Image Stabilization and Vibration Reduction Explained
Written by: Tiffany Joyce
I have pretty much arrived at the point where, with just a few exceptions, I will only purchase a lens if it has image stabilization capabilities.
Image Stabilization (IS in Canon lenses) or Vibration Reduction (VR in Nikon lenses) greatly improves your chances of getting a sharp photograph at long focal distances, or in dim lighting conditions. IS/VR helps to stop camera motion – a shaky hand, lens AF vibration, and the like. It also stabilizes panning shots by dampening the motion in one direction while the camera follows the action in the other direction.
Of course, for long exposure hand-held shots, IS/VR will not compensate for jiggling the camera. A tripod is still recommended for any shots over, say, 1/60th of a second (that’s a rule of thumb, there). When you use a tripod with an IS/VR capable lens, it is recommended to switch off the stabilization feature, which actually creates a bit of motion during auto-focus and is unnecessary when the camera is absolutely still.
If you’re like me, you really want to know how stuff works. After doing a bit of research, I’ve discovered the individual manufacturer’s techniques to be various and technical. Basically, though, IS/VR is accomplished using a pair optical sensors within the lens – one that detects horizontal movement, and one that detects vertical movement. Some lenses contain tiny gyroscopic sensors that sense overall angles of movement. Both the sensors and the gyroscopes make compensating movements to counterbalance the camera’s vibration to provide a clear image. This can be detected by the photographer as he or she looks through the viewfinder and auto-focuses the shot – I personally feel a bit of vertigo sometimes as a gently bobbing image becomes stable before my eyes.
Photo credit: “Nikon 70-200mm f2.9 VR” by Geisha Boy on Flickr Creative Commons.
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