The Pros Cons Of Image Stabilizing Binoculars - Are They Worth Buying

The Pros Cons Of Image Stabilizing Binoculars – Are They Worth Buying?

The answer to this question very much depends on how you use your binoculars, or to put it another way, it depends what you mainly use binoculars for. If you are a bird watcher or wildlife watcher, then the binoculars you already own will still be the best choice. If you are into astronomy or spend a lot of time on a boat, then image stabilised binoculars will probably be your best choice.

How Do Image Stabilising Binoculars Work?

When you use regular binoculars and you are walking, the image you see is blurry, this is because the binocular lenses can’t keep up with the constant movement and change of image. They have been designed to be used in a stationary position. Image stabilising binoculars have been designed to work in a different way.

They still magnify images, in fact, they can usually handle higher magnification than regular binoculars. The difference is Image stabilising (IS) binoculars have internal sensors that can detect movement and compensate for it to keep the image you see clear.

What Do Image Stabilising Binoculars Use To Create A Clear Image?

There are two types of IS binoculars, one type uses a gyroscope (passive system) to create a clear image and the other uses electronic sensors (active system) to do the same job. There are on the whole three reasons that images become blurry through the lenses of binoculars which are;

  1. Movement
  2. Vibration
  3. Too High Magnification

The technology in IS binoculars senses these three and compensates for them leaving you with a clear, crisp image.

Gyroscopes work by keeping the binoculars centered on a focal point and work according to the gravity of the earth, it takes a few seconds but eventually the image becomes clear.The electronic sensors detect any uneven movement and help to keep a steady, stable view. Modern IS binoculars use electronic sensors whilst older versions use a gyroscopic mechanism.

By use of internal micro-computers the signals from the gyroscope are translated to correct any instability of the image. They are usually powered by two batteries which will need to be replaced regularly.

This technology was originally developed for the camcorder industry to create clear images whilst filming. It has eventually been passed onto binocular manufacturers to create a whole new way of enjoying high magnification without the need for tripods or other means of support. This allows freedom of movement while still maintaining a clear, unblurred image at high magnification.

When Are Image Stabilising Binoculars Necessary?

The whole purpose of IS binoculars is to remove any distorted images and maintain a clear image at all times. Using binoculars with a magnification value of greater than 10x on land, will result in your image being blurred. This is because of human physiology, we all shake slightly when holding any object for a prolonged length of time. This is perfectly natural and we don’t usually notice it. However, under high magnification (anything above 10x) that shake will be exaggerated and cause the image you see through the binocular lens to be blurred.

For binoculars with a magnification above 10x we recommend using a tripod because if you’re not touching the binoculars, you cannot cause them to shake and therefore the image will be clear. The problem with this is it pretty much ties you down to one position. IS binoculars on the other hand, give you a clear, unblurry image even whilst on the move and at high magnification.

So if you want high magnification and don’t want to be tied into one position, then IS binoculars could well be the answer to your problems.

Where Are Image Stabilising Binoculars Most Useful?


IS binoculars are not cheap, and not everyone can justify the extra cost entailed with IS technology. However, if price isn’t your main concern let’s look at the activities where IS binoculars will come in most useful. They are;


Looking up at the stars, galaxies, planets etc takes a steady hand and a decent pair of binoculars. A shaky, blurry image is less than useless for astronomical purposes, and it’s difficult to achieve unless you intend to use a tripod or a parallelogram mount. Even the most powerful IS binoculars will give you clear, blur free images without the need for expensive cumbersome tripods or other supports.


While in motion, it’s difficult to keep binoculars still and maintain focus on an image. The movement of the boat under the effect of tidal and wave forces makes it extremely difficult to keep your balance let alone look through the lens of binoculars. IS binoculars counteract any movement and produce a clear, sharp, blur free image at all times.


Although IS binoculars are not quite as robust as regular binoculars and IS binoculars are on the whole, not waterproof, they can still improve your chances of a clean shot. They allow you to scout, focus and shoot without any loss of image.

Bird Watching

Definitely not essential for bird watchers, but IS binoculars can greatly improve your view of moving birds. IS technology allows you to enjoy clear views of any birds you spot without the need to readjust your focus or experience any blurry images.

Bird Watching

Image Stabilising Binoculars Cons

Having given many examples of the brilliance of IS binoculars we feel it’s only right to highlight some of their failings too. These include;

  • Many Are Not Waterproof
    The majority of IS binoculars are not able to be fully waterproof. This will limit where, when and how you can use them.
  • Many Are Not Fog Proof
    If you encounter any temperature fluctuations like moving from a warm car to a cold field, they will fog up. Unfortunately most IS binoculars do not have anti fog capabilities at this time.
  • Not Instant Focussing
    If you’re looking at an image that is straight ahead of you, the image will be incredibly clear and without any blurring at all. But if you have to change your focal point, there will be a period of shaking, vibration and fuzzy images. This usually occurs due to IS binoculars being set at high magnification, which causes all of the above until they focus clearly.

    Once they do achieve a clear image the clarity is amazing and cannot be compared to a regular pair of binoculars. But with that said, they are expensive and for general usage IS binoculars are unnecessary.

The Pros & Cons Of IS Binoculars

The Pros Of IS BinocularsThe Cons Of IS Binoculars
Minimal Eye FatigueHigh Production Costs Passed Onto Customers
Easy To Use Automatic Focus Just Point And LookWeigh Considerably Heavier Than Regular Binoculars
Image Stability And Greater Image BrightnessMany Models Are Not Able To Fully Waterproof
Ability To Capture Images Missed With Regular BinocularsMany Models Are Not Able To Fog Proof
See Moving Objects With More ClarityTakes Time To Auto Adjust Focus
High Quality Components, Superior BuildBattery Powered, Batteries Will Need Replacing
Maximum Field Of View
No Need For A Tripod Or Other Support

What Level Of Magnification Is Available In IS Binoculars?

IS binoculars range in magnification levels from 12x to 20x this means the images you can see through the lenses will be 12 times larger than with the naked eye and 20 times larger than with the naked eye respectively. At 20x you would ordinarily not be able to see any image clearly due to the natural shake we all have. 

The limit for hand held binoculars to see a clear, unblurred image is 10x. Any magnification above 10x needs the support of a tripod to keep a clear image. But with IS technology, even at 20x the image you see will be clear and without any blurring. 

The Zeiss 20×60 T* S Image Stabilised Binoculars

These are the highest magnification available on IS binoculars, 20x with no blurred or shaky image. All you do is press one button to mechanically stabilise the image at 20x. Due to their 60mm objective lens diameter they produce a clear, bright image. 

They also boast robust mechanics which allows you to use them without fear of easily damaging them. Plus with all of the combined years of Zeiss experience of manufacturing top quality binoculars you can be sure of great optics.

Zeiss 20×60 T* S Image Stabilised High Powered Binoculars

Experience spectacular detail with the Zeiss 20×60 T* S Image Stabilised Binoculars, even when observing from vast distances. High powered and long range, these binoculars are engineered with a 20x magnification and a 60mm objective lens, ensuring that no detail escapes your sight. Whether it’s the subtle movements of distant wildlife or the intricate textures of the landscape, everything is rendered with crystal clarity. Features Extreme performance in magnification and lens diameter High-performance optics Image…

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Frequently Asked Questions

Are image stabilized binoculars good for astronomy?

It is in the field of astronomy that IS binoculars come into their own. The best way to achieve a clear image of the stars, galaxies, planets etc is with IS binoculars.

How do stabilized binoculars work?

IS binoculars work by constantly manipulating the lenses to compensate for any movement by your hands/arms. This is achieved either by using electronic sensors connected to microprocessors or by a gyroscope mechanism.

Are image stabilized binoculars worth the money?

It depends on how serious you are about the clarity of the image and how much magnification you require. On the whole IS binoculars are expensive when compared to regular binoculars but they are worth the extra cost to achieve such crystal clear, unblurry images.