Nikon Monarch 10×42 and Minox BL 10×42 BR


Originally posted in April of 2007

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Nikon Monarch 10×42
Minox BL 10×42 BR

I think that these binoculars are typically found for comparable prices. Minox is, perhaps, a little more expensive with most retailers.

Monarch is marked “Made in China”.  Minox is completely devoid (the best I can tell) of any such markings. I know higher end Minox binoculars are made in Japan. I am also pretty sure that Minox has a large factory in China (run exclusively by Minox).  However, I do not know for sure which products are made there.

If you look at the specs, the two binoculars are virtually identical: the weight and size are about the same, the field of view is the same as well. However, they feel somewhat differently in the hand and they handle a bit differently too. It is hard to say which one I liked more in terms of feel and handling. Neither one fit my hands particularly well, but neither one was aweful either. The eyecups are decent for this price range. They have stops in two positions: all the way in and all the way out. When I tried to use them with eyecups in a halfway position, they held up reasonably well although the Monarch’s left eyecup was prone to collapsing.

Focus wheel had a reasonably decent feel with both binoculars. I am perhaps not the best person to judge this since I tend to get used to all but the most crappy focus wheels fairly easily. 

I did not do a whole lot of instrumental testing on these binoculars. I did a quick light transmission check and both binoculars seemed to be about the same (I also looked at some higher end 7×42 binos that I’ve been playing with which seemed to be quite a bit better and at a couple of scopes). All in all, this light transmission testing is, while entertaining when you do it for the first time, is pretty useless in terms of coming up with conclusions. It is helpful if you are trying to screen out something truly aweful, but is completely trumped by other factors if you are comparing decent scopes and binos. With binoculars it can be interesting to measure the light transmission of left and right barrels. I suspect that some of my dissatisfaction with the Monarch (see below) comes from the fact that there was some discrepancy between transmission of left and right barrels (definitely more than any other binocular I had with me that day).

I did not do any instrumental resolution testing with these binoculars, primarily because of lack of time. I did spend some time staring at high resolution targets through them and I also asked a co-worker who knows a lot about images and absolutely nothing about binoculars to give me his impressions (which actually agreed with mine).

I spent some time with these during the day, around sunset and at night. I looked at the effect of bright light sources outside of the field of view. I also spent a couple of hours glassing with each binocular on different days to evaluate eye fatigue.

All in all, to my eyes, Minox was the clear winner.

It was clearer, resolved better, and caused less eye fatigue. Monarch (at least the sample I had) is a good example of a binocular with decent light transmission but somewhat sub-par resolution. For a while, I kept on trying to focus it a little better: it is a pretty bright glass, but I could never quite get it focused as well as I thought it should be focused. Of course, having the sharper Minox with me did not help matters.

Also, after glassing for while, the Nikon gave me a pretty noticeable headache. My eyes were pretty tired after spending some time with the Minox, but no real headache to speak of.

I have played quite extensively with a 8×42 Monarchs before and while I am pretty confident you can do better for the money, I found it to be a much more worthwhile option than the 10×42 Monarchs in this comparison. Perhaps, I just got a bad sample. Also, with most inexpensive optics it is best to stick with somewhat lower magnification. Maybe the Monarchs’ flaws are much more apparent at 10x than at 8x.

All in all, I think if you are looking for binoculars in this price range, Minos BL BR binos are certainly worth the price difference to me.

 Posted by at 11:03 pm