Nikon Prostaff 3s binoculars review: stunningly sharp and affordable binoculars for everyone

The Nikon Prostaff 3s 8x42 binoculars truly punch above their price tag. We put a pair through their paces

T3 Platinum Award
Nikon Prostaff 3s 8x42 Binoculars
(Image credit: Michelle Polizzi)
T3 Verdict

The Nikon Prostaff 3s binoculars are perfect for all kinds of adventurers. With a lightweight, user-friendly frame, stunning optics and advanced lens features, these binoculars mirror top-of-the-line field glasses at a fraction of the price.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Unbeatable price for industry-leading features

  • +

    Waterproof, fogproof, light-transmitting lenses

  • +

    User-friendly, lightweight design

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    No tripod adaptor

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    Not ideal for use in the dark

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The Nikon Prostaff 3s promise impressive features at a wallet-friendly price tag. Nikon is a known leader in the world of photography, consistently producing cameras with cutting-edge features and superior optical quality. So can it transfer its expertise to produce some of the best binoculars on the market, too? 

After testing out the Prostaff 3s 8x42 binoculars, we can confidently say the answer is 'yes'. These beginner-friendly binoculars add delight and wonder to adventures at any scale, whether you're embarking on a hike in the mountains or watching birds from the backyard (in fact, we rank these amongst the best binoculars for birdwatching right now). From high eyepoint design to weatherproof lenses, The Nikon Prostaff 3s binoculars are well endowed with the upscale features you'd expect for an expensive pair of field glasses – but at a significantly lower price.

No matter which way you slice it, these binoculars are easy to use for long periods of time, and they're a great addition to any day traveler's toolbox. The Prostaff entered the market in January 2016 and continue to be a top choice. At list price, they cost a cool $129.95 USD / £149 GBP. 

Nikon Prostaff 3s 8x42 binoculars review: Features

  • Compact and lightweight 42mm-objective lens diameter model for superior portability (565g for 8x42, 575g for 10x42)
  • Wide apparent field of view (53.4° for 8x42, 62.9° for 10x42)
  • High-reflectivity silver-alloy mirror coating applied on the mirror surfaces of the prisms for a bright and clear view
  • Multilayer-coated lenses for bright images
  • Long eye relief design ensures a clear field of view, even for eyeglass wearers
  • Lead and arsenic-free glass is used for all lenses and prisms
  • Turn-and-slide rubber eyecups with multi-click facilitate easy positioning of eyes at the correct eyepoint
  • Waterproof (up to 1m/3.3 ft. for 10 minutes) and fog-free with O-ring seals and nitrogen gas
  • Rubber armouring for shock resistance and a firm, comfortable grip
  • Lightweight body uses fiberglass-reinforced polycarbonate resin

Nikon Prostaff 3s 8x42 binoculars review: design and usability

These binoculars don't stand out in appearance, and from afar, it's hard to differentiate them from a lower-quality pair. That all changes as soon as you pick them up and take a look. Incredibly lightweight and soft to the touch, the Nikon Prostaff 3s binoculars have a rubber-armored coating to provide a non-slip design in all types of weather. The soft rubber exterior also boosts bounce and shock resistance, should you dare drop them. They're also small and compact. The light, tiny frame makes them easy to stow away in your bag and take with you in all kinds of weather, day or night.

Nikon Prostaff 3s 8x42 Binoculars

(Image credit: Nikon)

Another benefit of their lightweight design is that it makes them easy to hold for long periods of time – or hang them around your neck without fatiguing from the extra weight. The undeniably lightweight and comfortable handfeel make up for the fact that this design doesn't feature a tripod adapter.

The high eyepoint design is another standout feature of the Nikon Prostaff. This means you can see clearly without resting the eyepieces directly on your face, making them ideal for people who wear glasses. There's also turn and slide eyecups, which make it easy to adjust the binoculars to the right width for your face in a matter of seconds. The lens caps can be a little clunky (they have a low-quality feel to them), but considering everything else about the body of these binoculars is superb, it's easy to overlook.

Nikon Prostaff 3s 8x42 Binoculars

(Image credit: Nikon)

As expected from a Nikon product, the image quality of these binoculars doesn't disappoint. But that's because the lenses are designed for top-notch performance in a range of circumstances. For instance, the multilayer lens coating provides maximum light transmittance, which illuminates even the brightest scenes. This, in combination with the silver-alloy mirror coating, ensures a clear view every time. 

The glass itself is made from lead and arsenic-free eco-friendly material. Another win for these binoculars is that they're waterproof and fogproof. The Nitrogen filled, O-Ring sealed design ascertains a clear view in all situations. This makes them especially equipped to endure those early-morning, rainy and winter outings.

Looking through these lenses, there's no noticeable distortion in image quality. It's easy to see wide and far without obstruction. One downside is that they're not the best possible lenses for low light and night vision. They're more suited for sunny, daytime viewing (or heavy precipitation days) and don't stack up to binoculars specifically made for stargazing.

Nikon Prostaff 3s 8x42 binoculars review: alternatives to consider

If you're looking in the affordable, lightweight binocular category, you might encounter the Bushnell All Purpose Binoculars. Popular among hunters, this pair is half the price of the Nikon Prostaff 3s and has similar features, including long eye relief and fog resistance. But they don't claim to be waterproof and they don't come with a case or lens caps, and they don't have the best lens quality. 

The Barska Level HD Waterproof Binoculars are available for a similar price point as the Nikon Prostaff 3s, and offer similar features, including O-ring sealing for waterproof and fogproof functionality. They come with a carrying case, lens cloth, and neck strap, and they have multi-coated lenses (though may not be as non-toxic as the lead and arsenic-free Prostaff). 

Michelle Polizzi

Michelle Polizzi is an independent wellness, outdoors, and travel writer with seven years of experience.