A Work Commenced July 30 2023
Product: Hawke Frontier EDX 8 x 42
Country of Manufacture: China
Chassis: Rubber armoured Magnesium alloy
Exit Pupil: 5.25mm
Field of View: 142m@1000m(8.1 angular degrees)
Close Focus: 2m advertised, 1.94m measured
Coatings: Fully Broadband Multicoated, high resolution phase corrected BaK4 prisms
Eye Relief: 18mm
ED Glass: Yes
Water Proof: Yes
Nitrogen Purged: Yes
Weight: 692g advertised, 701g measured
Accessories: custom zip-closed clamshell carry case, rubber rain guard and objective covers, lens cleaning cloth, neoprene neck strap, instruction manual and warranty
Warranty: Hawke World Wide Lifetime warranty
In a previous review, I tested the Hawke Endurance ED 8 x 42, finding it to be a solid performer for the money. In this review I wish to report on the company’s more expensive Frontier ED X binocular, an 8 x 42 unit kindly lent to me by Steve at First Light Optics.
While the Hawke Endurance ED line offers very decent optical performance, their more expensive Frontier ED X range is a good step up in both optical and ergonomic quality. I spent a few months test driving the 8 x 42 and very much enjoyed the experience. What follows is a summary of what I found.
The magnesium alloy chassis on the Frontier ED X is drop dead gorgeous: small, light-weight (701g) and covered in textured rubber for excellent gripping. I elected to test a grey coloured unit, although you can opt for a more traditional green armoured chassis if you prefer. The focus wheel is the dream ticket; silky smooth, perfectly tensioned, accurate and precise, taking just over one full revolution anticlockwise to go from closest focus(~2m) to infinity and completely controllable with the lightest touch of one’s finger. Indeed, I would rate this particular focus wheel as one of the best in the industry! Kudos to Hawke.
The twist up eye cups are a good step up in quality from the Endurance ED models too. They have one intermediate step between fully extended and fully retracted and rigidly lock into place with a loud clicking sound. Eye relief is adequate for eyeglass wearers, as I was able to engage with the entire field with my varifocals on. The right eye dioptre is nicely grooved for easy adjustment but once set maintains its position well. Like the Endurance ED models, the strap lugs are quite large and protrude a bit more than I would like, but in my tests I didn’t encounter any such issues. The objective lenses are nicely recessed and treated to Hawke’s hydrophobic coating causing rainwater to bead and run off the lenses during inclement periods. Of course, it goes without saying that the optics are o ring sealed and nitrogen purged making it both water and fog proof.
The interior of the Hawke Frontier ED-X is immaculately presented, very clean and dust-free. I detected only a few very minor internal reflections when I pointed it at an intensely bright light source. There were no annoying diffraction spikes or diffused light around the same light source suggestive of the use of high-quality optical components. Comparing these results to those obtained with the lower-priced Endurance model, the Frontier ED X is certainly a step up in quality. Examining the exit pupils produced excellent results too, with nice round pupils and no light leaks in their immediate vicinity.
The daytime views through the Hawke Frontier ED-X are very impressive: bright, sharp across most of the field and I was delighted to see well-defined field stops. Chromatic aberration is pretty much non-existent in the centre of the field, and I was only able to see an occasional flash of lateral colour near the field edges when glassing the highest contrast targets. The view is good, wide (a full 8.1 degrees) and engaging, thanks to excellent contrast and colour rendition. Star testing revealed mild field curvature off axis but even at the field stops, the images of stars were not greatly distorted. Those used to glassing with the Endurance ED models will immediately see the higher quality optics on these Frontier ED-Xs. The colour tone of the images garnered by the Hawke Frontier ED X is definitely on the warm side, with an emphasis on reds and browns. Closest focus is a very respectable 1.94m, so good for viewing butterflies, rocks and other targets in close proximity.
The fast focus on this high-performance Hawke model makes it ideal for birding. Its excellent handling and the stable, relaxed views at 8x will bring you back again and again to this delightful instrument. It’s obvious from a few minutes using this instrument that you’re dealing with a high-quality instrument with excellent ergonomic features. The accessories are of very high quality too, with an excellent corduroy carry case, a test certificate and wide, neoprene neck strap and the company’s excellent no-fault lifetime warranty.
Any downsides? Well, I did notice some issues with glare when the binocular was aimed at strongly back-lit scenes which could be a deal breaker for some. The strap lugs stick out a bit more than most other models I’ve tested too.
Is it worth the £449 price tag? I’m in two minds about that. On the one hand, it’s a very nice instrument to handle, with well above average ergonomics, but optically I’ve seen as good or better performance from less expensive models. Finally, for those who desire the best centre-to-edge optical performance, you might want to consider Hawke’s flagship model – the Frontier APO – with built-in field flattening optics.
Neil English reviews hundreds of binocular models in his up-and-coming book: Choosing and Using Binoculars: A Guide for Stargazers, Birders and Outdoor Enthusiasts, which will be published later this year. He would like to thank Steve from First Light Optics for kindly sending the instrument for review.