Hawke Frontier ED 8x36

  • Unusual, but versatile size objective lens
  • Bright, natural looking image
  • Impressively wide field of view
  • Easy-to-use focus wheel, even with gloves on
  • Plenty of eye relief adjustment available

The Frontier ED 8x42s made a big impression on us when they arrived last year, making high-quality optics very, very affordable, so will this intermediate-sized model live up to its predecessor?

As with the 42s, the image immediately looks very natural in terms of colour, and impressively bright. That little bit of extra as regards the size of the objective lenses (compared to the more common 32mm) makes a difference, especially in low light conditions. Contrast and resolution are both excellent, and chromatic aberration (colour fringing) is kept to a minimum, although it did take me a while to find my preferred position – get it wrong and you might see some chromatic aberration, or a halo effect at the edge of the image. But it’s really just a question of taking a while to set the binoculars up, because once you do, the problems very quickly disappear. Field of view (140m@1000m) feels impressively wide, with the image remaining sharp close to the edges. Perhaps the depth of field felt a little shallow, although it was never a problem as the focussing was extremely user-friendly.

The eyecups (twist-up, twist-down, with three positions) were comfortable in extended use. The chunky focus wheel is excellent – at almost two fingers wide, and with a heavily ridged finish, it was very easy to handle even while wearing some pretty thick winter gloves. Focussing was precise and easy to find. The wheel takes almost 2.5 anti-clockwise turns from close focus to infinity, and travel was moderately stiff. The dioptre, on the right eyepiece, was click-stopped but not calibrated, was easy to set, and stayed in position while in use.

They feel great in the hand – light and compact, and easy to grip thanks to the textured rubber armour. The lack of bulk, compared to 8x42s, was noticeable in extended use. There are tethered, removable objective lens covers, a good neoprene strap, and a semi-solid, expandable case, all very functional and easy to use. The rainguard was a little difficult to remove quickly at times, but improved with use

As with the 8x42s, these are hugely impressive performers when you consider that they’ll cost you no more than £300. Your real decision is likely to be whether to go for this slightly unusual size, or the more regular 42s. Personally, I liked the balance they struck between lightness and compactness, and that bit of extra punch that 36mm gives you compared to a 32mm. A user-friendly, and pocket-friendly, alternative to the 42s.