• Welcome to BirdForum, the internet's largest birding community with thousands of members from all over the world. The forums are dedicated to wild birds, birding, binoculars and equipment and all that goes with it.

    Please register for an account to take part in the discussions in the forum, post your pictures in the gallery and more.
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia

Canon ISIII 12x36 First impressions: amateurs vs professionals (1 Viewer)

yarrellii

Well-known member
Supporter
Thanks all for your comments and suggestions, it's really helpful, especially coming from users with many years of IS under their belt.
I had started the process of returning the binoculars (the seller had a 30-day-return-policy) but I've finally decided to give the IS III a go, although I'm really finding it harder than I thought. I guess that, since Summer is already here, and I do daily stargazing sessions over this season, I could use them through the Summer and see if I learn to love them. So far their performance during daylight has proven disappointing. Every time I do a test to try and see detail (like reading distant signs) the IS remind me of the reason I bought it: I simply see more, they do give something no other handheld binocular can, but then, usability is so poor (in my case). Any way, thank you very much.

Well, make your own eyecups. That's a simple solution. Or take them off and put better fitting eyecups to the eyepieces. If necessary just tape them to the eyepieces. That's even simpler.
Interesting suggestion. I've done some mix'n'match in the past, so I'll try to improve on the default (which shouldn't be that difficult, given the appalling standard). However, it's not just the size/shape/location of the eyecups, I think there are two other aspects that make the eye position and use of the IS III particularly difficult for me: first is the fact that, since there is no central hinge, the whole eyepiece swivels in a radial way, which is a bit awkward, and then there's the fact that the eyecups are (vertically) offset, a bit like a periscope, which makes aiming different than in regular Porros or roofs.
Imho, the massive oculars of the Canon 10x42ISL work best when people are wearing glasses.
The eye relief is sufficient and there is no need to dig the hard edged rubber eye cups into the physiognomy. If you don't need prescription glasses, just use them while wearing polarized sun glasses .
I've tried using (other) binoculars with sunglasses, but the experience has been far from pleasing. Maybe I'm used to the hassle-free, wide and comfortable view I usually get with binoculars, so having a piece of glass between my eyes and the eyepiece feels kind of weird, and makes the experience not so nice. I guess you get used to it (or else, try to get a better combination of glass/binocular), because there are thousands (if not millions) of binocular users that are spectacle wearers.

I don't use glasses with the Canons, and both with my current 10x42 and my former 15x50 I mostly use/d the eyecups fully twisted in or folded down, and then just tilt my head ever so slightly down and lean the flat eyecup upper edge against my brow. With little practice this makes it easy to get proper placement and eye relief distance, and I don't have to worry about pain on my nose or IPD.
This was actually my first reaction (I did it instinctively) and while that eases the view somehow it also creates a new set of challenges (neck position, tilting of the binoculars, stray light, etc.).

It might seem that I'm overly picky when it comes to using comfort and eye position, but the eyecups (and their relationship to the eyes/face) are the main point of contact and use so (probably together with focus action/feel) are the most crucial bits of my relationship with any given binoculars, and the Canon are not proving to be particularly friendly.
Again, thank you all for your input, it's much appreciated.
 
Last edited:

wllmspd

Well-known member
I found some sunlit things to go finding CA. Yes there was more CA compared to my APO spotter, noticable, but not as aggressive and distracting as I had on some old 15x70 I had. I agree the eyecups are different and not easy to fold, though the field of view is fine (not as wide as I like, but not an issue).

Peter
 

yarrellii

Well-known member
Supporter
I found some sunlit things to go finding CA. Yes there was more CA compared to my APO spotter, noticable, but not as aggressive and distracting as I had on some old 15x70 I had. I agree the eyecups are different and not easy to fold, though the field of view is fine (not as wide as I like, but not an issue).

Peter
Yes, I do agree that the field of view poses no problem to me either. No, it's not the widest FOV in the world, but I see 5º for a 12x binocular reasonable. Not only that (and this is utterly personal), but because the way some binoculars are made (I guess eyepiece design + my particular facial features) I am unable to see the entire FOV in some binoculars, in many wide angle like the Nikon EII 8x30 8,8º or the Minolta 7x35 11º... or even the more mundane FOV of the Nikon SE 10x42, which at 6º is no wonder either. Don't ask me why, but try as I may, I get a hard time reaching to see the field stop of those binoculars within my FOV (without doing strange and uncomfortable things). So a 12x that offers 100 % usable 5º is OK for me.

As for CA, I'm sorry to confirm that my unit has the strongest CA of any binocular I've used. I guess it is logical (and to be expected to a certain extent) that a 12x binocular displays more CA than a 7x, given that magnification many times makes flaws more obvious, but the level of CA on my Canon is really annoying. Maybe I've been unlucky and my unit is a bit sub-par and this has come in the worse possible of scenarios: the bright Summertime in Ibiza. Most of my observations with the IS III 12x36 are distant birds against the raw and blinding sky of June, which only makes things worse. Maybe if I was watching birds against a leafy background in Sweden in February my experience would have been different. Whenever I see a bird on the ground it's actually not that bad, the worse bit is when the bird is silhouetted against the sky, I'll try to make a picture.

As for eyecup comfort, I'm clocking hours with the IS and slowly learning how to use them, and there are a couple of things worth noting:
  • Vertically offset eyepieces. I get the feeling that, because the eyepieces are offset vertically (like a periscope) it is harder to aim at the bird correctly, like you need a correction. I've been using it almost daily for backyard astronomy side by side with other 10x42 and 10x50. I've been locating birds or stars for years with binoculars, so it's become second nature to look at a target and, bingo, simply put the binoculars to my eyes and have the subject perfectly centered (is something I remember being a bit of a chore at the beginning), but with the IS III it's not that easy. The other day I was looking at M39 and doing side by side (to check for brightness and star count) it was like: instant location with both the 10x42 (porro), 10x50 (roof) but with the IS III I always aimed at other point and had to readjust my position.
  • The eyecups are not particularly comfortable, not even for a fold down eyecup. I don't know if it's the rubber itself, the thickness and texture of the rim, but I find it to be more tiring that say a Nikon EII or SE, or a Vixen Ultima 7x50 I use very often. I get the feeling that the eyecups of the Canon get into the flesh of my eye socket more aggressively.
  • And then there's the fact that getting the IPD right is not as straight forward as with any other roof or porro I've tried, because the body of the Canon is a brick and only the eyepieces rotate "radially", which in my experience makes it harder to find the right IPD, which in these binocular I consider a crucial part of getting the view right (well, this is valid for any binocular, but I guess a 7x50 classic porro is more forgiving).
 

Pomfretian

New member
United Kingdom
Can any one tell me if canon are about to launch a new pair of 18 x 50 supplies of old model are non existent and my enquiries to canon seem to be brushed over don’t want to spend a grand plus if a new pair out soon many thanks
 

etudiant

Registered User
Supporter
Can any one tell me if canon are about to launch a new pair of 18 x 50 supplies of old model are non existent and my enquiries to canon seem to be brushed over don’t want to spend a grand plus if a new pair out soon many thanks
Canon seems to have a very tenuous relationship with its IS binoculars, perhaps because they are a small specialty line.
There have been intervals when even the 10x42ISL flagship seemed to be out of production, but then a new batch appeared.
So I don't think that one can tell whether the 18x50 is getting a successor just because it is currently unavailable.
Fortunately although the IS could be modernized and the ergonomics improved, there is not a whole lot of optical improvement possible.
So I don't think you benefit much by waiting for a new version.
 

AlanFrench

Well-known member
A good example of why it's good to try before you buy or make sure the dealer has an agreeable return policy.

I used the Canon 12x36 IS II for about 16 years as my main birding binocular (now replaced by the 12x32, mostly for the improved close focus). In my hands the ergonomics were fine. The button simply rested nicely under a finger tip, so holding it wasn't an issue. I wear glasses and the eye relief was just fine with the eyecups rolled flat.

As for chromatic aberration, there was only a touch of lateral color near the edge of the field on high contrast edges. (My wife once complained about it, and adjusting the IPD cleared it up.)

Clear skies, Alan
 

edwincjones

Well-known member
I'm curious about other brands IS offerings. I've always read that Canon has a lead over the rest, in particular the new breed of Fuji/Kite/Opticron. I wonder about the small Nikon 10x25. A 2,5 exit pupil doesn't sound very promising, but at least it looks like that could have a more reasonable ergonomics and ease of use.

I am very happy with my Fujinon TS-X 14x40 IS for large birding at a distance, still or soaring;
better optics and IS than my 12x36 I , but they are heavy with narrow FOV and poor ergonomics.

edj
 

yarrellii

Well-known member
Supporter
I am very happy with my Fujinon TS-X 14x40 IS for large birding at a distance, still or soaring;
better optics and IS than my 12x36 I , but they are heavy with narrow FOV and poor ergonomics.
Thanks for the input, edwincjones, very interesting.. I'm pretty impressed with the IS on the Canon 12x36 IS III. I wonder if the Canon IS III has closed the gap with the Fujinon, otherwise, the Fujinon must be really something. I understand you are talking about the older "box-shaped" Fujinon (I see it has a retail price around 1400 €). Fujinon has released a series of extremely light and small IS (12 and 16x28) that retail for a similar price as the Canon IS 12x36 (around 600 - 700 €), but the reports on those seems to be a mixed bag, although my take is that they're one step below the Canon. Your Fujinon seems to belong to a higher specification, maybe aimed to compete directly with Canon top of the range?
 

yarrellii

Well-known member
Supporter
A good example of why it's good to try before you buy or make sure the dealer has an agreeable return policy.

I used the Canon 12x36 IS II for about 16 years as my main birding binocular (now replaced by the 12x32, mostly for the improved close focus). In my hands the ergonomics were fine. The button simply rested nicely under a finger tip, so holding it wasn't an issue. I wear glasses and the eye relief was just fine with the eyecups rolled flat.

As for chromatic aberration, there was only a touch of lateral color near the edge of the field on high contrast edges. (My wife once complained about it, and adjusting the IPD cleared it up.)
I've been using the 12x36 IS III on a daily basis and I must say it's growing on me, I can see how many people could use it as a primary device (except maybe for some very specific close encounters in bushes/forest). It's pretty versatile and the weight is surprisingly low (taking into account all the electronics inside). I can also see the appeal of something like the 10x42 if you want to spend big money on a "big view". I'm getting used to holding the binoculars in such a way that the index/middle finger of my left hand just rest on the button while holding the binoculars, while I use the right hand for focusing.

However, one of main complains is still CA. At least in my unit is pretty obvious (I don't know how bad can unit sample be with IS Canons). Yes, fine tuning IPD can mitigate it, but it's just there (a simple test is to take a picture through one eyepiece -where IPD plays no role- and seeing what my eyes see, colour fringing around the subject). Maybe I live in an very sunny area with very bright conditions that pose a real challenge (when the day it's not so bright or I'm not watching birds against the sky/branches is not that bad).

So, getting better :) Once I've put more hours on it, I'll do a middle-term review.
 

yarrellii

Well-known member
Supporter
Middle term assessment of the Canon IS III 12x36

Following up on my original post nearly three months ago, here is a personal middle term evaluation. As always, no aspiration of professional approach, just the impressions of an amateur user who enjoys his optics.

I got the IS III 12x36 nearly 90 days ago, I’d say I’ve used them nearly 2/3 of those days, both for birding and astronomy, so I’ve come to know the binoculars better and have a well-informed opinion about them.

In the field
After carrying them many hours I must say that I find their weight (and probably weight distribution) friendlier than many 8x42, so that’s a plus. Since the accessories that came (or simply didn’t) with it are just appalling (the strap and the case are a bit of a joke, no rain guard and no objective covers whatsoever) I have used things I had lying around at home. The strap from a Vortex Viper 10x50 and for carrying it I use the case of the Swarovski 8x32 ELSV (which, incidentally is the same one used for the 8x42 SLC) and which makes a terrific job at keeping it safe and at hand. I wear it bandolier style, with the strap nearly stretched to its maximum, and it’s really very comfy. I have to find a proper rain guard among the ones I have at home, I still haven’t had time for that, but it’s a must, since dust and debris just accumulate on the eyepieces.

Grip
The bulky shape and lack of central hinge make for an awkward grip that takes some getting used to. I think I just got used to it, but whenever I’m back to my 8x32 ELSV I feel a certain relief, to be honest. Anyway, I have somehow learned to to hold them in a relaxed way (which is important to make the most of the IS system; if you can hold them still, the feeling is nearly that of using a tripod). I lay my left hand around the left side so that my index finger rest naturally on the IS button (without actually making any effort to press it), and then do the same with the right hand, but in this case the right hand index finger is set on the focus wheel, this way, because of the overlap/clutter of fingers on the top side, the right hand somehow presses the left one and and this creates enough pressure for the IS button to be activated. This saves me the “active” effort of actually feeling/thinking I’m pressing a button (and the strain it creates). It may sound weird, but this works for me, given that having to press a button all the time is one of the biggest flaws of the binocular.

The view
This is what everything boils down to. After testing the IS III against other binoculars, comparing it with other friends’ binoculars and doing many tests… I have to wholeheartedly agree that you simply "see more”. I am able to resolve more details, and this is paired with an extremely relaxed view, that I’d describe as ever more still than a 7x. As a matter of fact, I’ve done “stillness tests” holding 7x, 8x, 10x and IS12x binoculars, and the latter simply produces a more stable image, this was a bit of a shock, since my impression when using some 7x has always been that of “almost enjoying an IS view”. This is the main point of all this, and the reason I’m keeping them in spite of the many and very serious drawbacks and flaws.
So, the IS III simply show more, this could be the “what”, and now about the “how” they do it: pretty terribly to be honest. When IS is not engaged, the imaged is pretty sharp, but when IS in active, the image quality decreases, it’s suddenly softer. However, this doesn’t mean that you loose the ability to resolve more (which is somehow counterintuitive: a “worse” view that shows more… wow. Before trying IS, usually a better binocular showed more detail together with a sharper view and quite often less flaws).
I remember reading some criticism about the limited field of view (5º), but I find it more than acceptable, taking into account that it’s a 12x, and there are many 10x with a 5º FOV. Personally, this has not bothered me, to be honest I haven’t even thought about it for a while.
Regarding the use of IS. The stabilization works amazingly fast and trouble free. There’s hardly any lag, which is way better than I had read/imagined. However, when the IS first kicks in, until you locate the subject and place it on the center of the image and focus on it, there is a moment of extreme high CA, and the CA dissipates the moment you stay still and take your time to study the bird or object in question, it’s hard to explain. So, the level of CA (one of the biggest flaws of the IS III) somehow evolves as you watch the subject. As with other binoculars (but maybe more pronounced) the level of CA depends a lot on weather/light conditions. Summertime by the coast in Spain is probably not the best “natural habitat” to make the Canon IS III performance shine, and a dark background (such as fields/trees) on a cloudy day helps reducing CA dramatically. I can see how many people who use the IS III in Northern Europe with the background of green fields or rocky cliffs can remain unaware of the CA issue (at least most of the time).
To sum it up: incredible resolution and reach, soft image and worrying CA that can be improved with a bit of care.

Battery life
Having never used IS binoculars before, one of my main concerns was batteries: the fact of using (and disposing of) them, the cost (both in terms of money and environmental impact) and the hassle of having to always carry spare batteries with you and the fear of running out of batteries at the most inconvenient of times. It turns out I didn’t have to worry. As much as I tried, I hardly remember reading how long batteries lasted (I understand this is so variable and depends on so many factors that it’s impossible to give a fair and accurate estimate). And then there's the fact that I've always loved and admired binoculars for their pure optical/mechanical condition, no electronics, no batteries, something that works all the time for decades (in the case of very good binoculars). In my case, this was one of the biggest obstacles/prejudices to overcome.
Thanks to forum members I discovered that contemporary rechargeable batteries are worth it and last really long, so part of the battery issue was solved. And then my case: to my surprise, I installed a fresh pair of Energizer in early June… and have been using them through the Summer. I’ve read that you can tell when batteries are dead by the strange wonky things binoculars make. So here’s a thing: since I’ve never experienced it, I’m not 100 % I’ve got to that point. However, I think I saw some “hesitation” in the IS system, and I changed the batteries on August 19th, this is more than two and a half months of use. I’m beyond impressed. Actually, since I got the Eneloops after starting using the Canon, I haven’t had a chance to test how long they last compared to the Energizer. Anyway, this has exceeded my expectations and then some.

Bonus track 1: astronomy
I’ve mainly used the Canon IS III 12x36 for birding, but over the Summertime they’ve also seen some astro use. I’d say that between 2/3 and 1/2 of the nights I’ve used them on the stars… and their performance is simply stunning. I can understand why Roger Vine rates them as on of his favourite handheld astronomy binoculars, because the IS makes for a magical feeling of floating through fields of stars. I was able to enjoy impressive dark skies in the province of Teruel, in Central Spain, some of the best skies in the country (at nearly 1000 m of altitude and with hardly any light pollution) and the Canon delivered stunning views of the Summer sky. This is really something remarkable. Leaning back on a reclining chair you can spend hours drifting between constellations, and in spite of their humble objective size, they can show quite a lot. Interesting fact: while their performance for birding is something like “WHAT they show is great, HOW they show it is poor, due to soft image and CA”, in astro use it gets reversed to “WHAT they show is nice, but HOW they do it is mind-blowing”.

Bonus track 2: digiscoping
I regularly use my binoculars to take pictures of what I see, simply for documenting purposes. Yes, the images are sometimes quite poor, but often they do help me identifying or remembering what I saw. Using a smartphone on binoculars is a severe test for the binoculars, and the best ones sometimes create amazing pictures that make you think you were using a nice camera with a lovely objective (in terms of sharpness and bokeh). Well, the Canon IS III can’t compete on sharpness with any top level non-IS binocular, but the fact that you have IS really helps taking a picture, especially if you think you’re "single-handing” a 12x binocular while you hold the smartphone with the other hand. I’ve done several very nice pictures that have help me identifying species back home with some guides and books. So another added bonus.

Summary
They’re ugly, they have the ergonomics of a potato, they’re bulky, the image is flawed in several ways (softness, CA), they need batteries, they’re not waterproof (and are probably less shockproof than similarly priced non-IS binoculars), they’re not cheap, the accessories are a joke… but they simply show you more or the world around you, which I believe is the first and foremost goal of binoculars. So, for me at this time, they are a keeper. They give me what I always wanted 10x binoculars to give me (and never really found), so much so that I’ll be selling my 10x binoculars and keep a 8x and this IS-12x, which I think make a great combo.
 
Last edited:

wllmspd

Well-known member
… ergonomics of a potato…! Love it! For longer term users there is risk of “sticky rubber”. If I can only bring ONE optic then the trusty 12x36IS are it.
Peter
 

wdc

Well-known member
Yarelli, Thanks for taking the time to write such an insightful and amusing report of this binocular. Much appreciated.

-Bill
 
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Colombia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Colombia

Users who are viewing this thread

Top