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The best image stabilized binoculars in 2021

Best image stabilized binoculars: woman holding Canon IS 8x20 binos
(Image credit: Canon)

The larger and more powerful the binoculars, the trickier it is to hold them steady enough to achieve an image that is sharp and judder free, as well as being bright and clear. 

Attempting to solve that issue, however, is the image-stabilized binocular, a feature often abbreviated on spec lists as ‘IS’. We might pay a bit more for binoculars with this clever anti shake tech built in, which often comes down to integral gyro sensors responding to and correcting for hand wobble, but for serious wildlife watchers and nature lovers, the difference it makes is arguably worth us paying the slight premium such models command. Additionally, having body integral IS avoids the need to purchase an additional tripod and carry that around too – with most binos not actually offering a screw thread for tripod attachment anyway. A further benefit is that image stabilization reduces eyestrain when observing faraway subjects for long periods; so the feature is good news all round. 

Cutaway diagram of Canon 8x20 IS image-stabilized binoculars (Image credit: Canon)

As with any binocular, though, we’ll also want to be paying attention to core features including magnification and objective lens size. A model name including the numbers 10x30, for example, denotes a binocular offering a 10x magnification factor and a 30mm lens diameter. The bigger the objective lens, the brighter the image runs the advice, while the greater the magnification, the closer we’ll be able to observe our faraway subject. 

While it may broadly be the case that the higher both of these values, the bigger and bulkier the binos themselves, we’re always looking for the device that gets that ‘sweet spot’ just right. A powerful magnification can amplify any slight tremor or wobble when hand holding such binoculars; hence on board image stabilization that corrects for such movement can prove very useful indeed.

So, without further ado, let’s survey some candidates for the best image stabilized binoculars we can buy right now…

Best image stabilized binoculars in 2021

(Image credit: Canon)

1: Canon 8x20 IS binoculars

The lightest, most compact image stabilized binoculars in Canon’s range

Magnification: 8x
Objective diameter: 20mm
Field of view at 1000m: 115 metres
Closest focusing distance: 2 metres
Eye relief: 13.5mm
Battery required: 1xCR123A battery
Weight: 420g
Dimensions: 14.22x11.68x6.86cm
Reasons to buy
+The smallest and lightest image stabilized Canon binoculars +Size and weight suited to everyday use+12-hour battery life to support image stabilization system
Reasons to avoid
-Modest magnification and small-ish objective lens suggest daytime use is where this one will work best-Image stabilization feature requires an optional CR123A battery-Not water-resistant

Proving that not all image-stabilized binoculars are big and heavy is this travel friendly porro prism example from Canon that shoehorns an 8x magnification, 20mm objective lens and lens shift shake reduction system into a compact device weighing a very manageable 420g. While this makes it suited to everyday use, it’s not only the built-in image stabilization – as also used in Canon EF lenses for its camera range – that provides us with a sharp and clear view, but also a Super Spectra Coating to the glass. 

A tactile focusing wheel is provided between the adjustable eyecups, so our eyes never need to leave our subject, while dioptric is adjustment provided too; useful for those wearing spectacles. The CR123A battery that powers the IS feature here is good for up to 12 hours of use, but needs to be bought separately. And then there’s the overall price. Yes, we may pay a premium over non ‘IS’ binos with the same core level of specification, but this is the entry level option in its manufacturer’s line up and a good starter option nonetheless.

2: Canon 12x36 IS III binoculars

Mid-range if premium priced IS-equipped binoculars with powerful magnification for serious bird watchers and nature lovers

Magnification: 12x
Objective diameter: 36mm
Field of view at 1000m: 86.98 metres
Closest focusing distance: 6 metres
Eye relief: 14.5mm
Battery required: 2xAA
Weight: 660g
Dimensions: 12.7x7x17.4cm
Reasons to buy
+Powerful image stabilization system claims a steady view even from a moving vehicle+9-hour battery life for IS
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive compared with non IS equipped alternatives-Not an all weather option

Marrying a generous 12x magnification to a respectable 36mm sized objective lens, Canon’s middle-of-range image stabilized porro prism binocular purports to offer a clear, flat view from edge to edge, while being ideally suited to bird watchers and sports fans. The on-board anti shake system, which employs a combination of gyro sensors and a microprocessor, is claimed to be so reliable that a steady view is provided even from a moving vehicle, while the batteries required for it to work last up to nine hours of use. 

Once again, the binos utilise the same Super Spectra lens coating as utilised in Canon’s EF camera lens range, with the aim of providing high resolution viewing with low distortion, while preventing ghosting and scattered light. A robust rubber coating to the exterior of the device further aids a steady grip, while the image stabilizer button and focus knob are centrally positioned for quick and easy access and equally swift response. A very well specified model overall.

[Where to buy:]

(Image credit: Canon)

3: Canon 10x42 L IS WP

Flagship, weather-proof IS-equipped binoculars with large objective lens and decent magnification to bootv

Magnification: 10x
Objective diameter: 42mm
Field of view at 1000m: 114 metres
Closest focusing distance: 2.5 metres
Eye relief: 16mm
Battery required: 2xAAs
Weight: 660g
Dimensions: 8.5x13.7x17.6cm
Reasons to buy
+Vari-Angle Prism IS system utilizes gyro sensors and micro-processor+Canon’s high-end ‘L’ series optics+Waterproof and fog proofed
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-Heavier and bulkier than non image stabilized alternatives

As indicated in the binocular name, Canon’s sales pitch is that these binos feature its range topping ‘L’ grade optical quality – denoted by a tell-tale red ring – matched to a large 42mm sized objective lens. Given the high-ticket value of the item, it’s reassuringly to learn that the body of the device is reassuringly O-ring sealed and waterproofed. As regards its ‘IS’ feature, here the manufacturer’s Vari-Angle Prism image stabilization system works via a combination of gyro sensors and microprocessor. Other components worth mentioning include a 16mm long eye relief, anti fog technology, rubberised exterior, wide 65° angle of view and a bright view in low light conditions thanks to a large 4.2mm exit pupil. OK, so paying over a grand for a pair of binoculars whichever side of the Atlantic we’re on is no laughing matter, but the Canon 10x42 L IS WP binoculars have the serious performance heft to back it up.

(Image credit: Kenko)

4: Kenko VcSmart 10x30

Japanese manufactured ‘bins’ with built in Vibration Control, enabling firm and stable viewing at high magnification

Magnification: 10x
Objective diameter: 30mm
Field of view at 1000m: Not given
Closest focusing distance: Not given
Eye relief: 16mm
Battery required: 1x CR2 battery
Weight: 520g
Dimensions: 14.7x12.4x5.1cm
Reasons to buy
+Image stabilization can be activated or deactivated with a  simple flick of a switch+Up to 12 hours’ battery life+Fully multi-coated optics+Long eye relief and twist up eyecups
Reasons to avoid
-No waterproofing-Lesser known brand than Cano

A compact and slender new binocular without the pedigree of a Canon, perhaps, but one that makes a claim for being the smallest pair of binos with image stabilization out there – with plenty more attendant features besides.

These of course include built-in image stabilization along with the equally expected feature of fully multi-coated lenses to enhance light transmission and provide color fidelity. With a 5.2° field of view, the item weighs a tad more than its Canon competitors at just over half a kilogram, yet provides twist up eyecups for the comfort of users. 

As well as image stabilization / vibration control, which can be activated or deactivated at the flick of a lever and negates the need for a tripod, the core features to focus on are the 10x magnification matched to a 30mm objective lens, which means that it falls somewhere in the middle of the competing offerings here. A case and strap are included out of the box. Now that’s Smart.

5: Opticron 12x30 Imagic

A futuristic design matched with a practical performance from the optical specialist, plus all the expected bells and whistles

Magnification: 12x
Objective diameter: 30mm
Field of view at 1000m: 87.65 metres
Closest focusing distance: 2.9 metres
Eye relief: 15mm
Battery required: 2x AAAs
Weight: 537g
Dimensions: 15.1x11.8cm
Reasons to buy
+Compact design+Water resistant build+Fully multi coated lenses to maximize light transmission+AA batteries required for power included with purchase
Reasons to avoid
-Lens quality can’t match higher priced examples

Featuring a compact roof prism design with slender tubes and an IPX4-rated water resistant build, again the appeal here for nature watchers and sports fans is the ability to gain a high-ish magnification without a juddering image due to hand shake, and without having to resort to use of a tripod. 

Fully multi coated, anti-reflective lenses also feature as does, more unusually, four AAA batteries – two are required for its IS system – straight out of the box. Here image stabilization is activated or deactivated with a simple flick of a toggle switch, with Opticron claiming that its system is effective whether we’re viewing our subject from a moving boat or a vehicle on land. A limited lifetime warranty is offered with purchase, ensuring further peace of mind and suggesting that this option just about has it all.

(Image credit: Fujinon)

6: Fujinon 14x40 TSX image stabilized binoculars

An upgraded IS system that runs on rechargeable NiMH batteries

Magnification: 14x
Objective diameter: 40mm
Field of view at 1000m: 70 metres
Closest focusing distance: 5 metres
Eye relief: 13mm
Battery required: 1x lithium CR2 battery
Weight: 1.32Kg
Dimensions: 179.5x165x80.6mm
Reasons to buy
+High magnification factor married to a large and bright objective lens+Waterproof with a buoyant design if actually dropped in water+Automatic power cut off feature to preserve battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-Weighty compared with less well specified examples

An upgraded pair of Fujinon branded binos from Fujifilm for the purists, with both a powerful 14x magnification and a large and bright objective lens 40mm in diameter. For the purposes of our round up, this one purports to offer a wider stabilization range of +/- 6° for vibration-free viewing over the previous incarnation, plus the equally new capacity to run on rechargeable NiMH batteries, with just the one lasting up to 12 hours of use. 

The tech here is described as ‘opto-electronic image stabilization’ coupled with vibration suppression, while to save power, the unit automatically powers down after ten minutes of inactivity. Nice! A curved exterior design that enables a firm and comfortable hold, twist up eyecups, fog proofed construction and easy handling makes this option as suitable for observing nature as it is feats of sporting prowess. While it’s the weightiest option here by some distance at 1.32kg, also hefty is the price, unfortunately, but we do get a carry case and strap provided. Furthering its appeal is the fact that waterproofing is such that if dropped overboard these binos will actually float. 

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Gavin Stoker

Gavin has over 30 year experience of writing about photography and television. He is currently the editor of British Photographic Industry News, and previously served as editor of Which Digital Camera and deputy editor of Total Digital Photography

He has also written for a wide range of publications including T3, BBC Focus, Empire, NME, Radio Times, MacWorld, Computer Active, What Digital Camera and Rough Guide books.

With his wealth of knowledge he is well placed to recognise great camera deals and recommend the best products in Digital Camera World’s buying guides. He also writes on a number of specialist subjects including binoculars and monoculars, spotting scopes, microscopes, trail cameras, action cameras, body cameras, filters, cameras straps and more.