Do you Need Image Stabilzation

Photo Tips Podcast: Do you Need Image Stabilzation? #21

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Do you Need Image Stabilzation

Image stabilization is the system located within your camera or your lens that acts as a gyroscope trying to keep your camera from shaking. Nikon refers to this as Vibration reduction, while Sony calls it Steady shot, and Canon Fuji call it "image stabilization". Since I’m a Canon shooter I tend to refer to it as image stabilization. The purpose of image stabilization is to counter act your hand motion and therefore allows you to hold the camera still at increasingly slower shutter speeds. Over the past couple of decades these systems have improved dramatically allowing photographers to shoot frome one and up to three stops slower than without it. The problem with image stabilization, is that it is constantly looking for motion, so if you are using a tripod or putting your camera on a hard surface, you may want to turn the system off. And although  most cameras are supposed to know that you are not moving and is supposed turn the system off automatically; not all of them are successful at doing so. If you find that photos taken on a tripod look blurry, image stabilization is  often the cause. Another problem has been video; whether or not you are on a tripod you may find very often that when you are shooting video there’s a strange vibration in the image if you leave the image stabilization on. This is especially true if you are panning. And this is because the camera is vibrating, and you can’t see that vibration if you’re end product is a still photo but when it’s video the video is capturing that vibration. Having said this most modern systems are supposed to have overcome this problem; so you’ll want to run a few tests before you take my word for it.

Another thing you’ll want to pay attention to is mode 1 and mode 2. Very often, especially on long lenses, you will not only find an on and off switch for image stabilization but also a mode 1 and Mode 2 switch. Usually mode one is  for photographing static subjects. So things that are standing still like a building. While Mode 2 is for panning sideways or up and down. For instance, if you are tracking an athlete back and forth across the field, or if you are tracking a bird across the sky this is when you would use Mode 2.  The stabilization system will operate differently under these circumstances. To figure out what's best for you just, again just do a test. Do a panning shot of a car passing by, one with mode 1 and then do it again with mode 2 and see what happens.

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