Dark Lord of Optics
Location: United States
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. Ov
Those who are merciful to the cruel, are cruel to the merciful. Talmud