From Deborah in IL:
After much repeated testing and indecision, I chose the Nikon Monarch X 8.5x45 over the two others on my short list: the Eagle Optics Golden Eagle 8x42 and the Pentax DCF-ED 8x43. On the bright, sunny day I had the opportunity to test them all at the same time, I really couldn't distinguish any superiority of optical quality between the three (although a more practiced and discerning eye may have, I don't know).
The Golden Eagle's biggest draw for me was that they fit like an absolute dream in my hands - the most comfortable 8x42 binocular I've ever handled. They also had the widest field of view (FOV) at 347 feet at 1000 yards and were the lightest of the three. The prospect of having these to use during an all day watch was very tempting.
The friend with me recommended the Pentax because she's always been very satisfied with the same model which she's had for fifteen years, and she had the confidence in their quality and the company's long standing good name and reputation. Its weight was intermediate between the three, but it's FOV was the same as the Nikon (330/1000).
The Nikon was the heaviest of the three, but still lighter than the Audubon Raptors I'd been using. It's advantages were the noticeably slightly stronger magnification, and the lowest price. In the end, I opted for stronger magnification and the lowest price.
I brought my new binoculars home on March 7th, but it wasn't until this week that I used them for the better part of the day.
Quibble #1 arose before I'd used them at all. Before attaching the harness or eye piece covers, I weighed them on my electronic gram scale. Their weight was nearly a full ounce more than listed in the specs; instead of 25.4 oz they're actually 26.3 oz. This was disappointing to say the least, because they'd already been the heaviest of the three I tested, and now I found they were even heavier. Quibble #2: The tethered eye caps don't even begin to fit. They're too big to grip the eye pieces and don't stay on. Quibble #3: The tethered lens covers attach to the barrels with thin straps ending with a little plug that fits into an opening at the bottom of each barrel. When the lens caps are dangling from their straps, the right lens cover keeps coming off. So far I've lost it numerous times, and it's only luck that I or a friend was to retrace my steps and find it again. I've emailed Nikon about this and am awaiting their response.
What surprised and confused me about all three was that, although I wear glasses, instead of setting the eye-cups at their lowest point, as I've always had to do with every other pair of binoculars I've ever used, to avoid those black lids (I don't know what they're called) coming up from the sides obstructing my view, I had to set the eye-cups in their middle position. I don't understand this. Another thing that will take some getting used to is the FOV. I hadn't remembered what the FOV was on my old Audubon Raptors, so I wasn't prepared for how much smaller it was going to be with the binoculars at the price-point and range I was considering. I went back and checked the specs for the Audubon Raptors and found they have an FOV of 430. No wonder I was so surprised - I'd been spoiled. The difference means it's that much harder to get a fix on the subject I'd spotted with the naked eye through my binoculars, and to track a flying bird - especially when it's necessary to find it again after it flies behind a building or some trees, etc...obstructing my view. I hope this will get easier for me with practice.
As far as recommending the Nikon Monarch X 8x42s goes, I would with the above qualifications. The one full day I've used them was as sunny and bright as the day I tested them, so I've yet to judge their performance in low light or overcast conditions. But thus far what hasn't disappointed me is the brightness, sharpness and level of detail they give me. I still believe that these binoculars are a good value for the comparable optics quality with more expensive models. And when it comes to making out detail in the plumage of birds to help me distinguish known individuals, or read a leg ID band without a spotting scope, that extra bit of magnification is a real plus.
By the way, my rating of the Eagle Optics representatives who came out to the Chicago nature center where I tested and bought my binoculars in March is an unqualified excellent. They were very busy, but friendly, informative, and patient with my indecisiveness. They let me take all the time I needed to test the three binoculars I was considering. And when I settled on the Nikons and the carrying strap that came with them couldn't be found, they gave me a free harness instead.