Nikon Monarch HG 10x42 binocular review

With their flawless design, the Nikon Monarch HG 10x42 binoculars are built to last and have fantastic optical clarity to match

Nikon Monarch HG 10x42 binoculars placed on a fence post
(Image: © Jason Parnell-Brookes)

Live Science Verdict

Slim and lightweight, the Monarch HG 10x42 binoculars are a roof prism design which means they pretty much slip into a large pocket on an overcoat. Purposely designed to keep up with you on whatever adventure you’re on, they are filled with Nitrogen to eliminate fog and they’re waterproof so shooting in the rain is no problem. While they are on the pricey side the Monarch’s are well worth the money as we think they’re likely the best binocular optics on the market today.

Pros

  • +

    Chromatic aberration all but eliminated

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    Sharp views edge to edge

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    Slim design and easy to transport

Cons

  • -

    Negligible color fringing around contrasted edges

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    No image stabilization

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We love the Nikon Monarch HG 10x42 binoculars because they’re so convenient. 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. 

With an MSRP of $999.95 (opens in new tab), the Nikon Monarch HG 10x42 binoculars won't be for everyone, but they do represent great value for money. You’re not just getting quality binoculars at that price either, as 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 10x42 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 way to fish them out). These are comfortably some of the best binoculars on the market.

Nikon Monarch HG 10x42 binocular: Design

(Image credit: Jason Parnell-Brookes)
  • Strong magnesium alloy body is lightweight
  • All lens caps and seals fit snugly
  • Premium finish on every part of the Monarch package

Nikon seem 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. 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 round 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 10x42 binocular: Performance

(Image credit: Jason Parnell-Brookes)
  • Edge-to-edge sharpness through the binoculars
  • No chromatic aberration to speak of which is outstanding
  • Good light transmission thanks to 42mm objective lenses

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 a direct view due to the natural vignetting that occurs when observers take their eyes 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 extremely 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.

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 10x42 binocular: Functionality

(Image credit: Jason Parnell-Brookes)
  • Lightweight at just 1.5lbs / 680g
  • Smooth focusing wheel makes it easy to pull focus
  • Locking diopter ring stops accidental defocusing

Despite weighing only 1.5lbs / 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 main 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 has plenty of room for focus as well, affording users the opportunity to finely adjust their focusing so that even small subjects can comfortably be brought into sharpness.

It’s really hard to find fault with these binoculars, they are just brilliant all the way around. We could argue that because they don’t feature image stabilization like, say, the Canon 10x32IS, 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.

A close up of the twistable eyecups on the Nikon Monarch HG 10x42

(Image credit: Jason Parnell-Brookes)

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 I buy the Nikon Monarch HG 10x42 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 this product isn't for you

Yes the Nikon Monarch HG 10x42 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 but this all 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 fog up when moving between warm and cold areas. With an MSRP of MSRP of $1999 (opens in new tab), they are twice the cost of the Monarchs.

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 10x50 Aculon A211 binoculars which cost around $139.99 (opens in new tab). 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.

Jason Parnell-Brookes
Freelance Contributor

Jason Parnell-Brookes is an award-winning photographer, educator and writer based in the UK. He won the Gold Prize award in the Nikon Photo Contest 2018/19 beating over 90,000 other entrants and was named Digital Photographer of the Year in 2014. Jason is a Masters graduate and has a wealth of academic and real-world experience in a variety of photographic disciplines from astrophotography and wildlife to fashion and portraiture. Now the Channel Editor for Cameras and Skywatching at Space.com he specialises in low light optics and camera systems as well as acting as a contributing writer for multiple reputed tech brands.