Waterproof: Yes, nitrogen-filled, O-ring sealed
Shockproofing: Rubber armor
Field of view: 330 feet at 1,000 yards
Eyecups: Quick adjust, multi-stop
Close Focus Distance: 8.2 feet
Weight: 21.5 ounces
Warranty: 25 year, Nikon will repair or replace it for $10+s&h
If I needed binoculars for zeroing in on birds, fireworks or the people in the building across the street, I'd get the Nikon Monarch 8x42mm.
The glasses cost about $250, but you could spend a lot more and have little to show for it, or spend a little less to lose a lot. The Monarch's rugged, waterproof design, and its light weight and superb optical clarity under all types of lighting, have earned high praise from ornithologists, hobbyists and retailers alike.
Before I get into specifics, I think it's a good idea to touch on some basic things to consider when buying binoculars. First and foremost, what will you be using them for? For example, an opera enthusiast will have much different requirements than a hunter, but that doesn't mean there can't be some overlap. We chose amateur birdwatching as our baseline activity because the features that attract birders—such as color accuracy, sharpness, low-light performance, close focusing ability, and portability—are useful for most other applications as well. Think of birding as the lowest common denominator for activities enhanced by close-up viewing.
With birding in mind, we still have some other considerations. First of all, regarding magnification, it's best to stick with 8x zoom glasses. It's tempting to get into the "more is better" mindset and spring for super-zoom 12x binocs but after a few minutes of trying to keep them steady to avoid puking, you'll wish you'd gone with the 8x. Less zoom also means more light and a brighter image. At this level, you still have a fairly wide field of view, while getting close to the action. Less zoom also makes for a brighter image and better depth of field so you can see more even when there's less light. (If you want to know more about the pros and cons of the various magnification levels, I suggest reading this informative Amazon review.)
You should also make sure to get waterproof binoculars; even if you're not planning on going near the water. That's because there's always water in the air and if your glasses aren't waterproof, it means they're not completely sealed. Thus, water vapor could build up inside the binoculars, ultimately turning them into an expensive and boring kaleidoscope.
Comfort is also an issue, especially if you already wear glasses. Nowadays, however, all binoculars worth buying come with adjustable eyecups that have multiple quick-adjust, eye-relief settings for bespectacled and bare-eyed users alike, so this shouldn't be an issue.
You probably saw this coming, but the Nikon Monarchs includes all these features, and then some. They're waterproof, lightweight and capable of focusing down to just 8.2 feet. A shock-absorbing exterior and durable, roof prism-based optics mean that they'll take a beating without breaking. If something does break, though, you'll be glad to know that the glasses come with a 25-year warranty. I won't get into the specific marketer-created names of the myriad treatments applied to the lenses and prisms, but basically it has a bunch of fancy coatings that make for a seriously sharp and colorful picture under all sorts of lighting conditions. It's these carefully-engineered coatings that make the difference between great binoculars such as these, and the mediocrities you'll find stashed in the bargain bin at Walmart.
We asked John W. Fitzpatrick, executive director of the world-renowned Cornell Lab of Ornithology, what he thought of the Monarchs and this is what he said: "We actually recommend the Nikon Monarchs to everybody who asks us for the best reasonably priced binocs (and I’ve given many pairs as gifts). With Nikon, you know you’re getting great glass." But you don't have to take his word for it. Ken Rosenberg, editor of Living Bird magazine, had this to say about the Monarchs after testing them along with almost 80 other models: "These lightweight, waterproof and very comfortable binoculars focus down to six feet (they were given the name 'Monarch' to attract butterfly watchers) and offer an image and feel that surpasses many models costing two or three times more. Only in a direct comparison with the top-priced binoculars could our reviewers discern the narrower, slightly duller image, which was not quite sharp at the edges. But with a street price well under $300, the Monarchs are a steal." The Monarchs earned similar praise in reviews from BirdWatching-Bliss.com, Best Binoculars Reviews, and Steve Huff Photo. Retailers like it as well: Optics Planet named it the "Best All Use Binocular of 2009," and Binoculars.com picked it as a "2012 Binocular of the Year" in the birding category.