Hawke’s Frontier APO is the new flagship binocular model from a brand with a reputation for offering the best value for money in the business. With a host of premium features, at a price-point that undercuts market leaders by a significant margin, we find out how Hawke’s new top-of-the-range birding and wildlife binocular stacks up.
Pros: Great ergonomics in a surprisingly compact form factor for a full-size binocular. Outstanding clarity with a razor-sharp, high-contrast image with plenty of detail and excellent colour fidelity. Smooth, precise focus. Decent field of view for a 10×42. Dielectric prisms coupled with top quality coatings deliver excellent low-light performance.
Cons: Not much to complain about with this binocular. Punches above its weight in practically every department. Focus is very aggressive (less than one turn end-to-end), which means it’s easy to overshoot the point of focus until you get used to it. Unusual not to have a locking dioptre mechanism at this level.
Price: RRP c.€869 (GB£749) at the time of writing on the Hawke Optics UK website
Check out the Hawke Frontier APO on the Hawke Optics Website.
Buy the Hawke Frontier APO on Amazon.
Hawke Frontier APO 10×42: Full Review
I’ve long been impressed by the value and performance Hawke manage to cram into their binoculars at any given price point, so when they introduced a new flagship to their already impressive Frontier range I was keen to take them for a spin.
Hawke Frontier APO: First Impressions
One of the first things you notice about the Frontier APO, as with its close siblings, the Frontier EDX and Frontier HDX, is its compact size. For a full-size 10×42 binocular, the Frontier APO is very compact. It has a reassuring heft, without feeling heavy, and the ergonomics are first class.
The EDX and HDX took Hawke’s design and finish up a notch to deliver a truly premium feel to the Frontier range. Where the EDX and HDX sport a contemporary design featuring strong lines and bold accents, the Frontier APO embraces classic elegance. It keeps the premium feel, and if anything heightens it with a softer, more nuanced design aesthetic. There’s a subtle flair to the barrels, giving a lovely curved feel in the hand. The muted green rubber armouring covering the body is textured on the outside edge of the barells, offering just the right amount of grip. It’s a binocular that looks every bit as good as it performs… but more about that a bit later.
Hawke Frontier APO: Balance, Handling and Build Quality
As mentioned above, the compact design, coupled with the slightly curved flare to the barrels, makes the Hawke Frontier APO an extremely comfortable binocular to carry and use in the field for extended periods. I’ve been using it, on and off, as my main birding and wildlife binocular for a few months now, and love the way it feels in the hand.
As with all of Hawke’s more recent models, build quality and finish on the Frontier APO is excellent. I’d say the sample I reviewed could sit alongside any binocular on the market — even flagships from the “Alpha” brands — and easily hold its own in terms of build quality and finish. Everything about it, feels from the magnesium alloy housing, to the eyecups, to the focusing wheel to the single hinge feels solid and premium, and the compact form factor gives it a lovely balance in use.
The magnesium alloy housing is covered with a hard green rubber armour that lends some additional protection to the binocular, makes them comfortable to hold and the subtle knurling on the outside of each barrel offers excellent grip.
It should almost go without saying for a binocular at this level that the Hawke Frontier APO is fully waterproof, nitrogen purged and impervious to water, dust and internal fogging.
Using the Hawke Frontier APO
I found the Hawke Frontier APO 10×42 a joy to use in all sorts of conditions on Ireland’s south coast over the last few months.
The view through the binocular is expansive. With an impressive 124m/1000m field of view, the image is as immersive as the very best 10x binoculars on the market (of the binoculars I’ve tested, I think only the exceptional Swarovski NL Pure 10×42 beats it). What makes that field of view even more impressive is that there’s no noticeable softening at the field edges. That view remains crystal clear and pin sharp from edge-to-edge, with excellent contrast and, to my eyes at least, no noticeable colour cast.
Low light performance and coatings
Sporting dielectric, phase corrected prism coatings, Hawke’s proprietary suite of anti-reflective coatings and apochromatic lens elements in their optical construction, the Frontier APO performs superbly in challenging light. It continues to deliver bright, high contrast images, and pulling plenty of detail out of the shadows well into twilight, and deals impressively with glare from low, angular light from the side and even straight ahead. They’re also among the best binoculars I’ve ever tested for eliminating chromatic aberration. I found it almost impossible to induce colour fringing around high-contrast subjects even when trying, and it was never apparent in normal field use, even when viewing very high contrast subjects like chough dancing against a bright overcast sky or gulls resting on the dark, brooding waters of a local lake.
As well as Hawke’s best anti-reflective coatings, all external lens surfaces of the Frontier APO have a special protective hydrophobic coating that resists dirt and water, making cleaning easier and protecting the more delicate coatings beneath.
The Moving Parts
Mechanically everything about the Hawke Frontier APO feels just right. The central hinge is smooth, and suitably stiff, so you can set it and forget it. It’s a similar story with the dioptre adjustment dial, in its familiar position beneath the right eyepiece, although at this level/price point it is a little disappointing not to see a locking mechanism incorporated into the dioptre adjustment dial.
The twist up eyecups are metal and are user-replaceable. They offer four settings, with two intermediate stops between the fully down and fully up positions. The 10×42 model I tested provides a specified 17mm of eye relief, which should be enough to afford the full experience of that impressive field of view to most spectacle wearers. Interestingly, for my eyes, I found the best eyecup setting was the first intermediate stop down from the fully extended position. That’s notable, because I normally use binoculars with the eyecups fully extended.
Focus is silky smooth, with a consistent, pretty much ideal level of resistance in both directions. It’s one of the best focusing mechanism’s I’ve used on any binocular. My one criticism is that it is a bit too aggressive. At just under one full anti-clockwise turn from a close-focus distance of 2m to infinity, focusing is super fast. Perhaps a little too fast.
When you first pick up the Hawke Frontier APO, it’s quite likely you’ll overshoot the point of focus and have to dial it back. When you hit the right spot though, the image snaps satisfyingly into focus, and you get used to the focus sensitivity quickly… it’s disconcerting when you first use the binocular though.
The Hawke Frontier APO comes with a range of high-quality accessories, including a semi-rigid case, tethered objective lens covers, an eyepiece rain-guard you can attach to the included branded neoprene padded neck-strap, and a microfiber cleaning cloth.
The Frontier APO is covered by Hawkes incredible No-Fault Lifetime Warranty — so, 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. I
t’s one of the best warranties in the industry, and proof that Hawke really stands behind the quality and longevity of its products.
Hawke has done it again. With the Frontier APO they have raised the bar even further, delivering a build quality and optical experience that pushes well into the realms of established flagship Alpha binoculars, but at less than a third of the price.
That makes them truly exceptional binoculars by any measure… and unbelievable value for money.
If you’re looking for uncompromising optical performance and superb build quality at a very compelling price point, take a look at the Hawke Frontier APO. I doubt they’ll disappoint.
Buy the Hawke Frontier APO on Amazon.
From the manufacturer’s website:
Optical System: System H7
Objective Lens: 42mm
Lens Coating: Wide Band, Anti-reflection, Fully Multi-Coated Lenses
with Water Repellent Coating
Field of View: 372ft @1000yds. 124m @1000yds
Field of View: 7.1°
Apparent Field of View: 71°
Eye Relief: 0.7in, 17mm
Exit Pupil: 0.17″, 4.2mm
Interpupillary Distance: 2.3-3.1″, 58-78mm
Close Focus: 6.6ft, 2m
Prism Type: Roof, BAK 4, Dielectric Mirror Coating
Eye Cups: Twist-Up (Replaceable)
Diopter Type: Right Eye
Tripod Mounting Thread: Yes (¼” – 20 UNC)
Height: 5.6″, 141mm
Width: 4.3-5.1″, 109-130mm
Weight: 26.1oz, 740g
I’d like to thank Hawke Optics for providing the Frontier APO 10×42 for review on Ireland’s Wildlife.
NB. Ireland’s Wildlife has no specific affiliation with 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.