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What is Image Stabilization?

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  • Written By: Ken Black
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 01 September 2016
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Image stabilization is a form of technology used to stabilize an image for a much clearer picture. Used in both still and video cameras, image stabilization is one of the most popular features to include in a camera. In the past, the technology used to be reserved only for the higher end of camera models, but it has since been expanded as a feature in most cameras sold, due to price reductions in the technology.

As the telephoto features of a camera are used, image stabilization becomes more important for producing the sharpest photos. The farther the distance of the subject from the camera, the more distorted the image can become due to even the slightest fluctuation in motion. In still photos, this will cause the main subjects to become out of focus. For video cameras, it will cause jitters in the footage.

There are a couple of techniques that are often employed in image stabilization. One is optical stabilization and can be used in digital or still cameras. Digital image stabilization is used primarily in some video cameras. Both take slightly different approaches and have their own advantages.

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In optical image stabilization, sensors are placed in the lens to detect vertical movement and horizontal movement. The lens is then stabilized for these effects in order to get a clear picture. This all happens nearly simultaneously with the shaking. This system will take care of most natural fluctuations a photographer may have in his or her hands. For example, if the body of the camera moves up, the lens will move down to compensate.

In digital image stabilization, the methodology takes a slightly different tack. Instead of dealing with the lens portion of the camera, the digital image stabilization technique shoots more of a frame than is actually shown. Then, the image stabilization happens by moving the frame slightly with each motion so that the image appears stable, even when it may not be.

Of course, no image stabilization technique is foolproof. There may always be times, especially in low light or longer exposures, where the movement exceeds the ability of the camera to provide stabilization. The best way to avoid blurry photos and jittery videos is to keep the camera as stable as possible. To accomplish this, a tripod or other type of stand that can stabilize the camera is key. Without this, no image will be as clear as it possibly can be.

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everetra
Post 2

@MrMoody - I don’t know that you can tell the difference without a frame by frame analysis of your video. I read a canon image stabilization review of an optical image stabilizer, and the frame by frame comparisons were striking.

In a nutshell, image stabilization produced sharper images without halos or artifacts, especially in low light conditions. Perhaps you should perform a comparable test to see.

Then again, this was optical image stabilization as I said, and you are using digital stabilization. On balance, an optical stabilizer will always perform better than a digital one.

MrMoody
Post 1

I have a digital image stabilizer in my camcorder, and honestly, I’ve never been satisfied with it. I still see camera jitter and shake. Maybe it’s less than what it was without the stabilization, but if it is, I certainly can’t tell.

One thing that I’ve found to help me is to shoot with a wide angle lens. You’ll notice that when you shoot with a wide angle, the image is able to tolerate shakier camera movement than with a standard lens.

Maybe this is the same principle as is used for image stabilization: that is, the wide angle accommodates more of the frame than a standard lens. However, it doesn’t do any digital compensating. Maybe a wide angle lens is like an optical image stabilizer, I don’t know, but it works.

If I’m not using a wide angle lens, I just set the camera on a tripod.

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