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August 09, 2013

Magnifying Glasses

Marine binoculars bring you closer to the action.

Stabilize That View

But what if you’re faced with large seas that make using even ­standard 7x binoculars difficult? It’s time to consider a pair of image-stabilizing binoculars.

These products allow comfortable viewing with much greater magnification (up to 18x power, in some cases) because they compensate for movement, such as a pitching boat. Consequently, the image you see in the eyepieces is, well, stabilized.

“These stabilized products are more expensive (generally in the $2,000 to $6,000 range),” says Hawley, “but really helpful if you want maximum ­magnification on a moving platform.”

Bipin Patel, sales associate for the optical division of Fujifilm North America, says his company offers two types of stabilized binoculars. The Stabiscope is an old-fashioned gyro model, and the Techno-Stabi is electronically stabilized. “On the Stabiscope, a prism is mounted on top of a gyro,” he says. “When you turn it on, the gyro spins up to speed, and it stabilizes your view. The Techno-Stabi has a floating prism, sensors and a central processing unit. The CPU recognizes any movement and sends a signal to the sensors, which then erect two pins that hold the prism in place.”

Electronic units offer many ­conveniences, Patel says, including quicker power-up time, longer battery life (these units typically run on AA batteries), lighter weight and a significantly lower price than gyros. And while both Fuji products are completely waterproof, the one drawback with many image-stabilizing binoculars is that they’re more susceptible to ­physical damage.

“You probably don’t want to drop them on the deck on purpose,” Patel jokes, “but we’re working on a mil-spec product that will withstand hits and drops. Hard to say when that will be released, but probably within a year or so.”

When it comes to marine binoculars, it’s good to be swimming in a sea of choices.