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Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Gadget Bag: Image Stability

Get sharp handheld exposures with image-stabilization technology

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Nikkor 400mm
AF-S Nikkor 400mm ƒ/2.8G ED VR

The 400mm also has a Silent Wave Motor (SWM) that lets you focus instantly, even at fully extended focal ranges. If you plan to shoot with a tripod, the lens has a VR on/off switch to disable stabilization, as well as a cool feature called Tripod Detection that counters the effect of VR when the lens is already stabilized on a tripod. Other specs include a 10.2-pound weight, minimum focusing distance of 9.5 feet and a minimum aperture of ƒ/22. Nikon also has a variety of other VR lenses in its stable, including telephotos, super-telephotos and standard zoom lenses, giving you a variety of glass with this effective system.


Panasonic is unique in that it utilizes its MEGA Optical Image Stabilization (MEGA O.I.S.) both in the camera body and in interchangeable lenses. As Panasonic released its first-ever D-SLR, the Lumix DMC-L1, and now its most recent D-SLR, the Lumix DMC-L10, it formed a partnership with Leica to provide interchangeable lenses with IS.

The most integral part of the MEGA O.I.S. is a gyro sensor that detects any sort of shake. The movement sends a signal to a microcomputer inside the camera that calculates the amount of compensation that’s needed. A linear motor sends a signal back to the optical image stabilizer that moves the stabilizer to the correct path of light as it hits the image sensor.

D-SLRs With In-Camera Stabilization
Panasonic is the only company that utilizes image stabilization in both the camera body and the lens. This duality serves its purpose well, but three companies take a different approach: Sony, Pentax and Olympus all stabilize camera shake inside of the camera. They all use a system that moves the image sensor to compensate for any sort of movement.

Sony offers Super SteadyShot image stabilization on both its Alpha DSLR-A100 and its Alpha DSLR-A700. This type of image stabilization is achieved by moving the actual image sensor to compensate for movement. The benefit to this sort of stabilizing system is that you get stabilization with any old Minolta A-mount lenses, Carl Zeiss lenses and, of course, all lenses manufactured by Sony.

Pentax Shake Reduction (SR) technology is available in both the Pentax K10D and K100D/K100D Super cameras. It's an electromagnetically controlled system that compensates for shake through a free-floating image sensor in the camera. The SR system uses a ball-bearing unit with four electromagnets that hold the image sensor. A set of sensors detects camera movement so that the image sensor can adjust for any kind of shake.

Olympus also shifts the image sensor in-camera to stop any jittery hand movements. Its current EVOLT E-510 and brand-new E-3 all contain the image stabilization system. The system features a gyro sensor that detects the slightest movement, which then uses a supersonic motor called the Supersonic Wave Drive (SWD) that shifts the sensor in the camera to get a stable shot. The system is capable of allowing you to shoot handheld at up to five shutter-speed stops slower than usual, according to Olympus.

Again, the benefit of having in-camera stabilization is that you can use any interchangeable lens that fits the camera’s mount. Whether it’s from the manufacturer or a third-party lens company, the benefit of image stabilization is that it will always be there with whatever lens you use.

The MEGA O.I.S. has three modes. In Mode 1, image stabilization is constantly on, so framing is always stabilized through the lens as well. Mode 2 turns on stabilization only when the shutter is pressed, which gives clearer pictures without slowing down the camera. And finally, Mode 3 compensates only for up-and-down movements, not horizontal-axis movements, which helps capture fast-moving subjects when you're panning or want blur for creative effect.

The newest lens from Panasonic is the Leica D Vario-Elmar 14-150mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 ASPH lens. With a 20-inch minimum focusing distance, it also features a new technology called Extra Silent Motor (XSM) that has a supersonic oscillation engine that increases responsiveness and focusing to the camera.


Sigma’s OS (Optical Stabilizer) system is similar to most of the systems mentioned above. Because all image stabilization technology is about letting the photographer shoot handheld, Sigma’s technology is made to address low light and eliminate blur at long focal ranges.

The OS system uses a group of lens elements that are controlled by two sensors inside the lens, which detect both vertical and horizontal movement. The elements move to correct themselves as the other systems do, and also have two optical stabilizer modes. Mode 1 detects vertical and horizontal movement. Mode 2 detects only on the vertical axis, making it useful for catching moving subjects while panning the camera.

Sigma’s latest lens is the 18-200mm ƒ/3.5-6.3 DC OS HSM lens for Nikon-mount cameras, good for macro to telephoto shooting, with a minimum focusing distance of 17.7 inches. Sigma also manufactures two other lenses with its OS technology, the 80-400mm ƒ/4.5-5.6 EX DG OS and another 18-200mm without HSM (Hyper-Sonic Motor) autofocus.


Tamron is the newest kid on the block to offer an interchangeable zoom lens with optical stabilization, which it has named Vibration Compensation (VC). The VC system works by featuring a triaxial (X=horizontal, Y=vertical, Z=curvelike movements on both X and Y axes) configuration of driving coils and sliding balls to compensate for hand shake. Three driving coils move the VC lens through electromagnetic signals originating from the movement of the steel balls. The lens element that compensates for movement is held in place by these steel balls, which is controlled electronically to operate a mechanical system that holds the lens in place to get a clear shot.

Tamron’s first VC lens is the AF28-300mm ƒ/3.5-6.3 XR Di VC LD Aspherical (IF) macro zoom lens. The 28-300mm has a maximum aperture of ƒ/3.5-6.3 and a minimum aperture of ƒ/40. The new lens fits on both Canon AF and Nikon AF-D camera bodies.

(800) OK-CANON
(800) NIKON-UX
(888) 553-4448
(800) 211-PANA
(800) 877-0155
(800) 896-6858

(877) 865-SONY
Tamron USA
(631) 858-8400

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