Steiner SkyHawk 4.0 Binoculars Review

Whilst the very similar Steiner Ranger Xtreme binoculars are marketed with hunting as the main focus, the Steiner SkyHawk positions itself as more of a general wildlife, nature loving and birding binocular.

That being said, like the Ranger Xtreme, there is no real reason why you could not use the correct model within the SkyHawk series in a wide range of other uses:

In this guide, I will first review the main features on the Steiner SkyHawk 4.0 binoculars, discuss what changes and upgrades have been made from the SkyHawk 3.0 series and then review each of the four models taking a look at their main specifications to discover which uses and type of user they are ideally suited for.

Steiner SkyHawk 4.0 8x42 binoculars
Steiner SkyHawk 4.0 8x42 binoculars


There are currently four models within the Steiner SkyHawke 4.0 series two mid-sized 32mm options and the standard 42mm versions in 8x and 10x magnifications:

Steiner SkyHawke = Steiner Peregrine in North America
Because of how Steiner sees the different markets in Europe and North America, they do not officially sell these in the US and Canada (although you can sometimes find them) – Instead, the Steiner Peregrine binoculars are the equivalent/similar series to the SkyHawke.

Main Features

Steiner SkyHawk 4.0 binoculars have a modern roof prism body design with a single bridge connecting the two barrels.

NBR-Longlife rubber Armour
Designed to increase grip and add another layer of protection to the optics, these days you will struggle to find a binocular that does not have a rubber coating on the exterior surface, so nothing new here.

However, Steiner Optics have once again gone further than most of the competition:

The NBR (Nitrile butadiene rubber) that they use has more resistance to oil, fuel, and other chemicals tat can often get transfered to the instrument from your hands and which causes many alternatives to soften or perish over time.

Another important advantage in this application is that NBR rubber has a very good resistance to heat aging and thus does not harden or lose its damping capability like natural rubber does.

Makrolon Housing
Whilst most manufacturers use polycarbonate plastic housings on their budget-friendly models and either aluminium or magnesium on their high-end models, Steiner buck the trend and use polycarbonate most of their instruments, even their top of the range ones like the Steiner HX 15x56 Binoculars for example.

However, the polycarbonate they use is a little special, known as Makrolon, it is made for them by the Bayer company and which has a number of properties that they believe makes it a better choice than magnesium:

It is lightweight, resistant to corrosion, resistant to high and low temperatures and is extremely strong. Indeed some models are able to take a force of 11 G’s and survive.

The two N2 markings on the top of the body indicate that the housing has been filled with Nitrogen gas. Here again, Steiner goes a little further than most of their competition with their 2-way-valve technology that replaces the air with the dry nitrogen gas and keeps it at a higher pressure. This means that not only are the optics better protected from fogging (Temp range: -20°C to +70°C) but should you need to, more can be added in the future.

EyeShields on the Steiner SkyHawke 4.0 Binoculars
EyeShields on the Steiner SkyHawke 4.0 Binoculars

Twist-up Eye-cups with EyeShields
On a good quality modern roof prism binocular, twist-up multi-position eye-cups are what you would expect, but what I really like are the SideShields that Steiner uses on just about all of their instruments.

To me it is incredible that more manufacturers don’t follow Steiner’s lead here as this small modification really does make a difference by blocking out any light entering from the sides which is both distracting and if it reflects off the ocular lens can affect the view.

Note: If you already have a pair of binoculars, but would like to have this feature, it is possible to add them to your existing eye-cups. Take a look at my review of the EyeShields by Field Optics Research.

Fast-Close-Focus System 
Essentially what this means is that Steiner uses a focus mechanism that is geared in such a way so that you require less turning of the focus wheel to go from one extreme to the other.

The advantage here is that you are able to lock onto your subject in less time, but as with most things there is also a downside. In this case, it, in theory, means that fine-tuning the focus may be a little more tricky.

Steiner SkyHawk 4.0 8x32 Binoculars

Steiner SkyHawk 4.0 8x32 Binoculars
Steiner SkyHawk 4.0 8x32 Binoculars

Like the larger 8x42 SkyHawk below, these mid-sized Steiner binoculars are a great option for general use, wildlife observation and especially bird watching.

Size is Important
The smaller 32mm lenses result in a smaller, more lightweight instrument which also makes them easier to carry and pack away and thus an ideal choice for uses like travelling, hiking and camping.

Wide FOV
At 399 ft wide at a distance of 1000 yards (133m @1000m), these Steiner SkyHawk 4.0 8x32 Binoculars also have an extremely generous field of view. For uses like wildlife observation, hunting and in particular birding, this is important especially at closer range, making it easier to quickly place and keep fast moving things like birds in view.

Binoculars for Sports
Combine this smaller easy to pack binocular with the very wide FOV and you have an ideal instrument to stash in daysack and take along to outdoor sporting events. Here the wide view lets you take in more of the on-field action without having to pan them about.

Close Range
With a minimum focusing distance of only 2 meters, these also make a good option should for viewing things like butterflies outdoors and because they are so easy to carry in a bag, why not take them with you the next time you visit an art gallery or museum.

Steiner SkyHawk 4.0 10x32 Binoculars

Steiner SkyHawk 4.0 10x32 Binoculars
Steiner SkyHawk 4.0 10x32 Binoculars

As these have exactly the same chassis as the 8x32 model above, I won’t go over the advantages of the smaller size again, but where these two do differ is in the amount they magnify the image.

Higher Magnification
The relatively powerful 10x magnification is ideal for longish ranges as it presents you with more image detail than what you will get with an 8x instrument.

Narrower Field of View (FOV)
However, on the negative side, this more zoomed in view means that you get to see less of the bigger picture.

These Steiner SkyHawk 4.0 10x32 Binoculars have a FOV of 354ft @ 1000 yards (118m @ 1000m), which for 10x instrument is pretty good, but is less than which you get on the 8x version.

At long range this is not that important, but at closer distance it can mean that you miss some of the action on the periphery.

32mm Diameter Lenses
The relatively small lenses enable the more compact body, which is great for portability, but it does mean that they are less able to collect and let in light than larger lenses.

In good light, this is not an issue as they are able to supply your eyes with more than enough light for you to perceive a bright image.

Exit Pupil
It is in very low light when the pupils in your eyes have dilated that 10x32 binoculars like these are not ideal. This is because they produce an exit pupil of only 3.2mm, whilst your pupils are likely to be up to 7mm in diameter and so would definitely benefit from larger cones of light exiting the eyepieces.

Ideal Uses
So to sum up, like most mid-sized binoculars, these are ideal for travel, safaris, camping and hiking types of uses, especially where you envisage using them to view things at longer distances and where the available light is good.

So if you know you are going on an adventure to a rain-forest like the Amazon where viewing distances are relatively short and the dense tree cover means light is not always good, opt for the 8x32 Steiner SkyHawke 4.0, but if you are on the coast or on the plains of Africa where distances are greater and there is plenty of light, this is the right choice.

Steiner SkyHawk 4.0 8x42 Binoculars

Steiner SkyHawk 4.0 8x32 Binoculars
Steiner SkyHawk 4.0 8x32 Binoculars

These 8x42 SkyHawk 4.0 binoculars are the ideal all-rounders of the series and will work well in most situations, but are especially appealing to the birdwatcher:

Bright, High Quality Views
To start with, 42mm diameter lenses are large enough to capture a high level of the available light, even in overcast, twilight and other sub-optimal conditions, but not so large so as to make the binocular too unwieldy.

With the new SkyHawke 4.0, Steiner has also managed to significantly improve the optical performance by using their latest high-quality glass and unique coatings. This sees to it that as much of the captured light gets transmitted through the instrument and then onto your eyes.

Wide Field of View (FOV)
Measuring 375ft wide at a distance of 1000yards (125m @1000m), the FOV is not quite as wide as that on the 8x32 version, but is is still ample.

This helps in a number of important ways, especially when birding:  Firstly it allows you to more efficiently scan large areas to find your subject and then at close range it makes it much simpler to quickly get them in view. Lastly: in the case of fast moving things like birds, this characteristic aids you further by making it much easier to follow it and keep it within your field of view.

Very Good Close Focus Distance
These Steiner SkyHawk 4.0 Binoculars 8x42 binoculars are also able to focus on an object at just 2 meters away. This is a very good and certainly adds to their versatility as it makes them a suitable instrument for the occasional study of things like butterflies, other insects and flowers from close range.

Ideal Uses
General Use, Bird watching, General wildlife & nature observation, occasional butterfly & insect observation.

Steiner SkyHawk 4.0 10x42 Binoculars

Steiner SkyHawk 4.0 10x42 Binoculars
Steiner SkyHawk 4.0 10x42 Binoculars

Ideal Uses & Terrain
Manufactured in Germany to a very high standard, these 10x42 Steiner SkyHawk 4.0 Binoculars are ideally suited to the longer distance birdwatcher, hunter, wildlife observer or nature enthusiast.

The ideal terrain would be wide open with a good level of light, so places like along the coast, a river front, in large fields or up in the hills.

Exit Pupil
Due to the size of the exit pupils created by the 10x42 configuration (4.2mm), the low light capabilities on these binoculars is good, but as good as which you get on the 8x42 model.

Field of View (FOV)
At 354ft @ 1000 yards (118m @ 1000m), the field of view on these is reasonable for a 10x binocular, but falls short when compared to the 8x version, which is another indication that this model works best at longer distances and wide open spaces.

Further Reading

About Steiner Optics & their Binoculars – Guide to Steiner and links to all the binocular reviews that I have written on their instruments.

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