When the opportunity to identify a rare bird presents itself, it helps to have the right tools on hand. Binoculars are essential for anyone looking to observe birds in the wild. Unmatched portability and convenience make the binocular one of the best devices for spotting and identifying birds in their natural habitats. Image stabilised binoculars allow you to comfortably use high magnification while still maintaining a steady view.
Whether you are new to the hobby and are looking for binoculars for birding, or if you are already a birder and looking to upgrade your optics, here are some things to consider.
How do image stabilised binoculars work?
Image stabilised (IS) binoculars are binoculars that have special technology incorporated in them that detects and counteracts movement to give you a super steady and comfortable view.
There are two types of IS binoculars. One type uses a passive system to create a clear image, and the other uses a active system to do the same job. There are, on the whole, three reasons that images become blurry through the lenses of binoculars which are:
- Excessive Magnification
The technology in image stabilising binoculars senses these and compensates for them, leaving you with a clear, crisp image.
Comparing the range of options out there
Binocular buyers are confronted with several purchasing decisions. Binoculars come in all shapes, sizes, colours, and feature options. For this article, we will focus on what specifications birders should consider when binocular shopping.
Image stabilising binoculars pros
- Experience minimal eye fatigue
- Automatic focus is easy to use – Just Point And Look
- Have a maximum field of view – perfect for birding
- Image stability and greater image brightness
- There’s no need for a tripod or support
- You can capture images you’d miss with regular binoculars
- See moving objects with more clarity
Image stabilising binoculars cons
- They weigh more than standard binoculars
- Many models are not fully waterproof
- Many models are not fully fog proof
- The auto-focus (if supported) can take time to adjust
- Some models are battery-powered and so batteries need replacing from time to time
Top image stabilised binoculars include:
Canons range of stabilised binoculars
Enjoy a super steady handheld view plus easy identification and tracking of birds at high magnification – even in flight – thanks to Canon’s optical Image Stabilizer (IS), which precisely corrects many types of movement and shake. Canon’s birdwatching binoculars offer precision optics and an optical image stabiliser to ensure a comfortable and relaxed birdwatching experience over long periods.
Canon stabilised binoculars come in several magnifications with various objective lens sizes: 8×25, 10×30, 10×32,10×42, 12×32, 12×36, 14×32, 15×50, and 18×50.
Their newest line, Powered IS (Image Stabilisation) Technology, includes the 10×32, 12×32, and 14×32 models. Get 10x closer and enjoy a rock steady handheld view using these premium 10x binoculars for birdwatching with a powered image stabiliser.
Fujinon – range of stabilised binoculars
Fujinon does not carry as wide a line as Canon, but their Techno-Stabi line is of high quality and worth taking a look at if you are considering Canon’s in the same magnification range.
Fujinon has new 12×28 compact image stabilisation binoculars as well as a 14×40 pair. Canon has 12×32, 12×36, and 14×32 models for comparison.
Nikon – range of stabilised binoculars
Nikon binoculars carry a superior reputation for crystal clear optics for every outdoor activity, and Nikon is one of the most trusted brands in all things optics. Sturdy and reliable, Nikon binoculars are neither ridiculously expensive nor do they promise the moon.
The StabilEyes is an archived model and no longer manufactured.
Their archived 14×40, 12×32 VR, and 16×32 VR models are still available for purchase online at various stores if you prefer them to Canon for Fujinon.
Zeiss – range of stabilised binoculars
If you really want something unique and feel like splurging, why not try the Zeiss 20×60 Image stabilisation binocular. These are pretty cool, or as Zeiss puts it, “a mechanical masterpiece”.
There are no batteries. The image stabilisation system is all mechanical via magnetic damping action and a gimbal-mounted spring joint.
These are the highest magnification available on IS binoculars, 20x with no blurred or shaky image. All you do is press one button to stabilise the image at 20x mechanically. Due to their 60mm objective lens diameter, they produce a clear, bright image.
They also boast robust mechanics, which allows you to use them without fear of easily damaging them. Plus, with all of the combined years of Zeiss experience in manufacturing top-quality binoculars, you can be sure of great optics.
Picking the best image-stabilised binoculars for birding
For birding, we would recommend an image stabilised binocular with a 10x or 12x magnification with at least an objective lens size of 30 or above.
When you have too small of an objective size with higher magnification, the field of view narrows, making it more difficult to find birds initially.
This may not be a problem with all types of birding, but if you are trying to spot a warbler jumping around in a thick conifer, the wider FOV (field of view) is helpful.
Here are our top picks and why you should consider them
Canon 18×50 Image Stabilisation Binoculars – Best Overall
anons 18×50 IS binoculars are built to withstand harsh weather conditions and take you 18x closer to your subjects. You can enjoy excellent viewing in harsh weather conditions thanks to their weather resistance to JIS 4 specifications. The rugged build quality features a rubber finish to withstand the harshest conditions, making these binoculars ideal for heavy-duty use. Spot your subject easily with a beautiful wide field of view thanks to the Porro II prism optics and doublet field flattener element.
Canon 10×30 Image Stabilised Binoculars – Best Value
Get 10x closer to distant subjects wherever you go with Canon’s 10×30 IS binoculars. The 10×30 IS are easy to hold, and the focuser falls nicely under the index finger. The plastic body has the advantage of being warmer to hold in winter, and these aren’t heavy and are comfortable to carry.
Enjoy a powerful optical image stabiliser that quickly and accurately counteracts many types of shakes and movement—introduced while panning if you are following your subject or viewing from a moving vehicle. Significantly reduced power consumption delivers up to 9 hours of continuous use from a single set of batteries.
Zeiss 20×60 image stabilisation binoculars – Premium Choice
The technically unique mechanical image stabilisation system of the ZEISS 20 × 60 T*S ensures a perfect viewing experience.
These high-resolution binoculars deliver exceptional image quality. Birding enthusiasts will appreciate the benefits of a comfortable ridged grip and the added shock resistance provided by the tactile black rubber armouring. Rubber eyecups and a right-eye diopter let you customise these binoculars to your own preference for or without eyeglasses. The button for image stabilisation is conveniently located adjacent to the focusing wheel. Both are easily accessible even with gloves. The binoculars are water resistant, and the stabilisation system, mechanically adjusted with gimbal-mounted erecting systems, operates noiselessly and without batteries.
Fujinon Techno TS1440 14×40 Binoculars
The Fujinon 14×40 TS1440 Techno-Stabi Image-Stabilised Binoculars is designed to provide the stabilisation needed for the 14x magnification.
The 5° image stabilisation makes the Fujinon 14×40 TS1440 Techno-Stabi Image stabilised Binoculars perfect for tracking moving objects while on a moving platform. They are also waterproof and fog proof, making them fantastic outdoor binoculars. All optical surfaces are multi-coated with Fujinon’s EBC multi-coatings to prevent dirt or fingerprints from damaging the optics.
Fujinon Techno-Stabi 16X28 Binoculars
Fujifilm introduced their Techno Stabi 16×28 compact binoculars to offer stabilisation, high power and unique performance with a compact, comfortable design.
The TS 16X28 features a compact and ergonomic design, perfect for nature watching. For users that want to utilise an extremely high magnification without the use of a tripod, these image stabilising binoculars lock in on the subject to create a stabilised field of vision at 16x magnification. These binoculars are lightweight, offer high performance in various situations and are comfortable for the user, with a battery life of up to 12 hours.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re an avid birder or just starting to watch birds – You never know when you may find yourself in a spot with some of the best birding in the world. You’ll want to have the right binoculars for the job if you are. To get up close and personal views of birds, particularly the smaller varieties, it’s tricky; ideally, you want to look for binoculars with powerful magnification and a large and bright objective lens.