Nikon EDG 8x42 review
23-11-2015, last update 27-2-2018
Test period: 27-10-2015 - 1-12-2015
Serial Nr: 300028
Origin of sample: Nikon demo pool Germany
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. These are the consistently blackest, cleanest shadows. These are the most saturated, lifelike colours. Ease of view is just great even at close up. Biting Nikon sharpness in a perfectly executed flat field. And most of all: class leading flare suppression. Under difficult light conditions the Nikon manages to produce the cleanest, most intact images and outperforms all competitors. Yes there is some flare but I can still see what´s going on! The EDG has the quietest images with a superb flat field with NO rolling ball effect. Exciting. Awesome. I find one major fault though - the view is visibly darker then in the Leica Ultravid 8x42, the Zeiss HT and even the Zeiss SF. No matter how sharp the EDG is, it looks a bit subdued where the Leica Ultravid sparkles vividly. Nikon really needs to boost transmission in the EDG, no matter how, by coatings and or better glass. They will then simply have the best 8x42 for general use with a perfect combination of great qualities. Compared to what other companies try to do to reinvent the binocular this should be an easy task. I really hope that Nikon will not withdraw from the high end market and update this wonderful design very soon.
Nikon, I´m waiting for your awesome EDG MKIII.
The Nikon EDG is really a fine example illustrating a simple truth regarding premium binoculars: All manufacturers put a lot of effort in their top bins, but they have different priorities, and the product of these special qualities becomes the soul of the bin.The EDG 8x42 puzzled me with its reduced brightness. And I do think I am right about that. Today I phoned with the person who services most of my bins and he told me when they did transmission measurements of the EDGs they just reached 90% but most of the spectrum was much below that. It seems strange that Nikon uses somewhat inferior, not state-of-the-art transmissive coating technology (and glass). But that fits with my findings for their porros E2 and even SE which are much darker than the Swarovski porros. A good thing about a not too bright image is that shadows get blacker and perceived contrast increases. Is that part of the Nikon philosophy? Another thing is the visible artificial vignetting I photographed through the objectives (see below), similar to the Zeiss 8x42 HT, but absent in the Ultravid HD Plus and Zeiss SF... seems the Nikon is a bit too strongly baffled maybe.
Batman´s choice: The 8x42 EDG.
The body feels very solid, although the friction of the bridge is a bit on the low side. I measured a weight of 780g body only, Nikon states 785g. The rubber and metal surfaces feel nice. The EDG MKI was released as a double hinge design and then as far as I understand had to be changed to a classic single hinge as Swarosvski patents were violated. There are still two humps on the Nikon EDG that remind of the double hinge, strange and ugly relics.
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. Less than one revolution - about 340 degrees - focuses from 2.2 meters to infinity.
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 two 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, and I need to push the focusing knob back, refocus, and adjust the diopter again. I have encountered this on other binos, too, and it should not be a big problem, as the diopter remained constant once I had adjusted it with open pupil.
Eyecups have click stops for five positions and soft rubber caps which slightly reduce the cup diameter for baffling. Big hornshaped cups can be attached to exclude flares in the center of the image which can be caused by reflections onto the oculars. The cups are very bulky and I´d rather have a little piece of rubber glued on the regular eyecups to reduce the flares. I cannot comment on the eyepiece or lens covers, they were not in the demo box.
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.
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.
Tries to look aggressive and futuristic, not entirely successful. Wants to be the shark of alpha bins and have the macho appeal of a BMW. Well, after a couple of days I started to really enjoy it. It lacks the classic beauty of the Ultravid, but the shades of grey and textures of rubber and metal are nice. For MKIII I wish they would just get rid of the ugly, shiny "Nikon" and "EDG" badges.
Macrocontrast is class leading, I have never seen consistently blacker, cleaner shadows. The Leica Ultravid 8x32 and 8x42 HD Plus can look similar under good conditions, but flare more. Roger Vine points out in his fine EDG 8x42 review that "the HTs have no less than 14 optical elements per side, the EDG have just 9". That would explain the phenomenal flare suppression. Secondly, baffling is strong, further reducing flare. 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.
Sharpness is extreme, objects pop in a special, sometimes almost surreal way because contrast of coarse edges is so high and colours so saturated. In the Nikon 8x32 SE with its porro threedimensionality I found this Nikon specialty almost over the top, but in the flatter looking roof prism images it is fantastic. The Zeiss HT seems a bit better on the tripod when it comes to finest details on the textural level. I did not see more resolution with the Zeiss HT watching a bug in 5 meters distance with the 3x booster on the glasses, but the high transmission sparkle the Zeiss HT with its AK prism and HT glass adds to an image are painfully missed in the Nikon. On a sunny day the Ultravid 8x42 HD Plus had more sparkle with brighter highlights, too. But in handheld use sharpness and colour saturation of the EDG impresses with extremely punchy images. The Swarovision has similar sharpness, but less colour saturation. 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 visibly darker than in the Zeiss HT and Ultravid.
This is one thing that sets this glass apart from the rest, beats all 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.
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.
3D and perceived threedimensionality/Pseudo3D
The Nikon has a 2mm wider center-to-center distance in the objectives than in the oculars. This yields a wider baseline than in the Ultravid (0mm), but less than in the Zeiss SF (4mm) and Zeiss HT (6mm), let alone a porro as the Habicht 8x30 (65mm). So 3D is not a strong quality of the EDG. Moreover, as in the Swarovision, here comes one price to pay for the flat field - images feel a bit flat, although not as weird flat as in the Swarovision. The view is natural with well separated objects due to great sharpness and colour saturation. But the Ultravid, although it has a smaller baseline, looks more 3D in close ups than the EDG, probably due to its curved field.
Bokeh (quality of out of focus areas) seems a bit softer as in the Zeiss HT which has been described by Henry Link as having "overcorrected spherical aberration" (see here, #23). It´s less soft as in the Swarovski SLC 8x42 which I consider undercorrected in spherical aberration at least for distances under 10 meters in the probably suboptimal sample I had. This is another nice little hint that Nikon hit it just right.
is 2.17 meters with my visual acuity, NOT 3 meters as stated in the Nikon EDG brochure! For me this is perfect, and even more so because at minimum distance there is no loss in sharpness, and ease of view remains great, probably both due to the small baseline and a great optical system.
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.
is very neutral with extreme colour saturation, only the studio comparison reveals a tiny hint of red in the colour reproduction. Very lifelike colours. Other glasses who are a bit on the cold side as the Swarovision, brighter and whiter as the HT, or even on the green side as the SF just don´t deliver this emotional quality. This is what a great optics may look like, and the famous Nikon ED glass which gives the EDG its name (Extra Low Dispersion Glass) works well here. If we only could have more transmission for higher brightness - a comparison with the Ultravid is quite sobering. The 8x42 HD Plus is a bit warmer than the Nikon, but so much brighter, with glowing colours when the Nikon always looks a bit dark.
Brightness and high transmission sparkle
The Leica Ultravid has similar colour saturation and high macrocontrast, but sparkles brighter due to higher transmission. The Nikon looks a bit darker, more subdued, just the same then when I compared the Nikon SE and E2 porros to the Swarovski Habicht with its 96% transmission. On the other hand I have never managed to really get more usuable details from a dark scene with an HT or Ultravid, so it is more an aesthetic problem than a practical one.
For more on colours and brightness, please read here.
are absent in the center and low at the edge, about the same as in the Swarovision or Zeiss HT and SF.
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.
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.
Nikon claims 19.3mm, a very generous eye relief, great for spectacle wearers. Generally I prefer shorter eye reliefs for more immersiveness, but well, this is a good reserve for getting older...
Ease of view
for me is the best - due to flare suppression I would even prefer it to the Swarovision. The Swarovision allows you to freely roam around in the view just by eye movement, and to the very edge. But the Nikon way of strong baffling for highest contrast is better for my use.
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, giving the images an incredible pop.
3. PERFECTLY VELVETY SMOOTH FOCUS. It really does exist.
4. Best ease of view - flare suppression and a pleasant flat field in a stunning combination.
5. Extreme sharpness. Even with trembling hands images will have punch.
6. Ergonomy is as good as it gets for my taste, due to the compact shape, and the superb focus mechanism.
7. To my eyes, this could be a new paradigm for best distortion pattern - no warping of the image when panning or tilting.
1. Darker as the competition, especially compared to Ultravid and Zeiss HT. It just lacks the magic high transmission sparkle. What a shame.
2. Diopter wheel hard to adjust with gloves, fickly diopter. As the diopter remains constant, this should not be a big issue.
For my work as a filmmaker I almost exclusively use Japanese products, with Canon, Panasonic, and Sony 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. Unfortunately, the EDG lacks the subtle but wonderful high transmission sparkle and brightness that I love in the Leica Ultravid, but apart from that it improves on the Ultravid in most respects.
Wishlist to Nikon: Higher transmission for more brightness and sparkle, and maybe slightly warmer colours, following the Leica Ultravid. Keep the rest just as it is. Easy.
The EDG 8x42 is a phenomenal binocular. Many users should enjoy the fantastic views with great flare suppression, Nikon sharpness, and saturated colours combined with superb mechanics and handling. An exciting modern design that manages to combine almost all the qualities I love in a great binocular. The next version with boosted transmission could easily be the best 8x42 ever! I keep my fingers crossed.
P.S.: Despite the new flagship Nikon binoculars called WX it looks like Nikon does not show any ambitions for their sport optics segment - at least in Europe. So, EDG might as well stand for "Edge of extinction"... which would be a loss. I really want to see these bins evolve and I often feel an itch to own one.