Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Image Stabilization And You
How to choose and make the best use of stabilized cameras and lenses
In-lens and in-camera stabilization each has its strengths and weaknesses, but both work very well and will give you sharper images than you’d get without stabilization when shooting at slower shutter speeds.
In-lens stabilization can be optimized for the specific lens, which can make it more effective than sensor-shift stabilization, especially with the really long focal lengths. In-lens stabilization stabilizes both the recorded image and the viewfinder image, so you get a steadier image for composing and focusing. The drawbacks are that you have to buy stabilized lenses to get stabilization, and stabilized lenses are heavier and more costly than non-stabilized lenses.
In-camera sensor-shift stabilization works with any lens you attach to the camera, so you don’t have to buy special stabilized lenses. The main drawback is that it stabilizes only the recorded image, not what you see in the viewfinder. So you can’t really see how stable the image is until after you shoot it—unless your DSLR offers Live-View operation.
When Should You Use Stabilization?
At first glance, you’d think it’s a good idea to use stabilization anytime you’re handholding the camera, but that’s not necessarily true. I switch it off when doing bird-in-flight shots, for example, for a couple of reasons.
First, stabilization slows down camera operation. After focusing on the fast-moving bird, the camera’s processor has to calculate the needed compensation and apply it. (All-out pro DSLRs, with their more powerful processors, do this more effectively than mid-level DSLRs.)
Second, stabilization counters vertical and horizontal camera motion, while birds tend to zigzag in many directions, especially when pursuing prey. So I’ll often find the stabilizer fighting me as I move the camera to track the flying bird.
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