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Easy Guide to Understanding Lens Stabilization vs In Camera Stabilization

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Some of the scenes you’ll want to photograph are going to need image stabilization. This could be down to any number of factors.
Our article will take you through the difference between lens stabilization vs in-camera stabilization. And when you should use one over the other.
A dslr mounted on a tripod for image stabilization

What Is Stabilization

Stabilization is the act of keeping your camera as still as possible while you capture a scene. There are many different ways we can stabilise our images, without lens or in-camera help.
There have been many names that image stabilization fell under across the years. Vibration reduction, O.I.S., Optical SteadyShot, SR, VC, VR, MEGA O.I.S. are only a few.
All these technologies exist to help you capture still images in low light conditions. We all know the frustration when we can’t capture what we see with our eyes on our digital cameras.
Depending on the make and model of your camera or lens, image stabilization helps. It allows you to capture sharp images at up to five times slower than possible.
There are many ways we can stabilise our shot without technology. Standing against a wall can help in keeping camera shake low. This technique is helpful, but not the end.
For longer shutter speeds needed for long exposures, a tripod is necessary. But carrying or using a tripod is not always possible or advisable.
Slower shutter speeds allow your digital image to pick up more movement. An image stabilizer cuts down on the image blur and keeps the image quality high.
If you are photographing handheld, there is a rule of thumb that you should follow. We used to look at 1/60th of a second as the cut-off point, but its a little different for each lens.
You shouldn’t handhold a camera at shutter speeds lower than your equivalent focal length.  For example, a 400mm lens shouldn’t fall below 1/400th of a second.
So, if you are using a 50mm lens, you can drop it down to 1/50th of a second, further than the predecided 1/60th cut off. This is only a rule of thumb of course, as it will depend on other factors.
Things like mirror lockup, adverse weather and unstable environments could mean blurry images. Even following this rule of thumb may not be enough.
There are two types of image stabilization; lens based and in-camera. Both have pros and cons.
A cityscape with stunning light trails - image stabilization tips

Lens Stabilization

Lens-based stabilization uses a floating lens element. This element is electronically controlled. And moved opposite to any adverse movement, such as camera shake.
The advantages of in-lens stabilization include a smoother performance for longer length lenses. The downside is, most lenses do not offer these as standard.
Usually, telephoto lenses are the only ones that offer lens stabilization. They also cost a lot extra because they have this extra feature.
The benefit here is, if you don’t need it, you can buy the lens at a much lower cost. Tamron and Sigma both use lens stabilization systems. And it works for both the Canon and Nikon digital cameras.

In-Camera Stabilization

In camera, stabilization works like lens-based stabilization. Except, instead of the element moving, the image sensor moves to compensate. The sensor shifts around.
The benefit of in-camera stabilization is for all lenses you use with the camera. Instead of buying expensive lenses, you only need to put more money into a camera body once.
The downside here is that the in-camera stabilization is less effective in smoothing out the bumps. This is especially true for longer focal length lenses.
The sensor stabilisation in effect is the cheapest option. The vibration compensation is lower. Canon and Nikon, for example, doesn’t offer in-body stabilization. They believe the lens stabilisation is more effective in shake reduction.
Sony, Pentax and Olympus have use this in-body stabilisation. And photographers love it.
A dslr mounted on a tripod for nikon image stabilization

When NOT To Use Image Stabilization

Image Stabilization With Tripod

When you use your tripod an image stabilization together, it becomes counterproductive. You shouldn’t be using both together, so you need to choose one or the other.
When used together, you are creating a feedback loop. Here, the camera detects its own vibrations. It will start moving to counteract them, even when the camera is completely still.
This, in turn, adds motion blur and a blurred image.

Other Stabilization Features

Some camera systems have a panning feature. This is where the camera design allows the movement of the camera from side to side. This is with reduced motion shake.
Some older lenses and entry-level DSLR or mirrorless systems do not have this option. They may also not operate in the correct way when panning. This only adds to the blurriness of the image.
This is another instance where the best bet is to ensure the image stabilization is turned off.

Battery Life

The final reason why you should turn off your stabilization system is battery life. Having it on, especially when you aren’t using it, will eat up your battery like cake at a kids party.
This is especially true of larger lenses and larger sensors. Moving them around requires more energy.

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