon binocular, now available for pre-orders on 1800Gear.com and shipping soon depending on availability.
The Monarch HG is the first mid-range Nikon binocular to utilize technology laid out in the premium EDG Binocular series, particularly the Field Flattener Lens System (more to come on that shortly). It also features the best field of view (FOV) in any Nikon 10x42mm binocular, a stunning 62.2 ° (apparent angular field of view) and 6.9 ° (real angular field of view). The FOV at 1000 yards is an expansive 362ft. Extra-wide angle lenses can have an apparent FOV of 80° or more, and it’s rare to see a binocular approach anything like an extra wide angle lens, but the Monarch HG is certainly close. What this means for the user is superior awareness of their environment when using the binocular. You’re less likely to miss that illusive bird or game escaping into your periphery with a wide field of view like this binocular offers.
Another standout perk of the Monarch HG comes in the extremely close focusing distance of 6.6 ft. The close focusing distance is the minimum distance the optic needs to focus on an object. Why would you need to use a binocular on something 6.6 ft. away? Well wait until a butterfly or bee perches on a flower nearby, and you’ll find a whole new way to wildlife watch, even in your backyard. The detail revealed in a situation like that is nothing short of stunning.
Of course, Nikon’s quality ED (extra-low dispersion) glass is present in the Monarch HG, and combined with Nikon’s dielectric high-reflective multi-layer coating, the binocular transmits up to 92% of light, which is the ceiling of light transmission for most optics. Phase corrected prism coatings contribute to stunning color resolution and contrast. The Monarch HG is nitrogen purged to enable waterproof performance at a depth up to 16.4 ft. for 10 minutes. This also ensures fog proof performance up to 16,000 ft. There are a few peaks where I live where I can test it at up to 14,000+ ft., but good luck finding anything near 16,000 ft. in your area! In short, altitude isn’t going to be a problem.
The binocular has sharp, sleek styling with a magnesium alloy body, and the 24 oz. weight is easily manageable for most users. Rubberized grips are the standard in binoculars these days, and you won’t lose your grip even in wet conditions. The Interpupillary distance is impressive as well, and this binocular folds up to an extremely tight distance. Both your kids and large users will be able to use these binoculars no problem. Wide Interpupillary distance is pretty common, but I don’t believe I’ve ever used a pair with such a close 56mm adjustment though.
Now let’s move on to one of the big highlights of the Monarch HG, the Field Flattener Lens System. This system was initially developed in photography lenses, and it is much harder to get a clear image through a convex lens vs. a flat lens. A Field Flattener System provides more stability for the camera to snap crisp, clear images, and it’s no secret that Nikon, one of the world’s leading camera designers, would be on the cutting edge of this technology. When it comes to using Field Flattener Lens Systems in binoculars, the main advantage is a crisp, clear image on the edges of the optic as well as the center. These systems reduce distortion and aberrations at the edge of the lens. Binoculars without this technology tend to blur at the edge of the optic while the image stays sharp in the middle.
While using the Monarch HG, you can pick out objects at the corner of the lens just as well as the center of the lens. When you combine the excellent field of view with the Field Flattener Lens, you get superior scouting capability and the ability to pick out those illusive animals on the corner of the lens. Of course, the Field Flattener makes for a better overall image as well, which is a nice feature in any binocular.
Not to be overlooked, the Monarch HG’s diopter adjustment is extremely easy to use, something that isn’t always a given on binoculars. You simply flip the dial up towards you, adjust to your preference, and push the dial back down to lock your setting in place. You can adjust and readjust in a matter of seconds, all without having to take your eyes away from the binocular.
My first impression of the Monarch HG was when I put them up to my eyes at SHOT 2017. I was impressed at how quickly a crisp, clear image appeared when I looked through the binoculars. However, a test on a showroom floor can only show you so much, and I was eager to see if I had the same impression once the binoculars arrived at my house. Sure enough, the binoculars felt just as crisp as they did on the showroom floor, and immediately I tested them on nearby birds in my yard and better landscapes than that of showroom billboards and convention center ceilings. I also enjoyed the low close focus distance right away, and I found the binoculars valuable in closer observation as well as farther viewing of birds.
The true test of the Nikon Monarch HG came in the Rocky Mountains at elevations between roughly 7,000 and 8,500 feet. Upon climbing to a good vantage point, in this case a bald mountain, I tested the binoculars in various scouting scenarios. I was able to track circling hawks and survey nearby valleys in stunning clarity, and the wide field of view allowed be to keep my bearings throughout the entire session. I never felt like I lost perspective as I scanned. The Monarch HG’s adjustment dial is a breeze to use, and while it sometimes feels like you really have to crank on the dial to focus the binocular, the Monarch’s dial moves fast and brings the image into focus with impressive precision.
The Monarch HG has integrated objective lens covers, and I can say they work better than most (some objective lens covers pop off when you don’t want them to, or are hard to remove, or are a frustrating combination of the two). However if you’d prefer not to mess with them, Nikon provides alternative replacements for an open objective lens style like classic binoculars. With the scratch proof lenses and coatings, using the replacements shouldn’t be an issue as long as your careful or use a bino bivy. The twist up eye cups have three preset positions, and the binocular always felt extremely responsive as long as I had the twist up cups fully extended. As I mentioned above handling these binoculars is a breeze, and I wasn’t concerned about fatigue after using them for minutes on end.
This all said, the optical quality is really the focal point with these binoculars, and they don’t disappoint. The are sharp, the color is vivid and the contrast is exceptional. Truly this is what you pay for when you opt for a binocular above the “quality budget” price point. There’s no doubt you’d be enjoying quality glassing and vivid images through the Monarch HG for years to come.
Yes, the Nikon Monarch HG binoculars aren’t exactly at a “budget” price point, but the level of performance offered is really impressive when you compare it to higher priced $2000 – $3000 models. It really is the matriarch of the Monarch binocular line, and I recommend it as a starting point for evaluating a Nikon binocular purchase. Even if you decide these are out of your price range, the Field Flattener Lens and high quality images will give you a benchmark to compare other models with. In a great year for new Nikon products, the Monarch HG may have been a bit overshadowed by the Black Scopes and LaserForce, but it’s deserves just as much attention for it’s exceptional performance at a reasonable price point.