You may have missed it, but binocular optics have made great advancements in recent years.
These exciting features were first reserved for high-end models, but they’ve gradually expanded to the mass market.
Now folks can see the advances for themselves, literally … and congratulate themselves on saving a lot of money.
This brings us to the Nikon Monarch 5 12×42 binoculars, which are packed with the same innovative technology which cost thousands of dollars not long ago.
Let’s review the Nikon Monarch 5 12×42’s and find out why they are one of Nikon’s most popular binoculars.
Nikon Monarch 5 12×42 Review
The Nikon Monarch 5 12×42 is a consumer-friendly line of affordable binoculars that include modern high-performance optics. They are wonders of cheap yet effective manufacturing, and the quality of their image is striking.
The Monarch 5’s appearance is clean and a bit bland, so the sharp clarity and excellent color rendition they offer comes as a surprise. You can see in twilight, too, if not moonlight.
Importantly for longer hikes or hunts, they handle well and are lightweight enough to use comfortably without fatigue.
There are limitations, but overall the Monarch 5 lives up to its billing. These aren’t intended to be a surprise. Nikon’s update conforms to the market standards of this price level, with a few highlights.
Extra-low Dispersion (ED) Glass
The current Nikon Monarch 5 12×42 is a 2013 update of the previous edition. The main technical change was to add ED glass for sharper resolution, better color, and higher contrast.
This update was very popular with birdwatchers and hunters, who like the improved high-contrast image and how well it manages low-light conditions. ED glass makes the Monarch 5 comparable with their next step up in performance, the Monarch 7.
Crisp 12x Magnification
12x magnification is close to long-range territory for binoculars, and compared to the Monarch 5 8x’s they seem like twin telescopes. The Monarch 5’s 8x and 10x models are suitable in their own right, but you may want a bit more power.
PRO TIP: These trade-offs are irrelevant in daylight or if you know your target’s location.
Average Field of View (FOV)
The updated Nikon Monarch 5 12×42 is popular with birdwatchers because of the image’s pinpoint detail and high color faithfulness.
There’s a “sweet spot” in binoculars that shows you all that instrument can deliver, and the Monarch 5’s center is clear and detailed with high contrast, and has rich, true-to-life color and depth.
If there’s a hit against these bins, it’s the FOV. The shortcut Nikon took was to reuse the same Monarch chassis for each magnification.
The exit pupil is a smallish 3.5mm, which physically limits light transmission and narrows the viewing area. Less light is available, too. The performance doesn’t fall below standard, but it’s a factor.
High-end Optical Engineering
You buy a Nikon for the engineering experience. The Monarch 5 includes the latest mass-market optical enhancements, including photo-reactive coatings and an advanced phase correction process that increases brightness and accuracy.
Premium dielectric high-reflective prism coatings also boost the light transmission. The 12x bins aren’t as bright as the Monarch 5’s lower magnifications, but they’re still above average.
Because they share the same optical chassis as the smaller magnifications, the exit pupil—which is generous for the 8x—is only sufficient for the 12x model.
Even so, you can still see details before dawn or after dusk, and overcast or cloudy skies pose no problem. Most users will be quite satisfied.
The Monarch 5 12×42’s list a close-focus range of 8.2ft (2.5m), though the actual range is even less. Any closer and it might be best to lower the bins and look for yourself. There may be instances where you need 12x mag closer than 8′, but this is probably all you need.
Adjustment requires 1.5 clockwise revolutions between the focus extremes. Some like to focus more quickly, but others like the finer 1.5x adjustment even if it tires their finger a bit. Choices, choices.
The Monarch 5’s 12×42’s turn-and-slide eyecups have 4 positions. The 15.1mm eye relief is acceptable, and most eyeglass-wearers will see the entire FOV.
PRO TIP: If you wear glasses, check them out before buying.
The Monarch 5 12×42 has a lightweight poly-carbonate rubber housing that is tough and slip-resistant, exactly what you want in an outdoor field glass.
Nikon goes further by water-sealing the binos and using dry nitrogen inside the glass to prevent fogging. They’re rated for submersion up to 3.3ft (1.0m) in water, so you don’t have to worry about getting rained out or losing your bins to a mud puddle.
No worries about hot or cold temperatures. These binos perform in any weather you can endure, and ring controls mean you can use gloves.
Nikon uses a compact roof prism to stay lightweight at 21.2oz (600g). Even at 12x magnification, you can handhold these binos. Higher-powered models require a mount, but these are useful on the go.
The Nikon Monarch 5 12×42’s are balanced in your hand, showing the experienced Nikon design. You can do long sessions without excessive fatigue.
Accessories & Service
The pre-update objective lens covers used to fall off easily, so they were replaced by slip-in caps. Now the caps stick until removed, which is all consumers ask for. The plastic rain guards fall off too, but they didn’t change – maybe next update.
Nikon’s 25-Year Limited+ No-fault Warranty is included in the new package. You also get a nylon carrying case with lint-free lining, and a wide neck strap.
Nikon Monarch 5 Binoculars:
The binoculars are best-sellers for their optical performance and affordable price. Though not the highest grade of Nikon’s offerings, the Nikon Monarch 5 12×42 reflects well on its manufacturer’s reputation.
- 12x magnification
- High optical performance
- Color rendition
- Low-light performance
- Compact roof prism design
- 25-Year Limited+ No-fault Warranty
- Narrow FOV
- Edge deterioration
Even with relatively high 12x magnification, the Monarch 5 12x42s have good optics and the durability you need in an outdoor glass. There are trade-offs for higher 12x magnification, including a narrower FOV and less light, but they work well in dawn or twilight.
PRO TIP: If you want to go owling, you’ll need to look elsewhere.
Overall, the Monarch 5 12×42 answers the call for birders and hunters with lightweight, high-performance optics in all weather. The Nikon optical quality is here at an affordable price.
If you’re looking for mid-range outdoor binoculars, Nikon’s Monarch 5 12×42’s are a best-seller to check out.