Nikon Action EX 12×50 Binoculars Review

The Nikon Action EX 12×50 are binoculars with a long heritage. Manufactured for most of the century, Nikon’s Action Extreme (or EX) series consists of six models of porro prisms, of which the Nikon Action EX 12×50 is one of the most notable. Designed to deliver bright images and a relatively wide field of view, their large 50mm lenses help make them as versatile as possible. However, the killer feature here is that 12x magnification, which offers something different compared to most pairs of large binoculars. Add a waterproof design and rugged construction and the Nikon Action EX 12×50 binoculars are some of the best binoculars for birdwatching and, to some extent, astronomy too.

So how do they compare to the rest of today’s best binoculars? Here is our review of the Nikon Action EX 12×50.

Nikon Action EX 12×50 binoculars review: price and release date

The Nikon Action EX 12×50 binoculars cost around £179 / USD 190 / AU$254 and originally went on sale in 2004. It is one of six models in Nikon’s Action EX range, the others being EX 10X50 Action, EX 16X50 Action, EX 7X35 Action, EX 7X50 Action and EX 8X40 Action.

Nikon Action EX 12×50 Binoculars Review: Design and Features

The Nikon Action EX 12×50 binoculars use the Porro prism optical design. This proven optical technique uses two glass prisms to direct light through an L-shaped optical engine.

Nikon Action EX 12×50 Binocular Specifications

Magnification: 12x
Objective diameter: 50mm
Field of vision at 1000m: 96 meters
Closest focusing distance: 7m / 23ft
Eye Relief: 16.1mm / 0.63″
Lester: 1kg / 36.8oz
Dimensions: 179 x 196 x 68mm

It creates a clear, bright image and, most importantly, is affordable to manufacture – hence the relatively low price of the Nikon Action EX 12×50 binoculars compared to other binoculars that offer a lot of magnification. However, the Porro prism design means these binoculars are larger and heavier than many rivals. In the world of binoculars, it’s always a compromise between magnification and weight.

Nikon uses high quality BaK4 glass prisms to maximize light transmission, multi-coated lenses and aspherical eyepiece lenses are there to reduce image distortion. The rubber eyecups can be clicked into three distinct positions, with ample eye relief for users wearing glasses.

Nikon Action EX 12×50 binoculars review: build and handling

The Nikon Action EX 12×50 binoculars have as robust a build quality as you are likely to find for the money. Wider and longer than most general-purpose binoculars due to their Porro prism design and 12x magnification, the barrels and optical engine of the Nikon Action EX 12×50 have a textured black rubber coating, so easy to hold by all the time. It also adds a degree of impact protection if you bump into them or even drop them.

Above all, this resistant coating also helps to add waterproofing. You can actually submerge the Nikon Action EX 12×50 up to 1m / 3.3ft. of water for about five minutes. The barrels themselves are nitrogen purged making them fog proof and waterproof. This is going to be useful to prevent condensation, which can easily happen when moving between indoors and outdoors.

Nikon Action EX 12×50 binoculars review: performance

The Nikon Action EX 12×50 is powerful. 12x might not seem like a big difference from the standard 10x magnification, but not only does it make them a much better option for long-range sightings, it also adds considerably to their weight. At 1kg / 36.8oz, it’s a hefty weight to hold for long periods of time. Therefore, we had to use a few tricks of the trade to get the most out of it. The easiest way to keep the Nikon Action EX 12×50 completely stable is to use them with a tripod.

With an L-type metal tripod adapter attached to the Nikon Action EX 12×50, we were able to keep the view super stable while studying a few double clusters and galaxies, although obviously it’s a bit of a pain to use binoculars of this way. You can reduce the bend by using a very tall tripod that you can stand under. It’s also worth bearing in mind that the closest objects you can focus on when using the Nikon Action EX 12×50 are 7m/23ft, so they’re clearly designed for long-range sightings.

In terms of image, they consistently impress, with one caveat. Extra power means less light transmission, but I found images to be bright enough both during the day and also in low-light conditions. There’s plenty of depth of field, with sharp, colorful and high-contrast images. There is a slight drop in detail towards the edge of the field of view, although this is only something we noticed when stargazing, during which the Nikon Action EX 12×50’s brightness and clarity were impressed in an immersive night sky.

Nikon Action EX 12×50 binoculars review: alternatives to consider

The Nikon Action EX 12×50 Porro Prism Binoculars are a relatively rare example of a 12×50 product, but there are others to choose from. The Celestron Nature DX ED 12×50 The binoculars may look virtually identical, but they use the more compact roof prism design which also allows closer focusing – just 2m / 6.5ft away. For a slightly different spec, which is also more affordable and ideal for general-purpose use, consider the Celestron UpClose G2 10×50 Porro prism binoculars.

Nikon Action EX 12×50 binoculars review: verdict

Slightly more powerful than most large binoculars and at an affordable price, the Nikon Action EX 12×50 are impressive and good value for money. We’ve had great success with these binoculars during night and day, but they’re more substantial than most rivals. Their extra bulk may put off many potential users, but the 12x magnification is worth it if you want to get closer to distant objects and animals.

Be prepared for the fact that you may need to use them on a tripod to get stable views (and note that you will also need to purchase an L-shaped tripod adapter). Either way, the Nikon Action EX 12×50’s rugged design, waterproofing and extra power don’t seem to incur any significant extra financial outlay when compared to similar 10×50 binoculars.

Abdul J. Gaspar