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Nikon Monarch 10x56 mini review

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#1 charen


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Posted 24 April 2008 - 06:32 PM


I have been looking for a reasonably large aperture, quality roof prism binocular for some months. As I wanted them primarily for astro work I wanted to go larger the traditional 42 mm size.
I brought the Monarch 10x56 ATB’s about 3 weeks ago. It was on sale with 40% off but as optics are reasonably expensive in New Zealand it still cost me $US400.
Testing my original Monarchs in day light at the binocular shop the optics appeared bright and sharp and reasonably hand holdable. There was some moderate curvature of field noted at the edge which I thought at the time to be expectable.
However at night it was soon obvious there was a major fault in the left barrel. I could not reach sharp focus and there was noticeable astigmatism on the on axis stars. Bright defocused stars were clearly oblong in shape. There was a clear left barrel dysfunction.
The local Nikon dealer exchanged it quickly the next day. The new one was much improved.


The 56mm Monarch range was introduced in mid 2006. There are also 8.5x and 12x in the larger 56 mm sizes. The Monarchs also come in 42mm and 36mm roof prism sizes. These were released in 2002 onwards.
The 56mm Nikon Monarchs are ‘mid entry’ level roof binocular. Nikon market them as ‘Hunting / Outdoor’ binoculars. They have phase corrected, high reflection, mirror prisms [non silver]. The lens are Fully Multi Coated and made from ‘Hi quality Eco Glass’. [lead / arsenic free].
They are nitrogen filled and water / fog proof. Nikon state they are ‘shock resistant’. The exterior has a hard dark green armour rubber design. The 10x models have 6 degree FOV with a 60 degree Afov. [Nikon actually measure it at 55.3mm].
The eye relief is 17.4mm. The lens oculars measure 25mm. The exit pupil is 5.6mm. The IPD is a 60 -72 mm [Not for narrow eyes]. They have twistable 3x click stop eyecups. They weigh 40.7 Oz. / 1155 g. and are 8in. / 200mm in length. Minimum focus is 10 mtrs / 33 Ft.
They are Chinese made.
The monarchs come well boxed and wrapped with a firm fabric binocular case.
The instructions are clear as is the warranty. The neck strap is wide and comfortable and slightly stretchable however they do not have ‘Nikon’ on them.
[A minor detail but important to some].

Build and optics

Inspecting them there is no prism cut off. Exit pupils are round clear and even illuminated. The objectives and eyepieces reflect a medium green / magenta color. The coatings were even and flawless. The objectives displayed minimal external reflections. Looking down the barrels there was no obvious baffles / stops / exposed prisms. It appeared well blackened. The ends of adjustable focus tubes however display a thin silver ring. This may cause minor internal light scatter.
They appeared to be the full 56mm.
The focus wheel is well placed and it is firm with no play. The eyepieces lock firm with no movement even with moderate pressure. The right diopter was very firm to rotate.
They are tripod mountable however the gap between the barrels is narrow which would makes using a tripod adaptor difficult. I used my 10mm thick adaptor [my most narrow one] which worked for my reasonably broad adult eyes but others with a narrow IDP i.e. less then 64-66 mm, may find this difficult.
One other issue I noted is that the front dew shields are minimal in length and one had to take care not to place fingerprints on the objective lens. The front lens protectors are attached to the barrels and one had to be reasonably careful when placing them on so as not to leave fingerprints.
The Monarchs feel comfortable to hold. They have a compact design for 56mm binoculars.
They feel mechanically strong.
The Monarchs have a build and look of a quality product.

Day and night time testing

Day time testing showed some mild barrel rolling effect noted when panning. Sharpness began to fail at about 75% out and more noticeable aberrations were noted from about 80-85% out and this did become very marked at the very edge. Mild on axis CA was noted in aerials and leaves. The CA became noticeable at the very edge.
Images were sharp on axis and showed very good color rendition and contrast. The images were bright natural and vivid. They appeared well collimated.
Eye placement was easy once the twist eyecups were set, there were no blackout areas. The eye cups are hard and as a result some stray light does get in.

As a side note the 56mm’s have 25% more light gathering ability then 50mm binoculars and a 77% light increase over the 42mm versions. [All things being equal].

At night stars were sharp on axis. However I have to say there were not ultra sharp on the brighter stars. The barrel effect was not evident. Aberrations were noted out about at 80% from the edge. CA was noticeable primarily on the moon when the Moon was on the edge of the periphery with clear red / blue colors. On axis the Moon showed a faint hint of purple fringing.
There were no obvious internal reflections / secondary ghostings noted even off axis when viewing the moon.
Viewing star fields in Scorpios and Sagittarius showed some of the other main positive features of these binoculars and that is color rendition and contrast.
M42 displayed subtle colors and fragments of the bat wings were visible.
Night time viewing confirmed that they were well collimated.
The aberrations as noted fall within acceptable limits and were not overly distracting. The overall image quality at night is very good but not excellent.

The 60 degree Afov gave the feeling of a reasonably wide view and never felt restricted. The FOV appeared to be 6 degrees. Orion’s belt filled half the available image. The 40oz. / 1155 g. weight and 10x magnification made them relatively easy and comfortable to hand hold.
The front of the Monarchs with the 56mm lens are marginally heavier then the regular 50mm size binoculars. However I never tired after an hour of hand held viewing. I also noted no obvious eyestrain.

As a side note I feel the ‘inbetween’ 10x versions give a good balance between 1/ hand hold ability 2/ a 6 degree FOV for sky orientation and 3/ enough magnification for many faint objects. The 8.5x has a narrower Afov of 52 degrees which is more restrictive and the 12x versions may improve performance but at the cost of hand holdability and reduced FOV - 5.5 degrees.
[Of course tripod mounting would maximise the potential of these binoculars].


I briefly compared the Monarchs at with my own Meade 9x63 and a borrowed Nikon 10x50 AE.
On a reasonably dark semi suburban sky I sighted more stars in M6 and M7 with the Monarchs then with the Meade 9x63’s. Color rendition and contrast appeared to be superior also. The Meades exit pupil of 7 mm may have negated some of the available light. I have 6 mm pupils. The Meade’s are also ‘only’ multi coated.
At daytime the Monarchs displayed superior color rendition, resolution and brightness.

Compared to the Nikon 10x50 AE’s the comparison was more equal in the star count color rendition and contrast - however going back and forth numerous times the Monarchs did display an increase in overall brightness and a slight increase in the resolution of fainter stars.
Whilst the images appeared similar the Monarchs displayed less edge distortion and a more usable FOV but slightly more CA which was noticeable at the very edge of viewing.
At day time the Monarchs displayed a slightly brighter image. I also felt on axis resolution was mildly better.

[Please note this was a non technical and brief subjective comparison].


Very good light transmission
Absolutely minimal internal reflections
Sharp on axis
Good color rendition and contrast
Bright images with the 56mm lens
Firm focuser and eyecups with no play
Good cross over binoculars for astro / low light / terrestrial use
Reasonably compact stylish looking binocular with good build and optical qualities


Moderate peripheral CA
Very mild on axis CA on bright objects
Noticeable [but acceptable] edge field curvature
Mild day time barrel distortion when panning
Mildly front heavy
Objective lens vulnerable to damage / fingerprints
Narrow IDP
Hard eye cups [personal]
Not ‘pure’ astro binos


Mid entry roof prisms with good build and optical qualities. The images are bright with good to excellent color rendition and contrast.
There are some acceptable mild aberrations and distortions noted in the image and this is especially noted at the very edge of view.
These are good, but not excellent, cross over day time / night time roof prism binoculars.

Finally, a cost effectiveness argument could be placed in acquiring reasonably Hi quality and lighter 10x50 binoculars like the Nikon Porro prism 10x50 AE's [32oz. / 900g.] which may provide slightly less optical performance but costs half the price of the Monarchs.

Having said that I do intend keeping the Monarch 10x56’s which reflects the overall image and build quality.

[I have no connection with Nikon or Meade]

#2 edwincjones


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Posted 24 April 2008 - 06:51 PM

thank you for the review


#3 KennyJ


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Posted 25 April 2008 - 01:20 AM

Thanks for an info - packed review , Charen !

Quite a few visitors seems to have asked about the Monarchs recently , so this ought to prove a useful addition to the mini - reviews section , which I trust EdZ will add it to when he returns from NEAF .

Before the 3 day deadline prevents you from doing so , you may wish to alter that next to last paragraph , indicating this is a keeper , from 10 x 50 to 10 x 56 ! :-)

Clear Skies

#4 charen


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Posted 25 April 2008 - 02:44 AM

Thanks Kenny. I have done the correction. Re-reading the review I realise it is a bit long ! It might seem critical at times but I think it’s important to give an honest review instead of ‘it’s a great binocular’. I sure the majority of readers want a review that looks at the positives and negatives in a reasonably in-depth fashion.
I also realise that my knowledge base it minor compared to people like yourself, Edz. and others and I am still coming to terms with some of the optical terminology. It’s a learning curve and there is a lot to learn.
My wife said ‘how you can write so much about a pair of binoculars when you just look through them’.
I said in reply ‘why do you spend so much time in shoe shops – there just shoes’.
Anyway I think its important to post reviews so if anyone is hesitant in posting one don’t be, it’s a great way of learning about binoculars and astronomy - which is a good thing.

#5 EdZ


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Posted 25 April 2008 - 04:15 AM

My wife said ‘how you can write so much about a pair of binoculars when you just look through them’.
I said in reply ‘why do you spend so much time in shoe shops – there just shoes’.

Oh, classic. Thanks for that. There may be hope for me yet.


#6 EdZ


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Posted 25 April 2008 - 07:19 AM

Take a look into barrel distortion and pincushion. Pincushion would appear as the middle of a tall pole curving inwards towards the middle of the field of view when that pole is placed near the edge of view. Barrel would have the middle of the pole bowed outwards as if it were bending to match the same shape as the field stop.

I've never seen barrel in ANY binocular, and in fact pincushion is designed into a binocular to alleviate astigmatism. Barrel distortion is generally found in wide angle camera lenses, not binoculars.

Very nice review.

#7 Vincent33


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Posted 25 April 2008 - 07:27 AM

The exterior has a hard dark green armour rubber design.

Excuse me ... GREEN?? Aren't them available black? Sorry but for me binoculars are black ...

#8 RichD



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Posted 25 April 2008 - 07:56 AM

Very thorough and readable review.


#9 DNTash



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Posted 25 April 2008 - 09:32 PM

Thanks for that review charen -- well done and quite informative.

#10 davidpitre



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Posted 26 April 2008 - 08:17 PM

I thought this was a very good review.
Thanks Charen

#11 Wehkoja


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Posted 06 June 2008 - 02:24 PM

Good review, quite detailed too!

I like my 8.5x 56mm Monarch. And the plan was to keep them as long as I live! :D

Your Pros and Cons are very close to my opinions too !
Thank you for the review!

#12 KrisZ



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Posted 18 May 2009 - 07:27 PM

Thanks for the review!

It really helped with my new binos.

...the 12x56 Monarch's are on the way here...


#13 doctordub


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Posted 19 May 2009 - 10:56 AM

The 10X56 Nikon Monarchs are still available at $297.99 at
Nikon Monarch 10X56

#14 edwincjones


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Posted 21 May 2009 - 05:05 AM

thank you for the review


Last year I got a pair on sale at Sportsman Warehouse (now out of business) for $310 for low light (owl) viewing, and for general use in my truck.
I agree with the review-optics and build are very good.


#15 RichD



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Posted 21 May 2009 - 07:25 AM

Bargain at that price.

#16 Late_Cretaceous


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Posted 25 May 2009 - 01:34 PM

Thanks charen. I found this review pretty helpful when I was shopping for a pair. Purchased a pair last week and brought them out to our local dark sky site on the weekend. They proved to be just what I was looking for. I wanted something that could be primarily hand held, and yet had ample light gathering power. I was able to pick out globulars in Ophiuchus, the double cluster in Perseus (still visible at this time of year off the northern horizon bathed in perpetual twilight), and I am pretty sure I could make out a number of galaxies in the Virgo cluster. Had a hard time trying to pick out M51, but that was because it was directly overhead.

Overall, I was impressed and very pleased with them. Looking forward to bringing them to Mauna Kea this summer.

#17 brocknroller


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Posted 27 May 2009 - 12:47 AM


I've never seen barrel in ANY binocular, and in fact pincushion is designed into a binocular to alleviate astigmatism. Barrel distortion is generally found in wide angle camera lenses, not binoculars...


Apparently, you have never looked through an 8x42 or 10x42 LX or LX L:

See Henry Link's post #35 for details

and also post # 38 where he wrote: "I applied the word "introduce" to the distortion in the 10x42 LX because I think it's distortion goes well beyond the tangent condition for zero distortion described by Holger Merlitz."

Also, I must have read a buzzillion times that some pincushion is added to bins for terrestrial use to make panning more natural by eliminating "rolling ball effect" (too much pincushion can be as distracting as too much "rolling ball").

Steve Tonkin mentions this in his book "Binocular Astronomy" (look at the end of the second paragraph under the "Distortion" subhead):

"A small measure of pincushion distortion eliminates this rolling effect."

I know you are familiar with Holger's technical report in which he explained how pincushion distortion is used to compensate for the "globe effect":

"Since then (1947), most of the binoculars found on the market are featuring a certain amount of pincushion distortion in order to eliminate the impact of the globe effect. "

I also see this comment quite often on forums:
Post # 15: "Both binoculars have some degree of pincushion distortion. It is the type of distortion desirable to eliminate rollingball effect when panning the binoculars."

I'm sure I could find dozens more on BVD, Birdforum, etc. by searching Google.

So "pincushion is designed into a binocular to alleviate astigmatism" (I didn't realize that), but also to eliminate "rolling ball" or "globe effect" while panning, which is very important for terrestrial observing.

The full sized LX or LX L bins will show you what happens when pincushion is not used, and it's not a pretty sight!

But contrary to what you said above, there is almost no "astigmatism" in the full sized LX or LX L series. The images are sharp almost to the very edge.

And the 8x32 LX, which does have some astigmatism on its vertical edges, has pincushion to reduce the "rolling ball" effect while panning (though not as smoothly as the SE).

Quite surprisingly, most people seem to be able to adapt to the barrel distortion in the full sized LXs. The reason I'm surprised is because it's very extreme.

I can understand how people can ignore a small amount of distortion (or lack of, as the case may be), just as they do in their eyes, but the barrel distortion in the LX is so extreme it even makes the sky curve at night.

The Nikon LX's lack of a modicum of pincushion is a design flaw, IMO, particularly for birding and hunting.

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