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Hawke Frontier 8x25mm Binocular Review
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Hawke Frontier 8x25mm Binocular Review
March 31, 2012
by Les (Jim) Fischer (BigJimFish)
The third set of compact binoculars to jump out at me at Shot were the Hawke Frontier 8x25mm pocket binoculars. This surprised me. Prior to observing the Hawke offerings at Shot and speaking with their representatives, I had little knowledge of this company. I had read a few reviews of their rifle scopes, but never observed any products firsthand and I didn't really have much of an impression either way. I have since learned that Hawke is an optics brand that sells a variety of different products manufactured by different OEM's under the same Hawke label and warranty. This particular binocular stood out to me because, at $115, it is inexpensive, but it looked pretty good. This is not something I typically expect from an inexpensive optic and so I had them send me one over to put through its paces.
The packaging of the Hawke is exactly what I would desire in an inexpensive optic. They didn't spend much on the box, but deliver a nice enough nylon carrying case and strap. The case is perfectly sized for a snug fit of the optic so it will pack very well. The stitching on the case looks good and I think it will wear well.
Hawke Frontier 8x25mm unboxing:
The binocular itself has a magnesium body, but is fully rubber armored. It is also waterproof and fog proof. It sports the now familiar, though generally more expensive, twist-up eye cups and a friction lock diopter on the right barrel that is a little less stiff than I would have made it. The focus knob is smooth and of desirable resistance and no complaints can be lodged against the hinge joints. All in all, it looks and feels fine; better than would be expected at its moderate price. It is also warrantied better. Hawke offers a non-transferable lifetime warranty.
For optics comparisons with the Hawke, I traveled around a bit to compare the Hawke with the stock at some local retailers in addition to comparing it with the other binoculars that I had on hand for reviews and ones that I own. This made for quite a diverse set of optics and allowed me to get a good feel for how the Hawke fit in. The end result of all these comparisons was that the Hawke performed better than it ought to have for its cost. It was clearly better than $150 set of compact Steiners in all aspects except field of view and it came surprisingly close to a set of old Nikon Mountaineer 8x25mm porro prism binoculars I have from a few years back (which retailed for around $300 and were Japanese manufactured Nikons).
I think that it will be instructive to further break down the strengths and weaknesses of this binocular to give you a better idea of exactly were this binocular excels and what is less than ideal about the design. I think the best way to put it is that under ideal situations, this binocular performs quite admirably. What it tends to have issues with is less than ideal viewing. What I mean by ideal situations, in this case, is when the sun or other bright light source is not located at a shallow angle to the object you are viewing and when your head is perfectly positioned behind the binoculars. So long as these conditions are met, and I expect they usually would be, the Hawke performs well beyond its price point. The image is clear with good richness of color and no difficulties with aberrations such as chromatic aberration or pincushion distortion.
Stray light in optics can do a number of different unpleasant things and these Hawke binoculars do not handle it ideally. Haziness caused by stray light was quite apparent and problematic in difficult conditions. This was particularly true when the sun was located at a 15-20 degree angle from what was being observed with the observer as the vertex. Most other optics in this price range have the same difficultly and some are worse. I would say that, on balance, Hawke handled stray light about how you would expect at its price point, but this was not a strong point.
The biggest difficultly with the Hawke is head position. I found these binoculars to be more sensitive to the exact position of the optic in front of your eye than most others. They have a small eyebox. This seems to be the only area in which I think that they underperformed their cost.
I am pleased with these Hawke binoculars and surprised at how much optic can be purchased at $115. Fifteen years ago, I had a set of $150 Bushnell compacts that, when I look at them today, are simply junk and, due to the lousy rubber, smell a little like rotting beef carcasses besides. These Hawkes are quite good and for the individual on a budget or looking for a set of loaners or backups, I don't think you could do better.
Hawke Frontier 8x25mm binoculars with one eye cup extended and the other retracted:
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