Canon 12x36 IS III binoculars review

Can these mid-range image-stabilized binoculars deliver the best marriage of performance and tech?

Canon 12x36 IS III binoculars
(Image: © Gavin Stoker / Digital Camera World)

Digital Camera World Verdict

Bulkier than standard binoculars with a similar core specification because of the need to insert two regular AA batteries to power its on-board gyro sensor and micro processor, this pair won’t fit in a pocket. That said, Canon’s 12x36 IS III not prohibitively unwieldy and the 12x magnification on offer at least means it’s more noticeable when the image stabilization kicks in. Formerly juddering views of subjects under observation are replaced by perfectly smooth results. In short this one works, and works well. Whether you can justify the extra money for the IS feature comes down to whether you expect to be hand-holding these for prolonged periods, as, doubtless because Canon is so confident of its onboard tech, no screw thread is provided for tripod mounting.

Pros

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    Powerful on-board image stabilization delivers commendably smooth results, even from a moving vehicle

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    Powered by two AAs that last for up to 9 hours of use

Cons

  • -

    Expensive compared to non-IS binoculars

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    Not an all-weather option

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    No screw thread provided for tripod mounting

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    Slip-on caps for the eyepieces detach easily

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    Case and strap a little on the thin side

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Image stabilized binoculars are great in theory. Who wouldn’t want a perfectly smooth view of a subject that is hundreds of yards away, an on-board gyro sensor ably compensating for any slight tremor in the observer’s hands? Or, want to get a steady view of wild beasts from the safety of our Land Rover on safari as it bumps along a dirt track? Again, a flat and level view will allow us to better identify distinguishing details from afar, making IS equipped binoculars a boon for wildlife watchers, sports fanatics, astronomy geeks and more.

While that’s all great on paper, in reality there are a few downsides to image stabilized binos. First off, because of the on-board electronics, they cost more than standard non-IS binoculars that offer a similar magnification and objective lens size. And because of the need to house both these electronics and the battery, or batteries plural, image stabilized binoculars are typically bulkier and weightier than their strictly analogue competitors. Also, it’s rare to find a completely weather or water proofed IS binocular, and when we do, we can expect an even higher asking price for the privilege - such as with the Canon 10x42L IS WP.

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DesignRoof prism
Exit pupil3.0mm
Eye relief14.5mm
Weight660g without batteries
Dimensions5x6.9x2.8 inches / 127x70x174mm
Magnification12x
Objective lenses36mm
Field of view at 1000m87 metres
Field of view at 1000 yards262 feet
Image

Yes we could spend a lot less for a non-IS pair of standard binoculars with a similar core spec, or better, such as the <a href="https://www.digitalcameraworld.com/reviews/olympus-10x42-pro-binocular-review" data-link-merchant="digitalcameraworld.com"">Olympus 10x42 Pro. But if you’re considering the Canon 12x36 IS III then you’ve probably already got over the fact that you’ll have to pay extra for image stabilization.

One thing we don’t get here is waterproofing. If that’s an issue and you’re out birding in all weathers, then it’s worth also taking a look the <a href="https://www.digitalcameraworld.com/reviews/canon-10x42l-is-wp-binocular-review" data-link-merchant="digitalcameraworld.com"" data-link-merchant="digitalcameraworld.com"">Canon 10x42L IS WP model (pictured left).

Image

Of you’re not bothered about being out in all weathers and just want a general use everyday pair of image stabilized binoculars that cost a bit less, Canon’s own compact <a href="https://www.digitalcameraworld.com/reviews/canon-8x20-is-binoculars-review" data-link-merchant="digitalcameraworld.com"">8x20 IS (pictured left) and 10x20 IS models are further options. For us, the benefit of body integral anti shake is less pronounced on  lower magnification models, however. Also see our guide on the <a href="https://www.digitalcameraworld.com/buying-guides/best-image-stabilized-binoculars" data-link-merchant="digitalcameraworld.com"" data-link-merchant="digitalcameraworld.com"">best image-stabilized binoculars for further options

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Gavin Stoker

Gavin has over 30 years’ 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 the Rough Guide books.


With his wealth of knowledge, Gavin is well placed to recognize 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 and cameras straps.