I recently purchased Nikon Monarch 10×42 realtree camo binoculars for my son (Xmas) – and liked them so much that I decided I needed a pair. Unfortunately, I’m too tight to buy Nikons for myself! Then I happened to see these (SDT-1042P) on sale.
I looked through two samples – the display unit, and the one I ended up buying, and they both seemed identical in fit, finish, and optical quality. That doesn’t always happen, and I’ve known people who had to exchange expensive big-name optics with a flaw before getting a second set that were fine. At least I know that they made more than one good unit of these.
My son was along for the in-store try-out and was impressed with the overall quality of these, but thought the Nikon Monarchs were slightly brighter. I say maybe, but for sure not much. Both of us liked the sharpness of these. There was a helpful eye chart and resolution block high on a wall at the back of the store, and I couldn’t see any difference on it between the Nikons and the SDT’s. My son, with better eyes, THOUGHT the Nikons MIGHT be a little sharper – but wasn’t sure.
I like the right eyepeice ocular adjustment on these, which has distinct clicks. I always have trouble getting the two eyes’ focus in sync and think the clicks help with that. They also make it less likely that adjustment will get moved accidently during use. Many binoculars have this ring either too tight to adjust easily or so loose that it gets nudged in handling. The clicks move the focus enough to notice a slight difference, but not so much that you’d think you’d skipped past the sweet spot. For old geezers such as myself this makes more difference, since I can’t remember my last glasses before bifocals. We can’t make up much difference with our eyes’ limited focusing ability, like those under 40 can do. Similarly, I depend more on the main focus knob than younger users, who can scan a hillside without refocusing much for changing distance, using their young and responsive eye lenses for unconscious minor adjustments. I’m nervously twiddling the knob to stay in focus around every rock and bush.
My son thought the focus was too “quick” at first, liking the slower focus movement of the Nikons. I wouldn’t want it any faster, but I liked it. If focus is too slow, you’ll jostle the binoculars as you make large movements of the focus knob. These have the tight responsive feel of a sports car steering. A slight rotation shifts focus enough for the bifocal crowd to follow shifting terrain, and speeds aquisition of focus when shifting abuptly from near to far viewing (or the reverse). These focus very close and OVER-FOCUS well beyond infinity (much more than several pairs of Nikon Monarchs we examined). This can be helpfull for the nearsighted who may want to use the binoculars occasionly without their glasses. A near-sighted person without much astigatism can do fine using binoculars without glasses, and that can be handy on occasion, but ONLY IF the binoculars have enough focus range to correct for the near-sightedness at long range. These do for anyone short of “coke-bottle” lenses. BTW, these have enough eye relief to work fine with glasses, and eyepieces that rotate out in steps to allow naked-eye use without smudging the lenses with your eyelashs.
I looked at a couple of license plates under late-afternoon lighting. The plates at 210 yards were easily read. Those at 305 yards (about 20 degrees out of face-on, and a poor contrast white-on-blue) were a challange – as I looked, without re-focusing, a couple of digits would sharpen enough to read, then swim out of focus. I’ve seen this before testing spotting scopes. Under these circumstances my son could probably read the plates. Conclusion: these binoculars aren’t the limiting factor most of the time for me – it’s my eyes!
Finally, I looked very briefly through serveral other brands in the store. A much cheaper Alpen (or Alpine?) was obviously inferior optically. A Bushnell of slightly higher price was closer in optical quality, but overall less attractive. Nikon Monarchs had some minor features I liked (e.g. attached objective covers), and were PERHAPS a little brighter (and much more expensive). Similarly, a quick look through a Burris and another premium brand (Leica?, I can’t recall), showed no obvious optical superiority. Returning to focus adjustment again – at least one of the inexpensive competitors had what I consider an inexcusable fault – focus back-lash. When you reverse focus direction the knob turns a bit before the focus starts shifting. This makes focusing VERY slow and difficult. The “fast” SDT focus had no noticable back-lash. Conclusion: these are at the point of diminishing returns – you can pay a LOT, LOT more, for barely noticeable optical improvements and minor build, styling or convenience differences. Someone with better eyes or in very challanging lighting conditions might see more differences. I didn’t. The Price? Around £350.