Steiner SkyHawk Pro 8x42 binocular
Steiner’s new Skyhawk Pro series, comprising 8x and 10x magnification in both 32 mm and 42 mm objective sizes, along with a smaller 10x26 model, has been designed to slot in to the lower end of the price range, replacing the existing SkyHawk series.
Aside from some minor cosmetic differences, the new range features an improved technique of nitrogen pressure filling, superior multi-coating to the glass surfaces and an enhanced internal focusing mechanism. This latest model uses ‘Green’ eco-friendly glass in the lenses and prisms and hypoallergenic non-chloride rubber for the armour. The glass is manufactured without using arsenic, antimony and other toxic heavy metals in the refining process.
Surprisingly, the new 8x42 is less expensive to buy than its predecessor, which is very unusual in the world of optics upgrades. Field testing was therefore a must, so I set out with high expectations tempered by the knowledge that this was, after all, a low- to mid-price binocular.
Love them or hate them, the silicon eyecups feature Steiner’s trademark fold-down flaps at their outer edges to block side light. These are effective once manoeuvred into the correct position, achieved by pulling hard upwards and twisting. If you don’t want to use them they fold down flat, but they do have a nasty habit of flipping up when the neoprene rainguard is lifted off them.
The eyecups click-stop somewhat loosely in three positions above the fully retracted base, and the dioptre for single eye adjustment is located below the left eyecup. I did not find it particularly easy to use, though it is more easily adjusted when the eyecup is raised. It also gave the impression of being rather ‘ratchety’.
At little more than a finger’s width, the broadly milled central focusing wheel turns smoothly, with a respectable 1.5 rotations between close focus and infinity. Happily, I did not need to adjust the focusing too frequently during general use as this model has a generous depth of field, with the image in focus over an estimated range of between 70 m and ‘far distance’.
This is always a big plus in any binocular, particularly those in which users need to stretch their fingers around the strap attachment lugs to reach the wheel. In the Skyhawk Pro this is minimised by the positioning of the thumb rests, which encourage you to hold the binocular slightly lower down the body, although the attachment ports in this case could still have been positioned a little higher. The ports themselves allow quick, click-in coupling and release of the neck strap – a practical feature I have always liked in the Steiner range.
Now to the all-important image. I tested this binocular in both good and poor light conditions, and I was pleased with the apparent brightness it delivered against a generally warm colour rendition. I was also happy with both the contrast and the very natural colours returned, but there were some aspects of the image which could have been better. Clarity and sharpness were fine across approximately 80 per cent of the field of view, but the peripheral 10 per cent appeared to give way to a detectable failure in resolution and noticeable curvature of field.
Although these minor defects do not constitute a major worry, I was a little disappointed with the obvious degree of chromatic aberration readily visible even in the centre of the field when observing interfaces between light and dark objects (for example, distant land horizons or trees against the sky). One of this model’s redeeming features, however, is its field of view: 122 m at 1,000 m is very good for its class and significantly beats its predecessor’s field width by 8 m.
The SkyHawk Pro comes equipped with stay-on objective covers which easily click into, and out of, ports on the binocular’s body, a uniquely quirky, sock-like neoprene rainguard and a comfortable neoprene neck strap.
Size: 151 x 125 mm
Weight: 725 g
Field of view: 122 m at 1,000 m
Close focus: 2 m
Guarantee: 10 years