Nikon Monarch binoculars – practical applications

13 February 2017
Marcin Górko

2. Small pairs of binoculars: 30 and 36 mm objective lenses

Let’s start with a quite obvious conclusion: the Monarch series, produced by Nikon, consists of devices with exceptional wide array of optical parameters, from such small binoculars as 8x30 and 10x30 which might be hidden in a bigger jacket pocket, to such huge models as the 16x56 or the 20x56. Because of that wide range their different practical applications we are going to examine the binoculars according to their objective diameters. The Monarchs 8x36 and 10x36 are the first. Despite being very comprehensive instruments they have never managed to gain a wider popularity. They weigh a bit over half a kilo so they can be called handy and physically light; additionally, they offer sensitive fields of view and are waterproof. That’s why some time ago the Monarch 8x36 became the official pair of binoculars of Polish Tatra Volunteer Search and Rescue unit (TOPR) specializing in avalanche search and rescue. When I was asked about a lightweight and durable pair of binoculars which could be a part of everyday equipment of rescue teams working in winter conditions I suggested the 8x36 model without hesitation. Even today I remember our joint training which took place in the cirque near the Morskie Oko lake in torrent rain. Apart from the Monarch, TOPR rescuers tested also rangefinders and a waterproof Coolpix AW. Despite horrible weather conditions the Monarch 8x36 made a very favourable impression. The rescuers agreed that, quote, “it performed better than we expected”. After several years of wear and tear we haven’t had one single case of failure or damage; overall the binoculars fare perfectly in the difficult environment they were created for. The smaller magnification was chosen because of two factors: an exit pupil as big as 4.5 mm, allowing you to spot details even in twilight, and a field of view wider by 1° than the field of the 10x model.

A used 36 mm Monarch, even though you can hardly call it a modern pair of binoculars, is still a very attractive offer, especially for people with bigger hands who would feel awkward or silly while handling a 30 mm device.

Nikon Monarch binoculars – practical applications - Small pairs of binoculars: 30 and 36 mm objective lenses
Small and lightweight Nikon Monarch 7 8x30 is taking a sunbath on Kościelec. In the background the north face of Świnica.

The launch of the Monarch 7 series, especially smaller 30 mm models, was for me personally a very good move. I speak here not only as a “binoculars” man working for Nikon Polska but also as a private user. The M7 8x30 and 10x30 Nikon models proved that, with a proper quality control, you can produce a very well-done pair of binoculars of high quality even in China. Its parameters are not only equal but even better than the parameters of its more expensive rivals. I bought the Monarch 7 8x30 for my private use as soon as it hit the shelves in Polish shops and was preliminary tested; I’ve been torturing it ever since. That’s why opinions about that particular set of binoculars will be tainted with my personal feelings the most.

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The Monarch 7 8x30 earned a „must-have” status in my small arsenal of binoculars mainly because of two passions: mountain trekking and sailing. It is currently one of the most attractive options available on the whole Sport Optics market, combining small physical dimensions, lightweight body, very good transmission, perfect colour rendition and sharp field of view almost to the very end. Add to that an affordable price and you get a really attractive offer. When I go to the mountains, no matter Tatra or the Alps, my Monarch 7 is always in my backpack. I don’t go trekking without that piece of equipment, it’s equally important as a camera and food. I completely agree with an opinion that “mountains are too beautiful to be admired by the naked eye”. Indeed, many times my small Monarch showed me something other people in exactly the same conditions failed to see. What’s more, sometimes they didn’t even imagine they could have seen it!

If you are armed with a pair of binoculars you can observe a climbing team making progress on Zamarła Turnia, a herd of chamois grazing on the slopes of Szpiglasowy Wierch or a bear looking for food among dwarf mountain pine under Liliowe pass. Despite small dimensions, the binoculars are a joy to use when you are wearing gloves as the participants of Avalanche Search and Rescue trainings had an opportunity to find out three times. Nikon binoculars were present regularly during these trainings in previous seasons – as an addition to an avalanche probe, an avalanche victim detector and a spade. For your own safety and the safety of others you should always see more in the mountains.

Nikon Monarch binoculars – practical applications - Small pairs of binoculars: 30 and 36 mm objective lenses
Nikon Monarch 7 8x30 in its natural habitat – on a sailing board.

In order to change that a bit grim atmosphere let’s move to the sea level, more precisely on a sailing board. It is well-known that, next to a map and a sextant a pair of binoculars used to be a basic tool, appreciated by even serious sailors. A pop-culture stereotype of a pirate usually includes a wooden leg, a parrot sitting on his shoulder, a pipe in his mouth, a hook instead of one hand and a spotting scope. I follow that example and I have been sailing more than a dozen years equipped with optical instruments. Still I have to admit that neither the hook nor the parrot are as enticing as a good waterproof pair of binoculars. Quite deliberately I rejected the sea classic 7x50 model with a compass, for much lighter and smaller Monarch but with a much wider field of view. Imagine it or not, I can even justify my choice.

If you have to reach your port of choice by plane the size and weight of your luggage are very important. In that aspect the small Monarch 7 8x30 prevails decisively over the big and heavy porro 7x50 device. I put my Monarch into a cabin luggage, usually in one of compartments of my photo bag. It is always ready to use, way before I get to a marina. The Monarch doesn’t feature a compass but let’s be honest, in times when every boat is equipped with GPS navigation system and sailing can be based practically on your smartphone and mobile applications like Navionics, you really don’t need a compass anymore. Image brightness? I agree that the 7x50 pair of binoculars theoretically delivers over 2.7x of light more than any 8x30 model but it is true only when the eye pupil of the observer is no smaller than 7.1 in diameter. It is a very rare occurrence in real life. Such a wide eye pupil can be found only among young people (I don’t consider myself old but still…) and only after a long period of dark adaptation, an impossible thing during any tourist sea trip. A night watch on a big ship in complete darkness is another matter.

From experience I know that even at dusk the clarity of details provided by the Monarch is satisfactory and a field of view, amounting to as much as 8.3°, proves to be priceless. The ergonomics of the binoculars is also an important feature: small Monarchs are light enough and handy enough that you can hang them on your neck for a prolonged amount of time without feeling tired. What’s more, you can operate them with just one hand without the necessity of letting go of the wheel. You control your course and you watch the horizon at the same time! Is the 10x30 Monarch worse? Not at all, it’s just a pair of binoculars for slightly different tasks. Small Monarchs were presented for the wider audience during Forest Fairs in Rogów. Many participants, especially those who hunt, noticed at once that the 10x30 is, quote, “a pair of perfect day binoculars for a buck”. I know nothing about hunting but taking the possibilities of the small Monarch I wouldn’t like to be in that particular buck’s shoes. 10x magnification allows you to assess its prongs so also its age and the high image contrast means you are able to see even small details. Then you just shoot…Of course the binoculars don’t have to be used only in blood sport. Because of its small physical dimensions it is a perfect instrument to store in your car’s glove compartment, to be used when e.g. an interesting bird of prey flies nearby.

Nikon Monarch binoculars – practical applications - Small pairs of binoculars: 30 and 36 mm objective lenses
A little man with a small pair of binoculars so the Monarch 7 8x30 in hands of a six-year-old boy. Plenty of interesting things around!

Finally let’s mention another asset of small Monarchs, especially the 8x models – they are perfect instruments for children. Small and lightweight, with a wide field of view, their features tally perfectly with the requirements of the youngest users. A bright child will find out at once that there is always something interesting to observe around them: a bird, a plane, a Moon, anything else. Playing with the binoculars they are going to get accustomed to a new tool which will enlarge their horizons quite literally and teach them a lot as well. If little Johnny gets a good pair of binoculars and has a positive first experience it will pay off in the future because as the twig is bent the tree’s inclined.