Hawke Frontier ED 8x36 and Frontier ED 8x43 Binoculars
As the price of the top-end binoculars goes swiftly over £1000, and out of the price-range of many learner or casual birders, I am frequently asked what would be the best binoculars to buy in the £300-£350 price range? Having only used Zeiss, Leica, Swarovski or Nikon for quite some time, I was not too sure, so it was with some pleasure that I have been allowed to review the Frontier ED 8x36 and Frontier ED 8x43 binoculars from Hawke optics, based in Woodbridge, Suffolk – see http://www.deben.com/optics/binoculars/frontier_ed.php.
Outwardly, as you might expect, the two are pretty similar in design to each other, with a Swarovski-esque open hinge and large, chunky (and quite firm) focusing wheel. They are armoured with black or green rubber, and have a nice, quality feel to them – not too heavy; the eye-cups click out, with two settings, and they are comfortable in my eye-sockets. The supplied straps are quite long, so you will need to get the quite close to the broad neck strap if you don’t want them to hang like a sporran. There is a hard case and lens cups that can be fitted to stay on if wanted.
The proof for any binocular is in the using and, optically, I was pleasantly surprised that such well-priced binoculars could provide such a good image. Don’t get me wrong they are not quite in the league of Zeiss (or the others above), but they are pretty good. The best part of the image is in the central two-thirds, where it is crisp and sharp and pleasing, with the ED glass helping enormously to reduce colour-fringing – easily good enough for most birders to get good views of their birds. Toward the edge, the image is not quite as good, still okay, but straight lines tend to to curve a touch.
My own impressions were very favourable, but as a final litmus test, I let my dad use them – a man not easily pleased. Having used them for a while, I asked him what he thought? ‘Very good; surprisingly good for the price and good value for money’. Now if anyone asks me about lower priced binoculars, at least I can recommend the Hawke Frontier EDs.
Don’t take my word for it, here is another review from Birdwatch magazine