Canon 12x36 IS II

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Canon 12x36 IS II
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These bino's really do provide extreme levels of fine, steady detail at all distances. IMO they may have no competition in the marketplace from any hand held instrument anywhere near their size ( @25 oz. w/alkalines, maybe 24 oz. w/lithiums), when conditions are bright enough.

And by "bright enough", I mean pretty much all of the time except on the darker cloudy days, dark forest, and 20 mins. before sunrise, 20 mins. after. The brightness is a bit surprising for a 3mm exit pupil. I'd say it's similar to (or better than) most all of the single coated 10x50's and 7x35's I've looked through. The Super Spectra multi-coatings are not "state of the art-near invisible" as say, Fujinon EBC, Astro-Physic refractors, etc., but seem to be perfectly applied, lovely, and very effective.

The Canon IS models are justifiably famous for their flatness of the FOV. My example seems razor sharp from center to maybe 85-90% toward the edge of FOV. This is excellent, and while it's required for night time stargazing, it's very pleasing to the eyes during the daytime too, compared to bino's with lesser performance in this area. Sharpness, contrast, and color rendition are very impressive. And speaking of color, I only see chromatic abberation when viewing very high contrast objects in extreme situations, such as when quartering toward the Sun, sometimes birds in flight, etc. Even then, it's a slight amount and very well controlled. The full moon will show some if you defocus or move your eyes off axis. But, on axis, and sharply focused, I notice maybe the tiniest band of blue/purple around the edge of the moon (if I look for it). Vastly improved, I'd say, over the first generation 12x36 IS I once owned, which is a contender for the "most false color" award in my experience. But then that was an unphase-coated roof prism design, I believe. Canon's done an excellent job with the baffling in this optical system. Put a streetlight or the moon just out of the FOV and you see no reflections. The optics without stabilization are VERY close in performance to the top end roofs and porros I've tried.

The 12x36 IS II seems to have everything in optical performance but that last percent though. Same case as with many very fine and highly regarded binoculars. They don't have that last percent of "ultra sharpness", and contrast you'll see through a Nikon 10x42 SE, or a late model Swarovski 10x40 W Habicht, or a Fujinon 16x70 FMT SX 2 I wish I hadn't sold, for examples. Notice that the binoculars I've mentioned are porro prism models. I haven't directly compared these new Canons with any high end roof prism models. However, I found the optics to be a bit better than a very fine and much loved, though now sold, Pentax 8x32 DCF SP I recently owned, for another example.

It's the combination of this high level of optical design with IS that makes this binocular special. It's hard to overstate the impact on your eyes' and brain's comfort level, while viewing for long periods of time, due to the beautiful optics and very effective IS. With the IS turned on, the view is significantly more steady than a 7x bino. More steady than my Silvamar 6x30's even. Very similar in steadiness to my son's $1.99 4x toy bino's. Not quite as steady though, as my old 1st gen. 12x36 IS. This might be due to the new model's weight (1/2 lb less). Or possibly Canon is pushing the 10x30 IS model's IS mechanism too far. Still, it's nearly rock-steady. As a side benefit, this seems to promote longer viewing sessions for me. You can still enjoy these binoculars after your arms are shaking a bit from fatigue, or when you're shivering slightly on a cold day or night.

Daytime atmospheric effects such as heat rising from fields, high humidity, high wind, etc. are more noticeable with a steady image, especially at a steady 12x. Put your conventional bino's on a tripod and you'll also see more of everything, good and bad. But, long distance viewing (and close-up) with these Canons on a clear, calm day is truly something to behold, and very memorable. Many times, I've spent 5-10 minutes enjoying the wealth of detail they show on the moon. Try that with non IS bino's.

Overall, the construction seems very solid. While it's certainly not bomb-proof like the top three Euro, and one Japanese maker's fine roof models, I wouldn't quite call it "camera like". Wouldn't want to drop it though. The shape of the housing, and the rubber armor, are to my hands particularly comfortable. It's not an ergonomic work of art, nor example of mechanical beauty like say, a Swarovski EL, but it's very nicely contoured. Focusing is fast, yet very silky and very light touch. It's not up to the level of a Starlight Instruments Feathertouch focuser's fine knob, but is nicely designed and executed. The focuser gets a pretty big thumbs-up from me.

This model is not a perfect design though. For example, a 4mm exit pupil has become (over the last 110 years), generally accepted as a kind of minimum for optimum daytime performance and ease of use. Smaller EPs just become progressively more "fiddly" to use. This bino doesn't quite have the instant "ease of use" that a 4-5 mm EP bino has. After my last two bino's (Fujinon 16x70 FMT SX 2, and Pentax 8x32 DCF SP, I was initially pretty disappointed with this 12x36. For me (and others around me),that feeling definitely changed after an hour or so of use, as I became accustomed to the nuances of handling them. You do get acclimated to them. Demo them in a store for a good while, as initially they might not have the eye comfort you're used to.

I understand that Canon has adapted the 10x30 IS body to build this 12x36 IS II. To save on R&D costs and maximize profits for the near future, I assume. And their effort is a stunning success. However, Canon's next generation 12x should incorporate some adjustable eye cups, rain-guard, IS timer, click-stop or locking diopter adjustment, 65* apparent FOV would be most appreciated, and most importantly, 50 mm objectives. If they could do this and keep the weight down to 2 lbs. or so, they might dominate the market. All but the last two of these ideas could have been done without adding more than a few dollars to the price.

So, you're using 7 or 8 power binoculars for their wide FOV and steadiness, right? Well how about something with a view that's much more steady, yet brings you far closer to the object you're viewing? Or maybe you're using a high quality 10 to 12 power and putting up with a too shaky view. Anyone looking for binoculars in this price range (and higher) would do well to compare the Canon 12x36 IS II before making a decision. Bottom line: I love these binoculars. They show more fine detail than any hand-held instrument I've ever used. When does the 12x50 or 15x60 IS come out?

Overall Rating: 9
Optics:9 Value:9
Weight: 1 (Unreliable Vote)
By: Anonymous (
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