When it comes to stargazing, most people immediately think of a telescope as the best tool to use. And for the most part, this is correct – a telescope will allow you to gather a whole lot of light, which can allow you to view stars and planets in great detail.
However, they’re not the only option to go for if you’re interested in astronomy. A solid set of image stabilized binoculars can be a great accompaniment to a telescope, especially if your telescope is big and bulky. Image stabilized binoculars are often small and compact, meaning you can use them instantly without having to worry about spending time setting them up or collimating them.
And as we usually need a super steady image for stargazing, it makes sense to opt for a pair of IS binoculars as opposed to those without it, right? Well, we’re going to quickly run through the benefits and drawbacks of deciding to go with this style of binocular.
Who makes the best image stabilized binoculars?
When it comes to IS binoculars, there are a few different brands that you can take a look at. Of course, the two that most people will know are Canon and Nikon, and they’re an excellent place to start. But you also shouldn’t overlook more specialist brands like ZEISS and Fujinon, who make some great products for those looking for high-end performance.
Canon 12×36 Image Stabilization III Binoculars
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The brand with the best known IS binoculars is probably Canon, who have a few different options to choose from. The good thing is that they’re extremely small and portable whilst still having a decent sized objective lens.
I’d recommend you go for the 12x magnification set – they’re a little bit more expensive, but for astronomy, this is definitely going to come in handy. It’ll allow you to see stars much easier, as they’ll appear slightly closer and more vibrant.
They’re one of the best choices if you’re looking for a reliable set of binoculars you can use to look at the night sky. If you can, consider sitting down when you’re using the binoculars to ensure an even steadier experience (although the image stabilzation does work well, as it’s supposed to).
Fujinon Techno Stabi TS1440
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Though magnification definitely isn’t everything when it comes to a set of binoculars, for astronomy it’s recommended that have go for 8x minimum. However, it’s better if you can go for 10, 12 or even 14 times magnification, which is possible with this Fujinon set.
The tough thing about binoculars is that the greater the magnification, the steadier they need to be. Binoculars at 20x magnification or greater need to be mounted, as they’re much larger and more difficult to keep still. But these TS1440 pair of binoculars manage to fit a lot of power into a small design that can be easily carried around with you anywhere you go.
They’re perfect if you’re trying to discover new clusters or objects in the night sky, and they’ll likely make a good addition to your arsenal.
Carl Zeiss Binoculars
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Though not my personal favorite, there are a lot of people out there who like the IS binoculars that Carl Zeiss offer. The name itself is pretty much synonymous with quality, so it’s no surprise that they’ve become fairly popular for astronomers too.
For long distance viewing with no shaking, it’s very hard to look past this set of 20×60 binoculars. The large objective lens combined with a high magnification makes them capable of getting a really up close and detailed view of deep sky objects.
Bear in mind though that these binoculars are extremely expensive. For most people, you’ll want to look at a cheaper ZEISS pair, or opt for a Canon or Fujinon alternative.
Are image stabilized binoculars worth it?
There are many activities that won’t benefit from a set of IS binoculars that much. If you’re hunting or bird-watching, then you may only have a short time frame to use your binoculars. This means that you won’t really be able to make the most of them, and it may not be worth you investment a decent amount of cash into them.
However, for us astronomers a set of image stabilization binoculars are likely to be a good idea. There are a couple of reasons why they’ll likely be better than your average pair;
- The main advantage that you’re going to see is that they’re more stable to use than a standard pair of binoculars. Even those with the steadiest of hands may struggle when it comes to astronomy, where viewing needs stability. So, there’s no need to worry about shaky hands.
- This, in turn, means that ultimately they’re easier to use. Because they’ll automatically refocus every time your arm moves, they’re going to give you a better view of the night sky with much less work.
- IS binoculars can help to reduce eye fatigue, which is a common issue for amateur astronomers that end up looking at the night sky for hours. By opting for a stable image, you can ensure that your eyes don’t need to work overtime.
- They tend to be much higher in quality in comparison to your average set of binoculars. Though the truth is that this is likely due to their price, as they can cost much more than a budget set of Celestron Skymasters.
These are just a couple of reasons why a set of image stabilization binoculars are great for astronomy. The only real downside of them is that they may not quite be powerful enough to get in-depth views of the night sky, as they tend to be quite compact.
An alternative to this style of binocular is to go for a standard pair with higher magnification and use them with a mount/tripod. This can give you the same amount of stabilization with a greater magnification, meaning you’ll be able to see more detail. However, they’re usually quite big and heavy, meaning they’re not quite as portable as binoculars with image stabilization.
Overall, if you have the extra budget to consider going for a set of image stabilization binoculars, then it’s definitely worth considering. Though initially popular with marine and wildlife watchers, they have become more and more used by amateur astronomers in recent years too. However, these binoculars do typically come with a big premium over a standard set. So, if you’re just getting started with astronomy, it may pay to wait until you’re a little more experienced.