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Monarch 82ED, a Perfect Ten (1 Viewer)

henry link

Well-known member
I recently spent a pleasant few hours evaluating a scope that exceeded my expectations in nearly every way. The Nikon Monarch 82ED has been around for over 2 years now, but it doesn’t seem to have made much of an impression in the market or been much reviewed or discussed in optics forums.

A friend recently bought one and lent it to me to test. I had a hunch that it might employ the optics of the old 82ED Fieldscope in a new body combined with new bayonet mount eyepieces. One excellent feature that has definitely been retained from the old angled Fieldscopes is the oversized Schmidt prism that allows the light cone from the objective lens to pass through the erecting system without being split by a roof edge as is the case with every other angled scope that uses a Schmidt prism. The rest of the optical design appears to be at least somewhat new. The focal length is a little shorter than the old 82mm Fieldscope (about 505mm vs 525mm) and judging from the pattern of reflections returning from the eyepiece lenses the new 20x60 zoom is not the same design as the old 25-75x. Eye relief in the new zoom is longer, while the AFOV over the zoom range has remained nearly identical to the old one. The focuser on the new Monarch has a variable speed, faster at close range and slower at longer distances. It works so well that you don’t notice it’s there.

It was evident in the first thirty seconds of observing fine details at 60x that this was an unusually good telescope. Image quality is superb, with natural colors, very high contrast and sharpness that holds up so well at 60x that it almost seems as if there is no loss at all compared to 20x. When I did a star-test I was amazed to find this particular sample had probably the best corrections of axial aberrations I’ve seen in any spotting scope. The only other single scope that I remember being in the same class was a Kowa TSN-823 about ten years ago. I’ve seen no specimens of more recent Kowa, Zeiss, Swarovski or any other birding scope that equals this one when it comes to freedom from spherical aberration and this specimen showed no sign of any of the other common defects like coma, pinching or astigmatism. In my experience only the Kowa TSN-883 has equally good correction of longitudinal chromatic aberration.

I placed an artificial star at 10m indoors and at about 30m outdoors, in both cases using an Astro-Physics Stowaway as a reference scope. The out of focus diffraction patterns were essentially identical on both sides of focus in both scopes at 30m indicating sensibly perfect correction of spherical aberration, not a surprise for the Stowaway, but very rare to see in a spotting scope. I was also surprised to see that the Nikon did nearly at well at 10m, so unlike most spotters the close focus image is very high quality. There was no detectable longitudinal chromatic aberration around the focused star at 60x and also no significant color fringing at the edges of unfocused objects like tree branches in front or behind best focus. I think CA correction this good can only be explained by the use of an ED glass type with a very high Abbe value close to Fluorite, perhaps Nikon/Hikari’s J-FKH2 (vd 91.36).

At 10m the Nikon’s resolution measured 1.43” using a USAF 1951 glass slide. That works out to 117/D, better than any other spotter I've measured. I’m confident the resolution would improve to a perfect 115/D at longer distance, but it was already so close that I didn’t bother with outdoor measurements.

These are amazing results for a $1600 scope and easily place this particular Monarch ED unit at the head of the “alpha” class optically in almost every way except aperture size. It’s certainly by far the best scope I’ve seen in its aperture class, regardless of price. I can’t say what percentage of other Monarch units are this good, but finding just one specimen means that the optical design is not a limiting factor, as it appears to be for all the other medium priced scopes as well as most of the very expensive ones I’ve seen.

Now for a caveat. While the 20-60x zoom is excellent in most respects it's only average when it comes to lateral color. I mounted it on my Stowaway and compared it to five other zooms I have around. The Nikon zoom is completely clear of CA across about the center 6-7 degrees of AFOV, but outside that area the lateral color gradually reaches what I would call a moderate level at about 6 degrees off axis and is what I would call moderately high at the field edge. That’s similar to my old Nikon 25-75x MC zoom, so not terrible like my Pentax XF and Brunton ICON (Kamakura) zooms, but not as good as the Baader Hyperion, which has very little lateral color except near the field edge. I was able to determine that virtually all the lateral color in the Nikon scope image comes from the eyepiece by mounting the Baader Hyperion on the Nikon scope body. The Baader performed just as well matched with the Nikon objective lens as it does with the Stowaway. If I could find a way I would certainly use the Hyperion instead of the “kit zoom” (yes, the Hyperion does reach infinity focus).

Unfortunately, unlike in the UK and probably most other places in the world the Nikon marketing geniuses in the US do not sell the Monarch body alone, much less provide a 1.25” adapter which could easily be accommodated by the large bayonet mount. The scope has to be purchased here with the 20-60x zoom or a fixed 30x with a reticle. The optional wide angle 30-60x zoom and a fixed 38x eyepiece have be bought as expensive extra items. On paper the 30-60x looks interesting, but its lateral color might be worse or there might be some other problem that makes it less desirable than the standard zoom, which actually performs pretty well overall, very much like the old MC with longer eye relief.

I can’t think of much else to say about this scope. For once a scope does exactly what it’s supposed to do. Scopes with problems require more writing.

Henry Link
 
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Kevin Conville

yardbirder
Well you've gone and done it Henry.
You've upset the balance of perceptions here on BF with this revelatory report.
What are we to make of a $1600 scope outperforming the "known" ne plus ultra?

What your report makes me want to do is get my hands on a Monarch ED82 and A-B compare it to the Kowa 883 which arrives to me in two days. Thanks. I thought this was a no brainer, now it's something I have to give thought to.
You couldn't leave well enough alone?

Kidding aside, thanks for this review. I only wish you had access to the 30-60 EP as that is where my interest lies.

Ultimately, I'm not completely surprised. Nikon makes a mean spotting scope.
 

Boogieshrew

Well-known member
Thanks Henry. I wonder if the 60mm is just as good. What a shame there aren’t lower mag fixed e/ps. I like to have a 20x and a 30x.
 

jring

Well-known member
Hi Henry,

thanks for your test and congratulations to your friend on a real keeper - it is really appreciated as not a lot is out there written about the Monarch scopes, let alone by somebody with your knowledge level!

It would be great if the quality was also good over different examples - that hopefully time will tell - there is some guy from Shanghai on here who ordered a 65mm...

I'm quite sure that an 1.25" adapter can be quite easily printed - if you can get measurements for the threading, I can try it and send to you.

Joachim
 

wolfbirder

Well-known member
Well you've gone and done it Henry.
You've upset the balance of perceptions here on BF with this revelatory report.
What are we to make of a $1600 scope outperforming the "known" ne plus ultra?

What your report makes me want to do is get my hands on a Monarch ED82 and A-B compare it to the Kowa 883 which arrives to me in two days. Thanks. I thought this was a no brainer, now it's something I have to give thought to.
You couldn't leave well enough alone?

Kidding aside, thanks for this review. I only wish you had access to the 30-60 EP as that is where my interest lies.

Ultimately, I'm not completely surprised. Nikon makes a mean spotting scope.

Hi Kevin

When you get the Kowa, please do give feedback.

Would be much appreciated.
 

Pileatus

"Experientia Docet”
United States
Well you've gone and done it Henry.
You've upset the balance of perceptions here on BF with this revelatory report.
What are we to make of a $1600 scope outperforming the "known" ne plus ultra?

What your report makes me want to do is get my hands on a Monarch ED82 and A-B compare it to the Kowa 883 which arrives to me in two days. Thanks. I thought this was a no brainer, now it's something I have to give thought to.
You couldn't leave well enough alone?

Kidding aside, thanks for this review. I only wish you had access to the 30-60 EP as that is where my interest lies.

Ultimately, I'm not completely surprised. Nikon makes a mean spotting scope.
The Kowa 883 has the finest overall view in its class. Mine is deadly sharp from 25-60 and edge-to-edge sharpness is superb. The near total absence of CA dramatically improves the quality of the image and the overall color saturation is, in my opinion, visually accurate. I absolutely love the precise dual focus.

The only fault is my zoom has a few minute specks at 35-40X. My wife can't even find them when told what to look for so I just zoom +- if I encounter them, which is more infrequent than I thought. I could send it back for replacement but, truthfully, the image is so good I do not want to risk replacing one problem with another.

Since we also own a Nikon ED82 I look forward to seeing the Monarch scope. I enjoy surprises!

Enjoy your 883!
 

paddy7

Well-known member
Hi
I had the specks. Appeared at round about 35X but disappeared at other mags.
Apparently paint flecks, and it is well-known in the eyepiece.
I sent mine back to Kowa via the retailer, with the request i wanted this eyepiece cleaned, not replaced (and thus risk it again).
I assume this is what happened, and in fairly short order too - about 3 weeks.
However, try as i might, i couldn't find a serial number on the eyepiece to make sure it wasn't a replacement.

A slight divergence from the topic - but please- let the conversation continue.......
 

Alexis Powell

Natural history enthusiast
United States
...The focuser on the new Monarch has a variable speed, faster at close range and slower at longer distances. It works so well that you don’t notice it’s there...

This is a welcome improvement. I have always found it a bit difficult to focus the Nikon 78ED and 82ED Fieldscopes precisely when using them at 75x. I wish variable-ratio focus were used in more bins and scopes.

--AP
 

henry link

Well-known member
A $4,000 scope for $1,600.

Regards,
B.

Looks like the "$4000" scopes are closer to $5000 now, at least for the 95mm versions. That's a lot for a small refractor. If the optics were exquisite and the performance of each unit were guaranteed to something like at least 1/8 wave the price might be justified. I think what we have now is more like $2500-3000 scopes overpriced at $5000 and you still have to avoid the lemons and meh units in search of a cherry. Cherry Kowa 88s seem to be priced about right and a cherry Nikon Monarch is an amazing bargain in the current market.

Henry
 

henry link

Well-known member
I'm quite sure that an 1.25" adapter can be quite easily printed - if you can get measurements for the threading, I can try it and send to you.

Joachim

Thanks Joachim,

Next time I see the scope I'll check for threads. I don't recall seeing any, but if there are any I'll try to measure them.

Henry
 

Hermann

Well-known member
Thank you Henry for your review.

The Monarch is a scope I totally overlooked, after the ill-fated, rather monstrous EDG that I didn't like at all. The Monarch looks like a very attractice alternative to those - at least IMO - heavily overpriced scopes made the usual suspects. That Nikon once again used the oversized Schmidt prism is a definite plus in my book, simply because it means there's one thing less that can go wrong in the production process. Maybe the Monarchs will - like the Fieldscopes of old - have little sample variation. That would be great. I positively hate having to check a scope throughly before buying, and with most scopes it's the only way you can make sure you don't get a lemon.

Not that I want to switch in the foreseeable future as I'm still very happy with my Fieldscopes (ED82, EDIIIA, ED50) for which I have a pretty good selection of eyeieces. However, I might be tempted by the 60mm Monarch at some stage. What I'm interested in is hearing what the other eyepieces are like - the 30-60x with its wider field of view, and of course the 38x.

Especially the 30x60 looks very interesting indeed. 24-48x on a 60mm scope is pretty nice, and if the optics are good it should always be possible to use the Zeiss 3x12 as a booster. Unfortunately Nikon doesn't seem to make an adapter for the old Fieldscope eyepieces, being able to use them on the Monarch would be a definite plus,

Hermann
 
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jring

Well-known member
Next time I see the scope I'll check for threads. I don't recall seeing any, but if there are any I'll try to measure them.

There seem to be threads at the bottom end of the eyepieces to mount them into the body... outer diameter of that thread would help. No need for exact thread type, those printed adapters are fairly soft and can be printed slightly undersized so the metal threads will cut a counter in the plastic.

Joachim
 

Kevin Conville

yardbirder
When you get the Kowa, please do give feedback.

The Kowa 883 has the finest overall view in its class. Mine is deadly sharp from 25-60 and edge-to-edge sharpness is superb. The near total absence of CA dramatically improves the quality of the image and the overall color saturation is, in my opinion, visually accurate. I absolutely love the precise dual focus.

Well my 883 was sent back.
The coarse focus was gritty and unpleasant to use. The fine focus was good.
Though it seemed fine at about 45x and below, the image quality dropped off quickly at 60x.

I star tested the Kowa and my ED82. The Kowa was a mess, never even achieving a round circle. The Nikon delivered perfect concentric circles, short of focus and beyond focus.

This fortifies the notion that Henry and others so often mention about sample variation. I'm sure a good copy of an 883/884 is a joy to behold, just not this one. After all, I don't see/know things that happy owners of these scopes don't.

I haven't ordered another 883 as I don't have the fire in my belly to fill this space in my collection right now. When I do however, I will likely try the Monarch ED82A.
 

Pileatus

"Experientia Docet”
United States
Well my 883 was sent back.
The coarse focus was gritty and unpleasant to use. The fine focus was good.
Though it seemed fine at about 45x and below, the image quality dropped off quickly at 60x.

I star tested the Kowa and my ED82. The Kowa was a mess, never even achieving a round circle. The Nikon delivered perfect concentric circles, short of focus and beyond focus.

This fortifies the notion that Henry and others so often mention about sample variation. I'm sure a good copy of an 883/884 is a joy to behold, just not this one. After all, I don't see/know things that happy owners of these scopes don't.

I haven't ordered another 883 as I don't have the fire in my belly to fill this space in my collection right now. When I do however, I will likely try the Monarch ED82A.
When I received my Kowa 883 the first thing I did was star test it side-by-side with my Nikon ED82A. Both passed with flying colors. I believe that once you've seen and used a good scope it's pretty easy to look through an eyepiece and make an evaluation. I've seen samples of top brand scopes I would never use and other samples that were excellent.

You got an inferior 883 and that's too bad. The image in mine leaves nothing to be desired.
 

henry link

Well-known member
I've star tested six 883s. Two were very good (I might have bought one of those if they hadn't already been spoken for), two where outright lemons and two fell into the category of OK, but not good enough to spend real money on. Even the best one wasn't as good as the Nikon Monarch reviewed here.

I'd still be interested in trying out a TSN-95-100 if such a thing is coming, but only if it could be returned easily. If a 95-100mm Nikon Monarch ED as good as the 82mm review specimen came along I'd jump on it in a second.
 

dipped

Well-known member
I've star tested six 883s. Two were very good (I might have bought one of those if they hadn't already been spoken for), two where outright lemons and two fell into the category of OK, but not good enough to spend real money on. Even the best one wasn't as good as the Nikon Monarch reviewed here.

I'd still be interested in trying out a TSN-95-100 if such a thing is coming, but only if it could be returned easily. If a 95-100mm Nikon Monarch ED as good as the 82mm review specimen came along I'd jump on it in a second.

I was originally expecting to see the usual compliment of images, but presumably time or other constraints put paid to that.

The Monarch is a rare scope in the UK. I've never seen one in the field but presumably it is on show at the Birdfair.

Did you happen to find that this specimen handled heat haze better than ...well any other birding scope?
 

etudiant

Registered User
Supporter
I've star tested six 883s. Two were very good (I might have bought one of those if they hadn't already been spoken for), two where outright lemons and two fell into the category of OK, but not good enough to spend real money on. Even the best one wasn't as good as the Nikon Monarch reviewed here.

That is just awful!
The Kowa is by all accounts the top tier scope and priced accordingly.
To hear that a third of the units tested were lemons is disgusting.
Does no one in the optics business have any concern for long term reputation with customers?
 

Kevin Conville

yardbirder
That is just awful!
The Kowa is by all accounts the top tier scope and priced accordingly.
To hear that a third of the units tested were lemons is disgusting.

Oh, it's worse than that. Adding my bad copy into the mix, and Pileatus' good copy, talked of in this thread alone, that's 3 of 8 or 38%.

And... that's if you are willing to give the two "OK" samples, that Henry mentions, a pass. If you are not and include these, the unacceptable rate goes to 63%

These figures fly in the face of how well regarded and popular these scopes are, and I am at a loss to understand that.
My experience is of but one of one. I'm an experienced observer and it didn't take me long to conclude my particular scope was flawed.
Henry's account is drawing from a sample of 6.
So, what are to make of this?

Either there really are many big Kowas that don't perform the way they should or, to some degree, the stars were misaligned against Henry's and my scopes.
The former doesn't seem too likely as we just haven't heard this kind of stuff before about 883/884s. The latter would be a bit of a fluke as well.

For me the only conclusion to be drawn is to evaluate your scope well before keeping it, regardless of who manufactures it.
 
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