- By Pete Moore
- 1 Comments
- Last updated: 16/12/2016
Binoculars are a very useful tool for any shooter and Hawke offer a range to suit all pockets, be it big or small. It was a real treat to get to do a side-by-side comparison of five pairs of Hawke binoculars. I chose the models myself to give a large spread of specifications and prices. As it happened I was in the market for a new pair of bino’s as the kids were at an age that they love the great outdoors and our family holidays are geared around that, and a recent trip to the Farne islands told me I had to go shopping. I had not had a new pair of bin’s for general use in years and to be fair the ones I was using were getting old and a bit worn out. I also used to have an expensive Austrian made set but someone made me an offer I could not refuse some years ago when I was short of cash and I stupidly sold them.
Five On Test
I wanted to keep all the five review binoculars at ten times magnification to make it as fair a comparison as possible when I used an optical resolution test chart. So I had asked Deben for the HA3741 Premier UK Camo 10x42 at £69.99 rrp but they were out of stock due to their popularity, but more should be in stock by the time you read this. Instead I have the HA3740 Premier UK Camo 8x42, but as can be seen, all the other models are 10x magnification. I also wanted all the binos in green or camo, so that they would be more appealing to shooters, bird spotters and others with an interest in wildlife.
The five models on test from Hawke were.
• HA4134 Premier Open Hinge Compact green 10x25 - £59.95 rrp
• HA3740 Premier UK Camo 8x42 - £64.95 rrp
• HA3934 Nature-Trek Open Hinge green 10x42 - £139.95 rrp
• HA3947 Endurance green 10x32 - £159.95 rrp
• HA3768 Sapphire ED green10x42 - £369.95 rrp Time for fi rst impressions, I opened the boxes in order of retail price.
Premier Open Hinge Compact Green 10x25
Starter for ten, or in this case five, was the Premier open hinge compacts. They come with a comfortable neoprene neck strap which I did find tricky to fit due to the green rubber protective covering on the body, I am unfamiliar with open hinge designs and this was one of the first I had handled. It has eyecup adjustment for either spectacle or non-spectacle wearers as well as a diopter ring focus on the right eye lens. It does not come with any lens covers but has a soft case with a Velcro flat fastening. I own three pairs of compact binoculars made by, Pentax, Cannon and a very, very old set of Hawke’s. The Hawke Premier open hinge was a vast improvement on all of them.
The main problem with compacts is getting the correct eye spacing and keeping it there, the open hinge made adjusting it to my eyes very easy and they stayed in the correct place too.
The main focus wheel is in the usual place in the middle of the hinge at the eye-piece end. I found them comfortable to both hold and focus. They were the lightest of the bino’s at only 0.320kg.
Premier 8x42 UK Camo
Next up were the Premier 8x42 UK Camo set, which were covered in a very light camo pattern, being camo covered they are firmly aimed at the shooting community. They have a very comfortable neoprene neck strap and a large eye-cup adjustment, the biggest of the five on test at 11mm. As with the 10x25 Premiers I did find it hard to fit the neck strap due to the protective covering but I would rather have that very small niggle than a thinner covering. You only have to fit the neck strap once anyway.
These too were very light and had lens covers for both the front and rear lenses. The rear rubber one piece set attaches to the right side neck strap. The front ones hang on rubber bands looped around the lens body on each side.
Nature-Trek Open Hinge Green 10x42
At twice the price of the 10x42 Premiers next up were the 10x42 Nature-Trek, which are designed for the nature lover. Their soft black carry case has an inside pocket to hold the binoculars in place while the front is zipped open to allow the user to have a notebook or small animal/bird reference guide inside the case. These were of an open hinge design which cut’s down on the weight and they are supposed to be more comfortable to hold one handed, which makes sense as you would have your reference or notebook in the other hand!
The rain guard rear eyecup cover is attached to the non-padded neck strap on the left hand side where as all the others on test were on the right (apart from the 10x25 which does not have lens covers). The textured surface on the whole of the Nature-Trek’s body aids with handling characteristics as well as cutting down on glare, which is ideal for animal watching so as not to advertise your presence and spook them. The only thing I found strange was the lack of padding on the neck strap.
Endurance Green 10x32
The next pair were the waterproof Endurance binocularswhich I took an instant liking too - they felt like the old Austrian pair I used to have. The lenses are phase corrected to stop the image degrading as it passes through the lens system. The 10x32 Endurance feel heavy for their diminutive size, they have a padded neck strap and front and rear lens covers. There are large grip panels on either side with lots of small bumps in the rubber, these are perfectly placed for a good grip. The carry case is a semi rigid one, and like all the most expensive four has a screw at the front hinge for mounting on a tripod/monopod etc.
Sapphire ED Green 10x42
The last and most expensive pair was the Sapphire ED 10x42; these to be honest was a cut above the others in terms of finish and quality. The ED stands for Extra low Dispersion glass, this eliminates chromatic aberrations, so they say. They even come with a real leather carrying case, they are the heaviest too at 730 gram’s. All of it’s adjustments are mechanically very smooth. The body of the Hawke Sapphire ED series is constructed from a magnesium alloy a comparatively expensive material, but one that is lighter and stronger than the aluminium or the much cheaper polyamide (nylon) plastic sometimes used. There are two thumb grooves on the underside of these Sapphire binos that channel your thumbs into a comfortable hold. Even the front lens covers are not held by rubber band type systems, they click into moulded sockets on the protective body, nice!
I used a USAF 1951 resolution test card set at 17m to do the side-by-side comparison test on their optical performance. The results can be seen on the extract of the chart where I have marked their relative performances. Unsurprisingly the £360 Sapphire ED pair were the best, only just behind them were the small 10x32 Endurance but I put this down to me being able to hold them steadier due to their lightness. The 8x42 Premiers faired very well for their price and also they were 8x mag and not 10x like the rest.
The Premier Open Hinge Compact 10x25 were a bit of a revelation and the best cheap compacts I have ever used. The open hinge Nature-Trek’s were very comfortable to use as the blurb suggested they would be. The blurb for the 10x32 Endurance states they are designed to impress - they are not wrong.
To sum up there is something here for every type of binocular user, be it on a budget or not.
For those who want true performance, but not at a grand and a half price, then the Sapphires are well worth looking at. I can see why the 10x42 Premier camo ones have sold out - they are perfect for most shooters at a very reasonable price. For comfort and performance the Nature-Trek’s are fantastic for their money, as are the sixty quid 10x25 Premier Compacts.
I will be buying the 10x32 Endurance Hawke’s as the optical performance from such a small pair of bino’s is awesome. The focus wheel snaps the view in and out of focus and only turns through 7/8th of a revolution. They have every feature I could wish for and are not over large, they are also very comfortable in use. The optical performance I found to be just behind the bigger and heavier Sapphires, which are understandably a better build than the Endurance set.
A big thank you to Jamie Ransome at Deben for his help in producing this article. GM