Hawke Frontier ED 8x43 binocular
Hawke’s new Frontier ED is an open-bridge binocular that features 43 mm objectives and is clearly designed to compete with other models already established at the lower end of the market.
To assess its performance, and to determine if the extra £100 on top of the price of the standard 42 mm Frontier model (reviewed in Birdwatch 192: 46) is justified, I tested the 8x magnification model throughout September and early October.
This is not a small binocular, but the balance is good and the ergonomics work well. The rubber armour features inset thumb-rests positioned obliquely to the line of the barrels and a stippled area on the side of each barrel to increase grip. These fit my hands nicely and I had no problem holding the model for long periods; the relatively light weight of the binocular contributed to this. Although the ED is 16 per cent heavier than the standard model, it’s worth noting the overall weight, with the open-bridge design and the magnesium alloy body, is still a little below any of the top-of-the-range 8x42 binoculars on the market, although there are some mid-range models out there that weigh less.
The eyecups, covered with a good thickness of tough rubber, twist out and lock loosely in three positions: fully extended, fully retracted and midway between the two. The dioptre adjustment is effected via a broadly milled ring at the base of the right eyecup; it does not lock, although it retains its setting and the eyecup position does not have to be changed in order to make the adjustment.
Focusing is achieved using a rubber-milled wheel, which is a comfortable 1.5 fingers’ width and turns smoothly. The full turning distance of the wheel is approximately 2.7 revolutions between close focus and infinity. In reality this may be reduced between close focus and ‘long distance’ to little more than 2.0, which is still comparatively high; however, I found that the relatively good depth of field reduced the need for constant adjustment over general mid-distance viewing.
I was pleasantly surprised by the image quality. The ED glass, combined with an enhanced internal optical system, has resulted in a huge improvement over the original Frontier, delivering an exceptionally bright image with excellent contrast. The colours are very natural and the overall tone is neutral. Even under conditions of poor light intensity, this binocular performs well; the slightly larger diameter objective must be contributing to this, if only to a small degree.
One of the positive elements carried forward from the original Frontier is the exceptional field of view: 142 m at 1,000 m is significantly ahead of the top-tier competition, although there is a small price to pay in terms of edge-to-edge sharpness. I estimate that some 10% of the periphery of the field is slightly out of focus and there is some curvature of field visible, too. The latter is also evident when viewing a flat horizon, such as the sea-air interface, when this is either above or below the centre of the field. Nevertheless, the broad field width lends a very open and unrestricted feel to the image, making viewing easy on the eye, and none of the above distortions are particularly evident in general viewing.
One further aspect of the image deserves mentioning: chromatic aberration. Although I did not have the original Frontier to hand for direct comparison, my perception of colour fringing from memory was that it was noticeably reduced in this new model and certainly was not at a level to cause concern.
It almost goes without saying that the ED is nitrogen filled and fully waterproof and features close focusing to 2.0 m, which I found I was able to squeeze down to just 1.7 m.
As for accessories, there is a semi-hard, double protection case, ‘stay-on’ objective lens caps, articulated rain guard and padded neck strap. The latter, in my opinion, is far too long and does not offer enough leeway for shortening because the majority of its length comprises broad padding.
The new ED binoculars – there is also a 10 x 43 model – are the best Hawke has produced to date. If the Frontier continues to evolve at its current rate, it will likely become another highly credible and less expensive alternative to those top-tier bins currently available on the market. So, is it worth that extra £100? Undoubtedly.
Length: 167 x 120 mm
Weight: 743 g
Field of view: 142 m at 1,000 m
Close focus: 2.0 m
Guarantee: 10 years