Digital camera Image Stabilization

Image Stabilization, also known as vibration reduction and anti-shake, is a technology that helps prevent digital photos from becoming blurred. It reduces camera shake caused by hand movement, slow shutter speeds or when using a long telephoto lens without a tripod.

Click to see benefits of Optical Image Stabilization

Click to see value of Optical Image Stabilization. Images were resized but not sharpened.

Almost all cameras today have some form of Image Stabilization (IS) including digital single lens reflex cameras. DSLR Image Stabilization is either built into the camera body or interchangeable lens.

Some types of image stabilization are more effective than others (see below).

Advantages of Image Stabilization

Image Stabilization helps a photographer take hand held shots about two stops slower than without it. It is important to point out that IS may not prevent blur if a subject itself is moving. However, new technologies progress and some companies claim their IS reduces or eliminates blur even when caused by moving subjects.

Some digital camera users report getting sharper images with Image Stabilization turned off. This assumes, of course, that the shutter speed is fast enough to prevent camera shake.

Image stabilization and tripods

The general consensus among digital camera users is to shut off Image Stabilization when using a tripod or other camera support. Some camera manufacturers recommend this so check your camera manual before shutting of IS.

In actual practice, results and preferences vary. Take test photos with and without IS enabled to find what works best with your camera.

Types of digital camera Image Stabilization

Optical IS

Optical Image Stabilization is hardware based. Digital cameras with optical IS typically have a built-in gyro sensor and microprocessor that detects camera shake as it occurs. The stabilizer compensates for any camera movement.

There are three main types of Optical Image Stabilization modes, though not every compact digital camera with IS has all three: Continuous, Shoot Only and/or Panning.

Sensor-shift image stabilization

Sensor-shift image stabilization is also known as mechanical image stabilization. The stabilization occurs in the camera body, not the lens. The sensor is adjusted to compensate for camera shake.

Digital IS

Some compact cameras have Digital Image Stabilization only, which simply boosts camera sensitivity (ISO) to obtain a faster shutter speeds to help prevent blur. No hardware is involved.

But increasing ISO causes image quality to degrade to varying degrees because of “noise,” similar to grain in photos taken with high ISO film. Digital Image Stabilization must be turned on via a setting or anti-blur scene mode.

Ask before buying

Optical image stabilization is much preferable to digital, so ask about the type before buying a digital camera. Words can be misleading, so don’t get take for granted that a camera has hardware-based Optical Image Stabilization.

Fancy terms such as Anti-blur Technology, Anti-shake Function and Image Stabilization Mode may simply mean that a camera increases the ISO to help prevent blurred images.

Dual Image Stabilization

Dual Image Stabilization simply combines Optical Image Stabilization and an increase to ISO.  If you’re buying a digital camera that has Dual Image Stabilization, look for one that provides the option to manually control ISO.

Triple Image Stabilization

Fujifilm introduced Triple Image Stabilization in some of their digital camera. According to Fujifilm, Triple Image Stabilization “combines a mechanically stabilized CMOS sensor with high ISO sensitivities and advanced multi-frame digital stabilization for total anti-blur protection.”  The company says that these combined technologies will reduce the blurring effect of both camera shake and subject movement to provide sharp images even at the longest zoom settings or in challenging lighting conditions.

Intelligent Image Stabilization

Intelligent Image Stabilization analyzes camera movement and automatically selects from several different modes to help assure the steadiest possible, blur-free photo. Cameras with Intelligent IS work when shooting still shots and video. It also automatically detects when the camera is mounted on a tripod and turns IS off because it is not needed.

DSLR Image Stabilization

Image stabilized dslr lensAs mentioned, there are two Image Stabilization systems found in digital single lens reflex cameras: IS built into the camera or IS built into interchangeable lenses. The debate goes on among photographers about which type of DSLR Image Stabilization is best and most cost effective.

There is little debate, however, about the overall benefits of Image Stabilization.

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6 Responses

  1. Gail Bjork says:

    There is no setting on your camera to shut off image stabilization. The camera does not have optical image stabilization, only Picture Stabilization, which is accessed through the Anti-Blur shooting mode. It forces a higher ISO and a faster shutter speed to reduce the effects of shake and blur.

    I’m not sure what is at work stabilizing images when shooting video. Many digital cameras have some noise picked up from the camera when shooting video, heard primarily when there is no background noise in a scene. Unfortunately, there is not much you can do about camera noise when shooting in a quiet environment.

    If you bought your camera new, you should return or exchange it. From your description, the camera is particularly noisy when shooting video. Look for a camera with optical image stabilization, which on most cameras, can be turned on and off.

  2. cassandra says:

    How do I turn OFF the image stabilization? I just got a fujifulm j10 digital camera and when I film videos there is a loud crackling noise coming from the inside of the camera, and I read on an advice forum someone had the same problem and a person told them to turn off the IS, then it worked. Someone had told me there should be a switch on the lens, but there is none. I can’t find an answer to this ANYWHERE and it’s really stressing me out :( How do I turn it off?!?!?!

  3. Gail Bjork says:

    Can you provide an example where this information is is found? I’ve never seen a number used in conjunction with Image Stabilization. The numbers may refer to the optical zoom lens magnification. For example, on my Canon s90 it says on the lens “Canon Zoom Lens 3.8X IS.” The 3.8X is the maximum optical zoom length. The IS stands for Image Stabilization.

  4. rina says:

    ok, when shopping for cameras it has a section that says: stabalization-27 and another says stabalization-3.4

    what is the difference, which one is better?

  5. Gail Bjork says:

    Unfortunately, your question is beyond the scope of what we offer here at Digicamhelp. Consider calling a camera manufacturer’s tech support for some insights.

  1. December 13, 2010

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