So, what do you do next, after you produce the state-of-the-art porroprism binoculars? If you are Nikon, you set out to establish a new standard in the roof prism design. Nikon's last high-end roof, the venerable 8x42 Eagle, was simply not in the same class as modern phase coated roofs. The designers went back to the drawing board (or their computers) and started from scratch. The result is the Venturer LX line, so far an 8x42 and a 10x42. These are waterproof, nitrogen purged, phase coated, rubber armored, high-zoot (silver coated prisms), high-priced roofs, obviously intended to compete with the Leicas, Swarovskis, Elites, and Zeisses.
I have an early production model of the 8x42 for testing.
Clearly, a lot of thought went into the ergonomics. Nikon took the best design features from their own lines (and looked carefully at others) and came up with what is almost the perfect exterior for their optics. The body is contoured nicely to fit the hands, without going to the extremes of, say, the Bausch and Lomb Elite, and the armor is among the heaviest I have seen. These should survive almost any impact. From the Diplomat line, the designers took the excellent locking diopter adjustment ring. They added screw-n, screw-out eyecups (similar to the Swarovski 50mm glasses) so that every birder can finally set the eyecups to exactly the height he or she needs. The focus wheel is large, smooth, and nicely placed. While on the heavy side at almost 36 ounces, the glasses are particularly well balanced.
Optically, the 8x42s yield the best NEED score of any 8x roofs yet tested. The image is bright, contrasty, and exceptionaly even across the field. Detail is excellent, color is well balanced and neutral. It is unfortunate that they came out at the same time as the 8x32 Superior Es, since the little porro glasses easily outperform most roofs, even ones considerably larger than the 42mm LXs. For those of you expecting, as I was, the kind of quantum leap in optical quality that the Superior Es represent, the Venturer LXs are a slight disappointment. They are evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Better, but not startlingly so.
Still, judged on their own merits, the LXs are a step up in optical quality from anything comparably sized currently on the market. To get a better view in waterproof roofs, you would have to go to 50mm glasses.
None of this, of course, comes cheaply. The LXs are going to be among the most expensive binoculars you can buy, and may well be the most expensive 8x42 roofs for some time to come.
Are they worth it? On optical and ergonomic merits, I will have to give the 8x42 Venturer LXs the Reference Standard for 7-8x full sized glasses. They are, in my opinion, overpriced, but if money is no object, you simply can not buy a better pair of completely weatherproof binoculars. If Nikon was trying for a new standard, they achieved their goal. If it now seems to you, as it does to me, that Nikon has a lot of glass in the Reference Set, we can all hope that the other players in the optics market will take up the challenge and move optics into a new realm of quality altogether.