One of the many great technological revolutions in photography has been the addition of image stabilization (IS) in cameras to extend the ability to shoot images at slow shutter speeds while holding the camera. Camera shake has always been a problem and the pre-IS rule of thumb was that you could not get acceptable photos if the shutter speed was slower than the reciprocal of the lens’ focal length. So, for example, if you were using a 50mm lens, then you could expect to see blur from camera shake at shutter speeds slower than 1/50 of a second. IS can give you 2, 3, or 4 stops more leeway with shutter speed.
Some cameras have in-body IS. They shift the image sensor based on input from an in-camera accelerometer. Other camera systems (like Canon’s) use in-lens IS and an optical element in the lens is shifted, again according to input from an accelerometer. The following video from Camera Technica shows a Canon IS mechanism in action.
IS is yet one more example of ways we find to exploit the growing availability of processing horsepower in everything we make. It’s the age of smart systems and consumer demand depends, in part, on how smart we are in using this technology to do things that people want.
For an article on in-lens IS, click here.