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Hawke Frontier ED 8x43!

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/03/2008 at 19:14
FrankD View Drop Down
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The Hawke Frontier ED 8x43

 

I know many of you have been waiting eagerly for a review of this new binocular.

I purchased the 8x43 Frontier ED at the beginning of last week because of a little bit of prompting from a member of a different forum. He managed to find the model after doing a little digging because of the Promaster Elite ELX ED threads on this forum. Judging by the pictures of both binoculars, and by what I have seen having both side by side there can be no mistake that they come from the same Chinese factory. The bodies are practically identical. They share that and some optical attributes. However, there are enough optical and physical differences to tell that each company had significant input into the specifics of each model.

 

This review is focused on the Frontier ED but because of the similarities between these two models and how recently they were both introduced I am going to compare the two in more detail.

 
 

Ergonomics

 

This binocular utilizes the same open bridge design that originated with the Swarovski EL series of binoculars. The gap between the two hinges is not quite as wide as the Swarovski but the effect is much the same. The physical weight of the binocular feels significantly less than it actually is because the user is capable of wrapping his hands completely around the barrel. The texture of the binocular is highlighted by several areas of raised triangular “dots” on the side of each barrel. There are also two thumb indents on the underside of the barrel to again aid in hand positioning.

 

The focusing knob is large and well positioned on the central hinge of the binocular. Like the Promaster ED model the focusing speed is slow by today’s standards. It takes a full two and one half turns to go from close focus to infinity. As I had mentioned previously I have found this to be a benefit in that it allows the user to dial in the sharpest possible image. The focusing tension is a little stiffer than that of the Promaster ED model but the benefit is that there is not any of that “play” that I mentioned in the Promaster focusing knob comments.

 

The contouring of the eyecups on the Frontier ED is also noticeably different from that of the Promaster model. If you remember from my review of that model I had stated that I preferred the eyecups to be more rounded in order to get a higher comfort level with my eye sockets. The Frontier’s eyecups are perfect in this regard. They are well rounded and very comfortable against my face. They feature the same three-stop design as that of the Promaster…fully collapsed, an intermediate stop and fully extended.

 
 

Externally the other noticeable difference between these two models is the color of the multi-coating reflections on the eyepieces and the objectives. Both external lenses on the Frontier ED show predominantly green reflections. The Promaster Ed’s are predominantly purple. I would assume this to signify different coatings specified by each company. Also keep in mind though that the Promaster utilizes a water/oil repellant coating on the exterior lenses. This may or may not play a part in the color of the reflections mentioned.

 

Optical Performance

 

From an optical standpoint these binoculars again share more similarities than differences. The view through the Frontier ED is bright with superb contrast and excellent apparent sharpness. The field of view is also incredibly wide and very “flat” in representation. Everything positive I said about the Promaster applies to the Frontier ED. The clarity of the image is stunning and, again, rivals that of the Alpha European models.

 

I want to key in on some key differences I have noted so far between these binoculars. Keep in mind I am splitting some pretty fine hairs here but I feel it worthy enough to comment on. For one, there is the color rendition. I mentioned that I thought the Promaster ED offered a very neutral color representation. Only in comparison with the Nikon SE and the Zeiss FL did I notice an ever so slight warm color bias. Even then I had to look a bit harder to notice it. In comparison to the Hawke Frontier ED I again noticed that ever so slight warm color representation in the Promaster. To put it somewhat bluntly the Frontier ED offers as neutral of color representation as I have ever seen. It is easily as good as that of the FL and SE in this area.

 

Second, is the level of contrast. The Promaster ED again excels in this area. However, I believe the Frontier ED is a shade better. The image quality in this regard reminds me very much of the Leica Trinovid and somewhat the Zeiss Conquest series. I say that in that both of their images give a very relaxed and detailed level of contrast. The image provided by this level of contrast is very soothing on the eyes. It a

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/06/2008 at 07:36
anweis View Drop Down
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15 April to 15 May is Warbler season for me. I head into the woords and fields and i use the EL 8x32 to find as many Warblers as possible. I use this particular model of binoculars because it works like a fine shotgun for the purpose: great handling (split bridge, great size, fantastic ergonomics), fast target aquisition (wide angle and 1.25 turn focus), natural pointing, and easy follow through (wide and flat field of view. I would only improve this model by adding ED lenses to eliminate the 1% instances when there is color fringing around some warblers. Also, above qualities, this is the model that i can hold steady for long minutes, regardless of angle. 
The question is: would the slower focus of the Hawke allow for fast and mobile birds, and would it's size and weight allow for comfortable holds and steady views?
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/06/2008 at 17:42
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Anweis,
 
I have been using the Promaster ED model for about a month. I have not found a situation where the focus was too slow to acquire faster moving sparrow-sized birds. The Hawke ED has the same basic focusing rate but with better tension and a better sense of control to the focusing mechanism. I do not have much experience with a variable speed focusing knob (thinking Brunton Epoc here) but at the distance where most of my focusing takes place (15 yards and beyond) the amount of turn in the focus wheel to achieve focus at those distances is average in my opinion. The depth of field on the Hawke ED in particular is quite good. I was just comparing it directly with the Meopta Meostar and thought that at those distances the Hawke ED might actually have better depth of field. Only in extremely close situations would I call the focusing rate a bit slow by today's standards.
 
As for the bins' weight, there is about a 2 ounce difference between the Frontier ED and the Promaster ED with the Frontier being a bit lighter. The Frontier ED weighs about the same as my Zeiss 7x42 FL (26 ounces). This seems to be an excellent weight for general use in a full sized binocular. You don't get that "heavy feeling" like that found with the Leica Trinovid BN or even the Meopta Meostar (though both are fairly well balanced). Throwing that weight in with a binocular of the length of the Promaster/Frontier, and adding in the open-bridge balance actually makes the binocular feel significantly lighter than it actually is.
 
I had the 8x32 EL in my possession at the same time as the Promaster ED. I think you would be shocked at the image comparison between the two models. The Promaster ED actually has better apparent and actual centerfield resolution with a more neutral color tone to the image. The EL beats it in terms of pure ergonomic pleasure (I haven't owned a bin that felt better than the 32 mm EL) and the size of the sweet spot in the image. But consider the Hawke and Promaster are actually 1/3rd to 1/4 the price of the Swaro EL! I still have a hard time believing it but every time I pick either pair up I am again convinced that I am not seeing things.
 
They really are quite impressive optically and as an overall package at any price.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/07/2008 at 10:05
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Thanks, Frank. With the Nikon 50mm ED scopes and these two binoculars, it looks like the childhood of China's optics industry is over.  
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/07/2008 at 18:48
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Anweis,
 
The 50 mm Nikon is made in China?
 
I did not know that.
 
..and, for what it is worth, I believe your conclusion is correct. If both Promaster and Hawke market these to the right audience these bins could potentially be bigger than the Nikon Monarchs were "back in the day". With European optics reaching into the price stratosphere and our current economic situation the Frontier EDs and the Promaster EDs could not have come at a better time.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/08/2008 at 06:29
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Yes, the scope body is made in China. The 20xWA that i have on it is made in Japan.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/08/2008 at 20:00
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Great suggestion when one just considers optic performance.  One question...where did you find them for $425. I spent all day with google and we did not come close to that?

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/09/2008 at 16:32
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Nice review, Frank!  I'm amazed that roof prism bins offering "alpha" level optical performance are available at such a low retail price, Chinese made or not!
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/09/2008 at 18:19
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Ken,
 
They were at $429 when I bought them back in September. They are now at $479 because of $50 price increase on October 1st. I bought them direct from the Hawke Optics website. Just google it and it will be the first thing to show up. They provide 3 day UPS delivery with a $9.95 shipping charge.
 
Optically the bins speak for themselves. I am also quite satisfied with the ergonomics and the durability at this point. I plan on using them for our regular archery season (underway now) and will report back as to how well they hold up to regular use.
 
RD,
 
For all practical purposes they really do offer Alpha level performance in terms of brightness, apparent sharpness and clarity, field of view and their level of chromatic aberration control. Of course, everything is a trade off. They do have a bit of field curvature in the outer 10% of the image and there is just a bit of stray light but neither takes away from the superb overall optical experience. I am as surprised as the next person at both the Hawke ED and the Promaster ED. The average "Joe" can now afford Alpha level performance in a price range that just about everyone can afford.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/15/2008 at 18:53
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I just ordered a 8x42 Frontier ED.  I'll let you know when it gets here.

ILya
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/16/2008 at 13:23
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FrankD, with a review like that, I'm just about ready to scrap my quest for the Minox, Vortex and Zeiss Conquests of the world and focus on these guys (no pun intended).
 
One question:  how did the Frontier ED stand up to the "Alphas" in low light dawn/dusk situations?  This is pretty much where the rubber hits the road for me...
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/16/2008 at 19:34
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cats9,
 
They held up just as well in low light conditions. At the moment I have both the Swaro EL 8x32 and the Zeiss 7x42 FL in my possession. The low light performance of the Hawke ED was somewhere in between the two....better than the EL (expectantly because of the smaller objective of the EL) and slightly dimmer than that of the 7x42 FL (larger exit pupil).
 
As I total package I would say that the Frontier EDs are better than the Zeiss Conquest ABKs of a similar configuration. They most certainly control color fringing better and therefore produce a sharper, clearer image. The ABKs might be a hair brighter but that is up for debate. Build quality on both was about even. The Razors would be an interesting comparison. Going by memory here I would rate the Razors as having a slightly more relaxed image because of their specific level of contrast and color representation but the Hawke EDs are probably going to be brighter. I cannot comment on the Minox HGs because I have never owned one of them.
 
Hope this helps.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/17/2008 at 11:18
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Frank: as always, thanks for your input on here as well as on 24campfire.  Funny enough, I work right around the corner from competitor in NYC, but never knew they were there until the other day (when I went to check out the Minox HG).  I hope they have the Promasters and Hawkes in stock so I can line up all these bad boys next to each other.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/24/2008 at 15:29
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Many thanks for the comprehensive review of the Hawke ED binos – as a result I ordered a pair of the green and black 8x43 model and have been blown away by their quality. I also use a pair of Leica 8x42 BA but I feel the Hawke ED bins are every bit as sharp as the Leica, have slightly better ergonomics, I’d say they were fractionally brighter and also weigh about 6 ounces less.

I’ll add more when I have owned them for a few weeks but just wanted to say thanks to Frank.

Werp
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/24/2008 at 19:24
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Werp,
 
I am glad you are happy with the Hawkes. I thoroughly enjoy using them. You should get alot of enjoyment out of them as well
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/26/2008 at 18:46
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Do you guys really think that these can compete with the top end binos from L,Z and S?  I think that I must of just wasted my money on those 8x32 ultravids if that is the case.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/27/2008 at 14:57
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Frank,

How do these compare with the Burris 8x42 EuroDiamond binoculars?

Stan

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/28/2008 at 14:26
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Originally posted by cajunhunter cajunhunter wrote:

Do you guys really think that these can compete with the top end binos from L,Z and S?  I think that I must of just wasted my money on those 8x32 ultravids if that is the case.
 
It seems the answer is yes from the great review by Frank. I would love to try one pair when a local archery store gets their first pair.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/29/2008 at 07:05
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Originally posted by cajunhunter cajunhunter wrote:

Do you guys really think that these can compete with the top end binos from L,Z and S?  I think that I must of just wasted my money on those 8x32 ultravids if that is the case.
 
I would say that you did just fien, and that you did not waste youtr money. The Frontier is still unproven. There is no way of knowing how long they will last. Also, they do not have a repair shop in USA.
Leica Ultravid 8x32 is the perfect binocular: small and light, yet full sized, highest quality that will last two lifetimes, supported by great warranty, excellent resale value, etc.
 
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: November/05/2008 at 13:46
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I now have a pair of Frontier ED 8x42 binoculars.

I will compare them against Vortex Viper and Vortex Razor.

ILya
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looking forward to that.  Thanks ILya  Thunbs%20Up
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: November/10/2008 at 22:40
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Originally posted by FrankD FrankD wrote:


The only downside to this binocular optically is that it shows a bit more stray light in the image than that of the Promaster ED. I can see it as a bit of a ring of light around the outside of the field of view.


Hopefully, one day, they will try blackening the edges of the lenses.

Edited by Bird Watcher - November/10/2008 at 22:42
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: November/14/2008 at 08:59
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Originally posted by koshkin koshkin wrote:

I now have a pair of Frontier ED 8x42 binoculars.

I will compare them against Vortex Viper and Vortex Razor.

ILya
 
Would be interested in comments vs the Vortex's.  Last year I set out to purchase Viper, but ended up with Fujinon CD because of unbelievable colseout price ($209)
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/15/2009 at 21:24
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Here is a recent comment from another buyer CLICK HERE
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