Image Stabilizer on a Budget: Canon 10x30 IS Binoculars

Posted by Cameron Chen   09/25/2005 07:00AM

I've heard lots of good things about Canon's Image Stabilizer binoculars, but at first glance they had their down sides. I was quite convinced that the larger 15x50 and 18x50 models would be great for astronomy, but they were sadly beyond my financial magnitude limit, and, marvelous as they might be, I felt that they would be quite a handful for my 5'0", 98-pound frame. (OK, I'm exaggerating, but you get what I mean!) I therefore obtained a pair of the smaller 10x30s. These are very well constructed with a rubber exterior and eyecup. Weighing in at 20 oz., these were quite comfortable to hold even for Munchkins like myself.

This unit is reasonably comfortable (though not great) to use with eyeglasses; I felt the eye relief was approximately 16mm. It also had enough adjustment to allow me to take my glasses off and use my myopic eyes on their own. Based on daytime viewing, images were pinpoint sharp for the inner 90% of the pleasingly wide FOV (6 degrees or 60 apparent), with false color visible in the outermost 5% edge of the field. There was definitely a tinge of violet in area, but the vast majority of the field was pristine.

At night, the 10x30 IS brings out its best; one is truly surprised at how much something of this aperture can do. The image stabilizer function is achieved by pressing a button continuously at the center of the unit. This isn't hard to do and not tiring. The net effect is to drastically reduce (rather than eliminate) the jitters that would otherwise plague the view - not the actual equivalent of a tripod mount, but providing a gliding rather than a shaking sensation.

This was enough stability for study the distinct craters and maria on the Moon, something that I have found mighty hard to achieve with conventional hand-holding with any instrument. (Without the IS feature, forget it.) The added three-dimensional effect on the lunar surface was stunning. Jupiter's four moons were revealed quite clearly and it was possible to follow them over some weeks to track their circling around their parent, showing as a definite disc. And I was impressed with Saturn: at 10x, it was easy to discern that it was elongated in shape, though of course not the fact that rings were responsible. From a reasonably dark site, its largest moon Titan could also be glimpsed.

The 10x30 IS also performed remarkably well on deep sky, and many nice targets did it have here in the wonderful land of Oz. M6 and M7 were stunning, and their neighbour glob M4 was also impressive. Not to mention 47 Tucanae and Omega Centauri, the two best globulars from anywhere on the globe. What really impressed me was how well M13 looked even from a low altitude. I have to admit failure, however, with the Ring Nebula, which I wasn't able to find even at its culmination thirteen degrees above the horizon. Overall, the views with the IS setting on was comparable with that through 7x50 binoculars, showing that image stability can compensate partially for lack of light gathering. Another pleasing aspect was that with IS it was much easier to discern the colors of individual stars.

At $350, these don't break the bank and in my opinion, they're worth every farthing. These retail for between $700AUD and $1000AUD here in Australia, so my fellow stargazers in Dorothy Land may do well to order them direct from Anacortes or many other reputed retailers from across the Pacific. When you're traveling by day, hiking, or birdwatching, you don't really need the extra aperture, and portability is essential, and this marvel provides all of these. It will produce great images whether you're at Kitt Peak or the Grand Canyon. What will Canon think of next, a zoom version?

Very highly recommended, a great 9.5 +/- !

Cameron T. Chen
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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