Chinese-made roof prism binoculars

jackfish

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Eau Claire, WI, USA
The Nikon Monarch ATB 8x42mm binocular has received a lot of praise recently. However, it is evident that these are not the only Chinese-made optics that are worthy of consideration. This past weekend I spent some time comparing four Chinese-made waterproof, phase-coated roof prism binoculars.

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Nikon Monarch ATB 8x42mm description
Lowest price found: $239.99

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Minolta Activa D WP XL 8x42mm description
Lowest price found: $184.95

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Olympus Magellan EXWP I 8x42mm description
Lowest price found: $142.95 after $40 rebate

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Audubon Equinox 8x42mm description
Lowest price found: $219.95

Upon initial inspection all four are lightweight, feel about the same and are virtually the same size. The Audubon Equinox are just a little bit heavier than the others. All have comparable features, except the Minolta Activa D WP XL has five click-stop twist up eyecups and a click-stop diopter adjustment. The diopter adjustment on the Nikon Monarch ATB, Olympus Magellan EXWP I and Audubon Equinox are sufficiently stiff and should not change during typical use. The focus on all of these binoculars is quite sensitive, and in order the Nikon Monarch ATB, Olympus Magellan EXWP I, Audubon Equinox and Minolta Activa D WP XL are from hardest to easiest to turn. However, I found no difficulty with any of them quickly refocusing between two pairs of Redtailed Hawks hovering above. All come with a case, neck strap, rainguard and objective lens caps. All the cases and rainguards are servicable. However, tethered or flip up lens caps from Eagle Optics or Bushwacker, respectively, and a Bino System harness will better replace the lens caps and neck strap which are next to worthless. The Olympus Magellan EXWP I and Audubon Equinox have a limited lifetime warranty; both the Nikon Monarch ATB and Minolta Activa D WP XL have 25 year warranties. But the Nikon also offers a No-fault policy of $10 repair or replacement, plus shipping, no matter what happens, forever.

After appropriately focusing each, I first spent some time outside just looking through them. Each of these Chinese-made glasses offered surprisingly good views. Clear and sharp images, with a slight reduction at the edges, pretty faithful color reproduction and minor chromatic aberration. It is clear that quality roof prism optics have come within the reach of the mainstream marketplace. It is also clear that they do not approach the quality of glass that cost three to eight times as much. But they are pretty close to binoculars that cost up to twice as much.

When comparing these stacked to observe license plates a 1/4-mile away it was difficult to determine the difference between them, literally. It was as if all four are the same binocular. There were slight color differences between the Audubon Equinox and Nikon Monarch ATB and the others, but so slight as to make it difficult to describe. Under a forest canopy on a cloudy day, each were able to pretty much equally resolve brown thrashers, wood thrushes and a license plate set 500 feet away. Indeed, I am led to believe after spending time with these binoculars that they might all have some common optics manufacturing source. In any case, anyone considering the Nikon Monarch ATB should spend some time with these others before making a decision.

[ 06-15-2004, 09:20: Message edited by: jackfish ]
 

1_pointer

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FWIW, John Barsness (he writes about optics alot) states that there is not much difference between euro glass and that coming out of the pacific rim. He states that there aren't many secrets in glass making anymore. Bang for the buck he touts the Nikon Venturer and Pentax DCF WP (now discontinued but can still be found). I have a pair of the Pentax and while they aren't as sharp as Leica's, there not $700 worse IMO.
 

T Bone

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take a look at the Pentax DCF WP now discontiued as 1 point mentioned. They are now being offered out at bargain prices. IMO they are tough to beat and have a lifetime warranty.
 

Calif. Hunter

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I also have the Pentax DCF WPs, and there is not "that" much difference between them and my buddies' swarovski's... and they even agreed with that statement.
 

jackfish

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Eau Claire, WI, USA
Where can one find the Pentax DCF WP? I haven't seen them for months. It also appears that there are currently many midrange priced roofs that are the equal or better than those over seven year old models.
 

jackfish

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Jun 19, 2001
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Eau Claire, WI, USA
No, I can't find Pentax DCF WPs at Sierra Trading Post and Camera Land, Inc. does indicate they have Pentax DCF WP 10x50mm for $400. But then again you can get Celestron Regal LS 10x50mm for $360 and Eagle Optics Ranger Platinum Class 10x50mm for $419. I have yet to find Pentax DCF WP 8x42mm glasses anywhere anymore. If you can find them and they cost the $299 they were on closeout from SWFA and Bear Basin then we're talking.
 

T Bone

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my apologies. Sierra trading post still stocks them at the retail outlets. FYI they also have Leupold Gold Ring 8x32's. If you're interested I could get you and exact price. Its a 2.5 minute walk from my office.
 

jackfish

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Jun 19, 2001
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Eau Claire, WI, USA
That's OK TBone, thank you, obviously I am all glassed up and trying to think of who I could get them for as a present. How much is Sierra Trading Post getting for the Pentax DCF WP 8x42mm?
 

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