I should update my situation a bit. I went to try the SLC 8x42, EL 8.5x42, and NL 8x42 today. To my eyes, NL has the best image quality, followed by EL and SLC. The SCL has slightly more CA at the edge in extreme conditions (black object on bright/white background.). They are all much better than the Viper 8x42 I have. I don't see the benefit of the flat field that much from my test. I also don't feel that much benefit from a much wider FOV of the NL. The SLC has an inferior focusing wheel (slow and not the same amount of force required in each direction) compared to the EL and NL and I like to focus feel of the EL most. I have a strange feeling when holding the NL as I have to hold it near the end instead of closer to the middle like the others. I am not sure if I like it. I do not have any problems with the slow pan on any of them. I didn't see the 3D wow effect from SLC that much (from reading in the forum) compared to the EL and NL. I also tried the Zeiss HT 8x42 and put it down after 30 seconds. The image is much less clear compared to the others. Maybe this copy is a lemon. I also try the 8x32 Conquest HD and although it has a better image compared to the Monarch 8x30 I have, I am not sure if I want to spend money for not that much-improved vision.
I think I like either SLC or EL as NL is less comfortable in my hands. Now I have to think very hard if I want to spend $2-3K for an upgrade with that much improvement. I guess I chicken out a bit as it is a very large amount of money for me for a pair of binoculars. Are there any reputable shops that sell a new EL8.5x42 for less than $2,000 (to bring the gap smaller for the price of the SLC)? Also if I don't want to go all the way to the alphas yet, are there anything in between this SLC/EL/NL and the poor Vipers? I cannot try Nikon HG in-store to compare with the Conquest HD.
Thanks again for all of your suggestions, really appreciated them very much,