Hawke Vantage and Frontier HDX Binoculars
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- Last updated: 28/11/2019
Binoculars are a very useful tool for any shooter, but it’d not just shooting they are fantastic for. I never go on holiday without a pair either; to birdwatchers they are essential. These days I carry a Hawke Endurance set with a 10x32 specification, I’ve had them since 2013. Things move fast in the world of optical instruments, so I wanted to see what Hawke had to offer in 2019. They have a very good range of binoculars to suit all pockets, be it big or small. They have four brands to be exact. The entry level Vantage, midrange Nature-Trek and rugged Endurance. Finally, the exacting Frontier HD X and even better Frontier ED X. It was a real treat to get to do a side-byside comparison on two of the latest pairs of Hawke binoculars one from each end of the Hawke’s price range. I had the Vantage 8x42 and the Frontier HD X 8x42, the same basic specification so in theory they should give similar performances.
Starting with the Vantage I had the 34 221 model in Grey, that’s not a colour I am used to in a binocular but as I used the Vantage’s I found myself liking it more and more. The thing that immediately struck me about them was the lightweight. You have to assemble the strap, it has quick release clips that attach to loops on each side of the body. The thin chord loops are a tad long, the reason. When you attach the one-piece rubber eye piece lens protectors the right side attaches to the neck strap that clicks into the quick release toggles. But, the length of the then chord loop prevents the lens protector from sitting where it should on the eye piece. It took 10 minutes to shorten the one loop, once short enough to allow correct fitting of the lens protector it does make it hard to get the loop over the female quick release clip. I can see why they don’t do it in the factory, it’s a bit fiddley.
Getting to the fit and function of the Vantage and these are not in the least bit fiddly. All the controls are perfectly to hand or should I say fingers. It has twist eye cups to enable spectacle or non-spectacle wearers to use the binoculars. The main thing that struck me was the lightness of the Vantage 8x42s, this makes them very pointable indeed. The superb grip panels on either side of the body assist in this also. There’s a threaded insert on the front of the hinge for attachment to a tripod, protected by a logoed screw in cap. The comfortable neck carry strap is Neoprene as is the carry case. The case has a Velcro closure and also has a belt loop on the rear. I found them very easy to hold and use one handed due to their light weight. There are a tad under two and a half revolutions on the focus wheel. It has a diopter focus on the right-hand lens. Did I mention the grey colour was growing on me.
The Frontier HD X’s are smaller than the Vantage, but heavier of course due to the chassis being magnesium alloy. The Frontier HD X range is just one step down from Hawke’s top brand the Frontier ED X which is approximately £100 more expensive than the HD model on test here. The body green colour is a favourite of mine of course, the textured rubber covering aids the handling characteristic as well as preventing any potential glare making then ideal for wildlife watching. There are four big grip panels made of raised ribs that sit perfectly under each hand as you hold the HD X’s. It takes just over one revolution on the focus wheel for its full range, so it’s very quick to focus. There’s a diopter ring focus
on the right eye lens also to really dial in the optical clarity. They are quite compact at only 148mm long even with the eye cups extended to their normal position. The carry case is more up market to, it’s a semi hard case with the front flap having a magnetic closure. It’s even got quick-release clips on the carry strap for the case. The red X on the model name really stands out on the left-hand body, the rest of the name is picked out in silver. If a chest harness is more your thing Hawke includes two adaptors to fit in place of the Neoprene neck strap. The lenses are multi-coated and the objective lens even has a waterproof coating to keep them clear if you’re out when it’s raining.
Getting to the real test on the optics, I used a1951 USAF optical test sheet to begin with. It gives a great comparison between two optical pieces. I used a USAF 1951 resolution test card set at 17m to do the side by side comparison test on their optical performance. I was able to read more numbers on the chart with the Frontier HD X’s and the image on the white paper background was a little brighter than the Vantage’s. They did impress me however, for the money the Vantage’s give you a lot of clarity for your buck.
To sum up, the Frontiers are two hundred pounds more expensive than the Vantages so the build and optical quality are better as they should be. That being said the Vantages have lot to offer, they are really light and the optics are spot on for hunting ranges. At under 90 quid they are an absolute bargain. The Frontier HD Xs are classy and the price shows in the superb optics and functionality. Hawke are right at the top of their game so check their range out if you are in need of binoculars for any purpose and on any budget. A big thank you to Jamie Ransome at Hawke for help in producing this article.