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Hawke Frontier ED 8x43
Reviews Views Date of last review
2 16237 Fri August 23, 2013
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Recommended By Average Price Average Rating
100% of reviewers None indicated 9.0
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Description: The Hawke Frontier ED 8x43 binocular comes with ED glass in the objectives, phase correction coatings on the roof prisms, a 64 degree apparent field of view, waterproofing and nitrogen filling, an magnesium alloy housing and 18mm eye relief.
Keywords: Binoculars, 8x43, Hawke, ED



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Leif
Registered Member

Registered: March 2003
Posts: 2959
Review Date: Sun March 3, 2013 Would you recommend the product? Yes | Price you paid?: None indicated | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Modest price, superb field of field and contrast, excellent on-axis sharpness, superb transmisson, decent build, light weight
Cons: Significant field curvature and edge softness

Hawke Frontier ED 8x 43 Review
The Hawke Frontier ED 8x43 binocular is a Chinese made instrument, boasting features seen in more expensive instruments, for a very modest price. On paper the Hawke is very impressive. It boasts a magnesium alloy frame, a wide field of view, ED glass in the objectives, roof prisms with phase correction coatings, fully multi-coated optics, waterproofing and it is nitrogen filled. It is hardly surprising they have generated a lot of discussion online.

The finish is very good, given the price, and on a par with other similarly priced instruments that I have tried. The metal components look well made, and well finished, with no roughness. The plastic components also look to be decent quality. Mine has a few small cosmetic marks, including a small scratch on one of the bridge hinges, and a mark on the armour, but nothing significant.

In the hand it feels very comfortable, and surprisingly light. The housing is covered in green plastic armour, with a pleasant tactile feel, and a distinct smell, which apparently disappears with age. The armour is somewhat functional, and lacks the luxury feel of armour on top range instruments.

The unit has a twin bridge design, and the hinges are neither too stiff nor too loose. The front hinge has a small cap that can be unscrewed to reveal a threaded hole for attaching a tripod adaptor.

The focus wheel is mounted close to the eyepieces. It is large, easily accessed, and ribbed ensuring a good grip. The one on my sample is a bit stiff, although it is said to loosen with use. It is perfectly usable, and very smooth, with no obvious backlash, although there is a slight squelching sound of grease on metal. The focus is fairly coarse i.e. a small rotation causes a large change in the focus, and for my tastes it is too coarse.

The image is bright, with good contrast, and saturated colours. Centre sharpness is excellent (comparable to my Nikon 8x32 SE), and chromatic aberration (colour fringing) is almost absent on axis, and slight but noticeable off axis. The field of view is 142m at 1000m, or about 8 degrees of arc, giving an apparent field of view of roughly 64 degrees of arc, which is a match for the best. There is a wide sweet spot, with edge softness appearing at roughly 70% from the centre and the image is very blurred at the field edges. Most of the softness at the field edges can be corrected using the focus wheel. Field curvature is significant away from the axis, and is perhaps the most obvious optical fault. Although depth of field is a function of magnification alone, in daylight anyway, I had the impression that the depth of field was less than expected. Careful testing against a Nikon 8x32 SE showed the two instruments to have the same depth of field. The illusion of reduced depth of field is without doubt due to field curvature, and/or the rather fast focus. There is obvious pincushion distortion, which is a characteristic rather than a fault.

I saw no flare or ghosting, except on one occasion when the sun was low on the horizon, and flare was obvious. I assume this was a reflection from the sides of the optical assemblies. Otherwise the coatings, baffles and blacking are doing a good job.

The image is fairly neutral, or slightly warm.

I used the binocular an hour or so after sunset, and the brightness was excellent. Viewing stars in the night sky, I was impressed with the quality of the view. The Seven Sisters was a very pleasant sight, with point like star images.

The diopter adjustment is a simple ring on the right hand eyepiece, and the user rotates it until the desired compensation is set. It is stiff, and easy to use.

The twist out eye cups have 3 positions i.e. fully extended, partially extended, and retracted. In use they stayed at the selected position. I found them very comfortable.

Eye relief is quoted as 18mm, and I found it to be adequate for use with eyeglasses, although it is worth noting that my eyeglasses have thin lenses, and I do not have deep eye sockets. The eye relief is probably measured from the rear lens element, rather than the edge of the eye cup. As the distance between the two is quite large, the effective eye relief is closer to 14mm, and some eyeglass wearers may have difficulty seeing the entire field of view.

The close focus is given as 2m, and my tests were consistent with that value.

The instrument comes with detachable objective covers (a nice feature), and the usual rain guard for the eyepieces. They are of decent quality. There is also a strap, and an attractive fake leather case, offering some protection from dirt, if not impact.

On my scales the binocular weighs 863g including the objective and eyepiece covers.

In use the only real criticism I have is the coarse focus. I found it hard to focus sufficiently accurately on a target, and as a result my eyes were forced to accommodate more than otherwise, and I found this tiring.

Overall the Hawke has many attractive features. It has a decent build, good mechanics, and surprisingly good image quality. For the price it is extremely good value.

David Versus Goliath
The question on the minds of many people is how the Hawke compares to more expensive instruments. After all, in paper it competes with top of the range instruments. So, I compared it to the Swarovski 8.5x42 Swarovision.

The finish of the Swarovski is far higher, with a luxury feel. It also has better mechanics. To be fair to the Hawke, its finish and mechanics are good, and probably more than good enough for most users, who do not clamber through rain forests or traverse deserts. As to how durable the Hawke is, only time will tell.

The Swarovski focus is much finer, and hence more precise, and I find this provides a much more relaxing experience with less eyestrain. For me the coarse focus is the only significant fault with the Hawke.

The Swarovski has superior optics. On axis sharpness is noticeably better, although it does have a slightly higher magnification so some increase in sharpness is to be expected. The image is sharp to the very edges of the field, with no field curvature, and excellent contrast. The image is slightly cool. Surprisingly the Swarovski has noticeably more off axis chromatic aberration than the Hawke. Both instruments provide images with well saturated colours. The Hawke image is surprisingly good, with a huge field of view, a reasonably wide sweet spot, and excellent contrast, but the strong field curvature, lower on-axis sharpness, field curvature and marked edge softness provide a less pleasing view. In the field I found the Hawke more tiring to use, putting more strain on my eyes. Overall the Swarovski image is simply more relaxing, more natural, and more pleasing.

I tested both instruments an hour after sunset, and at night. In these low light conditions the two instruments showed very similar image brightness with no obvious difference, which is a testament to the quality of the Hawke optics. Frankly I was surprised that the Swarovski did not beat the Hawke.

On my scales the Swarovski weighs 920g, compared to 863g for the Hawke. Both instruments were weighed with the objective and eyepiece covers in place. Oddly enough the Swarovski feels much heavier than the Hawke.

In conclusion, in terms of contrast, brightness and field of view the Hawke is on a par with the Swarovski, which is a remarkable result. Where it falls down is the strong field curvature, slightly lower on axis sharpness, and edge softness, and the coarse focus. The finish and build are inferior, but for the money, they are quite acceptable, and to be honest the metal components are well finished. The Swarovski is the better instrument, with the more pleasing and relaxing view, but the Hawke is an extremely good binocular, at a remarkable price, and would probably satisfy most casual birders, and many serious ones too. Whether the difference is enough to justify the price of the Swarovski is for you to decide.

Note: There are some more expensive binoculars from Hawke, which claim to have improved eyepieces and dielectric prism coatings. I have not tried these, and it is possible that they are even closer to the Swarovski.

Footnote
An informative review of the previous version of this binocular can be found here:

http://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=124448
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WriterCJ

Registered User

Registered: November 2010
Location: West Cork, Ireland
Posts: 98
Review Date: Fri August 23, 2013 Would you recommend the product? Yes | Price you paid?: None indicated | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Excellent high-contrast image with vibrant colours and good detail across the exceptionally wide field of view. Very bright optics that perform well across a range of challenging light conditions. Great build quality and finish for the price: feel very s
Cons: Bit more “grip” on the focus wheel would be better. Rain-guard attaches to opposite side of strap to normal, which takes a bit of getting used. Not really a fan of the “clip-in” tethered objective lens covers. Accessories could be slightly better quality

I've been reviewing the Hawke Frontier ED for the Ireland's Wildlife website and have to say I've been very impressed with them.

You get a lot of binocular for the money. With a magnesium alloy chassis, ED glass, phase corrected prisms and fully multi-coated optics the Frontier ED combines many high-end features at a mid-range price… and that’s hard to fault.

For the birding and wildlife enthusiast looking for the complete package, but without the budget to invest in the “big-guns” it’s a compelling package that’s hard to beat.

Some people argue that these are on a par with the "alphas" -- they're definitely not... but they're not as far behind as you might expect.

You can read the full review over on the Ireland's Wildlife website.

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Calvin Jones
Get closer to the wild side of Ireland.
Visit Ireland's Wildlife
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