Nikon Action Extreme

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Brand and Model:Nikon Action Extreme
Price ($USD):$109 - $129
Attributes:checked Waterproof un-checked Armored
Objective Lens Size:35 mm
Magnification:7 x
Prism Type:BAK4 Porro
Coatings:Fully Multi-Coated
Field of View:9.3 degrees
Eye Relief:17 mm
Near Focus:9 ft
Weight (lbs):1.76
Dimensions (w/h/d):7.24x4.72

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Nikon Action Extreme
Nikon Action Extremes 8x40, 10x50 and 12x50

I paid $129 for the 8x40, $139 for the 10x50 and $154 for the 12x50 in July 04 from a well known NYC supply house.

The binocular housing (eyepiece holder, focusing, prism housing) is identical on all three models mentioned here. The 12x50s and 10x50s cannot be told apart from one another without looking for the 10x50 or 12x50 label on the housing. The 8x40 has the identical housing, but just has shorter objective barrels.

The eyecups are twist-out, semi-hard, with a click notch that holds at 3 extended positions. With the eyecups turned all the way in, 6mm of the eye relief is used up. The lens is recessed 5.5-6mm below the top of the eye guard when the eye guard is completely closed down. Each click out adds 3mm extension.

When the eyecups are fully extended, the lens is recessed 15mm in from the top of the eyecups. The eyecup full extension adds an additional 9mm recess. I verified that I was easily able to see the entire FOV in all models without my glasses and with the eyecups extended fully out.

The eye relief is listed as 17mm on the Nikon AE 10x50 and Nikon AE 8x40. On the Nikon AE 12x50 it is listed as 16mm. I measured exactly 17mm on both the 10x50 and 8x40 and 16mm for the 12x50.

In the Nikon Action EX models, I am able to see 100% of the FOV with my glasses on and the eye cups closed down. In fact, even with the eyecups extended out 1 notch, I was still able to see the entire FOV with my glasses on, in all models.

Comparing to the Orion Ultraview 10x50 the Orions are fine with the eyecups down, but with the eyecups fully extended, would not allow me to see the entire FOV, even without my glasses. About 10-15% of the fov is blocked. The lens recess with the cups down is 3mm and with the cups fully extended 14mm (eye cups fully extended adds an additional 11mm recess).

First let me say the on-axis resolution of these Nikon AE binoculars is very good. The pinpoint sharpness and fine point of light that can be focused allowed for some pretty fine resolution. But it drops off really fast and gets really poor quickly.

In the 10x50 AE, I was easily able to resolve the components of a 22" double star and I could see the elongation and suspected seeing the two components of a 14" double. That's pretty impressive for a 10x binocular. The 12x model was able to easily resolve the 14" double star and elongated the components of y Delphinus, 9.6" double, again very impressive resolution. The 8x model was able to see the 22" double, but with difficulty to tell if they were separated. All in all, the on-axis resolution is quite impressive. It goes downhill really fast after that.

In the 10x50 model, by 50% out from center the distortion begins. Stars don't turn into slightly unfocused enlarged blobs, they elongate into curved streaks as if you were seeing a half hour long time exposure photo pointed at the north star. I believe this is coma. The further out from center the longer the streaks get. Between 70% to 80% out from center, the curved streaks that are supposed to be stars are really distracting.

In the 10x50, by 60% out from center the view was poor and by 70% out it was useless. It's not going to do any better for you on diffuse extended objects. If the distortion can be noted on star fields, it is present in whatever you choose to look at.

Keep in mind that it takes 70% the diameter of your field of view to see one half the area of your entire picture. The outer ring of 30% of the diameter contains the other 50% of the area of your entire view. If you have a binocular that produces only a sharp view in the central 50% of the diameter of your fov, then only 25% of the area of your entire picture is clear and sharp.

The 12x50 did a little better than the 10x50. I would say it was decent out to 60% from center. But the 10x50 has a 6.5° fov and the 12x50 has a 5.5° fov (mnfr. specs). So really both the 10x50 and the 12x50 are producing approx. the same undistorted field of view of about 3.3°. The 8x40 model suppresses this distortion a little more than the others. The lower magnification makes it less apparent.

Confirming what I mentioned earlier, for on axis sharpness of resolution the Nikon 10x50 beat out the Orion Ultraview 10x50. I simply could not focus the Orion to as fine a pinpoint as the Nikon. A pair of stars 22" apart was clearly more separated finer pinpoints in the Nikon than in the Orion.

The Nikon AE 10x50 has a right diopter focusing identical to the Orion Ultraview. But the Nikon finger grips are in such a position when you reach for it it's right where my fingers want it to be. And the grip is slightly larger. On the Orion, the finger nubs are not where my fingers go and the grip is smaller. The Nikon is much easier.

The Nikon 10x50 weighs 36 oz. while the Orion 10x50 weighs 32 oz.

For total TFOV True Field of View, I sighted across various star fields. Both the Orion 10x50 and ther Nikon 10x50 measured almost exactly the same field of view, just a hair less than 6.1°. In all cases, the Orion was just a hair wider or better than the Nikon.
I checked the Nikon Action Ex 12x50. The 12x50s saw the span from B Cas to n Cas, just barely. It's TFOV measured 5.2°

As far as sharpness out from center, the Nikon Action Ex 10x50 and the Orion Ultraview 10x50 were nearly identical.
Beyond 70% out from center the image is rather poor in both. Radial elongation extends, stars do not look like stars, but short lines.
Beyond 80% out from center the image is very bad in both. Radial elongation extends, stars do not look like stars, but extended lines. Stars near the edge of the FOV are extended lines several arcminutes long.

For detailed viewing, only the central 50%, possibly to 60% in the Orion, is effective. For wide angled finding, you could use the field out to 70%. The net effective field out 70% provides a 4.25° usable field of view in both models of 10x50. Beyond that, everything is distorted.

None of these three Action Extreme binoculars rival the field of sharpness out from center seen in the Oberwerk 15x70, Pentax PCF WP 10x50, Pentax PCF III 12x50, or the Swift Ultralite 8x42. These other four binoculars have good image quality to between 70% and 80% out from center.

So far, the Nikon AE 10x50 is coming up near equal to the Orion Ultraview 10x50. Nikon has better ergonomics and on axis resolution. Orion has just a hair better sharpness (+5%) out from center.

The Pentax PCF III 12x50 has a TFOV of 4.1°. But it is so sharp across the field, it is fine for detailed views out to 70% and the view is acceptable for wide-field views all the way to 90% out. That gives a good 3.7° usable field of view.

The Nikon AE 12x50 measures Tfov of 5.2°. Assuming the sharpness will come up at the same percentages as the 10x50 model shown above, I'm expecting to find the Nikon 12x50 has a sharp field of 50% and a usable field of view of 70%. That would give 3.6°, just slightly less than the Pentax.

Stand the Pentax 12x50 up on end next to the Nikon 12x50, they are exactly the same size. The Pentax weigh 34 oz., the Nikon 12x50s weigh 37 oz.

The Nikon 12x50 prism housing is larger than the Pentax 12x50. Remember, I said earlier, these Nikons use the same prism/eyepiece housing on all three I purchased, the 12x50, 10x50, and the 8x40. That makes the prism housing on the 8x40s much larger than the housing on the 8x42 Swift Ultralites and on the 10x50 size somewhat larger than the Orion Ultraview 10x50.

One way to tell, comparatively, how much light gets through the coatings is to look for how much light is being reflected back off the coatings. You really can't tell much by looking at just one binocular. You need to see a range of binoculars to see different amounts of reflection. The more light you can see reflected in the coatings, the less light gets through.

Here’s how I compare the coatings on binoculars. Standing with my face in full sunlight and looking into the binoculars objectives as a mirror, I look for my reflection and try to see how much detail I can pick out in light reflected off my face. I look for reflection of my sunlit face and the outline and color of my dark hair. I look for clear facial features, eyes, nose or ears. Then standing in the shade but still with bright outdoor light on my face, again I use the binocular objective like a mirror, and I look for all the same facial features reflected in the coatings.

Keep in mind, these two, the Fujinon FMT-SX and the Nikon SE, are the best of all the binoculars I own. Probably next best to those above is the Oberwerk BT100. Then there are a few Pentax binoculars in the mix that are pretty good, and a fine Swift Ultralite, and the Oberwerk 15x70 holds its own, but these two mentioned above are the best. All binoculars reflect a slightly different color back at you, varying from a purplish to blue/green/purple to yellowish/green to just green. If coatings are applied properly, color is not an indication of the quality, only a result of the chemical composition of the coatings.

If you look at the Action Extremes with no other binocular next to them to compare, the coatings look great. The coatings are perfectly consistent across the three. When you compare the Nikon Action Extreme coatings up against all these others, the Swift Ultralite 8x42, the Oberwerk 15x70/'03, my 5 year old Orion Ultraview 10x50, a new Pentax PCF WP 10x50, it's a different story. The Nikon AE objective coatings reflect more light than all of them. What you want is coatings that reflect the least amount of light.

My Pentax binoculars were all made at different times. The new PCF WP 10x50 is very good, the best of the Pentax coatings. It's better than the Orion Ultraview and about equal with the '03 Oberwerk. My oldest Pentax, a PCF III 12x50 is more purplish, but fairly reflective, more reflective than the Swift, Orion and Oberwerk and Pentax PCF WP 10x50. The Nikon AE appear to reflect about the same as my Pentax PCF III 12x50. I'd say the only binoculars the Nikon AE beat out were the older generation Oberwerk'02 and my yellow/green Pentax 16x60s.

I'd consider the Orion Ultraview 10x50 comparable in optical respects to the Nikon AE 10x50, with these exceptions:
I see no prism edge light cutoff in the Nikon AE, the Ultraview has two edges cutoff.
The Ultraview has what appear to be much better coatings. The Nikon reflects much more light.
The Nikon AE has greater range of right diopter adjustment. Even with glasses, the Orion is turned well into the minus diopter range to focus.
The Nikon AE has a more ergonomic right diopter adjustment, larger finger grips.
The Nikon focuses to a finer pinpoint.
The Nikon 10x50 weighs 36 oz. while the Orion 10x50 weighs 32 oz.
The Orion won't allow seeing the entire fov with the eyecups fully out. They really have only about 15-16mm of usable eye relief. The Nikon has about 17mm.
Both have a 6.1° field of view.

The Pentax PCF WP 10x50 coatings reflect less light than Orion Ultraview much less than Nikon AE.
The click-stop right diopter on the Pentax has excellent feel and positive positioning.
Eye relief is not a problem on the Pentax with or without glasses.
The Pentax weighs 36oz.
The Pentax has a narrower field of view than both above. The Pentax is 5.0°.
The Pentax has a sharper wide-field image than either of the above. At 75% out in the Pentax you can still see stars as stars, with decent double star resolution.
The Pentax has a wider usable field of view.
The Pentax sees a few tenths magnitude deeper in limiting magnitude.

The Nikon AE is a good deal in the $129 to $159 price range. I would not pay $169-$189 to buy the Orion Ultraview over the Nikon AE, even though the Ultraview has nicer coatings. Go with the Nikon AE instead. But, I consider the Pentax PCF WP 10x50 a better binocular than both and would pay a little more for it over the Nikon AE.

Of these three Nikon AEs I reviewed here, I liked the 12x50 the most for slightly better edge sharpness and a usable field of view equal to the 10x50 AE.


Overall Rating: 8
Optics:7 Value:9
Weight: 10 (Trustworthy Vote)
By: edz
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Nikon Action Extreme
[Note: Vote moved from description by webmaster]

Nikon has improved on its 'Action' line.
This model has full waterproofing and a great 'tactile' feel. It also features click stop eyepiece cups. My binocular was in perfect collimation and performs beautifully. Looks and feels a lot like the Superior E. Very sharp - a great buy!

Overall Rating: No Vote
Weight: 1 (Unreliable Vote)
By: Anonymous (
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