These are a really serious proposition for anyone who wants to get into wildlife watching. Out of all the binoculars that I tested, these are probably the pair that I would be most likely to purchase for myself, based on my budget and requirements. I found that they offered the best close focusing at this price point and also delivered an exceptionally bright image. They outperformed my regular pair of Minox binoculars on both fronts. If you aspire to be a serious wildlife watcher and these fall within your budget, then I would highly recommend them.
Exceptional performance at this price point
High-end carry case and accessories
Very slightly softening at edge of image
Heavier than some so might not be ideal for adventure use
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Out of the box, the Hawke Endurance 8x42 immediately impressed. They come in a rather neat-looking, zip-up carry case that looks ready to absorb a few knocks. Protectors for the objective lenses are attached to the barrels and the eyepiece guards attach to the neckstrap. I hate fiddling with these things when I’m outdoors and they tend to be the first thing I lose, so for me this is a really important feature.
The eyepiece adjusters aren’t as reassuringly firm as others when you twist them, but you can click through different options for eye relief and I found them easy to fine tune for use with or without glasses. The central hinge is firm, but easy to adjust and the focus wheel is smaller than others but easy to fine tune.
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All of that means that these didn’t feel quite as accessible for novice users who I asked to try these out. They often seemed to prefer the more pleasingly tactile Nikon Prostaff binoculars, which sit in a very similar price bracket. So for a general user, I’d be inclined to recommend the Nikons, but for more serious wildlife watchers these Hawke Endurance are really exceptional. On balance, these are probably the binoculars I’d buy for myself, and the reason for that is below.
• RRP: $269 (US)/£229 (UK)
• Size: 148mm length; 127mm width/ 5.8in length; 5in width
• Weight: 705g/24.86oz
• Magnification: 8
• Objective diameter: 42mm
• Field of view at 1000m: 133m
• Close focusing distance: 2m/6.6ft
In the field
A lot of my testing happened on my local patch and a regular feature was a young juvenile kestrel that seemed to be learning to hunt, dropping from the branches of a whitebeam or neighbouring ash to pounce on prey in scree-covered slopes below. It felt right to spend so much of my time watching this bird, through a pair of Hawkes.
The clamber up to my preferred viewing spot requires scrambling over a rocky slope and the carry case meant I could throw these over my shoulder where I knew they would be well protected. Once up high, they quickly found their point of focus and delivered a superbly bright image.
It’s hard to really compare brightness and image quality between binoculars. There’s an element of subjectivity to it and so much depends on the shifting light levels and exactly what you are looking at. But in terms of brightness and quality of image, these binoculars are genuinely excellent. I think most people would be hard pushed to notice a big difference between these and a pair that cost half as much again.
Long after I’d completed my reviewing, I kept finding myself coming back to this pair on longer walks out with the dog. The carry case made them easy to sling over my shoulder as I was heading out the door. Our usual route throws up possible views of peregrines, kestrels, woodpeckers, goldcrests, long-tailed tits and they were all ticked off in the company of this pair of binoculars.
If your aspirations tend towards serious bird- and nature-watching, then I would highly recommend you try these for yourself. They look and feel exceptionally good and the focus wheel, while a little firmer than others, adds to the sense of a well-constructed pair of binoculars that promise a lifetime of use.
This is a really serious pair of binoculars that offers excellent performance and will meet the aspirations of most serious wildlife watchers.
Former Editorial Development Director for Lonely Planet, editor of Trail and BBC Wildlife magazine, and editor-in-chief of Trail Running magazine, Matt got the outdoor bug as a teen on gruelling UK Ten Tors events around Dartmoor. He has hitch-hiked to Egypt, cycled through India, enjoyed the delights of the High Atlas, slept on volcanoes while living in Central America, climbed in the Alps and tackled some of Scotland’s really big routes, from Tower Ridge and the Cuillin to the Aonach Eagach. He’s got a passion for butterflies and ukuleles. If you see him in a campfire situation… approach with caution.