These Nikon Prostaff 7S 8x42 binoculars earn their five-star rating for a couple of simple reasons. The first is value for money. The image that they produce is simply excellent at this price point and for most casual users, this represents all the performance you probably need to get out and enjoy more of the natural world. They also feel great in your hands. This model has just gone through a redesign and the rubber coating offers good protection and great grip. And they are really easy to use and adjust. I put these in the hands of expert birders and novices and they all found these a delight to use. It’s that accessibility that nudges them ahead of their closest rival in our test, the Hawke Endurance.
Impressive image quality at this price point
Exceptionally comfortable and ease of use
More expensive models offer a slightly better image quality
Not so good for close up viewing of butterflies and invertebrates
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Nikon have recently redesigned this range and the new Nikon Prostaff 7S 8x42 quickly began to impress me as soon as I unwrapped it. The first thing you notice is the tactile delight that is on offer, thanks to the grippy, rubber coating.
They aren’t the lightest, or most compact on test, but the tapered barrels are an ergonomic joy that feel really impressive in your hands. Twist the eyecups and a series of clicks give you more control over the setting. That makes them very easy to use for people with glasses (which I use for reading, but tend to avoid when using binoculars).
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These are a beautifully engineered pair of binoculars with an easily adjustable focus wheel and smooth central hinge that makes it easy to get a single, sharp image at any distance.
• RRP: $189.95 (US)/£209 (UK)
• Size: 167mm length; 129mm width/ 6.6inch length; 5.1inch width
• Weight: 650g/23oz
• Magnification: 8
• Objective diameter: 42mm
• Field of view at 1000m: 119m
• Close focusing distance: 4m/13.2ft
In the field
Not only do Nikon Prostaff 7S 8x42 feel like the real deal, they also deliver really exceptional image quality. I usually use a pair of Minox binoculars that are slightly more expensive and that feature a slightly larger (and rather unorthodox) 44mm objective lens that should allow them to deliver a brighter image in low light. For the majority of my time testing, I kept wishing I’d bought this Nikon pair instead. They feel smoother, the daylight image was at least as good and I just loved using them.
Watching a group of corvids mob a juvenile kestrel on my local patch, the Nikon Prostaffs made it easy to track their movements across the sky and tweak focus as they got further away. The central image is sharp and impressively bright and it’s only at the very edge that you notice a little distortion. Colours are bright, natural and stay in focus across the spectrum.
There’s very little to fault here. As a general pair of do-anything, adventure binoculars these are an excellent option. They’re tough, waterproof, great to use and are guaranteed to boost your enjoyment in the outdoors.
There are only two reasons for not investing in these. Firstly, if you want to get really serious about your birding – and you have the budget – at least consider a more expensive pair. We tested Zeiss and Kowa binoculars that are definitely more serious contenders.
Also if you are particularly interested in bees, dragonflies, butterflies and invertebrates, the 4m close focusing isn’t that impressive. Look for something that offers at least 2m or ideally less.
But as a rugged, accessible pair of general binoculars, these are a delight to use and deserve their five-star rating.
Former Editorial Development Director for Lonely Planet, editor of Trail and BBC Wildlife magazine, and editor-in-chief of Trail Running magazine, Matt got the outdoor bug as a teen on gruelling UK Ten Tors events around Dartmoor. He has hitch-hiked to Egypt, cycled through India, enjoyed the delights of the High Atlas, slept on volcanoes while living in Central America, climbed in the Alps and tackled some of Scotland’s really big routes, from Tower Ridge and the Cuillin to the Aonach Eagach. He’s got a passion for butterflies and ukuleles. If you see him in a campfire situation… approach with caution.