Canon 10x42L IS WP binoculars review: unique and unsurpassed image stabilizer tech

For shake-free viewing of nature and the night sky, look no further than the Canon 10x42L IS WP binoculars. Here's our full review

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Woman holding a pair of Canon 10x42L IS WP binoculars
(Image credit: Jamie Carter)
T3 Verdict

The Canon 10x42L IS WP binoculars are among the best and most innovative binoculars around – any drawbacks are more than made up for by the incredible optics, plus Canon's exclusive image stabilizer technology. There's nothing else quite like these.

Reasons to buy
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    Steady view of stars

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    Incredible Moon views

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    Waterproof and easy to grip

Reasons to avoid
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    Batteries run out quickly

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    Lens caps are poor

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Our Canon 10x42L IS WP review, which takes a closer look at a pair on binoculars with a very particular USP. 

For these, Canon focused on solving one specific issue: the fact everything you ever look at through your binoculars tends to bounce up and down, shake and generally refuse to stay still. That shake is partly your fault because you're human, you're hot and you cannot stay still. Not so the Canon 10x42L IS WP, a pair of binoculars with built-in image stabilization that gives you a super-steady view of everything you look at – and some incredible optics. 

These binoculars first launched in 2014, but are still widely available and at the top of Canon's range. They currently sell for US$1,500 / UK£2,000 / AUS$2,100. So not cheap. They're also heavy and they use batteries that frequently run down, but despite this, they feature in both our best binoculars for birdwatching and general best binoculars guides. Here's why; read on for my full Canon 10x42L IS WP binoculars review. 

Canon 10x42L IS WP binoculars review: performance and features

The main reason to buy the Canon 10x42L IS WP is for its vari-angle prism image stabilization technology, which remains exclusive to Canon. Equipped with a couple of gyro motion sensors to detect the amount of shake you're creating just by holding them, actuators around the lenses then cancel-out that shake to an angle of 0.8°. It's clever stuff and it can be engaged at the touch of a button on top of the binoculars. The result is a super-steady view of stars, star clusters and the Moon, as well as anything else you care to point them at. It means you can spend more time gazing at objects through handheld binoculars as if they were a camera or a telescope on a tripod. 

Canon 10x42L IS WP binoculars: Specs

Size: 5.4x6.9x3.4-inch / 137x176x85 mm
Weight: 39.2 oz/1.1kg
Type: Prism
Waterproof: Yes
Field of view: 59.2°
Magnification: 10
Objective lens diameter: 42mm
Eye relief: 16mm
Near focus: 8.2ft./2.5m
Image stabilisation: Yes

However, that 0.8º correction only helps so much, and the more correcting it has to do the less sharp the final, corrected image you see. So you should also try to help yourself by keeping your own shakiness to a minimum. You can do that by bringing in your elbows (most of us naturally stick them out when holding binoculars) to rest on your ribcage. For ultra-steadiness – and to save your arms from carrying the Canon 10x42L IS WP's significant 39.2 oz/1.1kg bulk – you can also mount them on a tripod thanks to a novel 1.4-inch thread on their undercarriage. Not many binoculars have one of those. 

However, there are some downsides to this incredible technology. It takes two AAA batteries, which power the Canon 10x42L IS WP's image stabilization tech for about two hours. However, try to use them in the cold – or just use them a lot – and you'll find that the batteries do not last long. Always carry a pack of spares. 

There's plenty more to love about the Canon 10x42L IS WP besides that novel image stabilization system. We love that they're waterproof and so as travel-proof as binoculars can be (though don't get cocky – always handle binoculars with care), but just as important are its optics. Featuring two ultra-low dispersion (UD) lens elements on each side, any chromatic aberration (when colours aren't focused properly, resulting in purple lines around objects) is corrected and you're left with a beautifully clear, sharp and accurately coloured image right to the edges. 

Their 10x magnification and 42mm objective lens make them ideally-sized for both birdwatching and for the night sky, with their 59° field of view and exit pupil diameter of 4.2mm making them great in low light. 

All of which makes Canon's provision of poor lens caps confusing. Limp and easy to lose, we immediately replaced them with a couple of Canon LC-52 Center Pinch lens caps (designed for Canon cameras) to fit the 52mm filter thread. With that slight mod in place the Canon 10x42L IS WP are, we think, the pinnacle of high-end technology found on binoculars. 

Canon 10x42L IS WP binoculars review: alternatives to consider

In terms of image stabilisation tech, Canon's is, in our opinion, in a class of one. However, if you're here because you're interested in stargazing binoculars specifically, we have a couple of recommendations for you.

For our top overall pick, head to our Celestron Skymaster Pro 20x80 binoculars review.  These are excellent general-use stargazing binoculars, and come with a much lower price tag than the Canon 10x42L IS WP binos, although of course you don't get the built-in image stabilisation. If you're interested in immersive views of the night sky, check out our Vixen SG 2.1x42 super-wide binocular review, too. These super-wide binos deliver panoramic views, rather than close-ups of particular heavenly bodies. 

There are also lots of less specialist models that are suitable for nature-spotting as well as a spot if stargazing in our general best binoculars guide – here's how to choose and use binoculars for stargazing, if you need more tips. 

Of course, if you're going to be keeping things steady with a tripod in any case, there's also the question of binoculars vs telescopes. If you decide on the latter, our best telescopes for stargazing guide has plenty of recommendations. 

Canon 10x42L IS WP binoculars review: verdict

The first and still the best waterproof binoculars to use Canon's clever image stabilizer technology, the travel-proof Canon 10x42L IS WP are ideal for steady, shake-free viewing of nature and the night sky. They're expensive, the batteries can run out quickly and the lens caps supplied are poor, but everything else about the Canon 10x42L IS WP keeps them streets ahead of the competition – and a great reason not to even think about buying a telescope. 

Jamie Carter

Jamie is a freelance journalist, copywriter and author with 20 years' experience. He's written journalism for over 50 publications and websites and, when he's not writing, spending most of his time travelling – putting the latest travel tech through its paces.