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Thursday, March 1, 2007

Image Stabilization

When you can't or won't use a tripod, these technologies steady your hand

Of course, it’s also important to hold the camera properly, as steadily as possible—see your camera manual for the best way for its particular shape and configuration. Don’t get sloppy and just use stabilization as a crutch.


EF-S 17-55mm ƒ/2.8 IS USM
EF-S 17-85mm ƒ/4-5.6 IS USM
EF 24-105mm ƒ/4L IS USM
EF 28-135mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 IS USM
EF 28-300mm ƒ/3.5-5.6L IS USM
EF 70-200mm ƒ/2.8L IS USM
EF 70-200mm ƒ/4L IS USM
EF 70-300mm ƒ/4-5.6 IS USM
EF 70-300mm ƒ/4.5-5.6 DO IS USM
EF 100-400mm ƒ/4.5-5.6L IS USM
EF 300mm ƒ/2.8L IS USM
EF 300mm ƒ/4L IS USM
EF 400mm ƒ/2.8L IS USM
EF 400mm ƒ/4 DO IS USM
EF 500mm ƒ/4L IS USM
EF 600mm ƒ/4L IS USM
14-50mm ƒ/2.8-3.5 D Vario-Elmarit ASPH

18-200mm ƒ/3.5-5.6G ED-IF AF-S VR DX Zoom-Nikkor
24-120mm ƒ/3.5-5.6G ED-IF AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor
70-200mm ƒ/2.8G ED-IF AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor
70-300mm ƒ/4.5-5.6G ED-IF AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor
80-400mm ƒ/4.5-5.6D ED-IF AF VR Zoom-Nikkor
200-400mm ƒ/4G ED-IF AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor
105mm ƒ/2.8G ED-IF AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor
200mm ƒ/2G ED-IF AF-S VR Nikkor
300mm ƒ/2.8G ED-IF AF-S VR Nikkor

18-200mm ƒ/3.5-6.3 DC OS
80-400mm ƒ/4.5-5.6 EX DG APO OS

A number of stabilizer lenses provide two stabilization modes. One compensates for both vertical and horizontal movement of the camera, ideal for photographing stationary subjects; the other counteracts only vertical moment, allowing you to pan the camera to track a moving subject, such as a racing car. (If you try panning the camera in the first mode, the stabilizing system will fight you, and image sharpness may suffer.)

Some lens-shift systems provide one mode that stabilizes both the recorded image and the viewfinder image, and another that stabilizes only the recorded image. The former provides a steadier viewfinder image for easier framing; the latter saves battery power and provides quicker operation.



Compact digital cameras make great outdoor companions—they’re self-contained and easy to take anywhere. Quite a few compact digital cameras provide stabilization—lens-shift, sensor-shift or electronic—and stabilization is especially valuable with these cameras. For one thing, their small size makes them more difficult to hold steadily, especially those with longer focal lengths and those with no optical viewfinder. Holding a tiny camera at arm’s length while shooting isn’t the steadiest method, so you can use all the help you can get. I find stabilization especially helpful on hikes, when I’m trying to handhold the camera while huffing and puffing on a steep trail. Also, compact camera users rarely want to cart a tripod around, the whole point of a compact camera being "compactness."

While some compact digital cameras offer lens-shift or sensor-shift stabilization, many utilize "electronic stabilization" that doesn’t shift lens elements or the sensor. What it does do is take data from the motion detector(s), then uses in-camera processing to sharpen the blurred images. This isn’t as effective as lens-shift or sensor-shift systems, which actually stabilize the image, making it sharper during shooting. However, this method is less costly, fits in tiny cameras and does improve images.

Canon Powershot G7
Canon Powershot G7

Some compact digital cameras feature ISO-shift "stabilization"—they provide higher ISO settings (up to 3200 with some models) than most compacts and automatically increase the ISO setting in dim light to provide faster, more handholdable shutter speeds. Faster shutter speeds are indeed an effective anti-shake measure (and they also help reduce blur caused by subject movement, which lens-shift and sensor-shift mechanisms can’t help), but higher ISO speeds result in poorer image quality than slower ISO speeds with any given camera. To counteract this, the up-the-ISO systems also generally employ automatic, advanced noise reduction to maintain image quality.

Another sharpness-increasing feature (currently found in Nikon’s Coolpix S7c) records a series of images and saves only the sharpest one.

With some systems, you must switch the stabilizer off when the camera is used on a tripod; with others, you can use stabilization with a tripod-mounted camera—again, check the instruction manual for your system.

Stabilizing systems increase battery drain, but it’s not by much. While recently testing the Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi, I made as many as 583 shots on a single charge of the standard battery that comes with the camera, using my EF 300mm ƒ/4L IS lens’ stabilizer for every shot (and often holding the shutter button partway down for several seconds at a time while waiting for a bird subject to do something photogenic). That’s not bad, considering the instruction manual says the battery is good for about 500 shots per charge without using a stabilizer


Lens-Shift Stabilization
Canon PowerShot G7
Canon PowerShot S3 IS
Canon PowerShot SD800 IS Digital ELPH
Canon PowerShot SD700 IS Digital ELPH
Canon PowerShot A710 IS
Kodak EasyShare P850
Kodak EasyShare P712
Kodak EasyShare Z612
Leica C-Lux 1
Leica D-Lux 3
Leica V-Lux 1
Nikon Coolpix L5
Nikon Coolpix P4
Nikon Coolpix P3
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ7
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX50
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX07
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX3
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX01
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ5
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ3
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ2
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H5
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H2
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T50
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T30
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T10

Sensor-Shift Stabilization
Nikon Coolpix S10
Olympus Stylus 750
Pentax Optio A20
Pentax Optio A10
Pentax Optio S7
Samsung GX-10
Samsung NV7 OPS

Electronic Stabilization
Casio Exilim EX-S600
Casio Exilim EX-Z850
Casio Exilim EX-Z600
Fujifilm FinePix S9100
Fujifilm FinePix S6000fd
Fujifilm FinePix Z3
Fujifilm FinePix F31fd
HP Photosmart R827
HP Photosmart R967
Nikon Coolpix S7c
Olympus Stylus 1000
Olympus Stylus 750
Olympus Stylus 740
Olympus Stylus 730
Olympus Stylus 710
Olympus SP-510 UZ
Olympus SP-320
Olympus FE-200
Olympus FE-190
Olympus FE-180
Olympus FE-170
Samsung NV 10
Samsung Digimax i6

My recommendation? If you shoot handheld, use stabilized gear. Stabilization is especially useful in high-magnification (telephoto and close-up) and dim-light work, and when you want to make big blow-ups of the images, but it helps in any handheld shooting situation. I use it all the time.

(800) OK-CANON
(800) 283-6925
(800) 800-FUJI
Hewlett-Packard (HP)
(800) 752-0900

(800) 253-4681
(800) 235-6325
(800) 222-0118
(800) NIKON-UX
(888) 553-4448
(800) 211-PANA
(800) 877-0155
(800) 896-6858
(877) 865-SONY



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