We are always on the lookout for new Laser Range Finders that offer compact size, easy use, and most importantly a strong laser that will go 1000+ yards on NON-REFLECTIVE targets. As most of our readers know, the max range that is listed by 95% of the manufactures on their LRFs, is on a reflective target. The problem is that you seldom run into big bright reflective targets out on the battlefield or hunting grounds. Our rule of thumb is that you can take the stated maximum range of the LRF on a reflective target and halve it. That is about the effective range in the field. There are a few exceptions from makes such as Zeiss and Swarovski, but for the most part, the half rule of thumb has been accurate based on our experience.
When we saw a quick press release flash across our table for Nikon’s new Prostaff 7i LRF it caught our eye as the unit looked nice, but there was only a 1300 yard maximum range listed. Nikon was talking the unit up and the price looked very reasonable at a suggested retail price of $299, so we thought we would check one out to see if perhaps the 7i was an exception to the “half rule”. We ordered on up to perform a quick review and see how it would perform.
If you look at the promotional photo at the top of this review with the woman holding the Prostaff 7i, you will notice the compact size of the it. The overall length is only 4.4″ and the height 2.8″. It is lightweight at only 6 ounces and easy to tote around in the field. It comes with a padded carrying case and a long lanyard. The exterior housing is a hard rubberized plastic that offers a good grip and it is also listed as being water proof which helps for a field ready unit. We are not sure why there is an orange swoosh on it, but some black sharpie or paint would take care of it.
There are only two buttons on the unit, which is common on modern LRFs. The power button doubles as the power button as well as the “go” button that tells the unit to shoot a laser and give you a range. The second button which is forward of the primary power/laze button, is the “mode” button which is used to set the units to meter or yards, etc. Operationally it is very simple which is what you want for a tool such as this.
The eye piece does have a dioptre adjustment that ranges from +/-4 to help focus the optics for individual users and their different eye sights. There is ample amount of eye relief, nearly 19mm, to allow the use of the 7i while wearing glasses, which we did try with both corrective eye glasses as well as sunglasses/shooting glasses, and without problem. While Nikon does indicate the optics are coated and it does have a 21mm objective lens with 6x of magnification, this unit will certainly not be used as a set of binoculars. The optics are just not good enough for serious observation duty. There are several manufacturers that do make high end bino/LRF combos that do both jobs very well, but the cost is high for those units.
The 7i has the standard features like being able to switch between Yards or Meters and it does have incline/decline (ID) technology to measure the angle and then it provides the horizontal distance. The reticle and viewing area is uncluttered and has a single, very simple reticle that works well. The operation of the 7i LRF is simple and effective.
When lazing a target, the reticle has some additional lines that appear while its measuring and the unit actually returns the results very quickly. Unfortunately, the long range performance of the 7i was just not good enough. When trying to laze a bare hillside over 700 yards, it would seldom, if ever, return a distance. Trying to range a tree covered hillside was even worse. If lazing the side of a building it did do much better, but still was not near the full stated range. The unit is small, light, and simple to operate which are all good traits for a portable LRF, but if you need a unit with the ability to get to 1000 yards and beyond in all terrain conditions, you will probably want to explore more powerful options than the Nikon Prostaff 7i.