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Reviewed by Joe on 09/08/14
When the Frontier ED 8 and 10x32 binoculars arrived back in June, they had a lot to live up to with their namesake, the open hinge Frontier EDs, currently Hawke's flagship model. After the 36mm models were discontinued, only the ever popular 43mm models were left in the Frontier ED range, creating a fresh opportunity for Hawke to find a new niche in the optics market. With very few 32mm ED binoculars currently available, it was a gap worth filling. Now I've had plenty of time to get to grips with these new models, it's time to put pen to paper and write down my thoughts.
Optically I spent a bit of time comparing them side by side with the Vistron Pro 8x32, which retail for a shade under these ED binoculars. At 7.6°, the Frontier EDs had a appreciably larger field of view, the 6.5° on the Vistron Pros falling short somewhat. The Frontier EDs also appeared brighter with better contrast in the overcast conditions I tested them in, though resolution was equal and the depth of field was swinging in favour of the Vikings. Both models feature BAK4 prisms, fully multi coated lenses and phase correction, though only the Hawkes benefit from ED glass, which performed beautifully with no CA noticeable even at the edges. Hawke quote close focus at 2m for the 8x32s and 2.5m for the 10x32s, I found I could get to 1.7m on both models in tests.
They say don't just a book by its cover and don't get me wrong, I don't, but they do look good. I know it's a bit silly, but appearance seems to matter in the birding world and these relatively small, stylish 32mm binos definitely, in the wise words of Chris Packham, "do it for me". The top hinge allowed for plenty of space for your hands to rest plus they have a small indent on the underside of each barrel to rest your thumb, making them ergonomic too. The eye cups twist out well but there's a very small amount of play in each of the two stops, nothing worth complaining about mind you. There's good grip on the focus wheel which runs smoothly, with just under 2 full 360° turns from close focus to infinity. At 125mm tall and weighing 500g, they are what I'd class as a classic 32, not dinky like the Opticron Discovery or the Viking Vistron Pro 8x32s, but not chunky like the Opticron Countrymans either. The best comparison I can find is the Opticron Oregon 8x32s which are a very popular size.
The lightweight polycarbonate body is covered in a textured rubber. There's no extra grip sections like on their bigger brothers, but the armouring still felt reassuring yet tactile without it. The eyelets for the strap are built in to the body, as are the the nodules for the stay-on lens caps. Neither got in the way during use. The rainguards themselves have an outlet to thread the lanyard through so you won't ever be without protection for either end of the lenses. As expected, the binoculars are fully waterproof and fog proof owing to the fact they have been nitrogen purged.
The standard of accessories is, as I've come to expect from Hawke, very good. The semi rigid, faux leather carry case is attractive and provides decent protection, while in use, the wide padded lanyard offers optimum comfort. As always, a basic cleaning cloth is thrown in and the binoculars are backed by a 10 year warranty.
Optical quality: 9/10
Build quality: 8/10
Value for Money: 9/10
For around £200, I personally believe these binoculars excel in most departments and represent incredible value for money. Yes, there are certain elements that could be improved, but Hawke have found a great balance with these Frontier ED 32s between the overall quality of the binoculars and the price. Firmer eye cups, a nicer cleaning cloth and a real leather case would of course be wonderful, but then would we be talking about a pair of binoculars for nearer £300? As is stands, do they live up to the standard set by their namesake? I certainly think so.
2018: Hawke have discontinued the Frontier ED range and have replace it with the Frontier ED-X.