Image stabilisation

In analog photography, image stabilisation technology was only used by a few brands (e.g. Canon and Nikon) but in digital photography it is used by nearly every manufacturer.

Which systems are there?
The image stabilisation technology on digital cameras can be divided into three types depending on function and effect. On the one hand there are the electronically operated ones and on the other hand there are the optically/mechanically operated ones.

Superelevation of ISO rate 

  • Disadvantage
    • Decline in image quality due to increased image noise
  • Advantage
    • Is effective even if motion blurring is involved – moving subjects

Optical / Mechanical

Here motion sensors detect the motion of the image capturing system. They are then assessed by processors and are transformed into control signals that are passed on to the piezoelectric elements. They are responsible for moving lens element in the lens or the camera’s image sensor. The systems generally have various operating modes for different image capturing situations.

  • Normal mode (hand held images without panning)
  • Panning mode (to follow a moving object with the camera)
  • Deactivation of the stabilisation (possibly recommendable for photos with a tripod)


  • Is only effective against blurring caused by the photographer and not a moving subject, it cannot prevent motion blurring


  • No decline in image quality due to increased image noise

In the lens

This technology involves the lens elements in the lens moving against the blurring motion. Lenses with optical and mechanical image stabilisation, when activated, consume more electricity. How this affects the battery’s performance must be determined by use. If the battery is low and if the lighting conditions are appropriate, it may be a good idea to deactivate the image stabiliser. In analog photography the image stabiliser is on the lens. Lens manufacturers use various terms for this technology: IS, OS, VR, VC, O.I.S…


  • The image is already stabilised when looking through the viewfinder. This could potentially be advantageous when using the focus as the focal areas perceive a stabilised image.


  • Higher costs as these lenses are more expensive than lenses without stabilisers

In the camera

This technology moves the image sensor in the camera

Bildstabilisierung in der Kamera – Beispiel Pentax K 10 [Abbildungen: Pentax]

Manufacturer’s terms:

  • CCD-Shift,
  • Dual-Image…


  • Lower costs as more inexpensive lenses without image stabilisation can be used
  • Certain focal lengths are not available with image stabilisation – using this technology, these lenses can also be used with an image stabiliser

What does an image stabilisation technology accomplish?
Image stabilisers are no guarantee for blur-free images. All systems are limited to a certain extent. Image stabilisation technologies that are based on an increase in light sensitivity (increase of ISO rate) are dependent on the ISO range of the respective model. By using optical or mechanical image stabilisation, the camera can usually be hand held 2-3 exposure levels longer (therefore a 4-8xhigher shutter speed) with same risk of blurring than without image stabilisation.

Formula to estimate risk of blurring / Hand held limits
Maximum shutter speed that be “held“ without blurring is the reciprocal value of the product of the focal length and the crop factor (focal length multiplier)

200mm focal length = Shutter speed of 1/150 seconds
With an optical or mechanical image stabiliser a 4-8xlonger period of time with the same risk of blurring could be used. Mathematically this results in an exposure value of ca. 1/37 to 1/19 seconds. Generally these values are not shown on the camera. The nearest values that cameras provide are 1/30 respectively 1/15 seconds. Faster shutter speeds at the focal length mentioned above should be avoided for hand held photographs. Depending on the camera’s focal length and crop factor different values will emerge.

More information about image stabilisation can be found here:

You are here: Home Focal lengths / Lenses Image stabilisation