Since I returned my Sony DEV-50V/B, I have been looking for another set of binoculars, albeit without the (useless) camera feature. I want to enjoy bird watching with my girlfriend, but my hands are too shaky to use her 30-year old Bausch & Lomb 10x40 binoculars. Black Friday this year presented me with the opportunity to purchase the Fujinon 14x40 Techno-Stabi (hereafter FTS) for $1000.
The FTS is designed for use on boats, so it is fully waterproof, filled with dry nitrogen, and comes in a high-end waterproof case (note the seals on the top of the case). The case is quite heavy, so you will not want to lug it around with you. The neck strap for the FTS has four stiff pads on it, which serve to provide floatation for the binoculars.
The biggest drawback of the FTS is its weight—2.71 lbs. The other drawback is its energy consumption—3-4 hours on a set of batteries. However, the FTS work as a normal set of binoculars without battery power, so you should only turn them on when actually observing something. They of course also turn themselves off after a minute to conserve power
The great advantage of the FTS is rock-steady, high-resolution images, even at this high degree of magnification. It achieves this stabilization using multiple gyroscopes and motors to move the prisms in 5 axes to achieve an amazing ±5° of stabilization. And the image does not lose any clarity when the stabilization is engaged. (I read that the Canon system uses squishy prisms that cause the image to lose sharpness when stabilization is engaged.) In my shaky hands, the binoculars are miraculous.
Another worry for me is my closely set eyes. The 60–70 mm interocular distance afforded by the FTS worked well for me. I measured my eyes in front of a mirror before making the purchase.
Nikon sells an almost identical model binocular for an extra $300. It has an extra mode meant for land use, that gives a smaller degree of image stabilization. I see no need for this, so saved the extra money. It also gives an endorsement to the Fujinon optics.
Finally, there is the matter of batteries. Given the short battery life, you would think that a set of rechargeable batteries (AA cells) would be in order. But most of the NiMH batteries sold are only 1.2 volts, so that 4 of them only output 4.8 volts rather than the specified 6.0 volts. This is unsuitable for must applications, especially running small motors. But there is now a solution to this: lithium-ion batteries (which are 3.6 volts) that contain an internal dc-to-dc converter to provide a perfect 1.5 v output.
Today was the first sunny day all month, so we headed to Melton Lake Park for some walking and birding. My girlfriend said that there was a huge difference between the brightness of my FTS binoculars and her's. I could clearly see the colors and markings of a mockingbird against the sun, whereas it was just a silhouette on her binoculars. I saw a Ruby-Crowned Kinglet and although it did not display its crown, I could easily see the red spot on the back of its head. I saw a flock of six Cedar Waxwings in a not very close tree, and could clearly see their yellow tail tips and red wax wingtips. With image stabilization on, it was easy to scan the shoreline for water birds—everything just glides smoothly by. The FTS are not very forgiving looking into the sun, and flare easily. I found it easy to locate birds by finding the bird with my eyes, and then just pointing the FTS to near the correct place. The neck strap was surprisingly comfy.
The FTS came with covers for the eye pieces, but not for the objective lenses. I will need to buy some protective filters for them.