The Best Entry-level Binoculars: Nikon Prostaff 3s 8×42 Review

Nikon Prostaff 3S 8×42 has always been in my top suggestion list for the best entry-level binoculars for birding. I used it a lot from 2015, even though I also had an opportunity to test many other binoculars. There are pros and cons as well, but overall, it’s a real bargain for the price.

Let’s jump into this deep break-down binoculars review for this Nikon Prostaff 3s.

With the Nikon Prostaff 3s binoculars, Nikon has put its money where its mouth is. The model variations available are 8×30, 8×42, 10×30, and 10×42. The 8×42 versions, which fall about in the middle of the price ranges for all four models, have been reviewed here. The P7s, its larger companions, are typically more expensive and have a few more high-end features like colorful badge marks and a lock-in dioptre that the P3s lack.

The Prostaff 3s line-up is substantially cheaper than its premium Monarch range. But don’t fall for it. Although Nikon has priced these as entry-level binoculars for casual birdwatchers or naturalists as well as outdoor enthusiasts, they have invested money where it matters, the optics.

Nikon PROSTAFF 3s entry-level binoculars

The binocular body is covered in a rubberized armor, which gives them a solid, sturdy feel. The substantial eye relief makes them suitable for anyone who wears glasses, but there are a few places where you can tell Nikon cut corners on quality to save money. We take it on the chin because we would surely anticipate it from a set of binoculars in this price range, but we bring it up to show you what you can get if you put the cash down.

Specific characteristics

The Nikon Prostaff 3s 8x42s’s lenses are unquestionably its best feature. Multilayer coatings on the lenses and a highly reflecting silver-alloy prism coating keep the views bright, and the 42mm versions provide a fantastic opportunity to optimize light input, allowing you to continue observing even after the sun has set.

I am taken aback by how luxurious some of these binoculars’ features feel. The 15.4mm of eye relief offered by the twisting adjustable eyecups makes them suitable for people who wear glasses, but it’s the twisting action that gives us a confidence clunk while switching between the three predetermined distances. We were quite happy to see that this important adjustment was machined to such high precision because its quality is practically indistinguishable from the Monarch HG series.

Main Features

Objective Diameter42mm
Angular Field of View (Real)7.2°
Angular Field of View (Apparent)53.4°
FOV at 1000 yds377 ft.
Close Focus Distance9.8 ft.
Exit Pupil5.3mm
Relative Brightness28.1
Eye Relief20.2mm
Size (Length x Width)6.0 x 5.1 in.
Weight19.9 oz.
Focusing SystemCentral Focus

Body Construction

As far as I can tell, unlike more expensive models, the binoculars’ body is made entirely of a lightweight fiberglass-reinforced polycarbonate resin. This keeps them extremely light, at 465g, and we anticipate that they will last a long time if properly maintained.

The rubberized surface is good and offers lots of grip. Though we can feel a little give in the rubber at the thumb insertion area, a slight ripple of the thumb down the surface reveals that the rubber isn’t as precisely suited to the body beneath as we would like. This problem has been noticed with Nikon lenses before, and over time, the rubber separates from the lens barrel. Since this area doesn’t have any moving parts like lenses do with focusing rings, we’re not sure if this would occur here, but it’s something to be aware of if you intend to retain them for a long time.

The dioptre ring is robust and glides easily from left to right when adjusting the right eyepiece to correct for visual disparities between the eyes. We appreciate the straightforward indentation markings indicating whether the diopter is adjusting negatively or positively. We would have been content if we hadn’t also assessed Nikon’s pricier binocular brands. The diopter ring in the P7 and Monarch lines allows for locking into position or releasing, featuring a clutch-like mechanism for upward and downward movement.

The Best Entry-level Binoculars for Birding: Nikon Prostaff 3s 8x42 Review

The Nikon Prostaff 3S 8×42 binoculars are a popular choice among birding enthusiasts and outdoor enthusiasts for their combination of optical performance, build quality and affordability. While I can’t provide the most recent reviews, I can give you an overview of their key features and what users typically appreciate about them.

Optics and Image Quality

The Nikon Prostaff 3S 8×42 binoculars feature 42mm objective lenses and 8x magnification, providing a bright and clear view of distant subjects. The multi-coated optics enhance light transmission, resulting in sharp and vibrant images, even in low-light conditions. Birders often praise the color accuracy and clarity of these binoculars, making them suitable for birding, hiking, and a wide range of outdoor activities.

Ergonomics and Build Quality:

Nikon’s reputation for durable and ergonomic designs holds with the Prostaff 3S, which is no exception. These binoculars are lightweight and easy to hold for extended periods, thanks to their comfortable rubber-armored body. They are also waterproof and fogproof, making them suitable for use in various weather conditions. The central focus knob is smooth and easy to adjust, and the twist-up eyecups accommodate users who wear glasses.

Field of View

The 8×42 configuration provides a generous field of view, allowing birders to spot and track subjects more effectively. Observers particularly appreciate this wide field of view when watching birds in flight or scanning large areas.

Value for Money

One of the standout features of the Nikon Prostaff 3S binoculars is their affordability relative to their performance. They offer a good balance of quality and price, making them accessible to birders and nature enthusiasts on a budget.


While the Prostaff 3S binoculars offer excellent value, they may not match the optical performance of higher-end models from Nikon or other premium brands. Some users may find that they don’t perform as well in extremely low-light conditions compared to more expensive options.

In summary, birders and outdoor enthusiasts widely regard the Nikon Prostaff 3S 8×42 binoculars for their optical quality, comfortable design, and affordability. They provide an excellent entry point for those looking to upgrade their birding equipment without breaking the bank. However, for professional birders or those seeking the absolute best optical performance, it might be worth considering higher-end models from Nikon or other top-tier brands.

For the most recent reviews and recommendations from ranked birder professionals, I recommend checking reputable birding and outdoor gear websites, forums, and expert opinions to get the latest insights into how these binoculars stack up against the competition in 2023.


Through the Prostaff P3s, views are bright and clear, with no significant problems in the whole viewing area. They are fun, fashionable binoculars to take out for casual observation because of the movable eyecups and precise dioptre, which make it easy to adjust focus. Around contrasting edges, there is a little amount of chromatic aberration (color fringing), which manifests as purple and sporadically green outlines.

Catering to beginners, it might go unnoticed by the average user, and the minimal deviation may surprise us, considering the price. However, if you’re used to expensive binoculars or camera lenses, you might occasionally observe it while gazing up at the sky.

Since they also have a 3mm exit pupil, it’s crucial to take advantage of the eye relief to prevent vignetting at the margins when switching viewpoints.

The smooth but tensioned focusing wheel is pleasant to use and makes focusing quick and simple. It only takes three finger rolls to go from an extreme close-up to infinity, so exact fine-tuned adjustment requires a little finesse. It is comforting that the hinges are supple yet durable enough to hold up even when you remove the carry pouch that comes with it. The eyepiece lens caps, however, consist of a rather stiff plastic that feels a bit flimsy when worn and is easy to accidentally tear off.

Comparison With Competitors

The P7 range offers higher quality all-around with painted badges, superior coatings on the glass, and a more professional feel overall. It is recommended if the Prostaff P3s are too entry-level. Additionally, they contain a dioptre lock that, once activated, fixes your dioptre preference in place.

We would spend extra money to replace the P3s with the P7s as they are only somewhat more expensive overall. However, if money is tight and you need the finest optical performance at the lowest cost, go with the Prostaff P3s.

However, if you’re a professional wildlife spotter, birdwatcher, or outdoor enthusiast, or you have some savings burning a hole in your pocket, only the best will do. We would suggest the Monarch line there. In particular, the Monarch HGs, such as the Nikon Monarch HG 10×42, if you want the best of the best.

They have a magnesium alloy body, and multilayer coatings on every glass component (including the prisms), and each accessory they come with feels high-end. We particularly appreciate how silky and supportive the neckstrap is.

Users Testimonials

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