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304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
The Nikon Prostaff P7 8×42 binoculars are a lightweight and affordable alternative to their P3 binoculars. Often, when asked what the perfect binoculars for stargazing are, astronomers will cite those with a magnification of at least 10×50. This makes perfect sense — the 10x magnification and 50mm aperture is an ideal combination of power and light-gathering ability. However, sometimes the insistence on 10x50s can blind would-be binocular users to the ability of smaller 8×42 instruments: With their 8x magnification and 42mm aperture, this stargazing aid can present wide, star-strewn fields. The question is, do Nikon’s Prostaff P7 8×42 binoculars do enough to challenge the hegemony of 10×50 instruments?
On first use, Nikon’s Prostaff P7 8×42 binoculars impress with their sturdy compactness. Coated in a lovely rubber surface with subtle textures to ensure a secure grip, they are a delight to wield, weighing just 21.8oz (618g). Your arms won’t get tired holding them — a burden of heavier, larger binoculars — and they can even be easily held in just one hand, making them perfect for the casual skywatcher. We were able to sweep the night sky for long periods.
Objective lens diameter: 42mm
Angular field of view: 6.8 degrees
Eye relief: 20mm / 0.79 inches
Weight: 21.8oz / 618g
The eye relief on these binoculars offers a pleasing 0.79 inches (20mm), and it comes with extendable eyecups and a diopter adjustment that locks into place. We discovered that we could ‘save’ our setup so that we didn’t have to keep adjusting them each time we used them for skywatching. A helpful feature that offered an easy ‘grab and go’ option as we observed throughout several nights and headed indoors to warm up over a cup of hot chocolate during our sessions.
The Nikon Prostaff P7 8×42 binoculars come with standard accessories: a neck strap, lens caps and a fabric case. All items are of excellent quality, while the lenses are multi-coated and the prisms feature a highly reflective multi-layer.
We’re very familiar with using 10×50 binoculars, so the performance of the Nikon Prostaff P7 8×42 binoculars was a pleasant surprise.
The binoculars have a stated field of view at 1000m (1km/0.6 miles) of 126m (137.8 yards) for daytime use. We can translate this to a field of view on the night sky by dividing 126 by 17.5 (because 1 degree on the sky corresponds to 17.5m at a distance of 1000m), which gives a field of view on the night sky of 7.2 degrees — for comparison, the angular diameter of the full moon is about half a degree. We found this vast expanse to be wonderful as we swept through a sky littered with stars. Pointing at Orion (the Hunter), the three stars of the Hunter’s belt — Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka — were sharp points of light, while below them, the great Orion Nebula was a misty, white haze. Within the nebula, we were able to resolve the tight, young stars of the Trapezium cluster.
We turned to the open clusters of Auriga (the Charioteer) — namely Messier 36, 37 and 38 — and were delighted in their sharp, blue-white and ice-white colored stars, albeit a little faint, on a background of black velvet. More stunning was the Pleiades in the constellation of Taurus (the bull), which we found to be dazzling through the Nikon Prostaff P7 8×42 binoculars; dozens more stars popped into the field of view compared to what can be seen with the unaided eye. To our delight, we could also detect the Merope Nebula through the optical system.
We compared the view of the Pleiades through the Celestron UpClose G2 10×50 binoculars we were using for comparison. The Celestron binoculars have a stated angular field of 6.8 degrees, so they are still quite wide, but even the extra 0.4 degrees in the Nikon binoculars was very noticeable.
We strongly recommend sitting back on a reclining garden chair and slowly sweeping through the star-rich Milky Way with these binoculars. We also discovered that the wide field means that star patterns visible with the unaided eye are visible through the binoculars, helping us retain our bearings in a starry sky. While the images are pin sharp as we swept the heavens, we did detect some distortion at the edge of the field of view.
When we pointed the Nikon Prostaff P7 8×42 binoculars towards Jupiter, which was beginning to slink towards the south-west at a magnitude of -2.1 in the early evening sky, we could just about make out Ganymede to the right of the gas giant’s limb. Io and Callisto, closer to Jupiter, and Europa on the opposite flank, couldn’t be seen, being too close to the planet at the time. Interestingly, the view in the 8x42s was clearer than in the Celestron 10x50s we used for comparison, as we struggled to make out Ganymede in the larger instrument.
All in all, the Nikon Prostaff P7 8×42 binoculars belied their lower magnification and aperture to competitively perform next to some (admittedly much lower cost) 10×50 binoculars.
Their compact and lightweight nature, coupled with a forgiving wide field, means that the shake induced by wobbly arms is minimal. Over 10 minutes, we discovered that our arms did not get tired holding the Nikon Prostaff P7 8×42 binoculars aloft — a huge boon for enjoyable, prolonged use. Meanwhile, focusing is neat and smooth, and the binoculars remain steadfast in focus once you’ve reached that point.
The Nikon Prostaff P7 8×42 binoculars have another string to their bow, as they make wonderfully versatile all-rounders. Indeed, they are primarily designed for daytime use, and distant trees, buildings, birds and airplanes appear crystal clear through the field of view. If you are out and about in nature, perhaps on a camping holiday, the Nikon Prostaff P7 8×42 is a brilliant companion.
Additionally, the binoculars are fog-proof and waterproof up to a depth of 1m for a duration of ten minutes, though if there’s that much water about, the chances are the weather isn’t suitable for astronomy anyway! This design, however, means that the optical system fairs very well against condensation and dew; something we noticed would form when walking from a warm room, out into a frosty night, and back in again when our observing sessions were over.
Although the Nikon Prostaff P7 8×42 binoculars are a little pricey — you can pick up a plethora of budget 10×50 binoculars for a quarter of the price — they do justify the cost somewhat. They are incredibly well-made and feel high quality when wielded. Meanwhile, views through the barrels are sharp and crystal clear.
If you love panning through the sky and soaking up the views of thousands of stars in an impressively wide field, you’ll greatly appreciate the Nikon Prostaff P7 8×42 binoculars.
However, given that you can pick up a decent GoTo beginners telescope through which you can see much more for an extra $100-$200s, you may feel that the price of the Nikon Prostaff P7 8×42 binoculars is a little too high.
If the Nikon Prostaff P7 8×42 isn’t for you and you’re looking for something lightweight, then the Bushnell H20 8×25 (opens in new tab) or Celestron UpClose G2 10×25 (opens in new tab) (the little sibling of the Celestron UpClose G2 10×50 which we reviewed with nearly full marks) are excellent choices from our pick of the best compact binoculars. They offer a robust design while allowing the flexibility for travel, nature watching and casual skywatching, with superb magnified views.
For binoculars designed for night-sky viewing, yet at a fair budget that doesn’t break the bank, the Celestron 7×50 Cometron are suitable for observing the moon, stars, bright deep-sky targets and the planets with very good contrast and clarity.
Meanwhile, seasoned and serious sky-watchers will take great delight in the Celestron SkyMaster 25×100 and Celestron SkyMaster 12×60 binoculars, which offer exquisite, high-definition sights — and greater detail of nebulas, planets and galaxies — at reasonable prices, depending on your budget. Be warned though, these beautifully built instruments are heavy and will require a mount and tripod for steady views.