A Work Commenced May 14 2021
Product: Nikon E II 8 x 30
Country of Origin: Japan
Chassis: Die Cast Magnesium Alloy
Exit Pupil: 3.75mm
Field of View: 154m@1000m(8.8 angular degrees)
Dioptre Compensation: +/- 4
Coatings: Fully Broadband Multicoated
Prisms: Porro BAK4
Close Focus: 3m advertised, 1.96m measured
Eye Relief: 13.8mm
Nitrogen Purged: No
ED Glass: No
Dimensions L x W: 18.1 x 10.1cm
Accessories: Padded logoed neck strap, objective covers, rain guard, soft leather case, instruction manual, warranty card
European Warranty:10 Years
Retail Price: £579.99(UK)
The Japanese optics frim, Nikon, needs to introduction. For over a century, they have delighted a loyal fan base of enthusiasts with their photographic and optical innovations. Thankfully, for us binocular enthusiasts, a small part of their business is still devoted to bringing high quality instruments to the market to suit virtually everyone’s budget. In past reviews, I’ve showcased some of their better wares, such as the top-rated Nikon Monarch HG 8 x 30 roof prism binocular. But Nikon also enjoys a long tradition of manufacturing high-quality, classic porro prism binoculars and in this review, I’ll be giving my opinion on its flagship model, the Nikon E II 8 x 30.
Introduced back in 1999, the Nikon EII is offered in two models, an 8 x 30 and a larger 10 x 35. What distinguishes these units from their lower-priced econo-models are their state-of-the-art optics, very large fields of view and exceptional build quality. As you may have guessed, this kind of quality doesn’t come cheap, but I hope you’ll agree that they still represent exceptional value for money, especially when you factor in how much an equivalent roof model would cost to even approach the quality of these amazing porro prism instruments. So if you’re in any doubt about my verdict on the 8 x 30, it gets my top recommendation. What follows here are detailed notes on its ergonomics, optics and handling in the field.
The box containing the instrument looks seriously plain Jane; just simple, brown carboard. But when you prize it open, you get a very fetching soft leather case containing the instrument. All the paper documentation, including a multi-language instruction manual, warranty details etc are found at the bottom of the box. The binocular comes with a Nikon logoed plastic rain guard, and loosely fitting plastic objective covers. The high quality neck strap appears to be made from woven cotton and has a matching logo inscribed, “Nikon since 1917.”
The Nikon E II 8 x 30 is exceptionally easy to hold in my medium sized hands. It’s also very lightweight, tipping the scales at just over half a kilo. The fit and finish is excellent, with a strong retro look, though it must be pointed out that the instrument is not rubber armoured. I suspect that this was avoided to maximise the aesthetic appeal of the binocular in order to make it look and feel like a true classic glass. Indeed, I seem to have garnered similar ideas about the Nikon Monarch HG 8 x 30; it too is lightly armoured for maximum aesthetic effect.
The dioptre setting is found under the right ocular. It moves with a fair amount of friction and holds its position very well, even after weeks of daily use.
The focus wheel works very smoothly, with zero play or backlash. It goes through just shy of 1.5 revolutions from one end of its focus travel to another. At times it can be challenging changing focus, from very near to very far, but in practice, once an object is located in the middle distance, only very slight adjustments are required to keep the image razor sharp all the way out to infinity.
The eyecups are made of soft rubber that seem very durable. The ocular filed lens diameter is good and large – 20mm. The cups can be folded down to accommodate eye glass wearers. Though I don’t personally wear eye glasses while glassing, I did test to see if I could see the entire field with my eyeglasses on. I can report that it could just be done, but I didn’t find the experience particularly comfortable. Those of you who must wear eye glasses would benefit from wearing more contoured spectacles with high-index glass.
The serial number of my unit is 822128, indicating a fairly recent manufacture. There has been some discussion about whether or not the anti-reflection coatings on the Nikon E II series have been improved over the years. Given Nikon’s tendency to improve their products without formal notification, I don’t see why they haven’t been modified since launching the product back in 1999.
The ocular field lenses are large and easy to square one’s eyes up with. They are multi-coated as seen from above:
The objectives are reasonably well recessed and have a beautiful magenta hue in daylight.
A Curious Aside:
3D Perception Differences Between Roof and Porro Prism Binoculars
Careful observers have noted a more enhanced 3D(image plasticity) effect using porro prism binoculars. Is there a basis for this effect in reality? Yes, indeed there is. To see how, read on.
Suppose we are imaging two objects along the same line of sight; one located at a distance of 10m say, and another located at 15m, as illustrated in the figure below, only with greatly exaggerated angles for the sake of clarity
For a roof prism binocular, assume that the distance between the centres of the objectives is the same as the inter-pupillary distance which is ~6.5cm (0.065m) for my eyes, so half this length, 0.0325m, represents x in the diagram above.
Using simple trigonometry, at 10m distance the half angle B subtended by the object in the roof prism binocular is given by
Arctan(0.0325/10) = 0.186 degrees or 11.2’
Similarly, the object located at 15m will subtend a half angle A given by
Arctan(0.0325/15) = 0.124 degrees or 7.4’
Therefore, the image plasticity is provided by the angular separation B-A = 3.8’
Next consider the same scenario for a porro prism binocular, just like the Nikon E II, with a spacing between the objective centres measured at ~12.5cm, so x increases to 0.0625m
At 10m distance angle B is given by Arctan(0.0625/10) = 0.36 degrees or 21.5’ and angle A is given by Arctan (0.0625/15) = 0.24 degrees or 14.3’
Therefore, the angular separation(Image plasticity), B-A, for the porro prism binocular is 21.5 – 14.3 = 7.2’
Thus, without considering magnification, the porro will show a much more discernible spatial difference between the objects than an equivalent roof prism model.
Notes: The more widely set one’s eyes are the greater the 3D effect manifested. So those who enjoy a wider IPD will experience this better.
The wider the separation of the objectives in the porro prism binocular, the greater the 3D effect. I would thus expect a typical 7 x 50 porro to give even more pronounced image plasticity than a little 8 x 30.
The reader will also note that as the distance to both objects is increased, the differences between the roof prism binocular and the porro will diminish. For example, similar calculations show that the same objects located at 60 and 65m, respectively, would have an angular separation of only 0.15’ in the roof prism binocular and 0.3’ in the porro prism counterpart. Since the limit of resolution of the human eye is about 1 arc minute, the differences here will be all but indistinguishable. So, we can conclude that the 3D effects of porro prism binoculars work optimally at middle distances, and all but vanish at larger distances.
The above discussion did not consider the role of magnification though. The key point here is that the binocular will magnify those small angular differences and so help the eyes to spatially distinguish the objects better. So, for example, two objects at a distance of 190m and 200m will subtend an angular separation of 9.1′ and 8.6′, respectively in an 8x glass. The difference is about 0.5′, which is just on the cusp of discernibility under ideal conditions. The same result at 10x gives 0.6′; only a trifle better. So we may conclude that this 3D phenomenon all but vanishes in the Nikon E II 8 x 30 beyond about 200m distance.
I began my optical tests by shining a bright white light source through the binocular and examining the visual image produced. The result was excellent; there were no annoying internal reflections, diffraction spikes or diffused light around the light source, showing that the anti-reflection coatings were performing well and that the glass was very homogeneous. This was confirmed after dark by looking at a bright yellow sodium street lamp. The image was clean and nicely contrasted with no internal reflections. Indeed, porro prism models do not produce diffraction spikes unlike some premium roof prism models.
Next I examined the exit pupils of both barrels of the Nikon E II. Below are images taken of the left and right pupils.
The pupils look nice and round, with little in the way of extraneous stray light encroaching on them. The reader can make out some weak reflections from the prisms quite a bit away from the pupils and so will have minimal effect on the views.
The images served up by the Nikon EII are outstanding! But to elaborate; the enormous 8.8 degree field of view produces a stunningly beautiful and uniquely immersive image. Sharpness is superb almost to the edge of the field and then, only mild field curvature and a bit of pincushion distortion creeps in to slightly distort the image. The field is so large that it makes the Nikon Monarch HG 8 x 30 field seem small in comparison lol. Colour correction is excellent: I detected none on axis and only the merest trace of lateral colour observed under the most pressing of observing conditions, such as viewing layers of tree branches against a bright overcast sky. By the way, it achieves these stunning optics entirely without low dispersion(ED) glass, just like the highly lauded Swarovski Habicht porros.
Colour rendition is very natural and true to life. Glare is also very well suppressed in this instrument, including annoying veiling glare that sometimes shows up in other binoculars when viewing in the open air when bright sunlight is streaming down on your target. Brightness is also very satisfactory, even while viewing objects in the late evening. As the guys from allbinos measured back in 2015, it achieves a light transmission of the order of at least 90 per cent, but its very neutral colour cast indicates that the transmission graph is bound to be quite flat over much of the visual spectral range(410-700nm).
I measured close focus on my unit to be just 1.97m, well below the advertised 3m and fully in keeping with the majority of roof prism models. This came as a genuine surprise to me, as porro prism binoculars are not known for their good close focus. Of course, to get the most out of those close up views, I found it necessary to reduce the IPD of the instrument to mimic the natural ‘crossing of the eyes’ that happens as an object is placed very close to the body.
As discussed above, the 3D images served up by this porro prism binocular will knock your socks off! I enjoyed countless minutes over the last month glassing open fields, watching Jacob’s sheep and their beautiful new-born lambs enjoying the warm spring sunshine, and admiring the finest details on their black, brown and white fleece. The instrument also has excellent focus depth so only slight refocussing is required to see everything super clear from about 30m all the way out to infinity. Your eyes become acutely aware of the topology of the landscape, as you view over hillocks and small depressions in the field. Mole hills transform into architectural wonders.
One of the great virtues of instruments such as this, is the significantly reduced amount of time you spend focussing and the increased time spent just observing! In a forest say, you focus once and, more or less, forget it! These special properties also make it the ideal binocular for viewing landscapes. I have been bowled over by the sheer amount of information each image relays to my eyes and the super large field helps reel in many unexpected visual trinkets. For example, one afternoon, I was admiring the gorgeous lime-green tint of the young leaves on a large horse chestnut tree some 50 yards away, only to watch in sheer amazement as a group of noisy Oystercatchers were captured flying across the valley in the deep background, some 300 yards distant. I could easily make out their long, ruddy beaks and black and white plumage as they raced through the air at breakneck speed. I have even learned to spot airborne Starlings and even the odd Jay in the same way, and over very long distances. It’s the combination of excellent, glare-free optics, great focus depth, palpable 3D impression and class-beating field size, that creates the most powerful Majesty Factor I have personally experienced in any binocular, period.
Panning the edges of large swathes of forest is supremely comfortable with the Nikon E II 8 x 30. I have yet to experience any blackouts or the stomach-churning rolling ball effect I often experienced while observing with the Nikon Monarch HG 8 x 30. It’s also very well collimated.
Any niggles at all? Not really! OK, It’s not waterproof, and I would have liked to see some rubber armouring covering the chassis, but I guess that might put some folk off( yes, some folk care more about how a binocular looks than what it delivers optically, I kid you not!). I’ve recently acquired an excellent Opticron SR.GA 8 x 32 porro that does have this armouring, which will help protect it against the elements that little bit better. It too delivers very fine images, just a notch below those served up by the Nikon. But in all honesty, simple common sense is all that’s required to keep it safe from the worst of the weather and more careful attention to long-term storage of the binocular will help keep it in tip-top shape.
I plan to use the Opticron SR.GA for routine work, especially over the winter months and employ the Nikon E II only when conditions demand the very finest optics. That way, both will enjoy a long lease of life.
The Nikon E II is becoming more difficult to source. I note that several Nikon sites no longer advertise it. I received mine from Dutch stock, so I know they can still be found at reasonable prices. For sure, I’m very late to the party, but if you want to experience that superlative optical performance in a neo-classical compact porro design, now would be a good time to acquire one…………..before they’re all gone!
Happy Hunting & Thanks for Reading!
Neil English is currently writing an in-depth buyer’s guide for binocular enthusiasts. Choosing & Using Binoculars – a Guide for Stargazers, Birders and Outdoor Enthusiasts, will be published by Springer Nature in late 2023.