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Canon 18x50 IS WP Image Stabilized
The about $1000 Canon 18x50 IS Image Stabilized Binocular (price after $500 rebate as this was written) delivers a stabilized image at an extreme magnification that is non-viable withotu stabilization.
The Canon IS line binoculars offer a key advantage over conventional binoculars: image stabilization for shaky hands, use on a moving boat or vehicle, etc.
This review is of the 18X50 IS “all weather” model:
- “all weather” (not formally waterproof)
- IS = image stabilization
The 50mm objectives yield a fairly bright image for this magnification, though not as bright as the Canon 10X42L IS model.
The 18X magnification is substantiallly more than 10X, yielding an image more than twice as large (in area), which might be of considerable assistance for smaller subjects (eg birds), or simply things at a distance.
Eye relief is 15mm, less than ideal, and the exit pupil is 3.3mm, both of which mean the eyes need to stay in a precise position to avoid black-out, but the IS feature helps out with that task. I do not wear eyeglasses, the eye relief might be of concern to eyeglass wearers.
Image stabilization — a killer feature
Ordinary AA batteries (two) are used for the image stabilization feature.
At 18X magnification, image stabilization is all but mandatory, unless you plan on mounting these binoculars on a tripod.
Image stabilization works extremely well, but do avoid gross movements, because it can induce a motion effect not unlike being at sea, at least for me.
I was able to zero in on small birds, focus quickly and observe fine details of plumage and behavior because of the rock-steady image offered by Canon’s IS feature. There is no question that image stabilization is a game-changer for this kind of magnification— skip the tripod except perhaps for extended viewing (for comfort).
Image stabilization is not perfect
Image stabilization was not perfect: while observing the moon, I noticed a slight “jitter” effect. Disabling image stabilization shows just how effective and useful it is when it’s enabled, but it does not render absolute stillness. Still, in daylight hours I didn’t notice this effect at all.
Optics are very high quality, but not up to the same level as Canon’s 10X42L IS WP model, though contrast, flare, etc were all excellent.
I observed pronounced red/cyan color fringing on a distant bird which I framed off center (but not at the edge); this color fringing could be an issue for recognizing distinctive color features on some birds, or at least make the task more challenging. Centering the subject of course eliminates such color fringing, and presumably one would place the subject of interest dead-center. Yet the color fringing does degrade off-center observations, and so reduces the useful field of view.
Observing the moon, I also observed some color fringing, even near the center.
Ergonomics and design
A stable image is your #1 ergonomic issue. Image stabilization wins big here.
Interpupillary distance must be set just-so, or the view blacks out.
At first I disliked the bulky design, but I found that hand-holding them actually works even better than the narrower roof prism designs such as the Leica 8X42 Geovids.
The rubber eyecups were useless for me. I found it impossible to get anything but a porthole view with them extended, so I kept them flattened. I do not wear eyeglasses.
Side-lighting onto your eyes can be distracting. Presumably the rubber eyecups are supposed to help here, but they did not work for me.
Lens coating and smudges
The lens coatings smudge easily, and there are only a few millimeters between the front of the binocular and the front lens, which is actually protective glass. The threaded front lenses accept 58mm screw-in filters or lens hoods, so take whatever action which seems prudent.
Conclusions and where to buy
At about $1000 after rebate, the Canon 18x50 IS WP Image Stabilized binoculars are an excellent value: they offer high image quality and image stabilization. It’s just so much easier to focus upon and observe a small subject in detail (eg a bird) when the image is rock solid.