Nikon has upgraded their entry-level ProStaff line of binoculars, with a noticeable improvement in quality.
I’m always on the lookout for new binoculars of high quality at affordable prices suitable for astronomy. Earlier this year, Nikon introduced their new P7 series as a welcome upgrade to their ProStaff line of economy roof prism binoculars.
In 2020, I reviewed Nikon’s $200 ProStaff 5 10×50 binocular for AGT as part of a group test of six roof prism 10x50s. Compared to the competition at that time, I found the older ProStaff 5 had lesser-grade optical coatings, exhibited some false color on night sky targets, and had twist-up eyecups that collapsed too easily. Nikon’s new P7 rectifies all those issues.
However, the largest aperture in the P7 series is 42mm, not the 50mm preferred for astronomy. In the past, I’ve found in A-B tests that there was little a 10×50 binocular could show in the night sky that could not be seen with assurance in a 10×42, though a bit dimmer to be sure. Testing the P7 confirmed my findings.
Swapping between the 10×42 P7 and my favorite 10×50, the $525 Athlon G2 UHD (reviewed here at AGT), the faintest stars revealed by the 10×50 were also visible in the 10×42, though perhaps needing averted vision. Under dark skies, bright star clouds and dark dust lanes in the Milky Way did stand out with a little more contrast in the 10×50, but the views were still very impressive in the 10×42 P7. Deep sky favorites such as Barnard’s E, the Dumbbell Nebula, the ET Cluster, the Double Cluster, and the Andromeda Galaxy all showed up well.
Nikon P7 Handling
The advantage of a good 10×42 roof prism binocular like the Nikon P7 is that it is smaller and lighter than any 50mm model. At just 600 grams (21 oz), the P7 10×42 is a significant 270 grams lighter than the Athlon 10×50, and a huge 420 grams lighter than my favorite Porro prism 10×50, the Nikon Action EX.
The P7 is also 100 grams lighter than the next 42mm model up in the Nikon line, the Monarch 7, which I reviewed here for AGT in a group test of four 10x42s. Even that 100-gram difference is noticeable. I appreciate the feather weight of the P7 every time I pick it up, making it a pleasure to hold and scan around the sky with a minimum of arm fatigue.
The P7’s focus wheel turns smoothly and precisely, similar to the more premium Monarch. There’s nothing cheap about the feel of the P7 or response of its focuser.
The P7 series features a diopter adjustment on the right eyepiece that can lock after it is adjusted to suit the user to prevent it from moving. When unlocked, it turns fairly easily, unlike some diopter adjustments that are so stiff turning them bumps the binocular, making it hard to hone in on the best focus for the right eye.
The rubber eyecups twist up and down through three click-stop positions for use with or without eyeglasses. Each position was satisfyingly firm, with no mushiness on the stops.
While Nikon has improved the mechanics of their economy ProStaff line, one area they have not upgraded is the end caps. They are still cheap and flimsy plastic, not the durable rubber of most other binoculars.
Nikon P7 Optics
What attracted me to the P7 was its advertised apparent field of view of 70° for the eyepieces. This is as wide as, or wider than, far more costly binoculars. I found in direct measurements on starfields that the actual field of view of the binoculars was close to 6.8°. Assuming 10 power, the eyepieces have a 68° apparent field, which is less than specified but still very impressive.
It proved ever so slightly wider than the 67° apparent field of the premium Nikon 10×42 Monarch 7, which had been my favorite 10×42 of the ones tested for AGT. The difference between the P7 and other 10x binoculars with more common 65°-field eyepieces is small but noticeable; the P7 presents a little wider view of starfields, yet with no edge-of-field darkening that plagues some binoculars.
Star images soften in the outer 35 percent of the field but are still reasonably tight at the edge. Nevertheless, when panning around stars do shift in and out of focus as they move across the field, with a small degree of barrel distortion warping the field. By comparison, in the 10×42 Monarch 7 stars soften in only the outer 20 percent, and are tighter still at the edge, with a bit flatter field. So that’s one benefit to moving up the line in cost.
The other is that the Monarch 7 uses ED glass in the main lenses for lower chromatic aberration. In the P7, some false color was visible by day on bright specular reflections. However, by night I could see no sign of false color haloes around the crescent Moon, Jupiter or bright stars like Vega. Subtle star colors showed up very well.
The P7 series does feature phase-corrected and dielectric coatings on the prisms, which eliminate the loss of brightness and contrast that low-grade roof prisms can impart to an image. I’ve found a good quality roof prism binocular like the P7 produces as bright and satisfying a view at night on the stars as a classic, but heavy, Porro-prism binocular often favored by astronomers.
The ProStaff P7 10×42 was also very sharp. Stars snapped into tight, pinpoint focus, with no mushy fuzzball appearance from spherical aberration or spikiness from astigmatism, as in lesser models. On-axis sharpness was as good as in the premium Monarch 7.
While a 10×42, with its 4.2mm exit pupil, might not seem the best choice for stargazing, I’ve long used high-quality 42mm binoculars for their ease of handling and light weight. The 10 power is great for resolving star clusters and small galaxies. And with the P7’s wide-field eyepieces, you aren’t sacrificing field of view.
If you are looking for a good quality binocular that can work well at night, yet small and light enough for daytime use – an all-purpose binocular – I can highly recommend Nikon’s new ProStaff P7 10×42.
At $200, it is a bargain in a quality roof prism binocular. Just don’t confuse it for Nikon’s older ProStaff 7S model, which is still available as of this writing for the same $200 price but has lesser optics with a narrower field of view.
Sharp optics with wide-field eyepieces
Smooth, precise focuser
Some off-axis softness
Slight chromatic aberration in daytime views
Flimsy plastic lens caps