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Hawke Frontier ED binoculars

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/11/2009 at 01:50
koshkin View Drop Down
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Here is the review of the Hawke Frontier ED binocular that I promised so long ago.  I apologize for all the delays, but I try to be cautious with what I write and spend a fair amount of time with the product before publishing a review.  If there is something you want me to address, please let me know and I will update the review.  Also, the binocular is on its way to one of the forum members here, and I hope to add his comments to the review as soon as he spends some time with the binocular.

With some of the past writeups I had posted here, I ran into a bit of a problem: some other people copied it over to different forums without my permission.  I would much appreciate it if you did not do that.  In a few days, I will post copies of this review in a few other places on the web, but here I typically have the most useful feedback, so that I can update the review as needed before it spreads.  Equally importantly, if I get slandered (not all that uncommon on the internet) for something I write I would like to be able to respond.

With that out of the way, here is the review.

Hawke Frontier ED 8x43 Binoculars

In the last few months there has been a lot of talk about some world-class glass coming out of China.  Specifically, the talk was about one Chinese factory making binoculars that, reportedly, are good enough to compete against the ""alpha" glass while being reasonably priced.

After following the internet chatter on the subject for some time, I decided to see for myself what all the talk is about.  The three binoculars that are most frequently mentioned are the ones marketed by three companies: Zen-Ray, Promaster and Hawke.  Some time late in 2008, I looked around a bit and ordered Hawke Frontier ED 8x43 binoculars to test (the binoculars were NOT provided by Hawke for evaluation, I bought these for my own use with my own money). 

Why did I choose Hawke as opposed to Promaster or Zen-Ray? For a number of reasons:
1) I plain like the name.  At the time I knew nothing about the company, but the name seemed pretty cool.
2) Hawke, as it turned out, has been around for quite some time on the other side of the pond, and it is a well established company with a rather complete product line of both binoculars and scopes. 
3) Continuing the previous point: I am a shooter, not a birder.  Given a choice, I like the idea of supporting a company that sells riflescopes in addition to binoculars
4) Hawke specs showed a somewhat wider field of view than Promasters.
5) When I was buying them Hawke binos were slightly cheaper than Promaster (Zen-Ray was not in the picture yet, it was a while back).

Why am I going into this detail? Because several people asked me the exact reason I chose to buy a Hawke binocular as opposed to other labels.  Since Hawke is new to the US, a natural question is about the warranty.  Here is what Hawke website says:

Hawke World Wide Warranty
Your Hawke product contains a lifetime warranty (restricted to 10 years in Europe). Please refer to the warranty card enclosed with your product for details of your warranty.

All warranties are limited to the original purchaser and do not cover failure resulting from 'wear and tear' only manufacturing defects.



With this review, I will follow my usual format, starting with a brief summary of what I think of the Frontier ED for people who do not feel like reading the whole write-up.

In a nutshell: For the money, this is likely one of the better deals on the market place.  Optical quality is excellent with minimal distortion and aberrations.  Field of view is wide with a large sweet spot .  The only knock on this binocular optically is somewhat shallow depth of field.  The edges are a touch soft, but that is pretty common and I am really talking about the thin outside sliver of the field of view.  Mechanically, the binocular functioned well.  The focusing knob is, while very serviceable, a weak link of the design.  It is more than acceptable for this price point, but it is not quite up to the standards set by the optics.  Overall, I feel quite comfortable recommending this binocular as one of the best bargains out there.

If all you wanted is a summary, you can stop reading now, while I move on to some more details.

Usually, I skip over the packaging and what is included in the box, but in this case, I think it is worth mentioning.

Hawke Frontier ED came better packaged than any binocular I have seen to date.

It certainly has all the usual stuff: neck strap, microfiber cloth, etc.  What is unusual, is that in addition to fairly typical carrying case with shoulder strap (Hawke's outer case is a semi-hard shell which should work well to protect the bino from the elements), Hawke also includes an additional open-top case that you can attach to your belt.  It does not have a flap and it leaves the top (eyepiece) end of the binocular sticking out, so that you can extract it out quickly with one hand.  I do not especially like neck straps, so for me an open case attached to the belt is a very welcome option.  Here is what it looks like, next to a softer outer case:




I tried carrying it around with a strap and with the open case hooked up to my belt.  I certainly prefer the case.

I compared the Frontier ED to three binoculars from Vortex, since I had them on hand: Vortex Viper 8x42, Vortex Razor 8x42 and Vortex Razor 8.5x50.

Before I move on to how they stacked up I need to make a disclaimer.  The Vortex binoculars I used are the slightly older models that differ somewhat from the current crop.  It appears that both Viper and Razor binoculars have been recently updated to dielectric prism coatings (previously they had silver coatings) and Razors also have new outer lens coatings.

Here are the four binoculars next to each other:


From left to right: Vortex Viper 8x42, Vortex Razor 8.5x50, Vortex Razor 8x42 and Hawke Frontier ED 8x43

As you can see, Frontier ED is about the same size as the Razor 8x42, although it is a bit lighter (by 5 ounces or so).   Vortex Viper binos are a bit lighter yet, and appreciably more compact.  Overall design looks similar to the Razor with a split bridge physical construction.  I found that Frontier ED binos balanced well in the hand, and were reasonably comfortable.  I have medium-sized hands with somewhat long fingers, so I would have preferred slightly thicker barrels, but they are comfortable as is.  Unlike the Razor, Frontier ED's diopter adjustment is not incorporated into the center knob.  It is on the right ocular.  The diopter adjustment is pretty stiff, but it does not not lock.  I spent some time messing with the binoculars and the diopter adjustment stayed put.  On the Vortex binoculars the diopter adjustment locks in place, but in practical use both held in place just fine.  The eye cups on the frontier ED are of the twist out type with one intermediary position half way out.  The intermediary position had a little slop in it, but seemed to be secure enough.  For me, twisting them all the way out was the way to go and the eye cups did not twist back in inadvertently under normal use.  Overall eye cup design seems similar in shape and size to the Viper and, while not as versatile as the Razor's, worked well for me.  I generally wear contacts, but I did try to use the binoculars with eyeglasses and had no problem getting the full field of view with the eye cups rotated all the way back in.

Here is a snapshot with the eye cups rotated out:




Mechanical quality


Mechanical quality for a binocular centers around the following features: focus knob quality, barrel alignment (and the durability of that alignment), and the eye cups.  I talked about the eye cups above, and I will address the rest of the mechanical qualities and issues here.  I will not talk about ergonomics any more than I already have, since that is very personal.  As far as barrel alignment goes, I got a chance to spend some time with three different pairs of this binocular and barrel alignment was not an issue (partially signified by lack of eye fatigue).  I will spend more time with the pair I have and see how it holds up.  So far, the binocular is proving to be quite durable. 

Focus knob is quite serviceable.  It is appropriate to what I would expect in a binocular in this price range.  The catch is that the rest of the binocular is far better than I would expect for the price range, so the focuser stands out as a weak point.  The first time I heard about these binoculars, I went ahead and bought one directly from the website.  I was very impressed, but the focuser was stiff and had one very tough spot.  So tough, that when I first tried to use it, I thought I ran out of the focus adjustment range. With a little use the knob smoothed out somewhat, but was still not up to par.  A bit afterwards, I headed over to SHOT and played with the binocular they had in the booth.  That particular set had a focus knob that was much lighter (probably worn in by all the people messing with it on the show floor) and had a little slop in it.  During further contact with Hawke rep, I mentioned that my binocular has a very stiff focuser.  He seemed genuinely surprised and immediately sent me a replacement.  The replacement binocular has a much better focusing knob, but it is still not as smooth as the Vortex binoculars I used for comparison.  It is, however, getting better with use, and I'll report on it as I keep using it.  As far as focusing speed goes, it seemed perfectly adequate.  I think it is a touch slower than Vortex Viper, but a touch faster than the Razor. 

Ultimately, the focuser is the only complaint I have with this binocular.  That is the bad thing.  The good thing is that I am picking on it largely because there is not much else to pick on.

Optical Quality

Now we get to the good part.  The optical quality is quite impressive.  The field of view is wide and the sweet spot is quite large.  Resolution and contrast are very good and the image has, for the lack of a better word, a certain sparkle to it.  Just about everyone I asked to look through these said the following:
First phrase: Wow!
Second phrase: Very clear!
Third phrase: How much do these cost?

The fourth phrase depended on whether the person in question knows what binoculars cost or not. 

Truthfully, I was equally impressed when I first saw them.  I have seen better glass, certainly, but not in this price range, and not by all that much.  There is very little, if any, chromatic aberration.  Color accuracy is good.  There is a touch of edge softness, but in a binocular with a very wide field of view, it is not abnormal and I am really talking about a thin sliver right by the edge.  Contrast is excellent as is low light performance.  Depth of field is not very deep, but not very shallow either.  Flare is pretty well controlled as is stray light suppression.  I could induce a condition where I could see a ghost image, but it was faint and I had to really try.  To put it bluntly, the overall optical quality per dollar is astounding.  One of the things you notice with some cheaper binoculars is that even when the look very sharp, extended use gives you considerable eye fatigue and headaches.  Frontier EDs did not give me any such problems.  The view did not "snap in" quite as quickly as it did on the Razors, or on some more expensive glass (Meopta, Swaro, etc), but was still no slouch.



I set up to compare the four binoculars (Frontier ED, Viper 8x42, Razor 8x42 and Razor 8.5x50) at around an hour before sunset and spent the next few hours looking through them side by side both handheld and mounted on tripods.  Once again, keep in mind that the Vortex models I looked at have gone through a slight upgrade since then.

Compared to Vortex Viper 8x42

Price-wise, the Viper is the most direct competitor to the Hawke.  With the binoculars I compared, the Viper was fair bit smaller and had a smoother focusing knob.  However, in every optical parameter, Frontier ED has it beat in any light: better resolution, better contrast, wider field of view and better depth of field.  I also found that Hawke's eye cups matched my eyes a bit better.

Compared to Vortex Razor 8x42
With the 8x42 Razor, it is a closer call, since the field of view is similar.  I like the Razor's focusing knob more and the Razor has appreciably better depth of field.  The 18 position eye cups on the Razor are still the best I have ever seen, but the Hawke eye cups are almost as comfortable (for me).  Hawke outresolved the Razor by a little bit and had an overall snappier image with a larger sweet spot.  The slight optical advantage of the Hawke carried over into low light performance as well.  Handheld, the difference was a little less noticeable due to the heavier Razors being a little steadier in my hands, but when mounted on a tripod, the Hawke binos had better glass.

Compared to Vortex Razor 8.5x50
The above comments about the eye cups and the focusing knob of the 8x42 Razor are equally applicable to the 8.5x50 model.  The larger Razor is substantially bigger an heavier than the Hawke and, despite the slightly higher magnification, was slightly steadier in my hands (probably owing to the extra weight and slightly larger exit pupil).  In terms of the ability to see detail, Hawke Frontier ED 8x43 was about equal to the the higher magnification Razor until it got REALLY dark, where the Razor enjoyed a very slight edge.  In terms of depth of field, interestingly, even the 8.5x50 Razor was a bit better than the Frontier ED, but not by a whole lot.


While I was at it, I also evaluated all four binoculars with the Vortex Doubler (which fit the Hawke like a glove):


The results with the doubler mirrored the results without a doubler.  The larger sweet spot of the Frontier ED, really made it easy to use the doubler.

Conclusion
As I have stated above, I am awfully impressed with the Hawke Frontier ED binoculars so far.  I think the focusing knob issue is a minor glitch that will be resolved.  Perhaps, it is just my luck.  The Hawke rep I talked to sounded like he was going to take the faulty binocular I am sending back and beat some QC manager over the head with it.  That is the exact attitude I want to see.  No product is born perfect and if there is flaw or a glitch, the factory should do FA on it and fix it.

Durability is, of course, an unknown so far, but time will fix that.  I am very curious to see how this product line will develop further.  I would love to see some 7x binoculars with the same quality, and, perhaps, some larger objective lens models for dedicated low light use.

There are of course other considerations when buying a binocular: warranty, customer support, country of origin (China in this case) etc.  While I am happy to report on those, my review is mostly designed to discuss the technical merits of the product.  All other factors are a matter of personal choice as far as I am concerned.

As it stands today, based on its technical merits, the Hawke Frontier ED 8x43 model I looked at is the best allround binocular for the money I have ever seen.  Bar none.

ILya


Edited by koshkin - May/11/2009 at 14:16
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/11/2009 at 09:15
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ExcellentWow

Great review! 

I wonder, did the Hawkes display a halo of interior stray light around the image?  My ZENs do, especially if you press the eye cups firmly against your eye sockets.  Your impressions of the optical performance of the Hawkes sounds similar to my impressions of the ZENs, which is, of course, not surprising given their kinship.

The question becomes:  What do the "Alphas" have to do to justify their $1000-$1800 premium over the "Chinese EDs"?
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Koshkin
 
Thank you, that is a very good review.  I have both the ZEN ED and the Promaster Infinity Elite ELX ED.  From what those two show me, it seems like their name could be cut and pasted into place in your review and nothing would change.  About the only other difference aside from the fov, is that the Promaster has both water and oil repellent lens coatings.
 
FWIW, I concur with your comparisons with the Vortex binoculars.  The ZEN and Promaster compare in the same way as in your evaluation of the Hawke


Edited by Klamath - May/11/2009 at 13:39
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/11/2009 at 14:11
koshkin View Drop Down
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Originally posted by Bitterroot Bulls Bitterroot Bulls wrote:

ExcellentWow

Great review! 

I wonder, did the Hawkes display a halo of interior stray light around the image?  My ZENs do, especially if you press the eye cups firmly against your eye sockets.  Your impressions of the optical performance of the Hawkes sounds similar to my impressions of the ZENs, which is, of course, not surprising given their kinship.

The question becomes:  What do the "Alphas" have to do to justify their $1000-$1800 premium over the "Chinese EDs"?


I can induce some edge effects by intentionally placing my eyes too close to the eyepieces or too far, but that does not really come out for me during normal use.

As for what the "Alphas" do, there are a few considerations:
-Will the Hawkes prove to be durable? We'll see
-Focusing knob: Hawkes are pretty decent there, but not as good as the Alphas or the "Alpha-" binos like Meopta and Vortex Razor.
-Ease of view: Hawkes did not give me any undue headaches, but the image did not snap is as quickly as it does with Razors or the Meoptas you have looked at.  perhaps that has something to do with greater depth of field.

ILya
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/11/2009 at 15:15
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Interesting review, koshkin.

You might add "stray light control" to the alphas' advantages too. 

Comparing my Hawke ED, Zen Ray ED and Promaster Infinity Elite ELX (what a name!) to my Zeiss bins (FL 7x42, FL 8x32 and Victory 8x40) they have decent stray light control but not as good as the alphas (especially the FLs).

I've never seen an outside the field stop reflection "halo" in my ZR or my Promaster but it is apparent on my Hawke ED. I don't find it that annoying

BTW, I wear glasses and pretty much see the full FOV with my glasses on with the 8x43 but I just miss out on the halo (too me a while to find it but like a lot of things once you see it you can see it regularly). I don't find it interferes with my view though.

The focuser on my Hawke is very light in action. I like it. The particular samples I have the Promaster is a little more resistance and the ZR a little more than that. But like Koshkin I've had multiple ZR samples: the first was too stiff (and was promptly replaced) the second was great but had a small smut in the EP (right at the edge of field) and the third was a little stiffer than the second.  I suspect there is product variation especially in the setting of the focuser resistance which I beleive is done manually.

But like Koskin I think these "Chinese ED bins" (as they've come to be known) are right at the price performance sweet spot: they deliver excellent performance at a reasonable price. It think most people will find that they don't need more optical performance than this especially considering the money you need to pay to get to the "next level". This also explains why you haven't seen them (yet) with the bigger binoular firms: they're a disruptive innovation and seriously mess up existing product line pricing.
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Excellent

Great review Ilya (as always)!!
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I have adapted my viewing "form" at this point subconsciously, so now I rarely see the "halo" effect.  It really is not much of a problem, but I can see these companies fixing the issue in future models.

The focusing knob is likewise a weak point in my ZENs, but it is serviceable and accurate.  The durablility is a big question mark, but I do like a lifetime transferrable warranty where you don't even need to send in a warranty card.  A rep from Zen Ray assured me of that warranty.

I also noticed the ease of view difference in my Zen Rays.  It seems like the Zens have a deep field, in that I can focus on a medium distance subject and move to trees 2 miles away and blades of grass 30 feet away without having to touch the focus knob.  However, the view does not snap into focus immediately and effortlessly.  At least, not when compared side by side to the Alphas (or Alphas-).

All in all, I think the questions with the Chinese EDs are more than made up for by their discounted price.  I think most users, even serious optics aficianados, will be satisfied with performance of the Chinese EDs, and the extra padding in their wallet.

BTW, was that Hawke neckstrap ridiculously long?

-Matt
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Quote BTW, was that Hawke neckstrap ridiculously long?


It's longer than average ... which is good for those of us who like to wear it over the shoulder (an underserved group) but it's rather easier to shorten up for "around the neck" use than the Zen Ray. If the ZR provided two straps (a short one and a long one) and the current set of buckles you'd have the best of both worlds. Best of all world sif they included a compatible harness!
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/12/2009 at 20:18
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Originally posted by Bitterroot Bulls Bitterroot Bulls wrote:

I have adapted my viewing "form" at this point subconsciously, so now I rarely see the "halo" effect.  It really is not much of a problem, but I can see these companies fixing the issue in future models.

The focusing knob is likewise a weak point in my ZENs, but it is serviceable and accurate.  The durablility is a big question mark, but I do like a lifetime transferrable warranty where you don't even need to send in a warranty card.  A rep from Zen Ray assured me of that warranty.

I also noticed the ease of view difference in my Zen Rays.  It seems like the Zens have a deep field, in that I can focus on a medium distance subject and move to trees 2 miles away and blades of grass 30 feet away without having to touch the focus knob.  However, the view does not snap into focus immediately and effortlessly.  At least, not when compared side by side to the Alphas (or Alphas-).

All in all, I think the questions with the Chinese EDs are more than made up for by their discounted price.  I think most users, even serious optics aficianados, will be satisfied with performance of the Chinese EDs, and the extra padding in their wallet.

BTW, was that Hawke neckstrap ridiculously long?

-Matt


On deep field of view: Matt, would you mind me asking how old you are?  the question is not idle: it looks like your eyes are young enough to refocus, when the image ends up slightly out of focus.  For binoculars with deeper field of view, your eyes have to do very little work to refocus which helps with keeping eye fatigue at bay (that is where Swaro & Co still shine).

Neck strap: yes, it is indeed very long, but since I do not like neck straps a whole lot,  I did not dwell on it much.   I really liked that bucket-like case.  I also have Crooked Horn outfitters bino harness, but it has the same problem with the binocular bouncing all over the place (this time on rubber supports) as the neck strap.

ILya
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Very nice review ILya. Do you think that the Hawke and Promaster and ZenRay are built in the same factory by chance?
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Originally posted by Roy Finn Roy Finn wrote:

Very nice review ILya. Do you think that the Hawke and Promaster and ZenRay are built in the same factory by chance?


I am pretty certain that they are the same binocular with minor spec differences marketed by the same people.  If memory serves me right, this factory is the one that either does or used to do a lot of work for and with Fujinon.  I suspect that is how they learned to make good glass.

ILya
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Ilya,

I am not offended by your asking my age.  Here is my answer: 

1)  I no longer get carded for beer. Sad

2)  My kids are giving me gray hair.Whatever

3)  Sometimes, the weather makes me sore.Whacko 

That being said I have been blessed with excellent vision, and it hasn't left me yet.  Your point of depth of field is noted, and seems to be spot-on.  Sometimes I forget there is one more lens to consider in binoculars:  the one your eyelids close over.

Thanks!
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Awsome review, I agree with everything you said. I don't know if you remember, but i emailed you back in early January about some good mid priced binoculars & you recommended these. I bought 4 pairs and had them shipped from the uk, their prices did
not go up until the end of january. I got them for like 335 a piece with shipping factored in.
The main draw back for me on these binos, like you was that the focus wheel was very stiff.
I tested all 4 pairs and they were all like this.  I have spent several nights, while watching t.v., rotating the wheel back and forth trying to get it loosen. I was hoping since that they were new, that they just need to get the lubricant spread around, but that is not the case.
I compared them to my swaro el 8.5x42, kahles 8x32 and my wifes leica ultravid 10x42 and pentax  sp 8x43. I really loved them and have since sold my kahles. I basicly wanted a great backup pair to bow hunt with and keep in the truck.
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v-train--are you up for selling one of your pairs of Hawkes?  send a pm if interested.
 
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i sold all but one pair, the one i wanted to keep for myself. look around you might can get a better deal in the u.k.. all of the prices are in pounds. they include a v.a.t. (value added tax)
of 15%. take the pound price reduce by 15% (you don't have to pay this, if in the u.s.) then
multiply by the exchange rate and add in shipping. the shipping fees were not bad at all. my 4 pair were shipped by royal air mail for only like 12 bucks. i got them in like 4 or 5 business days. i could not beleive it. i got mine from a place called cox the saddler.com it
is like a tractor supply in the uk i think. good luck.
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One thing I would like to piont out is that while you may save a little money by buying a grey market ite, you are voluntarily giving up some things, like warranty support, for example.  Is it worth the money difference?  that's the judgement call.

Personally, I stay away from grey market stuff given a choice.  Part of that is for warranty considerations, but partly I want to support the US part of the operation.  They are the ones who are working hard to expand in the US market and drive future producct development to better match the US market.

ILya
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Thanks; I agree Ilya.
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i did not give up anything by buying them there. that is where these binos were first sold,
in the u.k.  that is what made me search there in the first place. i called hawke yesterday (the u.s. branch) and went over the issue of the rough focus wheel, their response : i will have to email the folks across the pond to resolve this issue. 
 
he was very helpful, i just thought i would see if they could offer a solution to the problem. i am going to keep them reguardless, i just wanted to see if something could be done. it never hurts to ask. i don't want a new pair or anything, i just was wondering if there was some way to make it move smoother. i really was supprised after playing with them for several nights, it did not loosen up. the kahles i sold, i had purchased on the sample list several years back. when i got them the focus was the same way, but after several nights of moving it back and forth, it broke free. maybe this will happen with the hawke, i will keep trying. i have a 1 year old little girl that is into everything. right now i just don't have as much time to play with binos, but it is worth it.
 
i informed the fella, at hawke, right off the bat that i purchased them in the u.k. and that was a non issue. they should stand behind their brand regardless of where it comes from. you got yours in the u.s. and apparently had the same problem.
 
hey, i am usa all the way, but i work hard for my money and saving $134 per binocular was a big deal to me. that comes to a total savings of $536 for all 4. i guess being an accountant makes me more of a tight wad than some people.  hee, hee.
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Thanks for taking the time for a great review very informative as always
Duce Smile
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/08/2009 at 14:17
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I'm the person that Koshkin sent his Hawke Frontier ED binoculars to for evaluation, as he mentioned in his review (nice review, by the way, Ilya!).  I've now had a chance to evaluate the Frontier ED in a variety of lighting conditions against the binocular in my collection that it most closely matches up to -- the Vortex 8X42 Razor.  I also have two other 8X binoculars -- a Leica 8X32 Ultravid HD and Leica 8X50 Trinovid.  I loosely compared the Frontier ED with the former, but not the latter.  I have compared the Trinovid to the Razor extensively enough to know the two are very equivalent from an image quality standpoint, with the edge in low light performance going to the 50mm objective Trinovid, the FOV edge to the Razor.  So, I felt there was little to glean from comparing the Frontier ED to the Trinovid, and the Razor more closely matched the Frontier ED's specs.  More on the Frontier ED 8X43 vs. Leica 8X32 HD comparison later.
 
There's really not a lot I can add to Koshkin's comments... but I'll try. 
 
I thought the Frontier ED was slightly inferior to the Razor in off-axis light management.  When slowly panning toward a white light source at night, I noticed a bit more flare and ghosting through the Hawke than through the Razor. 
 
Although the Frontier 8X43 ED has even greater FOV than the 8X42 Razor's expansive FOV (426' vs. 410'), I felt the difference in "usable" FOV was offset by the Frontier ED's softer field edge, as Koshkin mentioned.  Both binoculars seemed to have equivalently large "sweet spots."  My eyes could tell no discernable difference in resolution, contrast, and color between the Frontier and Razor in the center of the field.  Subsequent star testing yielded the same results, with both binoculars producing equally compact point sources of light in the field center, but when slowly panning to view stars toward the edge of the field, the Frontier began to exhibit coma further from the field edge than the Razor.  This is obviously a direct biproduct of the Frontier's softer field edge. 
 
I did not find the Frontier's slight edge fuzziness to be objectionable.  I brought both binoculars to my hunting camp during one of our joint family get-togethers.  During an evaluation session, I handed both to my wife and later to a hunting buddy of mine and asked their subjective opinions of the two with no further comments made on my part.  Both said they preferred the Razor's image solely because the Razor had a less reduction in image quality at the field edge.  My hunting buddy found the Frontier's soft field edge to be more objectionable than my wife did.  When pressed, both thought the center field image quality to be equivalent between the two binoculars. 
 
As Koshkin mentioned, I did notice that the Razor had a greater depth of field.  The Razor required less refocusing when viewing objects at varying distances than the Frontier did when viewing the same objects.
 
I found Chromatic aberration to be equally well controlled with the Frontier as the Razor, which is to say, it was almost non-existant with either binocular.  Both were slightly better in this regard than the Leica 8X32 Ultravid ED!
 
For low light performance comparisons, I located a cardboard box at my hunting camp that had a barcode label decal affixed to it.  The barcode decal had sharply defined black lines on a white background.  I placed the box 20 yards from my sitting position and alternated between viewing the barcode with the Frontier and Razor as darkness approached, with the goal of seeing which binocular could resolve the barcode line spacing further into darkness.  As a result, I could see no discernable difference in low light performance between the two, as nighttime rendered the barcode a grey blob at the same time for both optics.  What was surprising here was how well the Leica 8X32 Ultravid HD performed in comparison to the Frontier and Razor, despite its obvious exit pupil disadvantage.  With it, I was still able to resolve the barcode within 5 minutes or so of the point where I lost it with the Frontier and Razor.  Although the overall image was noticeably dimmer through the 8X32 Leica just before darkness than the two full-size bins, its outstanding resolution and contrast seemed to narrow the gap somewhat.  In good lighting, the little 8X32 Leica's excellent resolution and contrast provided a sharper defined image than the Frontier and Razor, which is to be expected given its much greater price tag.
 
I prefer the Razor's central diopter adjustment integrated with the focuser over the Frontier's right barrel mounted diopter adjustment.  While both seemed equally secure, the Frontier's adjustment was very stiff, and I just think the central diopter adjustment gives the optic a cleaner, more symmetrical appearance.
 
Ergonomically, the Frontier's shell felt more "grippy" than the Razor's due to the many small "bumps" and ridges on either side of the barrels.  Even though the Frontier's hinge spacing is narrower than the Razor's, I found finger placement between the hinges to be more comfortable with the Frontier because it has a radiused relief just behind the focus wheel that provided a very comfortable, natural place for my middle fingers to rest.  I thought that was a nice ergonomic touch.  Both binoculars seemed to balance equally well in my hands, no doubt due to their similar proportions.
 
I found the Frontier's carrying case to be quite unusual, yet nice, as it provides very good protection for the binocular.  My only issue with it is that fitting the binocular into the belt pouch and then inside the case is a pretty tight fit with the objective covers in place, and you have to retract the eyecups to get it all inside the case.  I don't know where the supplied neck strap and cleaning cloth is supposed to go, as once I got them out of the case, I have trouble fitting it all back inside and get the case zipped shut.  I did not open the package for the neck strap, so I didn't try it out to evaluate it.  The eyepiece cover fit nicely and was perfectly adequate, but I didn't care for the objective covers at all.  Not only are the tethers very thin and flimsy looking, but they wouldn't stay put very well during use for me.  I found I was constantly having to reinstall the retention loops during use, as they would easily slide off the objective barrels.
 
In short, I think this is one fine binocular that seems unbeatable at its price point!  In my opinion, I would still have to give the Razor a slight edge (no pun intended) over the Frontier, mainly due to the sharper field edge, better stray light control, and I prefer the Razor's eyecups and focuser.  I don't know whether my Razor has the earlier silvered prisms or the current dielectric prism coating, as Vortex replaced my first generation Razor after I dropped it and bent one of the eyecups.  However, it's hard for me to imagine another roof prism binocular retailing for less than $700 equaling the Hawke Frontier ED's remarkably good image quality.
 
BTW -- Koshkin, I will be shipping your binoculars back to you this week.  I'm sure you're ready to get them back!Wink
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BTT.

I am applying for a "media" badge for the next SHOT Show which requires proof, i.e. industry relevant stuff that I have written and posted here.
I will bring several of my threads back to the top to make them easier to find.
Thanks
ILya

P.S. Ted, thanks for looking at the bino.
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