I recently had the privilege to test the Canon 10x32 IS binoculars featuring two image stabilisation modes. I received the binoculars a day before my family and I embarked on an eight day holiday to the Mountain Zebra National Park in the Eastern Cape. With no time to test them in the field before I left, I was feeling excited at the prospect of using them in the park.
Firstly let’s briefly explain the main technical aspects of these binoculars. They feature a ten times magnification, a 32mm objective lens diameter, porro II prism, 2m minimum focusing distance, a lens shift image stabilisation system, and a powered image stabilisation system which runs on two AA batteries.
After a lengthy drive we arrived at MZNP, and you guessed it the first thing we encountered besides the stunning vistas, was a group of Cape Mountain Zebra. I had my first opportunity to try out the binoculars. I wasn’t disappointed. The binoculars gave me a crystal clear and crisp view of the zebras, and the focusing was simple to use, while the binoculars were also very comfortable in my hands.
Canon employs a host of state of the art technologies to ensure such good image quality. These include a field flattening lens to eradicate blurriness around the edges of the image, and super spectra lens coating which suppresses reflected light across a wide range of wavelengths, resulting in high contrast, high definition and a clear viewing experience. At this stage I had not even tried out the image stabilisation yet, but was very pleased to see such good quality views without them.
My first true test of the image stabilisation came about when I decided to do the Black Eagle Trail which is situated at the main camp. The trail is a 2,5km walk to the top of the rocky outcrop overlooking the camp and surrounds, and then a steeper descent back down again. Near the beginning of the trail I soon encountered some raptors which were soaring above me near the cliffs. I quickly deployed the standard image stabilisation button and looked through the binoculars to see which raptors they were. The image stabilisation did an amazing job at tracking the raptors, and keeping them in constant focus. As it turns out the binoculars helped me identify my first Booted Eagle (pale morph), and a Brown Snake Eagle which happens to be a regional rarity for the Eastern Cape.
As I mentioned above I used the standard image stabilisation to view the raptors, however there is also a powered image stabilisation. Canon recommends using the standard image stabilisation to track subjects that are moving, and the even steadier powered mode to view subjects that are still e.g. an individually perched bird.
Continuing with my journey on the Black Eagle Trail, when I eventually got to the top of the mountain, I was pretty out of breath and the muscles in my legs were beginning to turn to jelly. This is where the powered image stabilisation mode came into its own. When I held the binoculars up to view a Cinnamon-breasted Bunting perched on a rock in the distance, I realised that I was now shaking a bit, but no fear as when I implemented the powered is mode the view through my binoculars was rock steady. I was truly amazed at how well the image stabilisation worked.
Getting into some of the technical aspects about the image stabilisation for those folk who are interested in how it all works. The explanations below are directly from Canon as they can explain it best.
Standard Image Stabilisation “The 10x32 IS binoculars feature a powerful Lens Shift Image Stabilization system that’s remarkably effective in cancelling out possible shaking made by movement and vibration. Borrowing technology from Canon’s EF lenses, Lens Shift Image Stabilization maintains a steady view by incorporating a continually adjusting vibration gyro mechanism, moving the IS lens both vertically and horizontally. This helps the 10x32 IS binoculars deliver clear and sharp images with minimal colour fringing for a view that’s consistently pleasing to look at.”
Powered Image Stabilisation “Originating from Canon’s high-quality video and digital camera technology, the 10x32 IS binoculars’ Powered IS technology significantly improves upon conventional binocular IS technology. Activated with the press of a button, Powered IS makes it easy to maintain a high-magnification view, especially in situations where body movement or strong shake might occur.”
Throughout my stay at MZNP I would discover that the Canon 10x32 IS binoculars were the ideal optics to use. The image stabilisation again came into the fore in the afternoons when the wind usually started to howl. Wind is the eternal enemy of birders, and trying to identify trick birds such as LBJs (little brown jobs) and waders at great distances in the wind is virtually impossible, well until now that is as the image stabilisation works a treat and cancels out all the bouncing around of your view. Speaking of LBJs MZNP is a haven for them, and it can be quite tricky to identify all the larks, pipits and chats if you don’t have much experience. It took me a while to get used to them, but again thanks to the clear optics of the Canon binoculars I was able to get on top of the identification features and characteristics a lot quicker.
I was also lucky enough to go on three night drives during my stay at MZNP. These drives provide the opportunity to see some of the parks more secretive and nocturnal animals and birds. I had stunning sightings of Aradwolf, Porcupines, Bat-eared Foxes, Lion, Black Rhino, Buffalo, as well as Fiery-necked Nightjar, Spotted Eagle Owl, and Barn Owls. The low light night performance of the binoculars worked superbly and the image stabilisation seemed to make even more of a difference than during the day.
All in all I would without hesitation recommend the Canon 10x32 IS binoculars to anyone who is serious about having high quality optics with the game changing benefit of two image stabilisation modes. I would also love to try 12x and 14x IS binoculars from Canon, as I believe the IS take these magnifications into the realm of birders, were previously they were not.