Top 5 Image Stabilized Binoculars 2020 (How They Actually Work)


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Who wants to wade through piles of sales brochures and technical white papers looking for details that can help you to decide which model image stabilized binoculars are right for your budget, needs and preferences. 

No worries! I’ve done all that.

Today, Im gonna share my top five list of image-stabilized binoculars available in 2018.

Hello. My name is Jim Shickley. I’m an avid hiking and stargazing enthusiast who loves to be outdoors, using my binoculars to capture the scenery. A great pair of binoculars has always been a part of my passion pursuit. Earlier this year I had decided I would buy (add to my awesome collection) another pair of image-stabilized binoculars. In order to make the best informed decision I could, I began to do research on this years products.

I’ve evaluated the models on my list according to their features, functionality, ease-of-use (comfort and ergonomics) and cost across brand offerings in the image-stabilized-category. I’ll be breaking down the pros and cons of each model of binoculars on the list.

In the next sections, here is what we are going to cover:

  • What are image stabilized binoculars,
  • How do I know which type are right for me,
  • What are the benefits and advantages of owning this type of product
  • Attributes that differentiate models, and things to look for
  • What’s the best way to use the product
  • Any product controversies
  • What you need to get started
Image Stabilized Binoculars

What are image-stabilized binoculars

Image stabilized binoculars can be considered on the high-end, premium side of manufacturers offerings. These devices are using various new technologies such as gyros or other mechanisms for decreasing the apparent motion of the view due to device movement. They are designed to minimize image movement in hand-held binoculars and when the viewer and or both, the target of observation, are moving, such as moving platforms, cars, trains, planes, boats, etc. Image correction features can instantly adjust viewed image to compensate for the motion. On many models the image correction feature is activated by pressing a button while you are looking into the binocular. Otherwise, when not holding the button, the binoculars work just as ordinary standard binoculars do. This is because the image correction feature requires battery power. Therefore, depending how you plan to use your binoculars, it would be wise to make a note of battery requirements and consumption rates of the device you are considering.

The new image-stabilization (IS) technology typically utilizes small vibration gyros and other electronic MEMS-type modules employed in the cellular phone and video camera industry, to correct and lock-in on an image. In these (IS) systems the change in attitude of the binoculars is sensed electronically, and one or more parts of the optical system is adjusted to correct this offset difference. The optical system may change a lens group, or adjust the angle of a fluid-filled prism. The improved view effectively reduces eye fatigue and increases viewing pleasure prompting you to observe a better quality image, longer.

How to Choose Image Stabilized Binoculars?

If you are already familiar with binoculars and viewing magnification, then you might skip over this section, otherwise, read on. You will find a wide price range on binoculars with similar features and build-styles in this category. The most important aspect however, is to define narrowly, if possible, your main pursuit in the use of binoculars or if you just want them for general purpose viewing. While considering the following points, you will then be more prepared to imagine which product you would choose.

Over at REI Outdoors they have a great resource that covers all of the following terms and concepts that can help educate and inform on the details of binocular optics and mechanics. They cover the following concepts.

Binocular Size and Power Magnification

•Full-Size (common specs: 8 x 42, 10 x 50)

•Middle-Size (common specs: 7 x 35, 10 x 32)

•Compact Size (common specs: 8 x 25, 10 x 25)

•Binocular Magnification Power

•Objective Lens Diameter, Exit Pupil, Relative Brightness, Eye Relief, Field of View, Focus, Prism Type, Lens Coatings and other subjects.

What are the advantages/Benefits of this type of product?

The benefits of having image-stabilized binoculars over a standard apparatus binocular is not apparent until you have personally tried both. The image-stabilized views are very sharp and clear with vivid colors. Since the eye doesn’t fatigue as quickly, you will find that instead of observing, you are now able to study. Instead of just looking at a bird, you can clearly differentiate between the individual birds, bird species and its sex. The difference is like night and day. The jumping, shaking type of movements we are all familiar with, at high magnification, is nearly absent with the stabilization.

Things to look for / Attributes that differentiate these products

Across models there are differences in image color, contrast and brightness of views under a variety of conditions. Other significant issues to consider are, the weight of the device, ergonomic fit in your hands and its comfort fit around your eyes or your face. Is the device shock resistant if dropped? Is it waterproof? How long is the warranty period and what does it cover? Does it use batteries, If so, how many, what kind, and how long will they last. Some binoculars have the option to use alkaline or lithium batteries.

One of the biggest differences between sets of binoculars is their size (weight) and their magnification power. So, it will also make a difference what is available to you once you have decided if you are looking for something compact, midsize or full size.

What's the best way to use this product?

Once I had my image-stabilized binoculars in my hand, I begin to discover and appreciate having them close-at-hand on a wider variety of my outings both at work and on my adventures. Now I can really enjoy steady viewing at a distance and I know you will too. Its Game On !

Address the controversy

Some image-corrected binocular users have reported they could hear the motor from within the binoculars which made enough noise to scare birds or animals way. While I have not heard any noise coming from the binoculars on this Top 5 List, it is possible this claim is true with a certain model in the past. Ask for product demonstrations to satisfy yourself if this is a concern for you.

Prerequisites to using the product

Bring Your Passion! Get used to handling the binoculars and how to quickly adapt the view so when you are on your outdoors adventures you won't have to spend time figuring it out. Take a few practice runs in the garden to make sure you can quickly and easily se image stabilized binoculars.

Top 5 Image Stabilized Binoculars

Let's now look at the reviews

Nikon 8214 Stabileyes 16 X 32 mm binocular with (VR) Vibration Reduction

Price Range: $1,000

Features at a Glance

  • Waterproof & Fog Proof.
  • Compact and Light
  • Robust
  • Easy to use
  • Amazing Image Stability

PROS

  • Compact, Rugged Construction
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    Long Eye Relief
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    Eco-glass Lenses and Prisms
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    Weight: 4.1 lbs
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    Vibration Compensation: ±3°
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    Roof Prisms with Phase-Correction
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    Fully Multicoated Optics
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    Nitrogen-Filled Fogproof / Waterproof
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    Turn-and-Slide Rubber Eyecups
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    15mm Eye Relief
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    Hand Strap / Floating Neck Strap

CONS

  • Mechanics are focused on steadying the binocular in jittery hands and not so much on moving platforms, which is really the key in image-stabilized binoculars
  • Image correction slower than other Canon models on our list



Right out of the box, these binoculars felt compact and light. Getting outdoors on first use, I can see the image-stabilization and clarity of focus are simply amazing. Learning how to use the binoculars was simple and easy to understand. I didn’t hear any noise coming from the stabilizing motor.

I felt the exit pupil distance was ok for me, but I didn’t really like the eye cups. They were made of hard rubber and extended viewing became uncomfortable on my eyebrows.

By the look of the construction, I would expect many years of service from these binoculars. I can't wait to see the whales with these babies this winter.

Price Range: $ 750

Features at a Glance

  • Compact, highly portable image stabilized binoculars that are ideal for bird watching, hunting, and more
  • Weight: 1.6 lbs
  • Great IS technology
  • Long Battery use
  • Amazing distortion free images

PROS

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    Great Image Stabilization (IS) using optical technology, equivalent to what is used for Canon EF lenses
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    High magnification ratio: 12x
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    36mm/1.42 in. objective lens effective diameter helps provide bright and clear, high resolution images
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    Porro II Prisms help provide outstanding image resolution while minimizing the loss of light
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    Doublet field-flattener for sharp, distortion-free images from edge-to-edge
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    Improved power efficiency and battery consumption – 4 hour continuous use
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    Long eyed relief (14.5mm/0.57 in.) helps ensure comfort, especially for those with glasses
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    Low-reflective exterior design
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    Environmentally-friendly lead-free glass
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    Easy to grip curved surfaces

CONS

  • I miss the sure-grip, single handed strap available on so many other models

The Canon 12x36 II IS Image corrected binoculars scores high marks and is one of the best pairs of binoculars in their sales range. Considering the impressive magnification of 12x and the large objective lens, these binoculars are surprisingly light and versatile at 1.6 lbs.

I love the design revision making them lighter and thus, easier to hold and to use with one hand, however, I do prefer the sure-grip hand strap found on most other makers gear. The image correction is fast and tight. It's an amazing and unbelievable viewing tool. Although these are not compact binoculars, these mid size binoculars are super powerful for their size. The biggest disappointment for me was that there was no objective lens caps included in the box for the price.

The binoculars use batteries and they say they last for up to 4 hours of continuous use. The large Image correction button is on the top, center part of the binocular housing and is easily accessible, weather you are right or left handed. It is also important to point out that you can use Image stabilization binoculars without the correction enabled.

This binocular made my list because of its magnification power at 14x with impressive optical characteristics. The optics are well worth a second look. Sporting a new, advanced gyro-corrected system, studies have shown, the Fraser Optics 14x40 Stedi-Eye binocular reduced hand and platform movement by nearly 98 percent. The fully coated optics delivers superior light transmission when combined with its wide field of view.

Features at a Glance

  • Magnification Power 14x
  • Gyro-corrected system
  • Reduced hand and platform movement by nearly 98 percent
  • Long Battery use
  • Military grade

PROS

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    Shock-resistant
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    High magnification ratio: 14x
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    Rugged build
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    Includes a neoprene case and pouch
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    Cleaning kit
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    Waterproof, FogProof
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    Comes with batteries and neck strap
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    Electro-optical design is perfect for long-range
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    Military grade
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    Waterproof

CONS

  • Very pricey compared to the others

If money was no object and I only used the best gear money can buy then the Fraser Optics 14 x 40 Stedi-Eye Bylite Gyro would be my first pick. These image stabilized binoculars have an advanced electro-optical design is perfect for long-range observations from unstable viewing platforms on the ground, in the air, or at sea. Fraser-Volpe has developed electro-optics for the US Military since 1972 and is an industry leader in next-generation optically corrected products. I purchased these online during an incredible sale that was hard to pass up. These are superb for boating and this is my primary planned activity for using them.

The first thing I noticed, right out of the box, is that they are not too heavy. They have a heavy and durable-looking construction. They are supposed to be drop-shock resistant, sealed and completely waterproof. I haven’t tested for any of these. The optics of the image is clean and crisp. At 14x magnification you will quickly appreciate seeing even the smallest of details in the viewed image. It is very simple and fast to re-focus the image. The pan speed is fast and nearly flawless without lagging. The ergonomics of the device is near perfect. I find these binoculars are comfortable on the eyes over many hours of use.

The image stabilization is the best I’ve ever seen. It definitely takes the shakes and vibration out of your hands. When I was moving in my boat, it was still just as easy to focus clearly as it was while I was standing on dry ground.

While I find these image stabilized binoculars are super awesome with numerous additional features, I am reconsidering the value Canon offers in its image-stabilized binoculars at one-quarter or even one-half the price. That is to say that the Frasers are more durable, have a better warranty, cost much more to repair, have just as much battery life, can have more magnification, but all come at significant expense.

Fujinon Techno-Stabi TS 1440

Price Range: $1,100 

Features at a Glance

  • Fast Motion Tracking
  • Waterproof and Fog proof 
  • Robust
  • Same technology widely used by the Army, Navy, Coast Guard, DEA, Border Patrol and FBI
  • 5 Degrees of Stabilization 

PROS

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    Dual piezo-vibration sensors linked to direct drive motors
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    Features a 14x zoom
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    Rubber armoured housing
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    Phase Coated provides all-around good grip
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    EBC coating for optimum light transmission
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    Fogproof; purged with nitrogen gas, Waterproof
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    Center focus. Made of fiberglass-reinforced, high durability plastic
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    Rubber side strap for single-handed firm grip
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    5 Degrees of stabilization
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    Excellent for marine use

CONS

  • They might be too heavy for extended time viewing

The Fujinon Techno-Stabi Image Stabilized binoculars use gimbal-mounts for correcting its prisms, which is a true and more technical way of image correction adjustments as compared to Canon's technological approach to (IS) image stabilization. The Fujinon just does a better job retaining its image/view when used on an unsteady, moving platform, such as on a boat, train, plane or recreational vehicle. The Canon IS binocular does better with much smaller movements, such as hand movements and is less keen on platform movements.

I found that the Fujinon Techno-Stabi retains a sharp image that Canon's (IS) Image Stabilized binocular can lose when the image correction feature is engaged. Typically, the high power Canon binoculars seem to slightly de-focus to a softer image when the correction feature is turned on.

In any event, the image correction will not let you down. You can pan to find and follow targets even when you and they are in motion and still see a sharp clear steady image. You will be able to read letters and signs at great distance, where you only saw a blur before. If you don't use the image correction feature for a minute, it automatically shuts off to extend battery life and components. Superb all around binoculars. Far too many great features to mention here.

Features at a Glance

  • Very versatile 
  • Waterproof/Fog proof
  • Sturdy housing construction
  • Exceptionally bright view, even in low-light conditions
  • One touch IS usage
  • Weight: 3.7 lbs. 

PROS

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    Magnification ratio: 10x
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    36mm/1.42 in. objective lens effective diameter helps provide bright and clear, high resolution images
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    Porro II Prisms help provide outstanding image resolution while minimizing the loss of light
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    Doublet field-flattener for sharp, distortion-free images from edge-to-edge
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    Improved power efficiency and battery consumption – 4 hour continuous use
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    One touch IS usage
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    Body components feature metallic coating to prevent fogging
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    Excellent long view 10x42
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    Comfortable to hold
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    Waterproof, Fog proof, Excellent for marine use

CONS

  • Hands will fatigue at thumb because the binoculars ergonomic shape is poor
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    The diopter ring tends to get unlocked easily
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    While exit pupil distance is perfect, the eye cups are too hard. They will hurt your eyebrows after extended use
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    Hard to hold on to with just your hands. There is no sure-grip side strap common with many makers

The Canon 10x42 L IS Waterproof has a compact design, its relatively lightweight at 3.7 lbs, and delivers superb versatility, whether for bird watching up close or stargazing after dark. The sturdy housing construction combined with Canons optics make these a solid choice.

The high quality L series optics, featuring 2 Ultra-low Dispersion (UD) lens elements (on each side), deliver excellent correction for chromatic aberration. With a large lens diameter and a 4.2mm exit pupil diameter, this binocular provides an exceptionally bright view, even in low-light conditions. The 10x42 L IS WP binocular offers both the desired brightness and excellent waterproof capabilities, making it ideal.

The long view, image stabilized binoculars are definitely worth taking into consideration. Whether for bird watching, reading the tail numbers on approaching aircraft, or stargazing, they enhance image clarity and sharpness with superior optics while reducing any movement that might otherwise diminish the viewing experience.

Conclusions and #1 Pick Round Up

My #1 Top Pick is the Fujinon Techno-Stabi TS 14x40. These binoculars stack up pretty tall compared to others on our list, The compact-looking design has good balance and feels great in your hands. The rubber armored housing helps maintain a firm grip. It has the sure-grip, single hand strap which is awesome and the14x power magnification makes this a great all round tool.

I was really impressed by the image stabilization and pan speed, at a distance. Very responsive, clear and crisp edges even during significant hand and body movements while moving in my boat. That was my challenge for all of the other models on the list. Looking through these binoculars, I can see things I’ve never seen before using an image stabilized binocular.

We had two Canon models on the list, a 10x42 and a 12x36, with the 10x42 being only half the price. But, for me, Canon just doesn’t have the shape of the binocular body right. Instead you are holding the Fujinon Techno-Stabi TS 14x40 with confidence.

The Nikon 8214 Stabileyes 16 X 32 was a close second for me but it only has ±3° degrees of vibration stabilization, while the Fujinon Techno-Stabi TS 14x40 has ±5° degrees. This is an important consideration for me, because I am looking long most of the time through my binoculars while out on my boat, and felt that additional ±2° degrees of stabilization would better meet my needs and expectations.

The last comparison I could make would be with the Fraser Optics 14x40 Stedi-Eye Bylite Gyro. Hey, no criticisms here. I’m a fan. If had the money to spend, I would have probably opted for the Fraser. It’s a gem, but probably still overpriced.

All the best,

Jim

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