Nikon Monarch 3 vs Monarch 5 vs Monarch 7 —What does an upgrade get you?

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October 2012

The question was asked, in comparing Nikon Monarch 3 vs Monarch 5 , which one would really be money better spent? If we include the Nikon Monarch 7 in the comparison, how do the Monarch 3 and 5 compare against the 7?

For those shopping outside of North America, the question relates to the Nikon DCF MK3 vs Nikon Monarch 7 — inasmuch as it appears that a European version of the Monarch 3 is not presently available. Although we understand the Monarch DCF and Monarch 5 are the same binoculars under their respective badges, Nikon has chosen to name them differently.

Nikon Monarch 3, 5 and 7 comparison
Nikon Monarch 3, 5 and 7

Since we already had each of these binoculars and the question seemed like a fair one, we set about to compare them. Because there are some similarities between the new Monarch models, such as the rain guards, we'll mostly ignore those similarities as well as those areas where one doesn't have a noteworthy advantage.

When we write a comparison article, it's only fair for us to provide a warning. You may be cheated out of significant enjoyment if you make a binocular-buying decision based only on a comparison article! The reason for this is because in writing a comparison, we leave out those things that we think are not significant to the comparison — even though they may be important by themselves and included in the individual review.

With all that out of the way let's get started comparing, shall we?!?

The Monarch Family's Body Style

When viewing the bodies of the Monarchs 3, 5, & 7, it's interesting to note that the largest is the Monarch 3 and the smallest the Monarch 7. The interesting part comes when considering that the Monarch 7 weighs more than the Monarch 5, although it is physically shorter.

We feel it's safe to assume that the heavier weight is partly because of the Monarch 7's lens system requiring more glass to achieve the wider field of view and the relatively heavy ED glass in its objective lenses.

In looking at the picture of these binoculars side-by-side, the similarities in build and rubber armor quickly stand out. They each have the single center hinge and the "style" shown by the rubber armor is remarkably similar from one to the next.

Comparing Their Focus Mechanisms

One thing that is different in the construction relates to the focus. Both the Monarch 3 and 5 use just under 1.25 revolutions of the focus wheel to go to infinity while the Monarch 7 uses nearly 1.5 turns. We prefer the faster focus when all other things are equal, but are willing to give a bit here if we can gain significantly elsewhere.

Manufacturer's Specifications
for 10X42 Configuration
Nikon Monarch 3
7541
Nikon Monarch 5
7543 & 7546
Nikon Monarch 7
7549
Prism Coating Silver Alloy Dielectric Dielectric
Field of View At 1,000 yd/m ft/m 299/100 288/96 351/117.3
Close Focus 9.8/3.0 8.2/2.5 8.1/2.5
Exit Pupil 4.2 4.2 4.2
Eye Relief 17.4 18.4 16.4
Weight in oz/g 24.7/700 21.9/621 23.6/669
Interpupillary Distance 56-72 56-72 56-72

Optical Configuration and Performance

While each of these binoculars has phase correction coatings applied to their prisms, as one would expect at their respective price points, the reflective prism coatings do differ.

The prisms in the Monarch 3 have silver alloy reflective coatings, while the Monarch 5 & 7 both have dielectric coatings.

The reflective coatings were interesting to us as we compared them in the field because we felt that the Monarch 3, for whatever reason, actually provided a somewhat lighter image or view. The Monarch 5, on the other hand, resolved details significantly better than the Monarch 3.

While it's relatively common knowledge within the industry, it's not so widely known among consumers that the number of dielectric coatings has a distinct impact on brightness and resolution. Since it would be considered proprietary information, we've not asked Nikon about the number of reflective prism coatings — but we feel comfortable saying that the number of coatings on the Monarch 7's prisms is significantly more than the number used in the Monarch 5. This would reflect both the performance level and manufacturing difference we would expect for the Monarch 7's additional value.

Field of View

The angular field of view for the 10X42 Nikon Monarch 3, 5, and 7 is 5.7°, 5.5°, and 6.7°, respectively. The difference between the Monarch 3 and 5 is negligible. It's not likely that you'll notice the small difference between them at 1,000yds/m distance.

For the Monarch 7, however, the difference will be noticeable and will result in the ability to see more and see it relatively clearly. We are not shy about saying we like a wide field of view and the Monarch 7 will allow you to see more activity.

Optical Sweet Spot

Since the Monarch 7 we have is an 8X42, we're not going to try to compare the optical sweet spots between it and the 10X42 Monarch 5 & 7 beyond noting where the image started to noticeably blur.

The Monarch 3 started to noticeably blur at about 67% of the radius from the center of its field of view. The Monarch 5's noticeable blurring started at about 86% of the radius and the Monarch 7 started to blur noticeably at about 71% of the radius from the center.

Let's apply those percentages to each of the measured fields of view and compare them. With our Monarch 3, 67% of 299ft/100m would bring us to a 200ft/61m. The Monarch 5 would drop from 288ft/96m to 248ft/76m. And, using the sweet spot test result from the 8X42 Monarch 7 and applying it to the 10X42's field of view (which may or may not be appropriate), the measurement drops from 351ft/117m to 250ft/76m at 1,000yds/m.

While the sweet spot for the Monarch 7 may not give you the advantage of a detailed image greater than that of the Monarch 5, it will provide an opportunity to catch more movement from the sides. Whether or not that's significant, would be up to the user to reflect on in conjunction with the Monarch 7's other optical considerations.

Resolution of Details

In our testing, we used a device to double the magnification of the binocular to determine if the optics of a binocular could resolve details better than our eyes might discern them. Since we had binoculars of two different magnifications (one 8X and two 10X), we used the observed resolution at doubled magnification and mathematically compared their "apparent resolution."

We found that our Monarch 5 was able resolve details perceptibly better than our Monarch 3 could. When mathematically adjusting for the difference between the 8X42 Monarch 7 and the 10X42 Monarch 5, we found the Monarch 7 to be significantly better at resolving details than the Monarch 5 was.

Rendering of Colors Viewed

The silver alloy reflective prism coatings used in the Monarch 3 are good, but inherently afflicted with the nature of silver. Silver reflects very well, but not entirely evenly. The portion of the light spectrum which includes yellows is somewhat more emphasized when reflected by silver. This seems most likely the reason for the slightly warm (yellow) bias noted when viewing through the Monarch 3. This bias is slight and may not affect the viewing pleasure of the majority of users.

We didn't notice a significant color bias with either the Monarch 5 or Monarch 7.

Chromatic aberration could be induced relatively easily in the Monarch 3 and a bit less so in the 5 — although not to an extraordinarily troubling degree in either one for those focusing attention on activity on the ground. It would be more evident to those who are using them to look into treetops or at birds or planes in flight. It took more effort to induce chromatic aberration with our Monarch 7 and it didn't seem as noticeable in use.

Low Light Viewing

If to compare the Monarch 3 vs the Monarch 5 for low light viewing, they seemed to perform about the same as far as the level of light was concerned. The Monarch 5, however, provided better details at any given lighting than the Monarch 3 we tested.

It's fair to say that the Monarch 7 performed significantly better than either the Monarch 5 or 3 with respect to low light viewing.

Strong Light Viewing

Regarding the binoculars' ability to deal with strong and/or stray light, it truly does relate to the purchase price. We experienced significantly more glare with the Monarch 3 vs the Monarch 5. When comparing the Monarch 5 vs the Monarch 7, we found that the "7" outperformed the "5" in this area.

When viewing the baffling inside the barrels by looking through the objective lenses with light shining into the barrels, we noted levels of baffling which appeared to correspond with our observations about glare.

Close Focus

Nikon specifies a close focus distance of 9.8ft/3m for the Monarch 3, a distance of 8.2ft/2.5m for the Monarch 5, and 8.2ft/2.5m for the Monarch 7. Those are the specified distances no matter what the configuration's magnification power. (The Monarchs are available in 42mm objectives at the time of this writing.)

Our close focus measurements were 9.0ft/2.7m for our Monarch 3, a somewhat shorter 7.6ft/2.7m for our Monarch 5, and our Monarch 7 measured 6.3ft/1.9m. While the close focus distance may not be as meaningful to hunters or sports enthusiasts as it is to bird watchers, if we had our choice between the Monarch 3 and 5 for bird watching, we would likely go with the Monarch 5.

What about a Porro Prism-like Three-dimensional Effect?

The depth of view in our Monarch 3 and 5 binoculars seemed about the same. Our Monarch 7 seemed to have a greater depth of view and allow for greater changes in distance without having to continually adjust the focus in order to see relatively clearly.

Nikon Monarch 3 vs Monarch 5 vs Monarch 7
Nikon Monarch 3 vs Monarch 5 vs Monarch 7

Recommendation

If a person is determined to buy a Nikon Monarch binocular and it's possible to arrange the budget to get a Monarch 5, we believe that the increased resolution of details, usable field of view, ability to deal with strong and/or stray light, make it a better value than the Monarch 3.

Given the quality of the Monarch 7's optics, if it is within budgetary reach, we would suggest considering the 8X42 Monarch 7 for its usable field of view — 298ft/91m at 1,000yds/m. It will give you excellent resolution of details so you'll see about the same details as you would with a 10X configuration and you'll get low-light viewing performance in addition to that wonderful field of view.

We suggest getting your optics from retailers we feel comfortable recommending to our friends. The following have earned good customer service reputations:

Use this link for the lowest pricing we've seen for the Monarch 3 at Amazon.com.

Use these links for direct access to Amazon's low prices for the Monarch 5 (Nikon DCF MK3) selections at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.

We've found Amazon in the USA to have the lowest prices for the Monarch 7 and these links will take you directly to it at Amazon.com (USA) and Amazon.co.uk (UK).

Of course, we left a lot of information out of this comparison. A lot of observations, details about test results, and some opinions about what we found. If you're interested in one of the binoculars included in this comparison, we urge you to read the review that focuses on that particular binocular. These links will take you directly to the Nikon Monarch 3 review, Nikon Monarch 5 review, and Nikon Monarch 7 review.

If you're considering something in the Monarch 5 price range and are willing to consider binoculars by other companies, you'll probably want to see what we found when comparing the Nikon Monarch 5 vs Bushnell Legend Ultra HD vs Leupold Cascades vs Carson 3D ED.

If you're considering a binocular at the Monarch 3's price point, perhaps you would also like to look at our Sightron SII Blue Sky binocular review.

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