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Canon IS 12x36 v. Swarovski EL 10x42

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Old Sunday 22nd July 2007, 22:01   #1
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Canon IS 12x36 v. Swarovski EL 10x42

Just thought I´d post a few observations about comparing these two, for prospective buyers. I´ve had the EL 10x for a few years, and recently bought the Canon IS 12x. I´d always been a tad suspicious of IS, given Murphy´s Law...more technology means more stuff to go "Fubar". And I was happy with my EL´s. Why did I buy the IS? A recommendation from an expert, and a pair came up very cheap in a store.

To cut to the chase, when mounted on a tripod, the EL´s win hands down. Sharper, brighter, etc. etc. But I don´t want to carry my bins on a tripod, I want them around my neck.

The IS are darker, not as sharp (less resolution from 12x than from 10x in any case?), and IS focussing is less precise. More flare. Not waterproof (although rubber-armoured and "splash-proof"....how big is a splash?). Also, the 1-year guarantee does not inspire confidence (compared to EL´s 30 years!). The rubber eyecups are fine for my eyes (I have deep eyesockets and the eyecups pop into them), but they might not suit everyone. The diopter moves according to its own whims (easily rectified by coiling a thin bit of Duct Tape around it). They are much lighter than the EL´s (about 750 grams), but also feel flimsier, as though they wouldn´t stand up to a serious knock. At first, there is a slight dreamy "woozy" feeling when you pan with the IS button pressed (but a lot of people pay good money for that illegally!). The IS are comfortable to hold, but not as solid as the EL´s, and they lack the famous EL ergonomics.

And then, you press the IS button, and the world changes. Despite all the optical shortcomings compared to the ELs, the IS wins when hand-held. Instability, I realised, was the factor that most inhibited my getting a clear sighting of a bird. It is SO much easier to discern detail, all kinds, with IS than without, even if the optics are second-rate. If in doubt, try a pair on a flying bird....it is simply a different viewing experience that is so hard to put into words. I´ll accept that some people might have steadier hands than others, but strangely what seems to cause the "shake" when I´m holding bins is my pulse. I´ve tried all the techniques I learned years ago when in a target-shooting rifle club, but nothing seems to work. Except IS. Put simply, I can see the bird far better with Canon IS 12x36 than with Swaro EL 10x42 when the bins are hand-held. Period. And they cost one-third the price of the ELs.

I´ve never seen the 10x "L" series Canon IS, that boasts high-end optics. It´s a lot more expensive than the other IS configurations, and I look forward to trying it sometime. For the moment (and the next few years), the Canon IS 12x36 will be my standard bins of choice, the ones I take on dedicated outings and the ones I grab when heading off for a walk with the kids or whatever.
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Old Sunday 22nd July 2007, 23:12   #2
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Interesting read Sancho, I have the same Canons as you and I agree with everything you say about them, the difference for me is that the Canons are the most expensive bins I have ever bought so I haven't compared them with high end bins yet. You coming the other way and liking them convinces me I am right in thinking the IS feature is more important and not to bother with them, I just hope they bring out a mark 3 with better close focus and they will be near perfect for me.

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Old Monday 23rd July 2007, 08:46   #3
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A year of so ago I tested a pair of the 12x36 IS bins against Leica 8x42s and I was less impressed. I agree that the IS is very effective, however the lack of optical quality was very noticeable. I found that the superior optics in the Leicas gave them a real edge especially when viewing at distance, I could make out fine detail better at distance with the Leicas. (My difference in opinion may well be decause I was comparing to 8x which are easier to keep still). I would very much like to see the 10x42 L IS bins, if the glass is of the quality seen in L series camera lenses then they would be amazing bins.
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Old Monday 23rd July 2007, 16:57   #4
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A year of so ago I tested a pair of the 12x36 IS bins against Leica 8x42s and I was less impressed. I agree that the IS is very effective, however the lack of optical quality was very noticeable. I found that the superior optics in the Leicas gave them a real edge especially when viewing at distance, I could make out fine detail better at distance with the Leicas. (My difference in opinion may well be decause I was comparing to 8x which are easier to keep still). I would very much like to see the 10x42 L IS bins, if the glass is of the quality seen in L series camera lenses then they would be amazing bins.
Yes, I agree that at 8x I´m quite happy with my EL´s (8x32) because there´s that little bit less shake (although now I´ve become aware of it, it bugs the hell out of me!) I was tempted to have a look at IS 8x25, but the FOV is apparently only 6.5 degrees. The L-series 10x IS is also something I´d look forward to seeing but any more bins purchases will put me in debtors´prison!
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Old Monday 23rd July 2007, 21:56   #5
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Originally Posted by Mickymouse View Post
Interesting read Sancho, I have the same Canons as you and I agree with everything you say about them, the difference for me is that the Canons are the most expensive bins I have ever bought so I haven't compared them with high end bins yet. You coming the other way and liking them convinces me I am right in thinking the IS feature is more important and not to bother with them, I just hope they bring out a mark 3 with better close focus and they will be near perfect for me.

Mick
Thanks Mick, your recommendation re. the IS was a crucial factor in my getting them! Believe me, if your pulse causes bins to shake the same way mine does, you are definitely getting a better, clearer view through your IS 12x36 than through a pair of El 10x42. Now, we have to resist all temptation to start lusting after the "L" series 10x42......
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Old Tuesday 24th July 2007, 17:16   #6
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Now, we have to resist all temptation to start lusting after the "L" series 10x42......
Hey Mick, I checked the prices at stores in Dublin today. 2,200 euro!!!! . Think I´ll stay happy with my 12x36, despite the lower-grade optics.
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Old Tuesday 24th July 2007, 22:17   #7
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Sancho, I plan on sticking with mine for the time being, the 10X42s look nice but I prefer the higher power bins, the whole point of IS in my opinion is to make high powers actually usable. I bet all the top end manufacturers are beavering away right now developing their own IS systems and not too many years from now you wont be able to buy quality bins that haven't got it, to me it seems such are an obvious advancement.

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Old Thursday 26th July 2007, 21:29   #8
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Sancho, I plan on sticking with mine for the time being, the 10X42s look nice but I prefer the higher power bins, the whole point of IS in my opinion is to make high powers actually usable. I bet all the top end manufacturers are beavering away right now developing their own IS systems and not too many years from now you wont be able to buy quality bins that haven't got it, to me it seems such are an obvious advancement.

Mick
Yes, "IS" isn´t really necessary in an 8x bin, possibly even 10x is usable enough without it. I love the "oomph" of 12x mag with a stable image and a reasonable FOV, and especially the effect with birds on the sea or in flight. I hope you´re right, about top-enders following suit, and will hold off any further purchases for a few years! Another factor is the weight....12x36 IS is a really light binocular, but the 10x42 IS is well over a kilo. Not exactly a "grab-and-go" bin. Sancho doesn´t want a kilo of bino hanging around his neck as he enters his autumn years!
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Old Friday 27th July 2007, 03:55   #9
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I have 8X32 Leicas and the same Canon 12's that Sancho has. I don't even use the Leicas any more.
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Old Friday 27th July 2007, 04:14   #10
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Impressions of 8x25 IS

All the discussion and good reports of the IS feature made me want to try a pair. The fact that, for the last 40 years, I have ALWAYS had a pair of 8x20 or 6x20’s in my pocket has convinced me that the physical size is the most important attribute for my use and I am constantly looking for the best view at the smallest size.

Over the last several years the 8x20 Ultravid has become my favorite all around bin and only replaced by my 8x20 or 6x20 Zeiss when I do not expect to be in the field that day. If I am going to be around the office or in meetings or wearing a suit I carry the Zeiss just because they are smaller and lighter.

That being said, I thought the best comparison would be to get the format as close as possible, so I chose to get a 8x25 IS. I tend to buy a lot of bins just for comparison and then put them up and forget about them and the 8x25 IS is going to be one of them. One of these days I will make a list and post on BF for house cleaning.

The first thing I did was to compare the 8x20 Ultravid to the 8x25 IS on a tripod for resolution with the following results on a USAF target:

Leica – Group 5 Element 3, almost could call element 4.
Canon-Group 5 Element 1 or 2
Leica – hand held – Group 5 Element 1
Canon-hand held-no IS- Group 4 Element 6- IS on Group 5 Element 1 or 2

For reference-Group 5 Element 3=12.8 arc seconds/line pair and Group 4 Element 6=18.1 arc seconds/line pair.

Note the above is very subjective since it was only one set of observations at the end of the day. I would need to make a set of observations to verify a trend of difference.

I then took both outside. It was about sunset or a little after. Looking at distant objects and license plates with both, I could not tell much difference except the outer 25 or 30% of the Canon view was a little less sharp than the Leica’s. I had to try several times to convince myself that the IS was actually working. I could not read any license plates with the IS that I could not read without the IS. Also, a strange artifact that I had noticed at the resolution chart and outside, occasionally when the IS button is pushed the image defocuses slightly. It only does it occasionally, so I may be moving too much when I enable the feature. You can see the image stabilize when looking at a pattern of sharp objects, you see the jitters stop, but at 8x, to me, the resolution really does not improve enough to justify the size. Also, when panning and then stopping, it is a little weird to see the image slowly catch up to where you stopped.

The color cast and saturation was very close to the same as near as I could see.

Mathematically, the Canon’s should have been about .8 EV brighter than the Leica’s but they were not. The brightness was so close it was very hard to tell by just looking through one, then the other. I had to look through one bin with one eye and the other bin through the other eye. I did this several times, swapping sides each time, choosing the brighter image and then closing one eye to verify which eye (bin) was brightest. It was consistently the Ultravid that was brighter. I considered this deference to be barely perceptible. This is about a 1 db or 1/3 EV change, so, I guess if the EP’s were the same, there would be about 1 EV difference in brightness in favor of the Leica’s.

For me, the size is the killer. Looking at the dimensions online, I just did not envision these things being as large as they are. They are only about 15% smaller than my 7x42 Ultravids and noticeably larger than my 8x32 BA’s or 8x30 SLC’s. See the thumbnail of the Canon with the 8x20 Ultras and 8x36 Monarchs.

All this leads me to a positive impression; though the 8x25’s are not for me and will join the others on the shelf (or maybe sold or traded) I can see that for the higher magnifications, 12 or 15x, would be very desirable. Might trade my 12x50 BN’s for a large pair. In short, I can see great benefit at high magnification, but at 8x, just not worth the size for me. I would rather have the pocket size as the marginal increase in stability.

Ron

PS: The focus control on this particular set is very stiff.
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Last edited by Surveyor : Friday 27th July 2007 at 11:39. Reason: Added PS about focus
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Old Friday 27th July 2007, 08:03   #11
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Originally Posted by Mickymouse View Post
I bet all the top end manufacturers are beavering away right now developing their own IS systems and not too many years from now you wont be able to buy quality bins that haven't got it, to me it seems such are an obvious advancement.
I very much doubt it. IS bins have been around for a long time yet have not really taken off, I don't think the big guns will be worrying about this issue.
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Old Friday 27th July 2007, 12:56   #12
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In short, I can see great benefit at high magnification, but at 8x, just not worth the size for me.
Yes, I have to agree, Ron...I also have Leica 8x20 Ultravid and for the combination of compactness and optical quality I think they´re unbeatable. I can carry them in the shirt pocket of my cycling tops while out cycling and I don´t even notice they´re there! As Mick said, the whole point of IS is really for higher mags, so the 12x36 IS has replaced my 10x42EL, but I think for 8x I´ll stick with non-IS.
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Old Saturday 28th July 2007, 14:58   #13
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I very much doubt it. IS bins have been around for a long time yet have not really taken off, I don't think the big guns will be worrying about this issue.

IS has taken off with cameras, but not so much with binoculars for some reason.
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Old Saturday 28th July 2007, 17:42   #14
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IS has taken off with cameras, but not so much with binoculars for some reason.
Birders seem to want a few things most of the IS binoculars don't offer.....

Waterproofing
Good close focus ability
Good adjustable eyecups

The Canon 10x42 Ls addressed the first two, and tried to address the third, but, IMHO, did a lousy job on the eyecups. Unfortunately, it misses the mark with many birders because they also want light weight binoculars.

Finally, as with many hobbies, birders often seem to buy what the experts use. I suspect there is also a tendency to be a bit conservative and stick with the tried and true.

I am awfully glad my wife bought me a pair of the 12x36s for Christmas several years ago. The steady 12x view really helps with IDs.

Clear skies, Alan
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Old Sunday 29th July 2007, 13:30   #15
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Birders seem to want a few things most of the IS binoculars don't offer.....

Waterproofing
Good close focus ability
Good adjustable eyecups

The Canon 10x42 Ls addressed the first two, and tried to address the third, but, IMHO, did a lousy job on the eyecups. Unfortunately, it misses the mark with many birders because they also want light weight binoculars.

Finally, as with many hobbies, birders often seem to buy what the experts use. I suspect there is also a tendency to be a bit conservative and stick with the tried and true.

I am awfully glad my wife bought me a pair of the 12x36s for Christmas several years ago. The steady 12x view really helps with IDs.

Clear skies, Alan
Hey, Alan....your wife is worth her weight in gold! Did she buy the IS bins off her own bat, or had you given a hint? As regards resistance to IS among birders, I think there´s a touch of the Luddite in all of us.
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Old Sunday 29th July 2007, 22:02   #16
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Hey, Alan....your wife is worth her weight in gold! Did she buy the IS bins off her own bat, or had you given a hint? As regards resistance to IS among birders, I think there´s a touch of the Luddite in all of us.
Luddite, I like that description. I have read all the comments from the anti IS people and it reminds me of similar arguments I heard years ago when I was a very keen amateur radio enthusiast all the old boys used to crack on about how superior valves were to transistors and their arguments were good then but look how things turned out. Sancho, Alan, we are pioneers how cool is that?

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Old Sunday 29th July 2007, 22:56   #17
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Sancho, Alan, we are pioneers how cool is that?

Mick
Lol, Mick! Too true...you, me, Alan, out on the edge, pushing the envelope for all those living the safe life.... Like the strap-line for Mad Max used to say: "Thank God he´s Out There...."
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Old Sunday 29th July 2007, 23:26   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sancho View Post
Hey, Alan....your wife is worth her weight in gold! Did she buy the IS bins off her own bat, or had you given a hint? As regards resistance to IS among birders, I think there´s a touch of the Luddite in all of us.
My wife had a pair of the old 15x45s she bought for astronomy. We later bought her dad a pair of the 10x30s, which we both used from time to time. So when Christmas rolled around, she was looking for hints, and Canon was running a rebate...

Clear skies, Alan
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Old Sunday 29th July 2007, 23:30   #19
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Lol, Mick! Too true...you, me, Alan, out on the edge, pushing the envelope for all those living the safe life.... Like the strap-line for Mad Max used to say: "Thank God he´s Out There...."
Yup, that's us! A few folks who have tried my 12x36s have gone out and bought themselves a pair of IS binoculars, so I guess we're the IS evangelists.

Clear skies, Alan
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Old Monday 30th July 2007, 22:09   #20
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I have the 8x30 & 15x56 swaros .They are great binoculars .
But since i got the 12x36 & 15x50 canon IS,s all of the others of which i have about 20 pairs stay home.
You cannot beat the IS for hand held viewing.The optics are not 2nd rate either.
I,m sure if more birders would try them they would love them.
If they had a German name they would sell like hot cakes.
Brian.
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Old Tuesday 31st July 2007, 00:17   #21
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I'd love to get a look through the 15x50 some day. :)
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Old Tuesday 31st July 2007, 00:42   #22
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Thanks for the great review. I have a Canon Powershot S3 IS, very reasonably priced. 12 time optical/48 time digital. I get great shots with both optical and digital ( check my gallery, all taken with my powershot ) and the IS is magic as well. I find the shots are good with hand held or tripod.I'll never get that film camera clarity but this is the best low cost digital I've ever seen...
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Old Tuesday 31st July 2007, 02:48   #23
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swaro 15x56

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Originally Posted by bkrownd View Post
I'd love to get a look through the 15x50 some day. :)
The Swaro 15x56 is the one bino i,ll never part with .
I have it on a tripod permanently on my deck .It really is a great bino.
Brian.
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Old Saturday 4th August 2007, 11:28   #24
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I have the 8x30 & 15x56 swaros .They are great binoculars .
But since i got the 12x36 & 15x50 canon IS,s all of the others of which i have about 20 pairs stay home.
You cannot beat the IS for hand held viewing.The optics are not 2nd rate either.
I,m sure if more birders would try them they would love them.
If they had a German name they would sell like hot cakes.
Brian.
I´d love to see the 15x50 some day. Are they a tad heavy for hand-held viewing? Today a pair of Peregrines (adult and juvenile) were circling over my house. My daughter and I watched them with Swaro 8x32 and Canon IS 12x36, occasionally swapping. The light was good. I could discern far more detail and get a more relaxed, steady image of the birds soaring and occasionally swooping with the Canons. (I´m partly sad about this, ´cos Swaro 8x were heretofore my fave bins!!! Mind you, I can never be accused of consistency, and may change my mind in a month... )
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Old Sunday 5th August 2007, 16:26   #25
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Originally Posted by AlanFrench View Post
Birders seem to want a few things most of the IS binoculars don't offer.....

Waterproofing
Good close focus ability
Good adjustable eyecups

The Canon 10x42 Ls addressed the first two, and tried to address the third, but, IMHO, did a lousy job on the eyecups. Unfortunately, it misses the mark with many birders because they also want light weight binoculars.

Finally, as with many hobbies, birders often seem to buy what the experts use. I suspect there is also a tendency to be a bit conservative and stick with the tried and true.

I am awfully glad my wife bought me a pair of the 12x36s for Christmas several years ago. The steady 12x view really helps with IDs.

Clear skies, Alan

The eyecups on those are awful. I was hoping they'd come out with an improvd version - better eye cups, better quality control (re collimation), and it would be nice if they could be lighter, too. I'd rush out and but a pair if they did!
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