Hawke Endurance ED 18-45×60 Spotting Scope

 

Hawke Endurance ED 16-48×65 Spotting Scope

A while back I wanted to tear myself away from riflescope reviews for a bit and look at other optics a little more, so I called up Hawke and asked what they have that looks promising.  Apparently, “promising” was not a very descriptive term and they know me well enough to not just send me something random to look at.  My interests typically lean toward mid to high end products and they naturally wanted to know what exactly I had in mind.  That forced me to give it a little more thought (since at that exact moment I was rather burned out and my mind was as close to a clean slate is it gets) and I came up with a staggering realization that I had not really paid any attention to their spotters in the past.  After some further consideration I asked them to send me a 16-48×65 Endurance ED spotter.  I generally abhor cheap spotters and find no use for them most of the time.  $500 range is roughly where you start seeing spotters that might be worth it, so I was curious to see whether theirs was any good.  To Hawke’s considerable credit (and despite some earlier unflattering reviews from me) they sent me the spotter.  I briefly looked at it, made some notes along the lines of “not bad, but there are a couple of quirks I should really look at a little more carefully” and promptly forgot about it.  Every once in a while, I would get an e-mail from Brad (my contact at Hawke) to the effect of: “how about you move your fat behind, you jackass, and wrap this up since I am curious what you think and I need the spotter back”, to which I would make a mental note that I really need to wrap this up.  A couple of times I even got back to it and chased down the quirks that I found interesting originally, but I never stayed at it long enough to write things down in a proper manner.  Somewhere along the way I became a father (there goes my sleep), changed jobs (and careers in the process), gained some weight and became overall much more irritable (not that I started out all that level-headed anyway).  My new job involves a fair bit of travel, so once things settled down a bit I found that the only chance I have of doing some writing is when I am stuck at an airport or on a plane.  Right now, I am waiting for my flight at a ginormous dumspter commonly known as Los Angeles International Airport.  This is my home airport and now that I fly around the country all the time I know for a fact that this is the crappiest airport in the US.  My flight will take me to JFK in New York: the second crappiest airport in the country.  I will most likely be finishing this article at JFK since I have a tendency to show up a little early for my flights (better early than late, in this case).  With my time limitations in mind, I will first publish this article without pictures and add them later on as time permits.

That digression aside, the reason I wanted to look at the the 16-48×65 spotter is that my go to spotter is a similarly sized Pentax PF-65A-ED.  65mm spotters offer a very nice compromise of performance and portability.  The Pentax is a bit more expensive at ~$900 with a standard zoom eyepiece, so I thought that it would be intersting to see what those extra $350 (compared to the Hawke) get you, or conversely what you give up for going with a cheaper spotter.
Here is a comparison table of similarly sized spotters.  Keep in mind that I compared the first two: Hawke and Pentax.  The other ones are here purely for comparison purposes.

Hawke Endurance ED 16-48×65

Pentax PF-65A ED 20-60×65 (with XF eyepiece)

Swift Premier ED 16-48×65

Vortex Viper HD 15-45×65

Celestron Regal F-ED 16-48×65

Length, in

13

10.6 (without eyepiece)

12.8

15.8

13

Weight, oz

61

37.7 (without eyepiece)

31.2

53.3

61

Eye Relief, in

20

15 – 11

19

18

20

FOV, ft@1000yards

165 – 82**

111 – 51

129.64 – 63.2

140 – 65

136 – 68

Close Focus, ft

15

16.5

16.4

16

15

Compatible with standard  1.25” eyepieces

Yes

Yes

Not sure

No

Yes

Price

$550

$898

$665

$650

~$490

**This is the published spec and I am pretty sure it is a typo of some sort.  This spotter has a nice and wide FOV, but not that wide.

Here are a few observation, just based on the numbers alone:
– That Swift scope is comparatively tiny and I should probably find the time to look at it at some point.
– Celestron and Hawke looked eerily similar and, best I can tell, are the same spotters with different packaging.
– Pentax’ XF eyepiece seems to offer the shortest eyereleif and the highest magnification.
– Close focus distances are the same for all practical purposes
– Pentax is the most expensive scope in the group
– The published FOV of the Hawke is a typo of some sort.  I would estimate it to be identical to the Celestron (which kinda stands to reason since these are identical spotters best I can tell, made in the same factory in China)
– Based on numbers alone, all you got with the Pentax for that extra money is reduced size and weight.

In principle, I like the idea of spotters utilizing the rather ubiquitous 1.25” bayonet mount for the eyepieces and this simplifies testing for me.  Also, for people who have multiple spotters of different size, it is a definite convenience.  With Hawke and Pentax, I was able to swap eyepieces around and see how they far.  Focal lengths of the spotters themselves are very simialr between the two, so it was an itnersting exercise:
– Hawke/Celestron focal length is 386mm
– Pentax focal length is 390mm

In a nutshell, what I found is that the Hawke is a very competent spotter, although it is rather bulky and heavy for this configuration.  For range use, I do not care much, but for field use, I would much rather drag the Pentax with me.  It is notably lighter and works much better on smaller tripods.  

Optically, it was pretty close.  Pentax had a little more chromatic aberration, and the colors on the Hawke were a little colder.  Hawke did have a bit more flare than the Pentax and a little less contrast.  Both spotters benefit from extending the built in sunshade a fair bit.  Some of the flare gets notably diminished with the sunshade extended.

Mechanically, both spotters were pretty solid and well built.  Hawke does come with a dual speed focusing mechanism that offers two adjustment speeds: slow and fast.  Both were fairly slow, so at the range the Endurance ED offered superb focus control.  Pentax has a well calibrated single speed focusing knob, which I am rather used to.  In field use, where I wanted to focus on something quickly, Pentax was a little easier for me to use.

As far as configurations go, I found that I MUCH prefer a 16-48x eyepiece with a 65mm spotter.  I have had that Pentax for quite some time now and I can probably count one hand the number of times I have used it at 60x, or generally above 48x or so.  Pentax’s SMC zoom eyepiece does end up with a 16-48x magnification range, but since it is a lot more expensive, it is well beyond the scope of this article (it is a spectacularly good eyepiece though).

Both spotters are compatible with standard astronomy 1.25” eyepieces, so there is a large variety of them available out there.  In this price range, I have not seen a trylu good zoom eyepiece to date, so I highly recomend looking into some fixed eyepieces.  The focus of this review was performance with standard zoom eyepieces, but I did look at both spotters briefly with a fixed power XW eyepiece by Pentax and the performance was much better.  I also experimented a little with with using the Pentax XF eyepiece in the Hawke and thought that the image quality of the Hawke was a little better that way.

Generally, while the Hawke eyepiece was serviceable, it was the weak link of the design.  As I said earlier, really liked the magnificaiton range.  Overall image quality was pretty good as well.  However, the ergonomics did not work well for me.  The eyepiece has an extendable eyecup, which is good.  However, that eyecup does not retract back completely, so that it is fully flush with the eyepiece.  That makes the effective eyerelief of the spotter much shorter.  It was not too bad when I wasa wearing contacts, although it still did not fit me well.  However, when I was wearing glasses, the eyepiece gave me a rough time.  Don’t get me wrong, it was not too bad.  For example, compared to the zoom eyepiece used on Nikon Fieldscopes, Hawke’s was not bad at all.  

To conclude, where does the Endurance ED spotter fit in the grand scheme of things?
The optical performance is very good for the money.  Mechanical performance seems very good as well.  The two weaknesses of this design are overall bulk and eyepiece ergonomics.

The biggest weakness, probably, is that the identical Celestron Regal spotter can be had for about $50 less.  However, I did not do a particularly thorough investigation of the prices out there.  There are of course other factors that are perhaps important, like customer support where Hawke’s US office has been excellent the best I can tell.

Between the Hawke and the Pentax in the configurations I tested, if I were looking for a spotter to take into the field with me, I would pay the extra money and get the Pentax.  For use that does not involve dragging it with me all over the place, I would definitely get the Hawke which offers simila roptical performance for a bit less money.  I would, however, invest into some fixed power eyepieces either way.

 Posted by at 1:46 am