Having read the many threads about which binos to buy, and having experienced Swarovski, Leica and Zeiss first hand and been suitably impressed by both the optical quality and the price tag, I decided that I would have to wait until my much overdue lottery win.
I then did some more research at the budget end of the market, perusing numerous birding forums for guidance.
The bins that recurred the most in positive terms were the humble Hawke Frontier ED range. Now, years ago, I had a Hawke Sidewinder scope on an air rifle that was expensive and not that brilliant, so the idea of Hawke optics did not immediately appeal to me.
Nonetheless, all the reviews suggested my prejudice was I'll founded, and so I placed an order for the 8 by 43 variety. They arrived the next day, and I must say that I am very pleasantly surprised by the image and build quality for a product that cost £275 all in.
Yes, they are not top notch European glass, but in low light in woodland they allow me to see "through" the undergrowth looking for a twitching ear or antler tip in a way that the naked eye simply cannot do. The image is sharp and clear with excellent colour definition and the focus quick and precise. The field of view is wide and close focus comes in at two metres.
If the big three are out of your reach at the moment, do consider the humble Hawke. I think you might just be surprised.
P.S. I have just noticed I spelt SURPRISE wrong! Oops...