View Single Post
Old Wednesday 11th December 2019, 10:19   #12
Registered User

Join Date: Jun 2015
Location: Nordschweiz
Posts: 818
The Canon 8x20 IS after one week of usage

This is the follow-up post after a week “in the field” with the Canon 8x20 IS, as announced in my first post. Accordingly, the following is a supplement rather than a substitute for what was said in the first post.

I compared the optical performance with a good 8x30, the Swarovski CL 8x30 (as suggested by Hermann), on the one hand, and on the other hand with one of the larger Canons (the 10x32), because I already have some experience with that one and find its optics as well as the stabilization overall very good.

An initial remark “by the way”: the 8x20 is my first glass marked "Made in Taiwan" (the other Canons are all made in Japan until now).

Accessories: There is not much to cheer about. The supplied soft bag is barely usable for storage, but certainly not suitable for field use. There is also a medium-width, unpadded shoulder strap (on which the glass, however, hangs perfectly vertically around my neck, which is an advantage on longer hikes).
There are no eyepiece caps. Perhaps Canon wanted to indicate that the 8x20 is not intended for bad weather conditions? I have nevertheless been using it in light rain and replaced the missing eyepiece protection with one of my own (attached in the same way as the one of the Canon 10x32 is attached). But I would not expect the 8x20 to be made for really rough conditions, although the Canons are perhaps overall a bit more robust than I had initially feared (the fall of my 10x32 from the table, tubes ahead, broke only the front glass, otherwise optics / mechanics / IS remained fully intact). Under "normal” wet weather conditions, i.e. light rain etc., I would expect the 8x20 to remain safely operational.

There is no lens cover either, but I've never missed it, because the objective lenses are recessed quite deep in the tubes, about 2 cm, deeper than in most other glasses I know.

We had already mentioned the question about dust-proofness of the objective tray (which moves when focusing). I am still not sure what to make of it, and will explore further.

The 8x20 is much smaller and only about half the weight of the Canon 10x32, and even compared to the CL it is still 20% lighter, so you almost wonder if there is anything at all in the plastic housing (Canon claims: 3 lenses in the objectives, 4 lenses in the eyepieces, 2 field flattener lenses, Porro prisms, all of this times two for both tubes).

The 8x20 is the first Canon that really rests well in my hand.
The only small criticism: the button for the stabilization, which sits in the older Canons in the middle of the body between the tubes, and in the newer Canons further to the right, has now moved all the way to the right right onto the right tube. This does not seem to be very important from a right-handed / left-handed perspective, but if you hold the glass comfortably with both hands, the button lies under the open palm instead of the index finger. Not a big problem, just “improvement potential” (in any case, the button is still much better than the lever that you have to use with other compact stabilized binos (Fujinon, Vixen, Kenko) to switch stabilization on).
For my smallish hands, the focusing wheel of the 8x20 is much easier to operate than with the Canon 10x32, where I always have to change my grip.
The indicator light for the 8x20 is a bit too weak in bright sunshine, in my view, in the other Canons that I know it is brighter.

As mentioned earlier, the ease of view is fine.

Noteworthy is also the large amount of extra travel of the focus wheel beyond infinity, more than with the 10x32 Canon and more than with almost all other glasses I know, an full extra half turn of the focus wheel remains beyond the infinity position.
The near focus, indicated by Canon to be 2m, in my sample was measured at 1.85m. To switch focus from 3m to infinity requires about three quarters of a turn of the focus wheel.

And that brings me to the performance of the 8x20 in the field:

As mentioned earlier, overall image quality is very good for an 8x20, comparable to the like of the 8x20 Leicas.
The image remains sharp to about 90% towards the edge, then the sharpness flattens off a bit. The Canon has a very wide sweet spot and a fairly even, flat image.
But how sharp is "sharp"? Compared to the Swarovski CL, the Canon does not owe anything in terms of sharpness in my eyes. To verify this, I used the Canon and the CL 8x30 side by side mounted on tripods.

A short additional test on USAF 1951, first with a 2.5x booster, then with a 4x booster (with both glasses mounted on tripod), showed no significant difference in resolution (this is of course not a "real" resolution test, but it does give some indication), although I had expected that the image of the CL, which appears brighter than in the Canon, would allow for more details of the USAF patterns to be seen in the CL. However, this is not the case, so here, too, a positive impression of the Canon. Used free-hand, the 8x20 has no competition on the USAF anyway, as long as the IS is turned on.

During my daily walks with the dog, I frequently pass the local observatory at a distance of about 300m. There is a large sign "Sternwarte Schaffhausen" on the wall of the observatory, underneath which there is a smaller text; while I have been guessing words in that text, I have not been able to read it reliably with any of my 7x42, 8x30, or 8x42 binoculars so far. With the Canon 8x20 and stabilization turned on, I could read it without much trouble ("Naturforschende Gesellschaft")

{{ Kimmo, happy to expand on this further if this does not sufficiently cover your "resolving power vs. distance" question }}

The 8x20 shows clearly less CA than the Canon 10x32 (in the latter, the higher magnification of course may contribute a bit o). I noticed that while the IS is switched on, a little more CA becomes visible during panning than when the device is without moving. The increased CA disappears as soon as the panning movement stops. Incidentally, this finding also seems to appliey to the 10x32 (and possibly also to other Canons ?? Or stabilized binos in general ?? Or just an impression in my eyes?? To be explored further).

For my eyes, the picture in the Canon is almost color neutral, without any significant color casts; it may be a very slight nuance warmer than the CL, but this may help contrast rather than harm.

I'm generally a fan of large exit pupils, preferably 6mm or 7mm, if only because the exact placement of the eye behind the exit pupils is much less critical.
I was therefore quite skeptical (sceptical?) about the small 2.5mm exit pupil of the 8x20.
Certainly, in bright sunshine there are hardly any questions, since the 8x20 delivers a sharp, high-contrast image, whereby the field of vision seems a little narrower than desired. Even in cloudy but bright skies, there are no restrictions in use; the most notable difference between the Canon and the CL had more to do with the size of the FOV than with image brightness.
Then there are these very gloomy days, when it is not only heavily cloudy or even foggy, but when it is “daytime” only after 9 am and before 3:30 pm (latitude 47.7 ). Here, the CL 8x30 has a clear advantage, the combination of more exit pupil AND more field of view produces a clearly brighter, more satisfying image. How much of that is due to the larger EP, and how much to the wider FOV, is difficult to estimate.
when it came to examining details of observed objects, the Canon had the edge when the image stabilization was activated. Suddenly details of the branches were visible that neither the Canon without IS nor the CL had shown. I was almost tempted to say that stabilization enhances image sharpness and contrast, but of course that's just an impression, not reality. The Canon compensates in any case the brightness disadvantage compared to the CL with the stabilization so much that in the end it shows more details.
The CL seems to have an advantage when it comes to searching for birds in the branches of trees, thanks to the brighter picture and even more thanks to the wider field of view, I found the CL there clearly more suitable than the Canon.
Once the birdie was localized, however, the Canon with IS on had the advantage of showing details of plumage etc. better than the CL. With IS, the Canon 8x20 shows clearly more details than the CL 8x30, unless you are in “very advanced twilight”, where the image of the Canon then is just too dark.
(Note: in complete darkness, the Canon becomes again perfectly usable for the observation of astronomical objects like e.g. the moon where it shows very nicely the details on the terminator. Also, the small EP of the Canon keeps the aberrations of my eye at point-like light sources such as stars or lanterns much less pronounced than in glasses with larger exit pupil).
By the way, stray-light appears reasonably well suppressed in the Canon.

So, during the day and in fair weather, the advantages of the stabilized Canon can most likely be used to show you more than an unstabilized 8x30 or 3x32 would show. If you tend to observe mainly in the twilight and/or in bad weather, the Canon may perhapos not be your first choice.

If I try again to summarize what I just described in other words:

- In bright weather, especially sunshine, the Canon 8x20 does not seem to be much darker than the CL 8x30. The latter, however, has significantly more field of view, which is pleasant. Nevertheless, the image of the Canon can often be almost as impressive as the one of the CL.

- When light is scarce, the image of the Canon seems clearly darker than in the CL, the overall impression in the CL is more pleasant, relaxed. Here, too, the larger field of view of the CL is a positive factor.

- Regardless of the degree of illumination (except when it's really dark), when it comes to recognition or identification of object details, the Canon offers more (with stabilization engaged) than the CL or any other unstabilized 8x30 / 8x32 binocular (in bright lighting, probably also more than a 8x42)

- For landscape viewing - the open, unfocused observation of the landscape, e.g. from a vantage point, without paying much attention to any specific object of observation - the Canon offers a satisfactory performance in situations with good lighting, but less so when light is scarce.

Two further basic “insights” (don’t expect too much here) that apply to all stabilizers: I've always wondered how the marketing brochures or websites of bino manufacturers often show birders or hunters holding their binoculars loosely with one hand, swinging a field guide or rifle in the other hand. If I try the same one-handed with my binos, I see only a uselessly blurred image, esp. if I hold the binoculars in my left hand. With the Canon, however, this is peanuts when stabilization is switched on! I then usually see more when holding the Canon in one hand, than when firmly holding any comparable unstabilized glass with both hands!

In addition, the longer the observation of the same object, the more tired the arms, so that (at least for me) the tremor of my hands progressively increases. With the CL 8x30, this quickly becomes an issue after a while, but not with the Canon 8x20, the image remains stable for any period of time (after about 10 hours, according to Canon, the battery will be empty, but I will usually have been called to dinner before that) ;-)

Despite the 2.5mm exit pupil, which in my opinion is at the lower limit of an all-round binocular, the new 8x20 is in many ways a very useful glass. The reasons summarized in a few points:

+ + Very good image quality: Center sharpness, edge sharpness, CA correction
+ + Very good stabilization
+ Good ergonomics, much better than with the bigger Canons
+ Light weight

What I liked less:

- Small AP restricts applications in dim light somewhat
- The field of view could be wider
- Not waterproof or dust-proof(?)
- Robustness of the housing unclear, rather not very high
- Accessories (barely usable bag, missing rainguard)

All in all, I am having more fun with the 8x20 IS than with any of the bigger Canon binoculars I have been using (10x30, 10x32, 12x36, 12x32, 14x32, 10x42), mainly for reasons of ergonomics (some of the larger Canons, esp. the 10x42, have really superb optics). But among small stabilized binoculars on the market, the Canon 8x20 is for me the best there is currently.

But if dreams are allowed: Canon could equip the 8x20 in a new edition with 25mm (or even 30mm) lenses; plus a field of view of 135m; and waterproof; all with the same dimensions and weight……


Later EDIT: Fujinon is currently launching a new Techno-Stabi:
that looks interesting - price is 1‘500 Euro, though ...

Last edited by Canip : Wednesday 11th December 2019 at 15:29.
Canip is offline  
Reply With Quote