Binoculars can be heavy pieces of equipment, especially those providing the higher levels of magnification.
A good pair will generally tip the scales at between 2 and 3 lbs. The job of holding them steady enough for clear viewing, even for relatively short periods of time, can become a feat of muscular endurance.
When you add in low light levels, wind, the cold and excitement, very often the combination of any or all of these variables, can render detailed observation nigh on impossible.
So what's the answer? Holding the binoculars on a tripod, is one solution. But what if circumstances don't permit the use of a tripod. Besides, using binoculars on a tripod can, in certain circumstances, be a very real 'pain in the neck', particularly when trying to view the night sky at angles greater than 30 or 40 degrees above the horizon.
Observations from moving vehicles of any nature, also tend to rule out the use of a tripod as a means of stabilization. All vehicles suffer from vibration, to some degree or another. So any observation from such a platform, even with a tripod-type solution, will still face image degradation, due to vibration.
The answer is Image Stabilized Binoculars.
Developed initially for high-end video cameras, the application of image stabilization technology has spread to include still photography, and both telescopes and binoculars, as well as more specialised areas, including medical imaging.
By utilising image stabilization in binoculars, it is now possible to hand hold binoculars with magnification powers, well in excess ot the previously accepted upper limit of 10x magnification.
This means that binoculars with magnifications up to 18x can now be hand-held, without the degradation of image quality, previously experienced at magnifications of this order.
The stabilization process is most commonly achieved by the use of small piezo-electric motion detectors, also known as gyroscopic detectors. These detect motion in the horizontal and vertical planes and feed information to tiny motors that move the prisms within the light path to compensate for this motion. This system will compensate for angular movement up to 0.7 of a degree.
Image stabilized binoculars are, as a result, more expensive than their non stabilized counterparts. The improved viewing experience, is, in my opinion, well worth the additional cost. >