Pros: Superb image quality and premium build quality deliver excellent all-around performance. Contemporary design looks great, is ergonomic, lightweight and a delight to carry and use for extended periods in the field. Top notch accessories complete the package.
Cons: Minor observations rather than real “cons” — lack of thumb indents feels a little strange if you’re used to them, but soon becomes a non-issue, and doesn’t affect the handling of the binocular. In some lights, there appears to be a reflective “halo” around the periphery of the field of view. While it doesn’t impact the quality of the overall image, it can be a little distracting at times.
Price: EU RRP c. €409 at time of writing, €430 from the Birdwatch Ireland online shop — shop around for better deals and offers.
Rating: Highly Recommended
Hawke seems to be focusing its attention on a specific sector of the optics market, and on delivering the very best performance and value at a particular price point. To that end their flagship Sapphire line has been dropped from the range, leaving the new Frontier EDX as its successor. The design, finish, ergonomics and performance of this binocular are all top-drawer, yet somehow Hawke has managed to deliver it all at a comparatively affordable price point. It’s certainly worth a look if you’re shopping for a serious birding and wildlife binocular that doesn’t compromise on quality, but that won’t break the bank either.
Check out the full specs and information on the Hawke Frontier EDX 8×42 on the Hawke UK website.
Hawke Frontier EDX 8×42 Full Review
UK optics company Hawke continues to shake things up in the mid-market binocular space, by offering a lot of optical bang for the buck. The new Frontier EDX (ED Glass) and HDX (Non-ED Glass) lines are a case in point. Hawke has decided to drop the former flagship Sapphire ED binocular (which I reviewed here) from its range and has revamped the Frontier series, with the Frontier EDX sitting at the top of Hawke’s binocular offering.
Hawke sent me the 8×42 Frontier EDX and it’s smaller, non-ED sibling the 8×32 Frontier HDX to review. I’ll look at the smaller/lighter/cheaper binocular in a separate article — for now, let’s see how I got on with Hawke’s new flagship binocular, the Frontier EDX 8×42.
Balance, handling and build quality
Hawke’s binoculars are generally well made and use high-quality materials in their construction. They are solid, utilitarian, dependable workhorses that continue to deliver time and time again. Where their lower price-point has perhaps been reflected in the past is in the refinement of the finish. Top-end Hawke binoculars have been just a shade behind top-tier “alpha” brands in terms of image quality and robustness for some time… but they always seemed to lack the finesse of their higher-priced contemporaries. The Hawkes, while solid and well built, always felt a little less polished, a little less refined. Despite the high-end materials and ergonomic design, you could always tell you were holding a mid-range instrument rather than a premium product.
With the Frontier EDX Hawke has taken a significant step towards narrowing that gap. This binocular is not just well built, well balanced and a joy to carry and use… it also feels like it’s finished to more exacting standards.
The contemporary single-hinge design is compact, ergonomic and everything fits beautifully.
For a full-size high-quality binocular the Frontier EDX feels remarkably light thanks to the magnesium alloy housing and its compact form factor. Not so light as to raise concerns about the quality of the optical components used… but at just 692g it’s enough to make a difference when carrying and using the binocular in the field for extended periods. The metal chassis is covered with rubber armour that both protects the binocular from knocks and improves grip and handling. The armour is quite hard but yields a little under pressure and has a matt, almost textured finished that provides a superb grip, and also looks great. Hats off to Hawke, this is a good-looking binocular.
One thing that is missing is thumb indents on the underside. This isn’t necessarily good or bad, but it is noticeable as soon as you pick up the Frontier EDX if its a feature you’re used to on other binoculars. The minimalist design approach seems to be in vogue at the moment — you won’t find thumb indents on Leica’s new Noctivid flagship either. While it is noticeable the first time you pick up a pair of Frontier EDX, it’s not something that detracts from their use in the field in any way; you soon forget all about it and just enjoy the experience.
The central focus wheel on the Frontier EDX is metal, with two knurled rubber bands providing plenty of grip, making it easy to turn even when wearing gloves. The focus ratio is neither overly aggressive or laborious, moving from a specified close focus of 2m (6.6ft) to infinity in about 1.25 anti-clockwise turns. The wheel is smooth and fluid, with enough resistance to make focus feel precise, fast and accurate. In use it’s close to perfect and would have to rank as one of the best focus mechanisms I’ve ever used. It does what superb engineering should do — if fades into obscurity and allows you to get the job done without giving it a second thought.
As usual with Hawke binoculars, you’ll find the dioptre adjustment wheel under the right eyepiece. the wheel mirrors the design of the focus wheel: a metal band with a knurled rubber grip It turns smoothly and is stiff enough not to move accidentally once set. That said, once again there is no mechanism to lock the dioptre in place, which is a shame, and something that has become commonplace among binoculars higher in a brand’s range. There is an arrow, + and – sign on the rubber armour beneath the dial, and a mark on the dial to show its position. While there is no scale as such to show your dioptre setting, in practice by using the arrow and counting the ribs on the adjustment dial it’s easy to memorise your perfect dioptre setting and reset it as necessary.
Eye Cups and Eye Relief
The twist-up rubber-coated metal eyecups of the Frontier EDX again feel like a step up in terms of quality. The twist up mechanism feels more precisely engineered, and the hard rubber on the eyecups has a more premium feel about it. Another stand-out feature… and one you could easily overlook… is the slight tapering of the rubber on the eyecups. This may not sound like a big deal, but it does make them feel very comfortable against the eye… and crucially, it means you can flick the eyepiece rain-guard off effortlessly… which makes all the difference in the world when you need to get on a bird quickly in the field. Little things… attention to detail… exacting standards… they all add up to deliver a much more refined and cohesive user experience.
Quoted eye relief for the 8×42 Frontier EDX is 18mm, which should be plenty to afford most glasses wearers a full field of view when using the binocular with their spectacles. The eyecups twist up with and have a single intermediary position between the fully up and fully down position.
No surprises here… the Frontier EDX as you would expect is fully sealed and nitrogen purged to ensure it is waterproof, dust-proof and impervious to internal fogging.
Delivering outstanding optical performance at any given price point is something Hawke has built its optics business around. So how does the Frontier EDX fare as the new king of the Hawke binocular range?
Image quality and field of view
The view through the Hawke Frontier EDX 8×42 is excellent. Bright and clear, the image delivered has plenty of fine detail across most of the wide field of view (142m/1000m / c. 8.1°). There is a little softening out near the field edge but it’s minimal, and I never found it distracting. In some lighting conditions, I did perceive a reflective “halo” type effect around the edge of the field — that did occasionally prove distracting, but it didn’t happen consistently and I soon learnt to ignore it. Overall the Frontier EDX offers a superb viewing experience and is certainly on a par with some binoculars at significantly higher price points.
Colour Fidelity, contrast and chromatic aberration
Colours through the Frontier EDX look pleasingly neutral, and I couldn’t detect any colour bias at all in the field. Contrast is very good, and the image pops just enough to make it vibrant and detailed, allowing you to see subtle differences in tone and hue, without seeming over-contrasty and artificial. The EDX used Extra-low Dispersion (ED) glass in the objective lens elements to help control colour fringing (chromatic aberration) — a phenomenon that can show fuzzy purple or green edges around high contrast subjects, affecting the perceived sharpness of the resulting image.
Here the ED glass does a great job of controlling chromatic aberration, and I was unable to detect any sign of fringing in normal field conditions. Even trying to induce it for testing purposes, by looking hard at high-contrast subjects right at the periphery of the field of view, I only managed to detect the faintest hint of fringing, which is impressive.
Low light performance and coatings
The Hawke Frontier EDX is, of course, fully multi-coated — with multiple layers of high-transmission, anti-reflective coatings applied to all glass surfaces within the optical system. These coatings both improve the amount of light passing through each element of the optical system, hence the brightness of the image reaching the eyepiece, and prevent unnecessary reflection and stray light inside the binocular which would otherwise degrade the quality of the image. Coupled with phase-correcting and highly reflective dielectric mirror coatings on the roof prisms, the Frontier EDX line has a full suite of high-tech coatings to optimise light transmission and image quality. The result is an extremely bright binocular that delivers excellent performance in low-light situations, delivering bright, clear images well into twilight and beyond.
There are binoculars that perform better in low light… but not by much, and you can expect them to cost several times what you’d pay for the Frontier EDX.
Hawke has also included a special hydrophobic protective coating to the outer lens surfaces of the Frontier EDX. This protects the more delicate anti-reflective coatings underneath, causes water to simply bead and drop off the lens surface, and makes it harder for dirt and grease to “stick”. It means your precious lenses stay cleaner for longer, and when they do need a wipe cleaning them is much easier — helping preserve the longevity of those all-important coatings.
The Hawke Frontier EDX comes with all the usual accessories you’d expect when you buy a high quality binocular. There’s a very comfortable neoprene padded strap; a smart high quality padded case for storing your binoculars in when not in use (i.e. for putting in a cupboard somewhere and forgetting about), tethered objective lens covers (which normally end up in the case, in the cupboard), a decent eyepiece rainguard (perhaps the second most essential accessory after the strap) and a lens cleaning cloth. You’ll also find a user guide and a warranty card in the box.
The Frontier EDX is covered by Hawkes incredible No-Fault Lifetime Warranty — which means that if your binocular is damaged or defective for whatever reason, regardless of what happened or who’s fault it was, Hawke will repair or replace it free of charge, for life. It’s one of the best warranties in the industry and proof that Hawke really believes in the quality and longevity of its products.
The Frontier EDX is an outstanding binocular that delivers optical performance and ergonomics that come close to the very best binoculars on the market, yet at a fraction of their price. Hawke has crammed so much value into this binocular with its smart contemporary design, high-quality materials and superb optics. Offering tremendous value has become something of a hallmark for the Hawke brand, so that’s not entirely unexpected, but where Hawke has taken a big step forward with the EDX is in the refinement of the finished product. The EDX feels much more a premium product than any of the previous Hawke lines… including the more expensive (but now discontinued) Hawke Sapphire I reviewed previously.
Hawke got so much right with this binocular there really is very little to quibble about. It just feels great, performs superbly, is extremely well built, has great accessories, one of the best warranties on the market and a price that is frankly hard to believe. This is the best Hawke binocular I’ve ever used… in fact, I’d go so far as to say I’d be happy to use a pair of Frontier EDX as my main wildlife and birding binocular day in, day out. I don’t think I can give any higher accolade than that.
If you’re in the market for a new pair of binoculars and have a budget around the €400 mark, the Hawke Frontier EDX has to be on your shortlist. It’s hard to see how you could find better value for money.
From the manufacturer’s website:
Nitrogen Purged – Waterproof and Fog Proof.
I’d like to thank Hawke Optics for providing the Frontier EDX 8×42 for review on Ireland’s Wildlife.
NB. Ireland’s Wildlife has no specific affiliation to any optics or gear manufacturer and all reviews on the site are completely independent and objective. If you’re an optics or gear manufacturer and would like to submit your product for review on the site please drop us a line using the contact form and we can take things from there.