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Image Stabilization, Sensor vs Optical Which is Better

by masskmrakid / March 3, 2010 5:48 AM PST

I am hoping someone out there can help me with a nagging question I need answered before I spend $400.00 on a new camera. Which is better and what is the difference between Canon's Optical Image Stabilization, Nikon's P100 Optical Vibration reduction and Fuji's H10 new Triple Image Stabilization?

I take a lot of low light photos but the higher ISO images tend to be of less quality then the lower ISO images so I am not sure that a camera that uses higher ISO's to reduce camera movement would be better for my needs. Also, does anyone know when the Fuji HS10 will be available for sale?

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Doesn't matter
by MB1200 / March 3, 2010 8:06 AM PST

There really is no significant difference between optical and sensor shift stabilization. In DSLR's it makes more of a difference in building a system, but since it seems that you are looking for a fixed lens camera the net result will be more or less the same. If you really do tend to take a lot of low light photos I would suggest that you use the $400 you have on an entry-level dslr such as the Nikon d40/60/3000 or canon rebel, any of which can be had with a stabilized kit lens and will give you far superior high iso, autofocus,speed, and general image quality results than a P100 class camera.

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Optical stabilization is superior
by Desperado JC / March 3, 2010 10:18 PM PST

assuming that the optical system is a good one. For starters, you can SEE when the image is stabilized in your optical viewfinder. That tells you when you can press the shutter button. This cannot be done by a system which stabilizes the sensor. The best camera companies, including Nikon and Canon, use optical stabilization. There are very good reasons why they do that.

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Either optical or sensor is fine, but "digital IS" isn't
by pierre53 / March 4, 2010 8:19 PM PST

It makes no difference whatsoever whether the stabilization system works in the lens or the sensor, and especially not in camera that have a fixed lens anyway. It ends up exactly the same.

Most compact cameras now include some kind of mode where the camera will help you further avoid motion blur by automatically choosing a higher ISO (so that you end up with a faster shutter speed)... and yes, in a compact camera with a small sensor, that will definitely mean more noise reduction in the resulting picture (and a lower quality image).

Just make sure you get a camera with real image stabilization, not so-called "electronic stabilization" or "digital image stabilization". Some manufacturers deliberately try to mislead consumers on lower priced cameras, suggesting they have IS when they actually don't at all.

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Pros and cons
by hjfok / March 5, 2010 4:18 AM PST

Agree that for compacts and ultrazoom fixed lens cameras, there is no significant difference. In fact, you can see the stabilized effect on the screen or electronic viewfinder no matter which stabilization you use for the compacts. For D-SLR, which one is better depends on your needs.

Optical lens-based stabilization has its advantages, being able to see the stabilized effect, theoretically better AF performance in low light, and able to customize type of stabilization for the lens. But these are not huge advantages. Being able to see stabilized effect is useful but not a deal breaker, you still have to check your images on the screen for sharpness no matter which type of stabilization you use. For the newer cameras with electronic viewfinder, you can actually see the stabilized effect in a camera with built-in stabilization.

However, a bigger reason to favor lens based stabilization is that the in-camera stabilization system may have lower AF performance in lower lighting. This is because only the main imaging sensor is moved whereas the autofocus sensor is not moved for shift correction. And for my Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS, I can switch the mode of stabilization when I do action panning, to minimize unwanted lateral/horizontal correction during my panning. Canon also has a new hybrid stabilization for its 100mm f/2.8 IS macro lens.

But on the other hand, many people will like to have image stabilization for all their lenses from past, present and future. This can cut cost and also gain image stabilization for every lens you own (that is compatible with the camera). So this can be a significant cost advantage.

So if money/budget is not a significant factor, and you want a slight advantage in handheld performance with the best lens, then Canon and Nikon lens stabilization system do perform better than in-camera stabilization. But bear in mind that neither stabilization system can match a tripod and good techniques. And also remember that image stabilization only corrects camera shakes, will not improve subject motion blur. So getting a fast lens with wider aperture is preferred over a slow lens with IS (though having a fast lens with IS can be pretty sweet but will cost you). If you want the sharpest photo, a cheap tripod will trump any stabilization system any day. For most people, neither stabilization system will make a big difference in their image quality.

In terms of how this will affect which D-SLR system you pick, the built-in camera mechanical image stabilization systems like Sony and others can give you significant cost savings if you plan on buying a lot of lenses (especially third party cheaper lenses without IS). But you won't see a big saving if you only plan to buy 1 or 2 manufacturer lenses. However, if you like to have the most extensive choice of lenses and accessories, the most compatible system with third party softwares (eg. tethered shooting, etc), then Canon and Nikon will fit you more. This is not to say that Sony, Pentax, Olympus and others don't have quality equipment or lenses. They do, but their selections is not as extensive as Canon or Nikon. And third party softwares and special accessories are not always available for non-Canon/Nikon brands. These are the more valid reasons for those who pick Canon and Nikon. The decision is not usually based on which stabilization system a particular manufacturer uses. As mentioned above, the image stabilization choice has more to do with building the D-SLR system and its loyal clients' preference. Canon and Nikon both have already had their lens stabilization system well established before Minolta push out its built-in camera mechanical sensor shift stabilization system in its Maxxum D-SLRs. If Canon and Nikon shift to mechanical stabilization, then can you imagine how furious those clients who have spent tens of thousands of dollars for those IS lenses?

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Correction
by hjfok / March 5, 2010 4:25 AM PST
In reply to: Pros and cons

I meant to say, "For most people, choosing either image stabilization system will not make a big difference in their image quality." Obviously image stabilization is a great asset for handheld shots. I always buy the IS version if available.

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Image Stabilization, Sensor vs Optical Which is Better
by masskmrakid / March 5, 2010 6:18 AM PST

I would like to thank everyone who has provided info on this issue, I really appreciate it. Last question though...wouldn't an image taken on a Canon SX20 with optical stabilization result in a better quality image then an image from a Nikon P100 manipulated by a sensor that increases the ISO to obtain the same result?

Technically, wouldn't a higher ISO make an image with more noise resulting in a print of inferior quality? If the Canon SX20 can obtain the same, non-blurred, image with a lower ISO wouldn't that result in a lower noised image with better quality?

I understand about buying an SLR with multiple lenses with IS is the best option, believe me I would love to do that, but all I can afford is a point and shoot and I want to spend my money wisely. So, which is best, the SX20, P100 or HS10?

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You are correct
by hjfok / March 5, 2010 10:04 AM PST

For lower light still photos, cameras that use Lens optical stabilization or sensor shift mechanical stabilization are both better than cameras that use high ISO setting alone to achieve the same result. Higher ISO will result in more noise. This is what one responder above referred to "digital stabilization".

In low light action photos, image stabilization alone is not going to be adequate. One will need to increase lens aperture and increase ISO setting to freeze action.

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