Nikon PROSTAFF 3S 8×42 Binoculars Review

Nikon PROSTAFF 3S 8x42 Review

Intended for beginners or occasional users, the Nikon Prostaff 3S 8×42 binoculars are ideal as a first choice. A magnification of 8 with an objective diameter of 42 millimeters is a very versatile combination as it allows you to practice almost any activity in the great outdoors.

Whether for bird watching, hunting or hiking, 8×42 binoculars will always be right for the moment.

With an affordable price, the Nikon Prostaff 3S 8×42 takes up the challenge of offering quality optics at the best price.

So first investment of choice or not?

Here is our review!

Nikon PROSTAFF 3S 8×42 Binoculars Review

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Technical Specifications:

  • Magnification: 8
  • Lens diameter (mm): 42
  • Perceived linear field at 1000 meters (m): 126
  • Exit pupil (mm): 5.2
  • Eye relief (mm): 20.2
  • Brightness Index: 28.1
  • Minimum focusing distance (m): 3
  • Dimensions (mm): 152 x 130 x 52
  • Weight (g): 565
  • Interpupillary distance (mm): 56 – 72
  • Water resistance: 1 meter for 10 maximum


  • Fairly good image sharpness
  • Few astigmatism flaws
  • Negligible comatic aberrations
  • Excellent daytime brightness and good color balance
  • Field of view as wide as premium binoculars
  • Very light with ergonomics design
  • Rubber coating
  • Waterproof and robust construction
  • Versatile for many uses
  • Very affordable price
  • Suitable for beginner


  • Poor-quality eyepiece protectors
  • Sensitive to distortion and reflections around the exit pupil
  • Not suitable for dark environments
  • Difficult to focus at very long ranges
  • Easily noticeable chromatic aberrations

Sharpness is decent for daytime use

The Nikon Prostaff 3S 8×42 has good image sharpness. The contours are well-defined and the perception of objects is quite good. The lenses have a moderate astigmatism defect, which is fairly well-balanced between the horizontal and vertical planes.

The distortion appears from half of the radius of the image, starting from the center. It’s not too strong at first, but it gains in intensity as it gets closer to the edges. This will eventually complicate the identification of certain objects on the periphery.

Lenses have some sensitivity to chromatic aberrations. Fringes of green and purple colors appear on object outlines, in the center of the image, and on the edges (especially at the top and bottom). We are more or less in the middle of the entry-level segment.

Field curvature is limited to 10% of the image at the edges. This is an excellent score that allows you to benefit from a homogeneous field of vision. Comatic aberrations are also limited at the edge, precisely on the last quarter of the lens radius.

At longer distances, the range of sharpness becomes more restricted. We still manage to spot objects in the distance, but the definition of the contours decreases quickly.

The Prostaff 3S is more suitable for short to medium-range use. With a score of 7 out of 10 in sharpness, the Nikon Prostaff 3S 8×42 will allow you to achieve a good level of detail.

Good brightness with satisfactory contrast

The Nikon Prostaff 3S 8×42 benefits from a bright image thanks to its large lens diameter. The lenses are treated with a multi-layer coating that helps reduce light loss between each lens.

Nikon does not say more about this treatment, but given the price, the multilayer treatment should only concern the lenses at the ends (eyepieces and objectives). The prisms benefit from a high-reflectivity silver-based coating. This treatment is in theory more efficient than aluminum-based coatings.

The light transmission is up to 86%, which is very good for binoculars sold for less than $150. The rendering of colors is neutral over almost the entire visible spectrum with a notable reduction only in the vicinity of ultraviolet and infrared.

The exit pupil has a very circular shape thanks to almost no vignetting. The brightness does not weaken at the periphery of the image, which is quite rare for a pair of entry-level binoculars. Nikon really paid attention to the coatings of the optical components with the Prostaff 3S.

The only downside here is that the tubes reflect a lot of light around the exit pupil. These reflections do not appear directly on the image, but they can reduce viewing comfort.

If the optical performance achieves a good score in broad daylight, it is more limited in a dark environment. The rendering of colors is less good and becomes less contrasted, which complicates the differentiation of the elements.

Like many entry-level binoculars, the Nikon Prostaff 3S 8×42 will have the most potential during the day.

Quick and Easy adjustment and focusing

The central focus wheel rotates smoothly and effortlessly. It retains a certain rigidity, which allows adjustment that is both precise and quick. Its large width makes it very accessible even when wearing gloves.

The diopter correction dial compensates for the lack of vision between the two eyes. It is located under the right eyepiece and has a sufficient adjustment range for all views.

Although this wheel cannot be locked in the chosen position, it has a certain inertia that prevents it from being turned accidentally. This will be an advantage on the field during hasty movements.

The eyecups are extendable and have 3 levels of adjustment that will allow you to adjust the optimal eye relief adapted to your vision. Unlike other models such as the Prostaff 7S for example, the intermediate notches firmly hold the eyecups in place and therefore have a real utility.

On the other hand, we regret the absence of a fix to be able to mount the binoculars directly on a tripod via an adapter.

Unbeatable ergonomics

Nikon never skimps on the ergonomics of its products, even when it comes to the entry level. The Prostaff 3S 8×42 is no exception to the rule: their superior ergonomics achieve a score of 8 out of 10.

Nikon PROSTAFF 3S 8x42 Review 2

The eye cups rest evenly on the face and the contact with the skin is pleasant. The coating of the binoculars is entirely made of rubber. For increasing impact protection, the Prostaff 3S 8×42 offers maximum grip. The hollowed shapes on the edges help with thumb positioning, which is practical for large hands.

Prostaff 3S 8×42 comes with basic accessories. The storage case, a lanyard, lens protectors, and a cleaning cloth. The strap is quite thick and its length is adjustable. It is also padded at the neck which will reduce friction on the skin. The other accessories are basic but they serve their purpose well.

The economical price also means that they have fewer optical elements, which considerably reduces their weight. With its 565 grams, this pair will be handled at arm’s length for long hours without tiring. This characteristic is not negligible when other 8×42 models weigh more than 700 grams.

Good build quality for entry-level

The construction of the Prostaff 3S is robust. The elements are assembled together without play and the moving parts rotate smoothly. The rubber coating does not stick when exposed to heat, especially on hot summer days.

In terms of dust and water resistance, the Prostaff 3S 8×42 is made waterproof in addition to being anti-fog (nitrogen filled). They will withstand immersions up to 1 meter deep for up to 10 minutes.

Nikon has chosen to focus on the binoculars themselves: the lens protections are much less qualitative. Made of thin and rigid plastic, these protections do not stay in place.

It will be necessary to be careful when storing your binoculars not to involuntarily scratch the glasses, or else you will buy flexible protections in addition. It is however one of the compromises to have performance at an affordable price.

The minimum focus distance

With a minimum focusing distance of 3 meters, the Prostaff 3S 8×42 is not at the top of the rankings. This is a bit high for a magnification of 8, which may complicate observations at close range. However, keep in mind that this is the more or less standard value for 8×42 binoculars under $200.

The visual field

The Prostaff 3S 8×42 has a wide field of vision. With horizontal visibility of 125 meters at 1000 meters away, you will enjoy extensive panoramas. The eye relief is more than 20 millimeters, you will easily observe the full picture.

Nikon PROSTAFF 3S 8x42 Review 3

The 8×42 model of the Prostaff 3S even exceeds certain top-of-the-range binoculars on the width of field: this is for example the case of the Leica Trinovid which reaches a visual field of only 123 meters wide at 1000 meters away.

Are the Nikon Prostaff 3S 8×42 right for me?

These binoculars are ideal for a first purchase or for occasional use. The 8 magnification makes this pair very versatile. Whether for bird watching, spotting wild animals or contemplating panoramas, the Prostaff 3S 8×42 will be the all-purpose tool.

It’s very lightweight and will also suit children who will be able to discover the nature around them. They will be suitable for nautical activities; there are not too many waves to be able to stabilize the image.

For the practice of astronomy, a pair with a magnification of 10 will be a better choice. In addition, the performance of Prostaff 3S degrades when it is dark, typically at sunset. If you live in an area where the day is short, you will not always enjoy an optimal image.


The Nikon Prostaff 3S 8×42 is suitable for versatile use in broad daylight. Rendered waterproof and dustproof, and equipped with a rubber coating, they will not fear extreme environments. The comfortable grip and precise focus ensure excellent ergonomics, which is a major strength of this model. The optical performance is very decent, with a sharp and bright image.

However, there are a few flaws. Reflections sometimes persist to slight distortion and some chromatic aberrations. At dusk, the perception of details becomes difficult. Without being too disturbing, we regret that the lens protections hardly remain in place.

Overall, we recommend the Nikon Prostaff 3S 8×42. You will have a good pair at a very good price. It will accompany you for all your outdoor excursions.

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Liam Dean is a Professional Blogger and Outdoor Enthusiast. He completed Masters in Sports Sciences and spend all of his free time doing sports and other outdoor activities. During vacations, he goes hunting, fishing and mountaineering.

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