- Outstanding field of view
- Bright, sharp image
- Impressively natural colour
- Excellent focusing – easy to find and maintain
- Light, well-balanced and easy to handle
Hawke have built a fine reputation in the budget binoculars market, with their Black Watch models, both porro and roof prisms, showing up well in tests yet costing under £100. The Frontiers, though, are their most expensive model yet, representing another step up from the £150 Endurance. So do they justify their price tag?
Two things strike you as soon as you begin birding with these binoculars. Firstly, they have an outstandingly wide field of view – at 142@1,000m, it’s ahead of most if not all 8x42 roof prisms around. Certainly they immediately made it very easy to take in whole flocks of wildfowl down at my local reservoir – full marks for this. Secondly, they’re bright, even in low-light situations, and the colour is impressively true to life. There is some chromatic aberration, but even against strong light it isn’t ever enough to be a major distraction or irritant. Contrast is good, and the image resolves well enough (although not right to the edges, admittedly). There was something of an issue with sharpness right up to the edges of the image, with a definite milky halo, perhaps an inevitable result of the massive field of view. Getting your eye position right mitigates against its effects, though, and in practice I didn’t find it causing me too much of a problem out in the field – it’s much more obvious when viewing large man-made objects. Focus was easy to find and maintain, evidence of a good depth of field, and I was also impressed by the close focus. It’s quoted at 2m, but I was able to get closer to 1.7m without any discomfort.
Ergonomically, I found them a real pleasure. They’re reasonably light, and well-balanced enough to make extended use in the field easy. The rubber armour gives them a reassuringly solid feel, too. I was impressed with the build quality, too. The soft rubber-covered eyecups have three positions, and loosely lock into position – certainly there was no slippage during use. The dioptre is beneath the right eyepiece, and although there’s no marked scale or locking mechanism, it has wide ribbing to make adjustment in the field easy, and was stiff enough to stay in position no matter how many knocks it took. The focus wheel is pleasantly chunky, too – around 1.5 fingers wide – and takes 1.5 turns from close focus to infinity, traveling smoothly and not too loosely. The accessories are fine, too – there’s a decent strap, an efficient rainguard, and tethered objective covers, plus an excellent semi-solid case – and like most modern bins, they’re nitrogen-filled and waterproof.
An unfussy, functional design, with largely very impressive optics at a still very attractive price. Good all-rounders in all conditions, and well-made enough to look a good long-term bet.
REVIEWED BY MATT MERRITT
- Price: £199
- Dimensions: 143mm x 127mm
- Weight: 713g
- Close focus: 2m
- Field of view: 142m@1,000m
- Guarantee: 10 years
- Also included: Neck strap, rainguard, tethered objective lens covers, semi-solid case with strap
- website: www.hawkeoptics.com