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THREE Nikon EDG 8X42 and 7X42 and 8X32

Last updated 2010-03-08 - Send Feedback
Related: binocular, binoculars, ergonomics, flare, focusing, video
Nikon 8X42 EDG, 19.3mm eye relief
Click to see price at B&H

About $1800.

The Nikon EDG binoculars are a newer design with Nikon’s Extra Low Dispersion (ED) glass to reduce color errors, along with a host of other optical goodies.

Courtesy of our trusted vendor B&H Photo, three Nikon boxes showed up one day containing the Nikon EDG 7X42, EDG 8X42 and EDG 8X32 binoculars.

Eye relief

All three models have outstanding eye relief compared to most other binoculars, with the 7X42 model offering a whopping 22.1mm of eye relief, almost unheard of, fantastic really.

The EDG line includes the following models:

  • EDG 7 X 42, with a whopping 22.1mm eye relief (about $1750);
  • EDG 8X42, with 19.3mm eye relief (about $1650);
  • EDG 8X32 EDG, with 18.5mm eye relief (about $1500);
  • EDG 10X42, with 18.0mm eye relief (about $1900, not tested);
  • EDG 10X32, with 17.3mm eye relief (about $1580, not tested).

As weighed on a gram-accurate scale with objective covers and rubber eyepiece cover:

EDG 7 X 42: 877g *** my personal favorite
EDG 8 X 42: 876g
EDG 8 X 32: 741g

In my view, the 135g weight savings of the 8X32 model does not justify the loss of some eye relief and brightness, so I recommend sticking with the 8X42 or 7X42 models.

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The three models look almost the same at first glance; the length varies by a centimeter or less. You’d be hard-pressed to tell the 7X42 and 8X42 models apart (weight is identical to within a gram). At a glance the 8X32 model looks the same, but it is narrower, with lens barrels 3/4 the diameter of the larger models—irrelevant to packing and stowing given the overall form factor.

From the finish to the handy lens caps to the fit in the hand to the best focusing feeling, these binoculars impressed me from the start as being exceptionally well thought out.

Add in the class-leading eye relief and I immediately took a liking to the EDG binoculars as being as “friendly” a binocular as I had yet come across. I appreciated the ergonomics of the Nikon EDG line as well and perhaps more than the Swarovsky EL 10X42 or 8.5X42!

There is one exception to the good design: while I liked the front objective covers, the eyepiece covers are so loose that they constantly come off, so much so that you might as well discard them immediately, because they’ll never stay on. As I wrote this I had just spent 10 minutes looking for them in my pack and car.

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Here’s Nikon’s marketing list, with commentary following each item; more details further below:

  • Nikon’s exclusive and legendary ED (Extra-low Dispersion) glass lenses: Deliver superior sharpness and color correction for unmatched detail resolution.
    ==> Excellent detail and color, but not free of color fringing
  • Dielectric coated prisms: Nikon’s coatings deliver brighter views.
    ==> Very bright indeed
  • Advanced, fully multicoated optics: Multiple layers of anti-reflective compounds on every glass surface for bright, vivid sight pictures.
    ==> Peculiar flare problem, details below
  • Sophisticated quadrangle construction with open bridge style: New ergonomic construction balances perfectly in the hand for extended use.
    ==> Yes, excellent ergonomics
  • Dual focus knob with locking diopter adjustments: A quick, central focusing knob has been paired with pop-up diopter adjustments for unparalleled speed and convenience.
    ==> BEST focusing ergonomics I’ve found among Leica, Zeiss, Canon, Swarovski
  • Horn-shaped detachable eyecups: Ergonomically contoured eyecups block out peripheral light for a clear field of view.
    ==> not tested
  • Long eye relief with ratcheting eyecup adjustments: Allow for a perfect view, with or without eyewear.
    ==> Absolutely OUTSTANDING
  • Lightweight, rubber-armored Body: Delivers superior ruggedness that is still easy to hold in any weather.
    ==> Very nicely done.
  • Thumb-position memory contours: Provide optimum traction with soft-grip tactile surface. Magnesium-alloy body.
    ==> Excellent
  • New body cuts weight without sacrificing durability.
    ==> Very reasonable weight
  • Waterproof/fogproof optical performance: O-ring sealed and dry nitrogen filled to handle the toughest conditions on the planet. ( Up to 10 minutes submersed at 16.4 feet).
    ==> Pacific ocean too cold to test this theory out!

Wide and bright and comfortable — 7 X 42

It’s worth calling out one model that puts it all together so nicely: the 7X42 model offers an exceptionally bright view, with exceptionally comfortable eye relief (22.1mm) and a 7X magnification that is very practical for handheld use. While magnification doesn’t get you quite as close, the bright view at dusk makes seeing easier. These 7X magnification is super comfortable, I liked it a great deal.

The outstanding eye relief and the large exit pupil make the 7X42 model exceptionally pleasant to use, a trait immediately evident when comparing the 8X32 model, and even when comparing to the 8X42 model. Your eyeballs can roam a bit, with a very forgiving placement still yielding an image, quite unlike many binoculars which require precise eye placement for a usable image. Eyeglass users take note.

There is a catch however: the 7X42 model is definitely not free of color fringing: observing tree branches against a bright cloudy sky showed color fringing away from the center of the field. So the ED glass is very good, but color fringing is not absent. The 8X42 model does not seem subject to this effect, nor the 8X32 model. Still, under most conditions, image quality is exceptional and easy on the eyes.

Nikon 7X42 EDG, with a rare and exceptionally comfortable 22.1mm eye relief (!!!)
Click to see price at B&H

More compact and lighter weight — 8 X 32

While some might opt for the 8 X 32 model to save some weight, the dimensions in a pack or bag are so close that I must advise sticking to the 7 X 42 or 8 X 42 models instead.

Also, the 42mm objectives are just that much brighter than 32mm objectives, and the larger exit pupil and eye relief also make the 8X42 and especially the 7X42 model more forgiving. I definitely preferred the 7X42 and 8X42 models over the 8X32.

Nikon 8X32 EDG
Click to see price at B&H

Compromise — 8 X 42

The 8X42 model offers 14% greater magnification than the 7X42 model. But the eye relief is 2.8mm more with the 7X42 model, and exit pupil is 6mm vs 5.22mm and so my top pick remains the 7X42 model for the sheer ease of viewing.

There isn’t much difference between 7X and 8X magnification in practice. Both are good choices, but the 7X42 model is just that much easier to work with, and eyeglass users might find the eye relief that much nicer.

Nikon 8X42 EDG
Click to see price at B&H

Ghosting flare

Nikon 8X32 EDG, 18mm eye relief
Click to see price at B&H

Regrettably, all is not perfect in Nikon EDG land. Whereas the Zeiss Victory FL line suffers from a diffuse flare under some viewing conditions, the Nikon EDG models (all of them) suffer from a ghosting flare with a hard edge.

The ghost image exhibits a brighter circular flare most of the way across the viewing area, typically showing near bottom, though this can be changed by altering the eye position, causing the ghost image to shift. It almost looks like the image of a circular lens element. Beyond the edge of the ghost image, contrast returns with a clear view for the small remainder of the viewing areas. Center contrast is also excellent, but it’s distracting to have this flare near bottom under some conditions, though most of the time one won’t be consciously aware of it.

I found this very surprising, and I was deeply disappointed to observe it, because everything else about the Nikon EDG models was just right.

The flare issue is the only issue that holds me back from giving the Nikon EDG line top billing among all the binoculars I tested. As it stands those looking for perfection are going to have to go with the Swarovski EL offering.

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