Nikon EDG 8x42 review

Best flat field 8x42


23-11-2015, last update 11-6-2020

UPDATE - SECOND SAMPLE REVIEWED/LONG TERM REVIEW AS OWNER

Test period first sample: 27-10-2015 - 1-12-2015
Serial Nr: 300028
Origin of sample: Nikon demo pool Germany

Test period second sample: started 24-5-2019
Serial Nr. 300987
Origin of sample: My own





 

Character

My reference for global contrast and colour.

A stunning, truly unique glass - extremely compact with only nine glass elements in each barrel, with great ergonomy, flare suppression, contrast and colour, and a very long eye relief. Optically it has one major drawback compared to classic curved field glasses - the rendering of space is definitely on the flat side, as in all true flat field binoculars. The EDG does not employ any dirty tricks to enhance perceived contrast by a skewed transmission curve as many other binocular designs do. This is probably the main reason why the EDG´s images look a bit darker and less sparkling in subdued light than some competitors which use a green or yellow colour cast to boost perceived contrast while sacrificing colour accuracy. This is one of the best 8x42s and certainly the best flat field 8x42 for my taste.

 

Introduction

I immediately fell in love with the 8x42 EDG binoculars. They fit perfectly in my hands, focusing is the smoothest ever and the images are simply stunning - "japanese Ultravids" came to my mind immediately. So with the last (and first?) batch of EDGs being sold off these days I took the plunge and chose one. These are the consistently blackest, cleanest shadows. These are the most saturated, lifelike colours. Ease of view is just great even at close up. Class leading flare suppression. Under difficult light conditions the Nikon manages to produce the cleanest, most intact images and outperforms the competitors. The EDG delivers very quiet, clean, transparent images with a superb flat field with NO rolling ball effect. Awesome.

In my first review I judged the EDG images to be darker those of most competitors. Yes EDG´s images look a bit darker. But this perception of lesser brightness could in fact be more about contrast than brightness. Firstly, the EDG has the best global contrast aka flare suppression. Other glasses flare more which brightens up the image. Even more importantly, the Nikon seems to use no dirty tricks in boosting perceived contrast by uneven transmission curves which increase "pop", but sacrifice colour accuracy. The Ultravid 8x32 HD+ image is a bit more yellow, and the Noctivid 8x42 image quite a bit more yellow, accordingly they "glow" more in subdued light, subtly in the 8x32, brutally in the Nocti 8x42.

This is one of the best, most natural views with true to life colours and tonalities. A feast for purists and colour maniacs. If you are often observing in bright light, the EDG could be the best glass for you. It is plain gorgeous in daylight, but I was also amazed by its low light performance when searching for badgers in twilight and early night. The EDG is still razor sharp used with open pupil. I guess that the not so great brightness and the lack of artificially boosted contrast in the EDG are visually hard to separate, they both make the EDG images look a bit duller in subdued light than many other glasses who boost contrast by colour skew. But then, one could argue that the EDG renders a more faithful image of reality. Except when it comes to 3D high fidelity, unfortunately. In this respect, the tiny Ultravid 8x32 als well as the bigger Ultravids and Zeiss HT blow it away. But oh, the contrast. You cannot have it all, yet.

"The cutting EDGe in sport optics". It looks like Nikon is selling the last samples of this wonderful glass and with them being in deep trouble I doubt that they will update the EDG line or introduce another binocular in this league. Nikon has failed miserably in promoting the uniqueness of this glass. Get your sample while you can.

 



Batman´s choice: The 8x42 EDG.



Size does matter


Mechanical quality


Body

The body feels very solid, but I had to have the hinge friction of my sample get readjusted by the Nikon service as it was too low. I would not dare to do this myself as the screw involved is tiny. I measured a weight of 780g body only, Nikon states 785g. The rubber and metal surfaces feel extremely nice in the hands. It is a very compact glass.


Focusing

The focus knob is outright fantastic with perfect velvety friction. PERFECT. Nikon claims the glass can be used down to -20°C, so I put it in a sealed plastic bag and had it 7 hours in my freezer at -18°C. The focus wheel still worked perfectly. 0.8 revolutions focus from 2.4 meters to infinity, with utmost pinpoint precision due to the perfect focuser. This makes the EDG a very fast glass when in other glasses you need to focus focus focus... (the Noctivid has 1.75 revolutions but then it focuses to 1.6 meters).




Diopter adjustment


The focus knob has to be pulled out, the focus unlocks and the diopter knob is accessible. It has perfect friction, +/- 4 diopters are marked, but the knob turns to about 5.5 diopters each direction. I had three issues with the diopter: Firstly, the wheel is only about 6 millimeters wide, so you will not easily handle this with gloves. Secondly, when adjusting the diopter, when I miss the right point and turn the knob back into the other direction, the diopter might drift away, so I set it back to zero, and start the procedure again. Thirdly, in hot weather and moving around a lot with the glass the diopter wheel may slowly wander away from the adjustment.


Eyecups
Eyecups have click stops for five positions, but the stops are not locking properly, and the cups will change length frequently. So I reach for gaffer tape. Big, hornshaped cups can be attached to exclude flares in the center of the image which can be caused by reflections onto the oculars but are basically useless because you cannot adjust your eye relief any more. Slight ocular reflections occur sometimes, but it is not a big deal.

 


This ocular cover is basically unusable. Let´s get rid of it and put one from Leica on...



Accessories

The belt is fine, the rest is a catastrophy. The ocular cover never fits with my IPD, as it is a too rigid design. It never slips on easily and slips off again immediately. With a Leica, the softer cover always slips on with one push. The objective covers are a bad joke and disfunctional - they flip open all the time. The pouch is the weirdest, most useless one I ever saw.


Ergonomy

I like compact binos that I can hold with my hands right in front of my face, so the EDG, Ultravid and SLC are my thing. I feel they are just easier to hold steady than the double bridge designs and the Zeiss HT with its long leverage.

This glass feels perfect in the hands. Reassuringly perfect. Much better than it looks like.

 




Tripod adapter
Great that there is a thread (1/4) at the front of the hinge, my favourite adapter solution, probably similar to the SLC 8x42 which I used happily.


Internal blackening and baffling

are superb and the result is class leading flare suppression. Baffles seem really tight and optimal.








The torture test for blackening is to use a torch from the objective side and see what is happening... this is all I could provoke in the EDG: A reflection of the prism roof.

 

 

And here is what it looks like in the Leica Noctivid, a binocular praised for its flare suppression by many - a highly reflecting baffle between the prism elements mayy cause diffuse veiling glare when strong light hits the glass:

 

 

 

Industrial design
A matter of taste, but quite coherent and it grew on me. It lacks the really classic beauty of the Ultravid, but the shades of grey and textures of rubber and metal are nice.

 





 

Optical quality

 

Is this the best flat field view ever?

BUT: Here is one blunt lie by Nikon...
This beautiful cutaway image in this article and also imagery in Nikon´s EDG brochure suggest that the EDGs ONLY use 9 glass elements and no cemented groups - a unique Nikon optical masterpiece? A Zeiss SF features 12 lenses with 3 cemented groups, a Swaro EL 12 lenses with 2 cemented groups, a 7x42 Ultravid 11 lenses with 3 cemented groups... Alas, Nikon is lying. John Radisch pointed out in Birdforum that the EDGs (and other Nikon bins´) the cementings got lost somewhere in the graphic design...


Contrast

Macrocontrast is state of the art, together with Noctivid. Baffling is strong. I see some similarities to the Ultravid 8x32 HD Plus, which also has strong baffling, a darker than expected image and whose images somehow resemble the EDG´s very much.

Microcontast. Excellent contrast, naturally crisp images. For my eyes, this is a perfect balance of microcontrast. As my eyes are still very good, some glasses are too sharp (Noctivid) which makes the images look a bit digital and artificial. The EDG remains excellent when used with open pupils, probably because of low vignetting and very well controlled residual aberrations, and the view remains comfortable, albeit perceptually darker than in Noctivid, Ultravid and Zeiss HT.

Flare
This is one thing that sets this glass apart from the rest, beats most the competitors I tested and tackles a core problem of binocular optics. The Nikon is still not flare free, but manages to preserve the integrity of the image in difficult backlight situations much better than the rest. Even on a dull day the Zeiss HT - which I considered to be state-of-the-art flare suppressed - often shows slight peripheral flares that brighten up the edge of the image circle. The Nikon is visibly better, it´s such a quiet image, also thanks to a superb flat field. Panning from a low sun sideways the HT will show some crescent flares, the Nikon practically non. And in any critical situation I tested so far, the Nikon beat the Zeiss SF, too.

Sometimes there are slight reflections on the oculars, though.


Distortion and field curvature

Here we have a modern flat field that for my eyes even improves on classic pincushion designs! I see only a slight pincushion distortion over the whole field, but directly compared to the Zeiss HT the Nikon looks better when panning and tilting to my eyes!

The field is reasonably sharp almost to the edge, both at close and infinity, but it is not as easy to scan it by eye movement only as in the Swarovision, and neither is it Swarovision sharp in the periphery.






Field of view

fits with the Nikon specs of 135 meters, as I compared to Zeiss HT and Swarovski Habicht 8x30. It feels plenty wide to me.


3D high fidelity

Please check this article on the issue of 3D high fidelity and the curse of flat field for a thorough discussion. Because, just as in the Swarovision, here comes one price to pay for the flat field. Despite superb contrast, images render space in a flat, compressed way, although not quite as flat as the Swarovision. The Ultravid 8x32 HD Plus - which has exactly the same stereo base as the EDG - blows the Nikon away in 3D rendering of space. Ouch, that really hurts in direct comparison.

It was even more painful to compare the 7x42 EDG to the Leica Ultravid HD Plus 7x42. The Leica drags you into a deep, naturally rendered space, while the Nikon flattens out everything. As my friend J. put it: With the Leica every branch is where it is supposed to be, whereas with the Nikon you are guessing what the branches postitions are...

This is the curse of flat field and will probably let me abandon the EDG and return to the Ultravids.


Close focus

with my eyes is 2.4 meters with my eyes, not 3 meters as stated in the Nikon EDG brochure! This is great, and even more so because at minimum distance there is no loss in sharpness, and ease of view remains good, although not Noctivid great.


Coatings
of the EDG are low intensity with a lot of green, a bit of magenta, and so again there is some similarity to the Leica Ultravid.


Colour reproduction

is very neutral with extreme colour saturation. Very lifelike colours. Other glasses who are a bit on the cold side as the Swarovision, brighter as the HT, or even on the green side as the SF just don´t deliver this quality. The famous Nikon ED glass works well here.





Brightness
I have already discussed this above - the EDG feels a bit darker in subdued light than some of the competition - but that might rather be caused by the lack of artificial contrast enhancement than by pure transmission figures.

Please note: The following charts refer to the first sample tested.










For more on colours and brightness, please read here.

This is probably the most neutral binocular colourwise I ever used.


Chromatic aberrations

are almost absent in the center and very low at the edge, I think state-of-the-art performance.


Night sky - coma, spherical aberration and astigmatism
About 50 percent of the field yields pinpoint stars, then, as usual, aberrations start to deform the star images. Will try to do more star watching soon. It seems to me the EDG has a better control of astigmatism than the Noctivid.


Street lantern test

There are a bit stronger spikes (rays of light reflected from the roof prism edges) in the image than in the Zeiss SF and HT, when I look at a LED street lantern at night, or car lights, or other bright light sources. In the Zeiss HT and SF the spikes are more smeared by veiling glare. I don´t think this is of any big relevance in the field.

Eye relief
Nikon claims 19.3mm, a very generous eye relief, great for spectacle wearers. My crude measurements - binocular focused to infinity and a lamp close to the objective to give a bright exit pupil - yielded 25mm eye relief measured from the lens surface, about 2mm more than in the Leica Noctivid 8x42 and a full 10mm more than in the Leica Ultravid 8x32 HD Plus!


Ease of view

for me is one of the best although you do not quite have the freedom in eye movement as in an unbaffled Swarovision. But the Nikon way of strong baffling for highest contrast is better for my use.

 

Sample variation

I was lucky to be able to test a second sample with a similar serial number which was provided by my friend J. - we both could not detect any differences in the optics. The newer glass had a bit more friction in the focus and correct hinge friction. Both are fabulous samples (same goes for the 8x32 Ultravid Pluses, which is the glass J. kept.)

 



Compared to Swarovision 8.5x42

The EDG beats the Swarovision in many key aspects:

- Global contrast and microcontast - especially contrast under difficult lighting (especially backlight)

- Ergonomy (EDG for me has the best ergonomy ever)

- Compactness

- Absence of rolling ball and warping

- Absolute smoothness of focuser

- Colour accuracy (Swarovision is cooler)

- No Absam ring (the Swarovision has a steep, narrow zone of reduced contrast at about 75% of the field)

- Eye relief is a tad longer

 

Swarovision beats the EDG in those fields:

- Swarovski service quality is second to none

- Accessories

 

EDG compared to Leica Noctivid, see here.






Conclusion


Pros:

BEST FLAT FIELD VIEW...

1. Class leading flare suppression. This is a big thing you will need on any sunny day. And on a dull day, you´ll get the quietest images, too! AWESOME.

2. With the blackest shadows come the most saturated, yet natural colours.

3. PERFECTLY VELVETY SMOOTH FOCUS. It really does exist.

4. Superb ease of view - aberration control, flare suppression and a pleasant flat field in a stunning combination.

5. Ergonomy is as good as it gets for my taste, due to the compact shape, and the superb focus mechanism.

6. To my eyes, this could be a new paradigm for best distortion pattern - no warping of the image when panning or tilting.

7. Extremely long eye relief.

 

Cons:

1. As a flat field design, less 3D high fidelity than classic, curved field designs, but better than the Noctivid and probably also the Swarovision

2. Seems a bit darker or less contrast boosted than most of the competition, especially Noctivid and Zeiss HT.

3. Diopter wheel does may wander in hot weather or with frequent use.

4. Central hinge friction was too low. Back to customer service.

5. Totally useless accessories except the strap: ocular and objective covers, pouch...

6. Eyecups do not lock properly.

7. Horned eyecups are fixed distance only

8. Reflections on oculars do occur



 






Opinion


For my work as a filmmaker I mostly use Japanese products, with Canon, Panasonic, and Fujinon being incredibly innovative companies and delivering excellent and reliable products. Ironically, the EDG 8x42 took me by surprise, although I should have known Japanese manufacturers don´t go for second best in their top products.

The EDG 8x42 is a phenomenal binocular that comes with some serious flaws - a tendency of the hinge friction becoming too low, a weird diopter wheel and mostly unusable accessories. I do enjoy the fantastic views with great flare suppression, and saturated colours combined with superb ergonomy. An exciting modern design that manages to combine almost all the qualities I love in a great binocular.

I own an EDG but there is one big issue that might let me abandon the EDG again though - the 3D rendering is very weak compared to the Leica Ultravids with their curved fields and deep 3D images. If you do not compare the EDG to a classic curved field glass (Leica Ultravid Zeiss HT or Victory FL, Swaro SLC) you will probably not miss anything. But if you do compare, you might be shocked. Can the unique properties of the EDG outweight this flaw in the long run?