Eye relief: 18mm
Field of view: 142m@1000m
Close focus: 2m
Size: 140 x 120x 57mm
Supplied with: Rainguard, removable tethered objective lens covers, neoprene strap, hard carrying case with strap
My admiration for Hawke’s Frontier range of binoculars has been stated on these pages more
than once, so I was delighted to get a good look at the new Frontier ED X 8x42s and see how they compared with previous models. The first thing to say is that they look and feel good. They’re relatively compact for 8x42s, and well balanced, with their 692g weight feeling even less in the hand.
There’s sturdy hard rubber armouring that feels as though it would stand up to a lot of wear and tear, and the eyecups are extremely comfortable, twisting up and down to three distinct positions.
The focus wheel is very well designed and made, too. It’s around 1.25 fingers wide, and pretty well ridged – I found it easy to grip even when wearing mittens or gloves during our late February cold snap. It takes around 1.5 anti-clockwise turns (actually slightly less than stated) from close focus to infinity, and turns extremely smoothly and with moderate stiffness. Focusing is precise but easy, thanks to that impressive wheel.
Close focus is quoted as 2m by Hawke, and that felt spot-on. You can find better, but not much better, on an 8x42, and it’s good enough to make these good binoculars for the all-round naturalist.
The dioptre mechanism is a twist-ring on the right barrel, and sets easily. It’s not lockable or calibrated, but it stayed in place perfectly throughout several days of birding.
So what about the image? The original Frontiers set something of a new standard for sub-£400 binoculars, so they have a lot to live up to. Well, ED glass, and multi-coated optics certainly do their job here, as it’s very bright, and superbly sharp, with very little fall-off in quality at the edge of the image. Contrast is excellent, too.
Colour feels extremely natural and true to life, with perhaps the merest hint of a warm tone, and try as I might, I struggled to find any colour fringing, even on snow-covered branches viewed against bright winter sun. That’s an indication of just how far binoculars have come in the last decade or so.
Field of view is a more than respectable 142m@1000m, but again it says something about just how much optics have improved that what’s really impressive is that sharpness right to the edges – you’re now starting to see the same sort of ‘walk in’ views from cheaper bins as you do on the most expensive ones.
The hard case supplied is very good, with room for the excellent neoprene strap and a cleaning cloth, and it has its own strap.
Other accessories are a good rainguard, and removable tethered objective lens covers. I tend not to use the latter, but if they’re your thing, then these are a good example.
As with the original Frontiers, if you try these for any length of time before looking at the price, you’re in for a surprise. At £389, they compare favourably with any of their obvious competitors, and you can do the maths yourself as to how many you could buy for the same money as just one of the ‘big boys’.
So try them. Hawke have already made an excellent name for themselves. Now they’re ready to take it to the next level.
HAWKE FRONTIER ED X 8X42 VERDICT
Brilliant optics, a common sense design that puts user-friendliness first, some good accessories, and a price tag that doesn’t bring a tear to the eye. If you’re looking for great binoculars for under £500, then you really need to give these a long, hard look.