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Monarch 8x30 HG Review

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Old Thursday 14th February 2019, 04:50   #1
Kevin Conville
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Monarch 8x30 HG Review

After several weeks of procrastination I find myself in front of the computer on a rainy night with a glass of Balvene 14yr Caribbean Cask ready to compile a review.

I have been intrigued by both the Swaro CL and Nikon's HG in 8x30 flavors lately as the Bino bug is never really gone and with my superb copy of an 8x32 Trinovid BN I haven't seen much value in pursuing the ne plus ultra of 32mm bins as the net gain vs cost isn't very impressive. These two bins are different though in that they have a smaller form, lighter weight, and short bridge along with the promise of the latest optical designs.
They fit the niche I could justify to myself filling.

I decided to buy the Monarchs based on my luck with Nikons, their specifications, and the fact they were 2/3 the price of the Swaro CLs.

Spoiler alert: These are very nice bins. Almost ideal as small birding bins, but alas, the Devil's in the details.

First bit of business. How well can I see with these things? I set up a USAF chart and some cans with various colored text on varying colored backgrounds.

As a control I used the aforementioned Leica BNs and a pair of Vanguard Endeavor EDIIs, also in 8x32. No other reason than these are what I have in this size and many of you are familiar with them. I used a simple platform on a rock solid tripod as a rest. This is what I found.

Results listed are in order of their performance. First listed being best.
*White letters on red background Leica Nikon Endeavor
*White letters on blue background Leica Endeavor Nikon
*Black on yellow Leica Endeavor Nikon
*Black letters on white background Leica (clearly best) Endeavor Nikon
*Leica are easiest to discern detail, Endeavors and Nikons are more or less a tie depending on subject
*False color: Endeavors Nikon Leica
*Focus mechanism: Leica Nikon Endeavor
*Focus past infinity: Nikon and Endeavor tied then Leica
*Distortion: Endeavor Nikon (a close second) then Leica
*Diopter: Leica Nikon Endeavor
*Eyecups: Nikon Leica Endeavor
*Sweet spot: Nikon Endeavor Leica

What I like about the Monarchs:
*Lightweight and small form
*Easy view both with and without glasses
*Wide field
*Low distortion
*Nice color saturation
*Good eyecups
*Excellent focus feel

What I don't like as much:
*Ghost images under certain conditions
*Prone to glare
*Though ultimately sharp, don't get "on" focus very quickly

In the field the Monarchs carry and handle very well. It's remarkable what the 6oz difference from the (heaviest) Leicas feels like after a few hours.

For the $860 I paid for these bins I give them my endorsement and would probably be satisfied with them if they were my only 8x30/32mm bin. They are not however.

Two take aways for me are how good the Leica BNs still are and what a bargain the Vanguard Endeavor EDIIs are at $200.

Stay tuned, the plot thickens
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Old Thursday 14th February 2019, 05:21   #2
Kevin Conville
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Enter the Zeiss 8x25 Victorys

If one is attracted to the HGs and the CLs for their lightweight nougat filled chewy center then it behooves one to consider the Zeiss Victory Compact for it's promise of even more (less?) of the same.

So, I ordered a pair.

Here I'm concentrating on the differences between the HGs and the Victorys without any annoying distractions from China or Germany.

I've had minis. I'm not the biggest fan of minis. But, I like to keep an open mind, what's left of it anyway.

The Victorys, as often proclaimed, do handle better than most minis. Their eyecups are still on the smallish side and one has to figure out how to hold them for repeatability of view. Their focus wheel is small, but surprisingly feels great.

What I like:
*9.5 oz (measured)
*Quick to get "on" focus
*Very contrasty
*Very wide field for a mini
*Sharp!
*Easy to "one hand" when you're carrying a scope over your shoulder

What isn't as great:
*They are fussier to use than the HGs
*Though wide field, one gets the impression of looking through tubes a bit
*Eye position more critical both for centering and distance from the ocular
*Diopter adjustment is pretty awful

On this last point.. if the diopter position didn't happen to be perfect for me dead in the middle it may be a deal breaker for me. There is a very strong detent where zero is and that's the only place the diopter wheel really wants to be. No index marks and no locking mechanism.

The HGs handle better, have a wider more immersive view, have larger more adjustable eyecups. They also have image ghosting and more flare and are harder to sharp focus.

The Victorys are slower to handle but quicker to focus, have better contrast, have no ghosting that I could find and are more flare resistant, and deliver a near full size bin view in something that weighs under 10oz.

Sayonara HGs. I've kept the Victorys because what drew me originally was the light, easy carry nature of these things and the Victorys are 6oz lighter than the HGs and the HGs are 6 oz. lighter than my BNs. So, for that airy goodness that refreshes after hauling the Leicas, the little Zeiss are the kind.
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Old Thursday 14th February 2019, 07:30   #3
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Very nicce write-up Kevin.

Lee
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Old Thursday 14th February 2019, 07:49   #4
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Kevin,

Thank you for the detailed comparison.

I've tried the HG 8x42 a lot, but the 8x30 just a few times, just once comparing it to the little Zeiss. I'd agree with you. In the time I had, certainly felt the Zeiss was the better bet optically, but found the Nikon easier to handle. I'm sure a little practice would sort that out.

The colour contrast results are interesting. Have you tried blue/yellow and red/green at all? It's believed the way we visually encode what we see is through those ratios, and gave me quite different rankings with different binoculars when I tried it. I'm still trying to figure out what it means.

Cheers,

David
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Old Thursday 14th February 2019, 08:16   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by typo View Post

The colour contrast results are interesting. Have you tried blue/yellow and red/green at all? It's believed the way we visually encode what we see is through those ratios, and gave me quite different rankings with different binoculars when I tried it. I'm still trying to figure out what it means.

Cheers,

David
No, I hadn't. But I will now.
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Old Thursday 14th February 2019, 12:55   #6
jremmons
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The little Zeiss is a fantastic binocular and one that, if you are looking for premium performance in a small form factor (even when compared to some of the other 8x32s), should not be ignored. Do you wear eyeglasses by chance? I do, and found no issues with usability/ease of positioning relative to the eye, but my girlfriend does not and found them too fussy, and so her pair was sold.

Great write up, by the way, on both models. Glare seems a particular problem in many of the smaller binoculars I've used.

Justin
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Old Thursday 14th February 2019, 13:50   #7
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Nice read Kevin! You put some time into it and well thought out of what you wanted to accomplish. Enjoying it! That's three really nice binoculars and three(four including the Zeiss) that I DON'T HAVE! It would really be interesting to see how a Conquest HD 8X32 would compare if thrown into the mix.
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Old Thursday 14th February 2019, 20:00   #8
Kevin Conville
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jremmons View Post
Do you wear eyeglasses by chance? I do, and found no issues with usability/ease of positioning relative to the eye, but my girlfriend does not and found them too fussy, and so her pair was sold.
I did try them with glasses and without and I see your point. They do seem a bit friendlier when wearing glasses. Mine anyway.

The Victorys have a two position eye cup and the ocular lens is recessed about 2mm when the eyecup is fully in. Good design here as it eliminates the chance of glass to glass contact (which nobody wants) even when using glasses that have quite a bit of radius, like mine. Still allowing the full field to be easily seen. An O-ring placed between the eyecup and the tube can fine tune this dimension if a bit more distance is needed.

On the HGs the first position out accomplishes the same thing and worked perfectly with my glasses.
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Old Thursday 14th February 2019, 20:08   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chill6x6 View Post
That's three really nice binoculars and three(four including the Zeiss) that I DON'T HAVE!

It would really be interesting to see how a Conquest HD 8X32 would compare if thrown into the mix.
So THOSE are the four bins you don't have! What are the odds?

From a purely optical POV the Conquests would be an interesting add but for my purposes irrelevant because of their weight.
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Old Thursday 14th February 2019, 23:58   #10
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Kevin, that is a nice comparision, but you mentioned the Swaro. CL, and I was wondering what
happened there.

Jerry
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Old Friday 15th February 2019, 00:13   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NDhunter View Post
Kevin, that is a nice comparision, but you mentioned the Swaro. CL, and I was wondering what
happened there.

Jerry
I didn't buy/try the CLs. I explain that at the beginning of post #1.

The specifications and the price dissuaded me from going with the CLs.
If a pair were available for me to evaluate however, I most certainly would.
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Old Friday 15th February 2019, 10:43   #12
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Kev,
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Old Saturday 16th February 2019, 18:34   #13
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Kevin, great review of the 8x30MHG and Pocket Victory. I agree with nearly all of your findings. Your comments about the diopter adjustment on the Victory made me chuckle as I especially agree there and every time I get them out I have to adjust them as it's got moved going in or out of the soft case I keep them in. The only thing I slightly disagree with is about the Victory being fussier than the MHG. Besides the dioptre I find everything about the Victory very un-fussy and pretty instant good views with minimum fuss. The MHG on the other hand seems highly strung like everything has to be perfect to get the best view. So I find myself fiddling quite a lot - ipd, eye cups and dioptre and of course the focus. Still the immersion you talk about with the wide field of view, good sharpness and good neutral colours make it a very enjoyable and effective instrument in the field. They really impressed me coastal viewing over mud flats and showed great detail in distant shore birds. The colour with the victory is great though and a couple of days ago watching distant bullfinches as sharp as you like with fantastic colour was a delight. So I'm happy to have both. I had the Victory first and got the MHG purely for the wide field of view and decent quality and it hasn't disappointed. I would say that the Victory feels like a more refined product and slightly better quality view (a touch less CA, slightly richer colour, easier to focus). The MHG is like a Victory on steroids where they've really pushed the parameters to the max with the wide field of view, small size with decent eye relief and not horrendously expensive, but in so doing it's become a little bit fussy. That's not a criticism as I want those parameters and they've done a good job, but if you're priorities are different there's lots of others to consider. The Victory on the other hand is a no-brainer if you want a small pocket binocular and can afford it.
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Old Saturday 16th February 2019, 21:10   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin Conville View Post
What I like about the Monarchs:
*Lightweight and small form
*Easy view both with and without glasses
Thanks for the review Kevin! I spent an hour trying these today and really liked them. I felt CA suppression was a little better than the Swarovski CL Pocket 8x25, and they are lovely to hold, well balanced.

Unlike you, what I could not get was an easy, consistent view. Without glasses, I would often end up with blackouts or half-blackouts. This is the only pair (other than Habichts) I've had this problem with. For me the 8x25s I tested (more below) were less fussy on eye placement.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jremmons View Post
The little Zeiss is a fantastic binocular and one that, if you are looking for premium performance in a small form factor (even when compared to some of the other 8x32s), should not be ignored.
Justin, have you used the Swarovski CL Pocket 8x25? The Zeiss Victory Pocket wasn't in stock and I'd been hoping to compare them.
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