Fujinon 14x40 Techno-Stabi. enlarge. This free website's biggest source of support is when you use these links, especially this one to where Santa got mine at Adorama, when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Thank you! Ken.
These are high-powered, waterproof, center-focus, close-focusing binoculars with image stabilization. They give a stable image even if you're in motion. They get rid of the constant jiggling of other binoculars. They look tough, but they aren't for night vision (Fujinon makes those, too).
I love these. I can see things I can't see otherwise. I can read local street-corner name signs (4" (10cm) tall letters) a half-mile away, and the names of the big over-the-intersection signs a mile or two away.
There is no way I could read those with anything from Leica or other high-end conventional binoculars because they all wiggle around in your hands, regardless of how sharp they are. Try reading a newspaper - with someone moving it around. It has to hold still, and that's what stabilized binoculars do.
They really do work from small airplanes like Cessna 172s, or if you're a thrill-seeker, while walking.
I asked Santa for these for Christmas 2006. I had been wanting something like these for years.
I found that the Canons get softer when their IS is ON. Even though much less sharp than Leicas or good Nikons, the Canons allowed me to read handwriting 75 feet (25m) away because of their stabilized image. Other binoculars impressed me with their sharpness, but since their images wiggle even in my rock-steady grip, I couldn't actually read the fine details.
These Fujinons impressed me because they have stabilization as well as the sharpness of the other high-end non-stabilized binoculars. They are the best of both worlds. They don't get softer with stabilization ON.
These Fujinons use solid-glass shifting prisms to stabilize the image. Canon uses mushy fluid-filled wet-bag prisms, which is why I suspect the Canons get softer with IS active. With IS, the Canons often have a constant dithering of the edges; artifacts of the interaction of the IS system with the motions it's attempting to counter. The Fujinons have none of these problems and lock down a sharp, rock-stable image. The Canons fade in and out of sharpness.
I'd rather a Canon IS over Leica for utility (Leica still wins at mechanical build quality), and I bought (whoops, asked Santa to get me) these Fujinons because of their greater sharpness and contrast over the Canons.
Other folks have emailed me that they prefer the Canons, and I'm a little confused at that. I've never seen these Fujinons at retail. I only saw them at an industry trade show where I also was able to compare them directly to the Canons and Leicas and Nikons and everything else. The differences are obvious and repeatable. The Canons get soft with the IS on; they are OK with it off, but who cares how sharp they are with IS off? With further questioning of these Internet reports it seems none of them had ever actually seen these Fujinons. I only saw them at a huge industry trade show where every vendor brought everything in their catalogs. You may be able to find the Nikon Stabileyes, which seem identical, at retail for comparison against the Canons.
I tried the Canons again (18x50). The Canons are sharp with the IS off, but turning IS on softens the image as the mush-prisms do their work. The stabilized images softly fade in and out of sharpness as Canon's wet bag prisms wiggle around.
The Fujinons use sold glass prisms in rotating gimbals, so no quality is lost as they deflect to counter motion. The Fujinons are as sharp with IS on or off; their prisms always have parallel sides. The Canons' wet bags are deflected from parallel (made trapezoidal) to counter motion as it happens. Look for yourself: the Canons fade in and out of sharpness; it's not your imagination. The Fujinons stay sharp. Who cares how sharp they are with IS off? I bought these to use with IS ON.
The price of the Fujinons has stayed the same over the years, about $1,100 in 2006 and now $1,200 in 2010. The similar Canons used to be more expensive. The Canons have become less expensive over the years, and now cost less than the Fujinons.
The Canon 15x50 IS are about $900, before a rebate expiring in January 2007 of an additional $100.
There is a smaller Fujinon 12x32 version for $750 here. It takes 2-AA cells which sit in the hand grip, while the bigger Fujinon 14x40 has 4-AA cells under a cover on the bottom of the binoculars.
I tried the Fujinon 12x32 and they are also spectacular.
I see a Fujinon 10x40 version here for about $1,000 which seems to be a lower magnification (brighter for dim light) version of the larger Fujinon 14x40 I got for Christmas.
Get whichever you prefer. I got the bigger ones since I've had a great, tiny pair of 7x20 Nikon Travelite II for the past 20 years for when I want small.
Nikon sells something called StabilEyes which looks suspiciously identical to the Fujinons. When I tried them along the Fujinons they gave identical performance.
They all are excellent. Reserve the 16x32s for use in daylight, since they are the dimmest of all, and still excellent.
Nikon claims a second stabilization mode which probably alters some of the coefficients in the stabilization system. I prefer not having to worry about which one to set, since my Fujinons only have one setting: ON. My Fujinons pan and tilt to track moving and flying objects perfectly, so I fail to see how Nikon could improve on the Fujinons. When I tried them they all work magnificently.
I'd get whichever you prefer based on price, name and support. I got the Fujinons because they cost less, and I suspect that they're all made by Fujinon. I'd rather gamble, if Fujinon really makes them all, to have Fujinon service them if they ever need it, even though the service I've gotten from Nikon has always been excellent. I'm a little weird, and prefer to have the name of who I really think made them on a product instead of a different brand, but that's just me. In any case, the Fujinons cost less, so I'd go with them anyway.
They all work better than any non-stabilized binocular for real-world use, but I've not found them to be as sharp as the Fujinons or Leicas.
If my budget was only $250 or I was concerned about the weight, I'd have one of the smaller ones in an instant. IS makes a night-and-day difference.
The Canons are sharp with the IS off, but turning IS on softens the image as the mush-prisms do their work. The stabilized images softly fade in and out of sharpness as the wet bag prisms wiggle around. The Fujinons use sold glass prisms in rotating gimbals, so no quality is lost as they deflect. The Fujinons are as sharp with IS on or off; their prisms always have parallel sides. The Canons' wet bags are deflected from parallel (made trapezoidal) to counter motion as it happens.
When Santa got my Fujinons from Adorama they came in a yellow made-in-Torrance, California, USA, Pelican 1400 case. This case is O-ring sealed, water and gorilla-proof. It sells for $60 alone if you had to buy it.
The case has custom-made foam to hold the batteries (4-AA, included), binoculars and flotation strap.
This case would be perfect if I kept these on a yacht, but so big that I'll keep the case in storage.
Fuji, as far as I know, invented electronic stabilized binoculars.
These earlier binoculars are called "Stabiscope" and still sell for about $5,000. The ones I just got are newer and called "Techno-Stabi."
As far as I know, the older, more expensive binoculars (Stabiscope) aren't as good as these newer, less expensive ones (Techno-Stabi). The old ones probably cost more because they are bought by lazy governments with other people's money.
The Stabiscope have the same stabilization angle (+/- 5 degrees) but crummy close focus (100 feet), no center focus (need to adjust each eye separately) and more weight.
I have a sneaking suspicion that these old Stabiscopes are still sold because large organizations buy them out of inertia (because they always have bought them before). Fujinon has NSN and GSA numbers assigned to the Stabiscopes, making it easy for governments to place POs.
Since NASA flies these older ones on the space shuttle I have a sneaking suspicion that the new ones may be better overall, but that NASA may have designed the shuttle around these old ones and it's not worth it for NASA to replace them.
Since being used by NASA has a lot of caché, I'll bet (but really have no idea) that Fujinon keeps these in the catalog for rich guys and lazy government organizations who order them because they always have, or because other government organizations have.
I once sold military hardware to the US Government, and I was astounded that they preferred to order older, familiar $1,000 parts for new designs because they were on their "approved" list while the newer ones, which were better and cost only $25, weren't!
I suspect the Techno-Stabis I got are more practical, and cost less, just like a new $1,000 computer is a lot better than a 5-year-old $8,000 computer.
If I ever get my hands on the Stabiscopes I'll let you know, but I can't see how the optics could be any better (the mechanics could be), but with no center focus and no close focusing I doubt I'd want to trade for them, even at the same price.
My Techno-Stabis use electronic stabilization. They use silicon accelerometers and DSP to control the prism motions electronically. The Stabiscopes use traditional spinning iron-ring gyros bolted to the prisms, no electronics needed other than to spin the gyros.
Objective Lens Diameter
Objective Lens Spacing
56mm, fixed (measured).
14x, specified and seems reasonable.
Roof prisms, as told to me by Fujinon. It's not specified in the manual.
The prisms move around on gimbals to counteract motion. I see them listed both as roof and porro elsewhere at different dealers. Who cares? The proof is in the viewing.
100% Fujinon EBC phase reflection multicoated.
Angle of View
4 degrees, specified.
Field of View
70m @ 1,000m, 210' at 1,000 yards, specified.
I read a different value for this everyplace I see it specified, so don't worry about it.
Range of Stabilization Correction
+/- 5 degrees (rated). This is Fujinon's stabilization system's trump card over Canon.
+/-5 degrees supposedly lets you use these from a fixed wing aircraft, helo, speedboat or bed of a speeding pickup truck. Canon only can correct over +/- 0.7 degrees, limiting them to use while standing on the ground. I haven't compared this for myself.
Knob on right rear.
The internal elements which move to focus rotate in helicoids, which keeps the focus and alignment tight. Other binoculars I own use a single shaft to which two eyepieces or two objective lenses are attached, which means even a tiny amount of play in the center shaft leads to gross errors.
Rated 5m (16.5'), but mine easily focuses to 15' (4.6m).
This is closer than you want to focus, because at 14x magnification you have to cross your eyes this close.
Interocular Distance (IOD)
60 - 70mm adjustable, rated.
My IOD is 65mm, my new baby Ryan Rockwell is 45mm. He'll have to wait a few years to use these.
+/- 4 diopters, rated.
4-AA cells, included.
Fujinon offers an optional AC adapter and 12V power cord at very high prices. These prices make sense in light of the super-low production quantities and the organizations who buy these.
7-3/8" long x 5-7/8" wide x 3-1/2" tall (185 x 150 x 88mm), measured.
46.045 oz. (2 lbs, 14 oz or 1,305.4 g), measured with hand strap and 4-AA Duracells but no shoulder strap. I have no idea why other places list a heavier weight; I measured this myself.
Rear dual cap. No front caps: I put them down face-first. I hope they don't get knocked over. Rubber bumpers on the front safely seal and cushion them. There are four rubber feet on the bottom of the battery box if you set them down horizontally, but then nothing covers the objectives.
-10 - +50º C (14 - 122º F), rated.
Rated 100% and nitrogen purged, yet the instructions warn to keep the battery cover attached, otherwise it's not waterproof.
I see a sticker along the bottom of the binoculars inside the battery compartment; this seems a little hokey if water could get in through the sticker, and hey, then what then keeps the fog-proofing nitrogen inside?
Metal and plastic internals.
Rubberized plastic case.
Waterproof, indestructible yellow Pelican 1400, included with a custom insert.
I gave most of my performance observations back in the Specifications section.
My Fujinon 14x40 Techno-Stabi are sharp, contrasty and fast and easy to focus at any distance. They are a joy to use, which is why I got them.
My Fujinon 14x40 Techno-Stabi are sharper than my better-than-20/20 eyesight. The limit to fine details and how far away I can read small type is my own vision; not the quality of the image through these Fujinons. I fail to see how some people can go on and on about binocular quality when some, like these, are good enough that it is our own eyesight which limits resolution.
Like most good 'scopes, the biggest barrier to sharp images with these Fujinons are the seeing conditions. The Fujinon 14x40 Techno-Stabi will make heat waves obvious. The temperature, solar heating of the air and ground and the clarity and stability of the air will be obvious through these. It takes crystal-clear, stable air to see all of which these Fujinons are capable. They have double the magnification of ordinary binoculars, and the stabilization lets me see fine details and heat-induced shimmering and mirages invisible with other binoculars.
Other than the eyecups mentioned below, the only other negative is that the 2.8mm exit pupil, like all similar binoculars, requires careful adjustment of the binoculars to your eyes to get all of the light, since 2.8mm is usually the open diameter of our irises. Small interocular misadjustment will dim the images because some of the light coming out will miss the center of our open irises. Moving your eyes to look to one side or the other also can cut off the flow of light. The only way around this is to get binoculars with larger exit pupils, like 7x50s, which aren't stabilized. The stabilized binoculars with the biggest exit pupils are the Canon 10x42L IS, which with 4.2mm exit pupils, aren't that much different.
The single focus knob turns in the same direction as Canon, Mamiya and most camera lenses. It is backwards from Nikon.
They focus more closely than you'll want to, since at 14x and 15 feet you'll have to cross your eyes.
Maybe in five years Fuji will modify the stabilization algorithms to add horizontal offset to the prisms as one focuses more closely to correct this. (This is patent disclosure by me for this novel process; let me know if you'd like to take this further.)
Stabilization, la raison d'être de ces jumelles (the reason these binoculars exist), works great. Even better than my IS and VR lenses, my Fujinon 14x40 binoculars lock the image down solid for my observation.
It's easy to pan and tilt with stabilization active.
To my surprise, unlike my IS/VR camera lenses, it's easy to track moving targets like cars and aircraft.
There is a motor which whines for a second when activating and deactivating stabilization. I presume this is the prisms cageing and decageing (locking for transport).
It works as claimed, even from a small plane or while walking! I kid you not, it stabilizes the wild motion when viewing out a C172 window. It's best to hold them with a delicate touch with finger tips to decouple the higher frequency vibration from them. They can't compensate as well for the engine vibration if you grab them tight. They easily can compensate for all the whoop-de-does from the plane buffeting around. Amazing.
It makes a little bit of whistling, like what you hear when a deaf person's hearing aid is feeding back. It would annoy your neighbor if you brought them to the opera, unless you pass yourself off as a hearing aid wearer. If your neighbor is sharp, they'd hear the difference, since the whine from the Fuji 14x40s change pitch as you move them around.
Too big: 40mm.
They should be 29mm like my little Nikons.
Fuji must have done this to make the eyecups look big like the rest of these tough-looking binoculars, but they don't fit my eyes.
My eyes are the same size regardless of the binoculars I'm using.
Let me know if you know a retrofit for this. Fixing this issue would make them even more pleasant.
Rated 3 hours.
The Fujinon 14x40 are supposed to shut off automatically after a minute. I haven't seen this when left in standby.
I haven't seen this even after three minutes in stabilize.
They have shut off from standby. It may take three minutes in standby to shut off; I haven't timed it.
Measured Power Drain
I measure 225 mA while stabilizing (green LED), 75mA in standby (orange LED) and 1.4uA when off.
The current draw while stabilizing varies a little, but not out of the range of 200 - 250 mA. It draws about 325 mA for a second when activating or deactivating stabilization, while the prisms cage and decage. There is a motorized sound while this happens.
This implies a lot more than three hours of use with alkalines. I'll let you know when I kill my first set.
For light use, mostly peering at the neighbors, my Duracells are still going strong after a month and a half.
Battery Life Predictions
From the way I read Everready's battery engineering data (I have a BSEE in this) I'd predict a 7 hour run time in stabilize, about 30 hours in standby and about 250 years while off with Energizer alkalines.
I wouldn't spend my money on throw-away AA Lithium cells since I calculate they'd only last 50% longer than cheap alkalines. The Lithiums sell for about $9 a set of four, while alkalines bought in bulk cost only a dollar for four.
Ni-MH, typically rated 2,500 mAh, ought to run about as long as either, depending on their rating.
Observed Battery Life
After six months of casual use I started to notice a little less ability to reduce shake. I noticed that the green ON light would sometimes blink when I moved the binoculars rapidly. Oddly I'd see the image wobble in synchronization with my heartbeat, and noticed the green light would blink off at the same rate.
I installed new batteries, and it was back to normal. I also noticed the motorized cage/decage sounded much faster.
The old alkaline batteries measured 1.32V open-circuit after resting all night.
Six months is plenty for me!
After replacing the batteries that one time, it's now been several years as of October 2010 and the second set is still going strong.
Service and Repair
Mine stopped working after 2 months of very light household use.
I turned them off, and instead of the usual whir, I got a much longer whir and a red blinking light, even with the power off. The manual says the red blinking light means send it in for repair, and that's what I had to do.
For some odd reason, the prisms were no longer locking down as they should when off. Instead, the prisms stay loose, even with power off. They would work for a second (green light) when turned on, but then give up, free the prisms to flop around, and blink the red light.
I drove them to the service depot south of San Diego, California (Chula Vista, CA), who politely took them and shipped them to Japan for repair.
Almost three weeks later they returned to Chula Vista. My phone rings, and I was welcome to pick them up or have them shipped. I had them shipped to me, and they arrived the next day. They were at my door exactly three weeks after I dropped them off.
The great news is that they arrived repaired and in perfect condition. I'm happy they went to Japan for repair; these are so complex I feel better having them go closer to the source than to have them repaired locally.
I'm quite happy - everything went smoothly. I have no idea why they broke, and the fact that they were repaired competently is all I ask.
They returned clean, and better aligned then when they left. When they returned I easily could hold them a foot from my face and still see a distant object in perfect registration with both eyes. Previously they were OK, but not quite as well aligned.
I bought a set of these and love them.
I've never used a better set of binoculars.
If you want an excellent viewing experience and don't mind the expense or weight, get a set of these Fujinon Techno-Stabi 14x40 today.
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