Obviously the standout feature of these Canon binoculars is their Image Stabilisation technology that helps to reduce image shake. Canon has used Image stabilisation (IS) to great effect in their cameras for many years, so it is no surprise that the leading IS binoculars are produced by one of the world's leading photographic brands.
How the Image Stabiliser Works
Within the binoculars there are two sensors that detect any horizontal and vertical movement, this is then instantly relayed back to a microprocessor that controls two Vari-Angle Prisms (one in each barrel) and they instantly adjust the refraction angle of the incoming light to keep the image that you are looking at still. To activate it you just press and hold a button on top of the Canon IS binoculars.
During my test I did not have enough time to test the battery life, but according to Canon they should last for about 20 hours of observation using the stabilizer. This will obviously vary depending on the quality of the battery used.
Because of the electronics, these binoculars do need batteries and this does add to the weight of the product, although having said that at 600g (without batteries) their weight compares very well to other mid sized binoculars (objective lens diameter around 30 - 34mm) and even with batteries they will be lighter than many.
Does it Really Work?
The short answer to this is yes, most definitely. With just a press of a button you will notice a small shudder of the image as it kicks in and then everything is calm.
Why use Image Stabilisation?
Whilst the magnification or power of a pair of binoculars helps to bring distant objects more clearly into view, it also amplifies any small movement. This means that as the magnification goes up, even the smallest movements make the image you are looking at through your optics shake about even more.
If you keep increasing the magnification of a device, it can get to the point where it is almost impossible to get a good view of what you are trying to look at by hand holding your binoculars, because the image is shaking about so much.
The traditional way to get around this problem is the same as in photography - to use a tripod. The problem with this is that along with your binoculars, you have to carry a tripod around with you. There are some cases where a tripod will not actually help, for example if you are on a moving platform like a safari vehicle or a boat.
With image stabilizing binoculars, you can eliminate this image shake, or at least reduce it to a point where you can once again get a clear view of your target, without the need to carry a tripod.
Now I know that for most everyday uses, most people do not really need a tripod or any other sort of image stabilisation to use binoculars with a 10x magnification and it is usually only once you get to powers of over 15x that something to steady the image becomes necessary.
But there are a few areas, that even with only a 10x magnification, the image stabilisation on these Canon binoculars is a real help:
- If you have unsteady or shaky hands
- If you use your binoculars on a moving platform - things like watching wildlife from a slowly moving safari vehicle or taking them on board a boat with you
- If you spend long periods looking through your binoculars, even the smallest movements eventually make your eyes feel tired - the IS has the effect of reducing this. The additional comfort you get from viewing still images can’t be overstated
- If you view fast moving and erratic birds through your binoculars - especially if you want to track them across the sky
Otherwise, I would say that the image stabilizer on these Canon 10x30 IS binoculars is just a really nice feature to have.
I do like the way the binoculars feel in your hands, they are comfortable to hold and are well balanced, this combined with the IS and fairly low weight mean that these make a great choice if you spend long periods of time using your binoculars. The Stabilizer button on top of the device is also easily reachable with either hand and so makes activating it really simple.
Their dimensions are a little less compact when compared to most standard mid-sized binoculars, so if you are looking for a really "compact" mid-sized binocular these may not be ideal for you.
Not 100% Waterproof
One area where image stabilisation would be a real benefit is on a boat or yacht, that is why I think it is important to point out that whilst these do have a water-resistant rubber coating, they are not fully fog or waterproof which is a little disappointing. So if this was your intended use for them, some of the other fully water proof models that Canon produce - a 10x42 and the very powerful 15x50 and 18x50 versions - would be more suitable.
The rubber eye-cups on these Canon binoculars were very comfortable even when pushed firmly against your face and they do a pretty good job of blocking out light from the sides.
Whilst they don’t have twist up eye-cups like what are found on many binoculars these days, they still offer a good 14.5 mm of eye relief. This should be enough for most people who wear glasses to be able to use them without having to remove them - to do this you would just roll down the eye-cups.
Focusing on an object by turning the central wheel was smooth and takes just over one full revolution of the dial to go from the near focus to infinity.
The diopter adjustment ring is located on the right barrel of the binocular. This enables you to adjust the lenses separately to allow for differences in each of your eyes and plays an important part in correctly focusing your binoculars. On the binocular that I tested, it was tight enough so that it would not easily be moved accidentally, but also not so tight as to make ant adjustments difficult.
Interpupillary Distance Adjustment
Another area where these binoculars differ from the norm is in how you adjust the distance between the eyepiece lenses to suit your eyes (Interpupillary Distance Adjustment). This is usually achieved using a hinge down the center of the binoculars. With the Canon 10x30 IS binoculars, the eyepieces move independently from the body, which I must say works really well.
Field of View
The field of view of these Canon binoculars at 1000 yards is 314ft (105m@1000m) which means they have an angle of view of 6° and an apparent field of view of 60°, which for a binocular with a 10x magnification acceptable, is nothing spectacular (as magnification goes up, the field of view tends to decrease).
Minimum Focusing Distance
Their close focus distance is 4.2 m/13.8 ft. Which I would say is a little disappointing especially if you want to use your binoculars for viewing butterflies or other objects at close range (anything under 6ft is excellent).
The View Through the Binoculars
Overall comparing the view through these with my benchmark mid-sized binoculars, I would describe the view through the Canon as being very good. The image brightness is impressive and as good as my benchmark which has slightly larger 32mm objective lenses. Image sharpness was good as is the contrast and colour reproduction. The amount of softening of the image around the edge of the view was pretty non-existent and there was no noticeable colour fringing which is excellent.
So what have Canon done to produce such a good quality image? A lot of it has to do with the quality of the glass used in the lenses and the prisms and their coatings...
Objective Lens Size & Brightness
The most common objective lens size for mid-sized binoculars is 32mm. With the 10x30 IS, Canon have used slightly smaller 30mm objective lenses, which has the advantage of making the binocular smaller as well as lighter. Larger lenses are also more expensive to make. On the down side, a smaller objective lens has less light gathering potential.
All 10x30 binoculars (including these) will have an Exit Pupil of 3.0mm and a Twilight Factor of 17.3, which if you compare it to a 10x32 binoculars that have an Exit Pupil of 3.2mm and a Twilight Factor of 17.9, it would suggest that the Canon will probably not perform as well as binoculars with the same quality optical components in poor light conditions.
It is important to remember though that whilst the exit pupil and especially the twilight factor make it possible to compare the performance of different configurations of binoculars in low light conditions, they do not take into account the quality of the prisms, lenses and their coatings.
Field Flattener Lenses
All binoculars in Canon's IS series use the worlds first doublet field-flattener lens. What these do is improve the edge sharpness of the image and also lower the distortion by minimizing curvature of the field.
Canon use their own 'Super Spectra multi-coating', which they say maximises contrast and minimises colour smear. I cannot verify the effectiveness of the actual coating, but can say that looking through the binoculars, the colour reproduction felt natural, unlike the artificial hues that you often get on cheaper binoculars and the contrast of the image looked pretty good to me.
Whilst the image stabilisation works really well, on a binocular with a 10x magnification, it will (for most people) be a nice feature to have, but not essential. Take away the IS, then you are still left with a mid-sized binocular that produces a very good image that is both sharp and bright and in case you were wondering, yes you can use these binoculars without the IS switched on.
At their original recommended retail price of about £499, they were perhaps a little on the steep side, but now you can now pick them up for under £300, which makes a huge difference to how much I like them - at this price I do feel that with the image stabilisation, they make pretty good value for money.
So if you are looking for the steadiest image possible without having the inconvenience of having to carry around a tripod all day, then these Canon 10x30 IS binoculars are ideal.