Lens Stabilization vs In-camera Stabilization

While I am currently working on a couple of Sony camera and lens reviews, I decided to write a quick article on differences between in-camera and lens stabilization. As you may already know, Nikon and Canon are both big on lens stabilization, while other camera manufacturers like Sony and Pentax have been pushing for in-camera stabilization technology (also known as body stabilization). I have had a few people ask about differences between the two and I thought that a quick article explaining the pros and cons of each stabilization technology would be beneficial for our readers.

Lens Stabilization vs Sensor Stabilization

As the number of innovative products with electronic viewfinder technology from Sony and other manufacturers is growing, the question of lens stabilization vs sensor stabilization is coming back again. Historically, one of the biggest disadvantages of in-camera sensor stabilization was the fact that one could not see stabilization changes in a traditional DSLR camera with an optical viewfinder. Since most current mirrorless cameras and some SLR-like cameras offer electronic viewfinders (EVF), the old argument no longer applies, because stabilization effects are visible on both the camera LCD and inside the EVF. Does lens stabilization still offer advantages over sensor stabilization, or is it time for Nikon and Canon to introduce in-camera sensor stabilization on their upcoming cameras? Let’s look into this topic in more detail.

1) The History of Lens and Sensor Stabilization

The biggest reason why both Nikon and Canon use lens stabilization today has to do with the fact that in-camera stabilization was very costly to incorporate into film cameras in the past. It is one thing to move a sensor inside the camera body, and another to try to move a 35mm film roll. When Canon and Nikon started offering image stabilization (Canon released its first IS lens in 1995, while Nikon’s first VR lens came out in 2000), the number of photographers using digital cameras was too small – the majority were on film. This primarily had to do with cost, because the first digital cameras were priced as high as $30K. Plus, most photographers were very hesitant of switching to a digital camera after many years of shooting film. Hence, while it was obvious that image stabilization was desperately needed, especially for wildlife and sports photographers, the only proper way without adding a huge cost overhead was to incorporate it into lenses rather than camera bodies. As digital cameras became much more functional and affordable, photographers started transitioning to digital. Konica Minolta (which was later acquired by Sony) was the first to offer sensor stabilization in its Minolta DiMAGE A1 camera and it was a matter of time until other companies started adopting sensor-based image stabilization. In-camera image stabilization offered one big advantage over the traditional lens-stabilization technology – image stabilization worked with any lens, even with old film lenses. Nikon and Canon clearly had a lead in image stabilization at the time, so it would have cost a lot of money for other manufacturers to update their old lenses and catch up with Nikon/Canon offerings. By incorporating image stabilization into the camera body, manufacturers like Konica Minolta could at least compete with the Canon/Nikon giants that dominated both film and digital camera/lens markets. While in-camera image stabilization made a lot of sense, it also had its major pitfalls. Because of the way a traditional DSLR camera works, the effect of sensor stabilization was not visible through the viewfinder (due to the mirror blocking the sensor). In addition, in-camera image stabilization did not seem to work so well with long telephoto lenses, due to the amount of sensor movement that was needed to compensate for the large shifts at long focal lengths. Meanwhile, both Nikon and Canon continued updating their lenses with image stabilization, making more money with refreshed lenses.

2) Image Stabilization vs Vibration Reduction vs Optical Stabilization

You might have heard of all of these terms before and wondered if there is a difference between them. While the naming convention is different, they all mean the same thing. Canon uses the term “Image Stabilization” (IS) for their lenses, Nikon uses the term “Vibration Reduction” (VR) for their lenses and other companies like Sigma use the term “Optical Stabilization” (OS). Why could not they all call it the same way? It is primarily done for branding/marketing reasons, to differentiate themselves from the competition.

3) Advantages and Disadvantages of Lens Stabilization

Now that you know the history of lens stabilization, let’s explore its advantages and disadvantages compared to in-camera stabilization today.

Advantages of Lens Stabilization:

  1. Optically-stabilized lenses are more effective – while there is no science with clear examples behind this statement (at least that I know of), both Canon and Nikon argue that image stabilization can be fine-tuned and tweaked on individual lenses, which would make image stabilization more effective when compared to generic in-camera stabilization. Tuning image stabilization based on lens features such as size, weight and focal length can provide the benefit of enabling different options for image stabilization. For example, some IS systems feature an “Active” mode for situations where the photographer shoots from a moving car or a boat. Some newer image stabilization implementations are smart enough to detect the type of movement and can automatically enable or disable image stabilization when the lens is mounted on a tripod. Such specific customization is not possible with in-camera stabilization, unless each lens is programmed into camera’s firmware.
  2. Lens stabilization is more effective on long telephoto/super telephoto lenses – the main argument is that long lenses require much bigger sensor movements, which cannot be accommodated with in-camera stabilization. With Sony’s recent 500mm f/4 lens announcement, we will have to see how it will fare against a 500mm Nikon/Canon lens with slow shutter speeds.
  3. Lens stabilization is more effective in low light conditions – because the image already comes stabilized from the lens, the camera metering/AF sensors can provide more accurate results in low light situations.

There are other advantages not included in the above list that I specifically removed, because they are no longer true/applicable:

  1. Image stabilization is visible in the viewfinder – this is an advantage only when comparing DSLRs. Image stabilization is also visible on cameras with electronic viewfinders such as mirrorless cameras and Sony SLT (single-lens translucent) cameras. Here is an illustration from Nikon that shows IS differences affecting the viewfinder:
    Lens Stabilization vs Sensor Stabilization Illustration
  2. Smaller and cheaper camera body – this one is no longer an advantage, because the cost of incorporating IS into the camera body is pretty small. In fact, most cameras with IS from other manufacturers today are cheaper compared to Nikon/Canon.
  3. Works with film cameras – most digital photographers will probably say “who cares” on this one. Nikon has been eliminating the aperture ring on most new lenses anyway, further limiting the number of film cameras that could be used with newer VR lenses.

Let’s now talk about the disadvantages of optical stabilization.

Disadvantages of Lens Stabilization:

  1. Availability – while Canon and Nikon have been updating older lenses and releasing new lenses with image stabilization, many lenses (such as prime and wide-angle lenses) are still not image-stabilized. I have touched on this issue many times before, specifically in my Nikon 16-35mm VR Review. It is certainly beneficial to have Image stabilization on all lenses, including super wide-angle lenses.
  2. Higher Cost – newer lenses with IS are costlier than their non-IS counterparts. Nikon and Canon definitely charge a premium for image-stabilized lenses.
  3. Image Stabilization can degrade bokeh – this one might be a surprise for you, but it is true. Because the light that passes through the lens is shifted from its optical path when image stabilization is engaged, it can negatively affect lens bokeh.
  4. New advancements require updating lenses – we have seen this with Nikon VR and VR II. When Nikon improved its VR technology, it started to update its lenses with the latest version of VR II. Some lenses like Nikon 200-400mm f/4 were optically identical when compared to the older version, with the only difference being VR II vs VR.
  5. Annoying / loud sound when IS is engaged – I am sure you have noticed that some image stabilized lenses produce an annoying high-pitch sound when IS is engaged. This is especially bad for shooting videos, where IS noise is recorded by the camera.

4) Advantages and Disadvantages of Sensor Stabilization

Let’s move on to in-camera sensor stabilization advantages and disadvantages compared to lens stabilization.

Advantages of Sensor Stabilization:

  1. Works with all lenses – this is by far the biggest advantage of in-camera sensor stabilization. You can use any lens (as long as it is capable of sending the focal length of the lens + focal distance to the camera), including older / third party lenses and image stabilization will still work.
  2. One time cost – you buy one camera with built-in image stabilization and all lenses will automatically get the benefit of image stabilization.
  3. Camera upgrade vs lens upgrade – if a newer, more efficient way of image stabilization is invented, you only need to upgrade the camera, rather than updating all of your lenses.
  4. Smaller, lighter and cheaper lenses – because there is no image stabilization mechanism inside lenses, they are generally smaller, lighter and cheaper to produce.
  5. Less fragile lenses – again, due to lack of image stabilization, there is one less component that could possibly fail.
  6. No negative effect on bokeh – the light travels through its optical path without any shifting, so lens bokeh is not affected.
  7. No annoying loud lens sounds – some optically-stabilized lenses produce high-pitch sound that can be annoying. Lack of IS means that the only sound you will hear from the lens is its autofocus motor. This is an advantage for recording videos without an external microphone.

Disadvantages of Sensor Stabilization:

  1. Less accurate metering and AF performance in low light situations – because the image coming out of the lens is not stabilized, the camera metering and AF sensors also receive a shaky image (in cameras with a phase-detection AF system). Hence, metering and AF performance can be negatively affected, specifically in low-light situations.
  2. Not very effective for long telephoto/super telephoto lenses – the longer the lens, the more the sensor has to move to compensate for the shake. Because the space for such sensor movements is limited, sensor-stabilized lenses are generally less effective than optically-stabilized lenses.

Similar to lens stabilization, I removed the below disadvantages, because they are either no longer applicable to modern cameras:

  1. Image stabilization is not visible in the viewfinder – this is a disadvantage only when comparing DSLRs. Image stabilization is visible on cameras with electronic viewfinders such as mirrorless cameras and Sony SLT (single-lens translucent) cameras.
  2. More expensive camera body – the cost of incorporating IS into the camera body is pretty small nowadays, so it is no longer a disadvantage. In fact, most cameras with IS from other manufacturers today are cheaper compared to Nikon/Canon.
  3. No IS options on film cameras – does not matter for most photographers today, because they shoot digital.

5) Lens Stabilization vs Sensor Stabilization Summary

After looking at all pros and cons of each image stabilization technology, it is clear that one cannot be completely replaced with another as of yet. While I personally favor in-camera stabilization because it works with all lenses (in addition to a number of other advantages), I cannot ignore its biggest disadvantage, which is its practical use on long telephoto/super telephoto lenses. Even if the difference is not that big, electronic viewfinders and Sony’s SLT cameras have not yet proven to be very effective for fast-action sports and wildlife photography (as I have stated in my Sony A77 Review). If camera manufacturers do not innovate and find a way to decrease this gap, Nikon/Canon will continue to enjoy their dominance in those photography markets.

It seems that the best approach would be to combine the two image stabilization technologies into one camera system. Stabilization should be incorporated into long focal length lenses for sports and wildlife photographers, while also being available in cameras for all other situations. Camera firmware could be programmed in such a way, that when the camera sees that a specific lens is attached, it could simply turn off in-camera IS, or provide the option to the end user to pick which IS method to use. You definitely would not want both IS systems to work at the same time, because they would screw things up, basically canceling each other out. Another challenge with integrating the two, would be to evaluate and see if the image circle from current lenses is big enough to support sensor stabilization (sensor stabilization needs bigger image circle from lenses). Neither Nikon nor Canon would be willing to do this if they have to update their existing lenses to support in-camera stabilization.

The bad news is that I do not see Canon or Nikon jumping on in-camera stabilization anytime soon, even with their mirrorless cameras like Nikon 1 V1. Why? Because they enjoy their profits every time a lens is updated. If they enable in-camera stabilization, interest in adding IS/VR to wide-angle and prime lenses would pretty much fade away, which is definitely not what they want. It is painful to see that some lenses that really need image stabilization are not getting them, simply because Canon/Nikon think that it is not needed, or they are planning to add it to a future version to make money. There are a number of great lenses from Nikon such as Nikon 300mm f/4 AF-S, Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G, Nikon 50mm f/1.4G/f/1.8G, Nikon 85mm f/1.4G/f/1.8G that desperately need image stabilization. And yet Nikon is not planning to update those lenses with IS anytime soon. The same is true with Canon, which has recently updated its Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II lens and still did not care to add image stabilization to it. They know that they can update these lenses with IS in the future and make even more money from them. As long as the competitor does not have a big lead, innovation will continue to halt.

Now when it comes to mirrorless cameras, in-camera IS is the best way to go in my opinion. This is where I believe Nikon made a mistake with their Nikon 1 line. When mirrorless electronic viewfinder technology is used, lens-based stabilization just does not make much sense anymore. Small compact lenses such as Nikon 1 10mm f/2.8 pancake will never feature image stabilization, so other cameras with in-camera IS have an advantage when using such lenses. In addition, mirrorless cameras are supposed to be compact and lightweight. Lens stabilization adds to size and weight of the lens, again, giving advantage to other mirrorless systems on the market.

What do you think about the future of image stabilization? Do you favor lens stabilization over sensor stabilization, or vice-versa?


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Avatar of Nasim Mansurov About Nasim Mansurov

is a professional photographer based out of Denver, Colorado. He is the author and founder of Photography Life, along with a number of other online resources. Read more about Nasim here.

Comments

  1. 1
    ) dasar

    Do you think that the sensor stabilization of the new Olympus has some advantage over other systems ?
    Thanks

    • Dasar, which Olympus camera are you referring to?

      • 35
        ) Starred

        The new EM5 has a completely new 5-axis inbody stabilization system.

      • 38
        ) dasar

        Olympus OM-D EM-5

      • 45
        ) karspoul

        Thanks Nasim for yet another interesting article. Something surprises me though. I was under the impression that m4/3 cameras like the E-P series from Olympus did not show the effect of the image stabilization in the viewfinder, because it only engaged at the moment of capture and not half pressing the shutter button.

        At the final official OM-D EM-5 release I remember reading on several sites that the EM-5 is actually the first Olympus camera where the effect can be seen in the viewfinder. One place where it is mentioned is here:

        http://robinwong.blogspot.com/2012/02/olympus-om-d-e-m5-first-impressions.html

        Is Robin wrong (no pun intended)?

        Cheers,
        Karspoul

  2. 2
    ) William Jones

    First, I was not aware of the affect of VR on bokeh, so thanks for the update. I seldom use VR, but will keep in the back of my mind for when I do.

    Second, if using in-camera VR, to solve the metering problem and AF problem, use the half-way process with the button. VR is not engaged until the final push. Half-way, image is “jumpy”, however focus and metering is as always, past half-way they are “frozen” as last values and image is then stabilized. Unless you are shooting in a strobe-light environment, then metering should be okay.

    Third, Cannon introduced IS versions of 24 and 28 mm lenses (link: http://www.dpreview.com/news/2012/02/07/Canon_24-70mm_F2p8_II_24mm_f2p8_IS_28mm_f2p8_IS#press ). It will interesting to see the sales on these, and if Nikon will then be forced to respond. Could start a “Lens VR War”.

    WEJ

    • William, the metering and AF issue do not really get addressed by in-camera IS, even when IS engaged. The problem is not related to IS. It is the fact that the image coming out of the lens is shaky when it hits the metering/phase detect sensors. The image stabilization happens on the sensor level, but neither the metering nor the AF modules compensate for the shake.

      As for recent Canon lens announcements with IS, I very much hope that this starts the “Lens VR War” – Nikon desperately needs to add VR to some of its lenses. I hope lenses like the Nikon 300mm f/4 AF-S get updated with VR very soon…

  3. 3
    ) Bob

    Nasim,

    Excellent summary of the two image stabilization approaches. When I first got back into photography in 2007 and purchased a Pentax K10D, one of the main concerns and debates at the time was the potential negative impacts of jostling the sensor around so much and the potential for the connections and motor driving its movement to fail. This was considered a concern for the lens-based stabilization as well, but rightly or wrongly, people seemed to attribute much more of a concern to the sensor-stabilization than lens-stabilization. And the notion of sending one lens back certainly trumped the idea of shipping what was likely to be your only DSLR back to the manufacturer and not being able to take any photos!

    The heightened fear regarding the sensor shifting probably has to do with our perception that the sensor, with its thin connections to the other portions of the camera body, seems much more fragile than a hunk of thick glass that might have to move in the lens barrel. Certainly the rapid and widespread adoption of sensor-based stabilization in commodity point and shoot cameras has alleviated some of these fears. But anyone that has worked with computer chips or other sensitive technology for any length of time still probably gets a a bit queasy at the thought of a sensor bobbing around for very long inside a high end DSLR costing $1,500-$2,500! ;) Despite such concerns, I can’t say that I have heard an inordinate amount of sensor-stabilization horror stories. It would be interesting to obtain some objective data from the various companies employing each method and compare the failure rates, but suspect this data might be hard to come by from the manufacturers however for obvious reasons.

    I have to admit that my K10D did a very good job keeping up with my crude attempts to get back into photography. My technique was a bit rusty, and I am sure that I made that little sensor dance around much more than it should have! With a bit more experience under my belt and having switched to a Nikon D300 in 2009, I can see that some of my early images taken at relatively lower shutter speeds with my K10D, despite my lack of focus on proper shooting techniques at the time.

    There is something comforting about Nikon’s VR lenses showing you a stabilized view of what you are photographing. This gives you a sense for how well your shutter speed may be matched to the amount of movement you see through the viewfinder and enable you to make adjustments. As you point out, the sens0r-based stabilization does not provide that same benefit and you cannot accurately gauge how well the sensor shift will handle what your eye tells you is bouncing around in the viewfinder, until after the shot is taken.

    Between the sensor-based and lens-based stabilization approaches, I find that I am more partial to the lens-based approach, despite the cost factor. I like being able to see the image stabilized through the viewfinder, would rather send a lens in for repair rather than my camera, and I am somewhat comforted that I am not making my fragile sensor bounce around the inside of my camera! ;)

    Bob

    • Bob, with the latest cameras coming with EVF, the viewfinder issue is no longer a problem, as I have pointed out in my article. I think that for any product with EVF (especially the mirrorless market), in-camera IS makes a lot more sense than lens stabilization.

  4. 4
    ) Mako2011

    Another excellent article Mr. Mansurov. Above you point to the bokeh problem.

    “Image Stabilization can degrade bokeh – this one might be a surprise for you, but it is true. Because the light that passes through the lens is shifted from its optical path when image stabilization is engaged, it can negatively affect lens bokeh.”

    This is one of the stated disadvantages I find hard to see. Looking at my own VR “on” VR “off” examples, I see no discernible differences. Could you please point to some examples as I’m interested in the topic. From my own exploration of the topic….In rare instances there may be a discernible difference when shown side by side, but no negative impact if I only showed you one image at a time. What I’m using a lot of words to say is that the bokeh is quite acceptable for either one, IMO. That assumes VR on vs off comparison vs a comparison of a Non-VR lens to a VR equipped lens (optic design differences would be to great to make a apples to apples comparison).

    Again, thank you very much for the article.

    • Mako, IS definitely does affect bokeh on long lenses – see this article for more details on why it happens.

      • 37
        ) Mako2011

        Thank you for the link. A very interesting article. I noted the effect seemed magnified in very long lenses and the author noted that “the same principle works for those with in body stabilization.” Worth investigating further to simply increase ones knowledge. Thank you again for your time.

  5. 5
    ) Ryan

    Actually VR is not as useful for sports as it would appear. The sampling frequency used to reduce movement means it is much less effective at speeds faster than 1/500 sec, which is the typical range you need to stop/freeze action. There is a very good article on this subject here. http://www.bythom.com/nikon-vr.htm

    VR however is exceptionally useful in street / event shooting and I agree it would be very useful on the 24-70 2.8 and the 85m 1.4

    • Ryan, I disagree – you could say the same thing to wildlife photography, especially bird photography where very fast shutter speeds of 1/1000 and over are used (and VR is basically useless in those cases). Why is VR desired by sports and wildlife photographers? Because it gives them the option to hand-hold lenses and use slower shutter speeds. Sometimes you want to use a slower shutter speed on purpose – for example for panning motion or to capture a perched bird with a small aperture for larger depth of field, etc. Photographers put IS to many good uses. If it was not something effective, all sports and wildlife photographers would be staying away from IS lenses and buying older/cheaper lenses instead. I personally would not want to use a non-stabilized lens above 300mm, especially for wildlife photography.

  6. 6
    ) Peter

    Very interesting article.

    All my VR Nikkor lenses have an “ON – OFF” switch. Obviously, when you’re using the lens you put it ON. Does that imply that when you’re not using it or storing it, you turn it OFF? Does it matter if you keep it ON all the time even when storing or when walking around looking for shots?

    • 7
      ) Ryan

      Nope the VR is only activated when you press the shutter button half way down, for all intents and purposes it is off at all other times. So there is no disadvantages to leaving it set to on if you want VR active for every shot.

      • Fully agree with Ryan!

        • 90
          ) tom

          hey nasim and ryan thanks for your explanation! I have a question for you: with stabilised lenses sometimes it needs a short time after focusing half way before the IS is fully effective (especially on tamron seems..) what about sensor stabilisation, is it effective immediately?

    • 8
      ) William Jones

      Peter, read the manual for your VR lenses. Nikon says you should turn VR off BEFORE turning off your camera; otherwise the lens structuce is more prone to damage if subjected to sudden movement. As long as your camera is on, you can leave VR on. So for your on sake, get in the habit of turning on the camera, then turn on VR; and reverse steps when turning camera off.

      • 12
        ) Mako2011

        Actually, IMO, I believe this refers to not turning the camera of while the VR motor is running. IT takes about 1 sec for the motor to stop after you stop pressing the shutter button. There really is no need to turn the VR switch to “off” for storage or before turning the camera off.

        • 13
          ) Peter

          Thanks for all the on-off input. Excellent.

          Here’s what I’ve decided to do (this makes sense to my simple mind):

          Step 1-When lens is in storage – keep OFF.
          Step 2-After attaching lens to off camera – turn ON and leave it ON during the entire shoot.
          Step 3-After the shoot, turn lens OFF then turn camera off. Store lens.

          Now, the lens will be ready for attaching next shoot as in Step 1.

          • Yes, this is more about turning off the camera or removing the lens while VR is still active, not necessarily set to on/off with the switch. It parks itself when it is no longer active, whether the switch is on or off. I tend to let the meter and back light time out before powering off the camera or removing a lens, flash, or other accessory. I rarely turn off the camera before swapping lenses or flashes and have yet to have a problem with that, although as I said, I don’t do that immediately after half-depressing the shutter.

          • Peter, I personally never bother turning VR off when storing lenses either. VR cannot be engaged without a battery-powered camera. If you are transporting a VR lens, it is a different story – that’s when I would recommend to turn VR off.

      • 25
        ) William Jones

        Peter, here is a direct link to the page about VR for the Nikon 70-200 lens. Please note the fifth bullet point on page 18, under the heading: Notes on using vibration reduction.

        Link: http://www.nikonusa.com/pdf/manuals/lenses/AF/AFSVR70-200_2.8G_(80)05.pdf

        This same point applies to all VR lenses. It may NOT cause you a problem, however it can’t hurt to follow their advice, since they are the manufacturer (could even void a warranty).

        WEJ

        • William, here is what the text in the manual says: “Do not turn the camera power OFF while the vibration reduction mode is in operation. Otherwise, the lens may emit a chattering noise if the camera is shaken. This is not a malfunction. Turn the camera power ON again to correct this.”

          What Nikon means is that you should not turn the camera off while VR is actively engaged. Make sure that VR is not active (wait a couple of seconds after half-pressing the shutter button) and then you can turn the camera off.

          Next: “If the lens is removed from the camera while the vibration reduction mode is in operation, the same thing may happen as stated above. Mount the lens and press the shutter release button halfway to eliminate the chattering noise.”

          Again, Nikon means to say “if VR is actively engaged”. If you did not half-press the shutter button to engage VR, you do not have to worry about anything.

      • William, you must have misunderstood the manual or the manual is wrong. It would be very painful having to turn off VR before turning off the camera. I could be shooting on location and turning the camera on/off a number of times. Cannot imagine having to change the switch every time I did that.

        I believe Nikon recommends to disengage VR or turn it off when changing lenses. You definitely do not want to change a lens while VR is actively engaged.

    • Peter, I never bother turning VR off on any of my lenses, unless I am transporting/shipping them to a different location.

      • What about shooting with tripods? VR can actually make photos less sharp when the camera doesn’t vibrate.

  7. 9
    ) William Jones

    Nasim, another question. Is there any advantage to either lens or camera stabilization when shooting video, or is it the same as with stills?

    Thanks, WEJ

    • William, great question – I should have included that in the article (will be updating it shortly). In short, in-camera stabilization is better than lens stabilization for shooting videos. Lens VR/IS produces high pitched sounds that are recorded by the camera, while in-camera IS does not have the same problem. Of course this can be eliminated if an external microphone is used, but for those of us that shoot occasional videos, this might be an important difference between the two.

      As for the VR technology itself, optical stabilization is better on long lenses for videos. Other than that, there are no other advantages in my opinion.

  8. 10
    ) Vincent

    I think stabilization is overrated – mainly because I’ve never used it ;) When I bought my D700 with 24-70 2.8 and SB-900 in august 2008 I never even thought about stabilization. Later on when a few friends mentioned that they bought an IS (Canon users) lens and that it was awesome, I just told them that they should learn to hold the camera still and just compensate with ISO or aperture :)

    But a few months ago I tried a Sigma 70-200 2.8 OS, and I have to say that I discovered something that day. When I hit the focus button and everything that was shaking suddenly was shaking a lot less, then I understood that IS/VR/OS is a great and invaluable function for tele lenses.

    But since I’ve managed so well without VR on my Nikon system, that’s just not something of a deal breaker for me. If the lens that I want has VR, great! If it does not, oh well :) I guess I just don’t need it for my kind of stuff that I shoot.

    • Vincent, I use the 24-70mm lens as well and I can tell you that I really wish it had VR. Try out the excellent Nikon 24-120mm f/4 VR and see how it fares against your 24-70mm in low-light situations. You will quickly realize how much you needed VR all these years :) It is awesome to be able to shoot at half a second to full second exposures hand-held!

      • 44
        ) Vincent

        Phat, I gotta check that one out then :) But there is a 70-200mm 2.8 with VR II, I’m going to buy that one I think for my tele purposes ;) Thanks for the input! :D

        • Vincent, I got that lens for my D700 last year. You won’t regret it! It’s heavy and balances a little better with a vertical grip on the D700 in my opinion, but the VR II is very impressive and the focusing is scary fast on the D700, especially in low light. It also works very well with teleconverters in daylight, even the TC-20E III (although not so much at infinity focus for me at f/8 or wider, closer subjects are just fine at f/5.6). Just my experience…

          Nasim, I’m pondering getting a 24-120mm f/4 for a lighter travel kit when hiking, especially if I’m not using a tripod and I can ditch the D700 vertical grip and L plate. I don’t usually lug the 70-200mm around on hikes, so then I’m stuck with a 70mm reach with my 24-70mm. None of the newer f/4 VR lenses were out yet when I started getting my f/2.8 zooms, although I don’t regret any of the lens purchases I have made. I’d LOVE VR on a new generation 24-70mm.

          • Aaron, have you tried renting a lens before? Perhaps renting it for a day or two would be a good idea to see if you want to buy the 24-120mm or not?

            In my opinion, the 24-120mm is optically as good as the 24-70mm, except for the build.

            • Yes, actually! I rented a 14-24mm f/2.8 several times for real estate projects before I decided I must own one, and found a good used one on eBay. :-) Renting is a very good way to test a lens, especially where I live in the sticks as there are no local camera stores.

  9. 11
    ) Daniel

    Nasim, great article.

    Could you point me to empirical evidence to support the assertion that stabilization negatively impacts Boké? I’m interested in how much of a factor it is.

    • Daniel, please see this article for details on why bokeh is affected by VR/IS.

      • 42
        ) Daniel

        As I suspected. It takes a long lens (e.g., 600mm) for it to be noticeable. Not one that I use on a regularly, but nice to know, nonetheless. I doubt it degrades bokeh by any appreciable amount for lens I carry. Thanks for the link.

  10. 14
    ) Ernesto Quiroga

    Hi Nasim. I just discovered you and I want to thank you for all the information you share. Your articles are great and your photography is even better.

    I just bought the D800 from B&H which should be delivered in about a month. I am thinking about updating my glass and jumping to the PRO series. I was wondering if you know Nikon’s design cycle frequency. I would like to purchase the 24-70 mm f/2.8 G ED (released over 4 years ago) but I can wait if Nikon will add VR (VRII) to this glass sometime this year.

    I also saw very nice pictures taken with the 24-120mm f/4 ED VR.

    Any thoughts?

    Best, Ernesto.

    • I have a D700 and 24-70mm f/2.8. I’m thinking of getting a 24-120mm f/4 with the D800 to have a lighter kit when hiking during daylight hours when f/2.8 isn’t necessary. I REALLY enjoy VR on my 70-200mm and wish I could get it on my 24-70mm! :-)

      • 19
        ) Peter

        Here’s a return comment for yours…Thanks.

        I bought the 24-120 about 2 months ago because that’s the range I generally shoot in with my D700.
        I love it. When I go out on a shoot, and I’m not sure what I’ll find, this is my main lens.

        I have a 17-35, 35-70, 70-200 +extender, 20, 50, 105. But I love the 24-120…maybe I’m getting old, but I see no “real-world optical differences”… save Nasim showing his test charts!

        If someone put a gun to my head and said “choose to keep and use 1 lens and only 1 lens”, I’d take the 24-120.

        • Peter, I’ve heard a lot of people say they don’t notice a practical image quality difference between the 24-70mm f/2.8 and 24-120mm f/4, under normal shooting circumstances anyway. I wonder if the D800 will reveal more optical differences, but at web resolutions they wouldn’t be visible anyway.

          • 49
            ) Ryan

            Remember though that there is more to a lens than just resolution. I have both the 24-70 and 24-120f4, while they are about as sharp as each other the 24-70 seems to give much better contrast and saturation to the images (not something that would be immediately obvious looking at black and white test chart shots).

            • Yes, that is very true Ryan, but I wonder if you are talking about the older 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6 or the newer 24-120mm f/4 VR? I’ve heard the newer f/4 model with “Nano Crystal Coat” has about the same contrast and saturation as the 24-70mm f/2.8, much improved over the older 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6?

      • Aaron, I agree! I wanted to get the 24-120mm VR as well, but given how much I abuse my gear, I do not think it would live long in my hands…

        • 43
          ) Peter

          I bet you left your toys out at night when you were a kid, too. Shame!

        • Yeah, for bad weather like snow, rain, cold, I’d use the more rugged 24-70mm for sure. As far as beating things up on rocks, door frames, etc., I have a pretty decent R-strap and Cotton Carrier that keep the camera from knocking around too much when carrying it, and Think Tank Photo’s stuff keep things nice and cushioned when climbing and hiking. I’ve yet to put much of a scratch or dent on most of my gear in years of use. I have broke a tripod leg before, and crushed the cheap lens hood on the 18-70mm DX lens I used to use, so accidents do happen of course! But I think a 24-120mm would hold up well to the lighter use I’d give it. I’ve had a first gen 70-300mm for 8yrs or so and it still looked pretty new when I gave it away to a relative. I only do photography part time these days though, and I don’t use my gear every day any more.

          • Aaron, in that case the 24-120mm would do very well for you!

    • Ernesto, I do not think Nikon has any plans as of yet to update the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G with VR, which is pretty sad, since this lens really could use it. The Nikon 24-120mm VR is a great performer on DX and lower resolution FX cameras (as I have shown in my reviews), but I cannot speak to its performance on the D800. Looks like I will have to retest all lenses with the D800, since it will be a very demanding camera!

      • 60
        ) Adele

        Nasim, the 24-120/4 is one of the lenses recommended by Nikon for use with the D800e “for enhanced sharpness”. See page 16 of the D800/D800E Technical Guide available here:

        http://www.nikonusa.com/en_US/o/Y6wrkA9OU_z04IreazIXl_22UII/PDF/D800_TechnicalGuide_En.pdf

        That’s why I’m confident that it’ll perform great on that camera. But I agree with you, we have to wait till we can do real-life tests. I’m looking forward to your reviews of the D800(e).

  11. 36
    ) Doug

    Nasim:

    Nice article on an important topic that doesn’t get much coverage.

    One small comment on your statement, “Since all current mirrorless cameras and some SLR-like cameras offer electronic viewfinders (EVF)…” It is true that the EVF display will be stabilized; however, the image that is used for phase-based AF is still unstabilized, so AF performance is likely to be compromised with in-body stabilization. Once mirrorless contrast-based AF is feasible in the image sensor (a LONG way off for state-of-the-art sensors, but starting to show up, e.g, in the V1), this advantage will go away. Even the Sonys still use phase-based AF for good reason.

    One more important distinction that I’m not certain about is that in-body stabilization by moving the sensor plane can only address left/right and possibly up/down lateral (translational) motion (e.g., what an accelerometer measures), and not twisting/rotational motion (e.g., what a gyro measures). I don’t think there is sufficient data about the operating modes of in-lens VR/IS systems, but they are gyro-based, and it is quite possible that they provide partial compensation for this motion. I do know that translational motion is MUCH less significant vs. rotational motion in terms of causing image blur (because a tiny rotation has a huge effect on the image location on the sensor AND it causes significant distortion. From this point of view, moving the image plane vs. moving optical elements is a much poorer solution in theory, but what happens in practice is harder to assess. More to the point — sensor-based solutions can NEVER compensate well for rotational/twisting motion, which is by far the most significant source of motion blur (counter-intuitive, but true).

    This MAY explain why lens-based IS/VR systems consistently out-perform sensor-based solutions in existing products.

    There are other advantages of lens-based solutions as well. The mechanism is GENERALLY moving a smaller and lighter object in response to motion perturbations (lens element vs. the whole sensor), and (more importantly), I believe that a SMALLER physical motions of the lens element will have a bigger compensating effect for various reasons (or, conversely, you would have to move the sensor more to compensate for the same rotational motion). Additionally, the lens maker can design the VR/IS system to be tailored to the unique mechanical/weight/balance/use cases for a particular lens, and then built the VR/IS feedback system to compensate accordingly. On the downside, I’m guessing there is some negative IQ impact for a VR mechanism and additional optical and mechanical design impacts are significant (thus we see no IS/VR even today in Nikon and Canon’s best 24-70 normal zoom products, where stellar optical quality is the most important factor.

    An advantage of in-body stabilization is that bodies are essentially disposable and are thrown away much more frequently than lenses. It’s nice to NOT have complicated electro-mechanical systems in a lens that you would like to last for many years (and at least Nikon’s VR, and AF-S for that matter, are the most likely failure points in my experience).

    Doug

    • Doug, thank you for your long and comprehensive comment!

      Yes, as I have stated in the article, any sensor-based IS will have more AF and metering issues, because the image is not stabilized when those sensors are hit.

      I did not want to get too technical in this article, but the statement about lens-based IS being able to compensate for roll, while sensor-based IS cannot (and vice-versa) is actually not true. There are many different articles you can find about this – this one explains everything in detail pretty well.

      I agree with you on a smaller piece moving faster than the whole sensor – that could be an advantage, but more testing needs to be done to see what the actual differences are in modern sensor-based IS systems. I have already written about VR/IS being specifically designed for each lens in the article as an advantage to lens-based IS. I disagree about negative IQ impact for VR mechanism – the best Nikon/Canon telephoto lenses (70-200mm, 300mm, etc) do not seem to be impacted by IS at all…

  12. 39
    ) Zoltan

    Hello Nasim,
    Great article. Wanted to chime in here on the video and still stabilization issues. I have be using a Sony VCR-DX2000 MiniDV Camcorder for over a decade .. yes I know .. outdated a bit by now, but still great low light level capability and is a good standard definition videocamcorder. It has a broad 12x, F1.2 optical zoom range with even a 4x digital extension making it 48x with minimal artifacts. My previous point and shoot Sony DSC-H9B has an optical 15x F2.7 to a 2x digital extender making it a whopping 30x times zoom lens. My most recent camera is a Sony SLT-A77VQ DSLR with the 16-50mm F2.8 zoom lens.

    What I would like to point out is, that both the video camcorder and my ‘Cybershot’ has OPTICAL what Sony calls ‘Super Steady Shot’ LENS and not image sensor ‘Steady Shot’ stabilization as the newer A77.

    I can vouch to the fact, that even though my A77 with sensor image stabilization, which is capable or recording still shots of 6000×4000 pixels, and HDTV video in 1920×1080 pixels, 60i, 60p, 24i and 24p modes .. is ONLY slightly less than 3x zoom, and is NOWHERE near of a steady image as my 30x and 45x images at full zoom with the VX-2000 or the H9B.

    So to answer your questions about whether in camera sensor or LENS stabilization is better, I could give you examples of how at even such high magnification, hand held the older cameras out perform the new in body A77. And this is both in still shots, and using the video mode on all three cameras. (The H9B also can shoot videos but at standard definition vs HD for the A77) Also the H9B and VX-2000, run circles around low light capability in VIDEO mode around the A77).

    • Zoltan, I understand what you are trying to say about lens-based IS versus sensor-based IS, but I believe you are comparing apples to oranges here. First, you are trying to compare extreme zoom levels on a video camera to a 16-50mm lens on an SLT camera. As I have already stated in the article, one of the disadvantages of the sensor-based IS is inability to compensate for movements when using long telephoto lenses. Long lenses require more space for sensor to move around, plus a much bigger image circle. That’s where optical IS clearly wins. Second, you are comparing a low-resolution standard definition video to a high-resolution camera. As you may or may not know, higher resolution sensors show more signs of camera shake at 100% view – that’s just the nature of higher pixel density. The same reason why some D7000 owners that upgraded from older generation cameras like D40 were disappointed with their purchase when they started pixel peeping their images at 100% view.

      To make a fair comparison between sensor-based and lens-based IS, you would have to take two cameras (one with IS and one without) with identical sensor size and resolution, and compare them with lenses at the same focal length (one with IS and one without). I doubt you will see much difference at short focal lengths between the two…

      • 61
        ) Zoltan

        Nasim, I realize what you are saying about comparing higher resolution sensor to a lower one is not a fair test, but what I was trying to point out that the lower resolution CCD videocamcorder and the Cybershopt with optical IS even at strong zoom magnification is more stable, than my CMOS sensor A77 with 24 MP is at full wide angle lens setting with the sensor IS on.

        Another thing that really disappointed me with the A77, and I am not sure if all the new CMOS sensored HDTV camcorders have the same issue, but the rolling shutter artifact with just a slight movement of the camera in VIDEO mode exhibits a horrible jiggle, skew and jello effect even with IS enabled. It is very annoying, and I cannot see it being useful in any hand held mode, unless one shoots everything from a tripod, in motion picture scene by scene mode, with a very smooth pan and tilt head. The IS built into the sensor does not seem to do much at all to minimize the slightest movement back and forth, side to side or tilting of the camera without adverse image effects.

  13. 40
    ) Zoltan

    PS, Both of my cameras with lens Super Steady Shot, do NOT exhibit any whine during filming with audio, or decernable sounds during picture taking, even with onboard microphone….

    • Zoltan, that’s good to know, because Nikon/Canon cameras do make audible noise when IS is engaged.

  14. 41
    ) Zoltan

    PSS… The VX-2000 and H9B has CCD image sensors and the A77VQ has CMOS .. if that might make a difference …

  15. 46
    ) jay

    All i want for christmas is just a simple entry level SMALL LIGHT (not a PRO) mirrorless compact camera with:-

    1) IN-CAMERA stabilization FULL FRAME sensor
    2) a wide and fast zoom lens 24-70mm constant f2.8 attached to the camera
    3) with focus points that u can control with your thumb (like using a mouse on a pad) on the back of the camera, while u look through the hybrid electronic viewfinder to compose a picture. Then once the focus point is selected, u can press the shutter to take the picture. I think this is important where u can precisely select any focus points on the screen and do your composition, instead of being bound by 9 focus points or 51 focus points of 61 focus points, or what if all focus points are all concentrated in the centre.
    4) AUTO precise and accurate EYE-detection.

    Hope some camera companies would come out with such camera.

    and lastly,
    1) Maybe establish a single GLOBAL standard mount. (i know is wishfull thinking)

  16. 53
    ) Carmelo

    Hi Nasim!
    Thank you for another very informative article! I have also seen that the bokeh from my Nikkor VR 24-120mm /4 and my Nikkor VR 70-300mm/4.5-5.6 includes fine parallel lines when the VR is turned on. I did not previously know that the image stabilizer could have this effect. Therefore it’s important that the image stabilizer is used only if it is really necessary.

    • Carmelo, absolutely, IS should be used with caution, only when necessary.

  17. 64
    ) Mihai

    Hi Nasim
    I would like to point out a few things
    The Sensor stabilization can very well stabilize long focal lengths. It was calculated by Michael Hohner that for a 600 mm the movement would be ~ 1mm on the sensor under extreme conditions.
    Some old Minolta documents state that the system cam move 11mm on diagonal or ~4mm on each axis, so more than needed. Some claim that the system is not as good as lens IS because the camera should know the focal length of the lens. But all Minolta lens report their focal length even the first auto focus ones, one simple test for this is to look in the picture extif.
    The same goes for focusing distance that is important for macro lens.
    So the argument that Sensor IS is not capable of stabilizing long focal lengths is a myth.

    I would also point out a deficiency of the Sensor IS that was not mentioned.
    Sony has bought types of stabilization Sensor IS for the Alpha SLR and Lens IS for the NEX.
    The reason for this is that the Sensor IS can not be used very effectively for movies. It is technically possible as you can see in A33; A55 and others but it heats up quite quickly. This is the reason the A77 uses software stabilization for the movie mode at the expense of a slightly increased crop factor.

    The bottom line is that I don’t think there is a big difference if at all, for photography between the two systems as some suggest.
    But for movies the lens IS is better.

  18. 65
    ) Flores

    Hello Nasim.

    This is the first time I´m posting in your site so let me begin by thanking you for sharing your knowledge.

    On this particular subject I can tell you that at least some in body stabilization mechanisms also produce audible noise. I own a Konica-Minolta 5D and a Sony A-700 and in both models the stabilization mechanism produces a high pitch, nerve breaking noise (I thought my camera was broken the first time I’ve noticed it… LOL). I suspect the noise is produced by the piezo motors used to move the sensor in those bodies. My daughter owns a Pentax K100D, where the sensor shift mechanism is based on magnetic motors, and I don’t notice the same kind of noise.

    The reason why one usually does not notice the stabilizer noise in my cameras is because stabilization only works during exposure and so, most of the times, the noise is very short and disguised by shutter and mirror movement noise. Additionally the user guide advises to turn stabilization off when using a tripod, so the noise can only be heard when using long exposures hand-held. The motion sensors do engage as soon as one half-press the shutter button but they do not activate stabilization until exposure.

    I cannot comment on noise level compared to VR lenses because I’ve never used a VR lens (shame on me ;-) but I can assure you the noise would be recorded on video, if my cameras recorded video…

    I don’t know if Sony managed to decrease the audible noise for video on SLT-A33 and A55 (and A35). On A65 and A77 that’s not a problem because, as Mihai as already pointed, those cameras use software stabilization when on video mode (something that as caused some grief to some videographers, but that’s another story).

    I also have some doubts about EVF image stabilization on Sony SLTs. I’ve played with an A55 for some minutes and the image on the EVF didn’t look stabilized at all. I guess the A55 only activates stabilization during exposure but I’ve only played with it indoors, on a very poorly lit shop, and the EVF refresh rate was very slow so I might be wrong. Anyway I’ve read some A77’s owners reviews and most of them also say stabilization by sensor shifting only works during exposure so if you have the opportunity to do some further testing with an A65 or A77 your comment would be most welcome.

    All the best

  19. 66
    ) Steve

    Nice article. I have used the sony a900 for a couple of years and went back to Canon. and now Nikon D800. The In camera stabalization works great upto 200 mm and you can effectively shoot at 1/200th and be equal to a tripod(sonys IS off gives me 1/600th for equal) However the 70-400 sony, a really sharp lens gets no help from image stabilization at 400mm.
    In lens IS or VR helps with your movement or bird movement from mis-matched panning. I shoot from a plane and find Canons, and Nikons VR superior in that situation over Sigma’s OS. And sonys image stab does nothing from a plane.

  20. 67
    ) Rahul

    Hello Nasim, Very nice review,I was going through the specs for the new SLT A37 and it said the image stabilisation during movie mode is “electronic” .I wonder what that means and is it effective?.

    • 68
      ) Zoltan

      If I may answer your question, I do believe that what you are refering to, Rahul, is ‘electronic’ in the sense that the sensor is being manipulated or the ‘image on the sensor’ is ‘electronically’ stabilized as opposed to a true ‘optical’ gyro stabilization of the image. Since both systems require ‘electronics’ of one sort or another it is a bit ‘vague’ if that is the term used on your camera, but in all probability it means a ‘sensor’ based image stabilization, and not ‘optical lens’ IS system. If you look at the specification for your Sony SLT A37, it says the following:
      Image stabilization
      Sensor-shift

      Image stabilization notes
      SteadyShot Inside

      which clearly indicates it is not an optically stabilized IS system, but SENSON based image shifting, inside the camera body itself. http://www.dpreview.com/previews/sony-slt-a37/2

      • 69
        ) Rahul

        Hi Zoltan, I went through the specs published by sony store on the net and they have specifically mentioned this in their steady shot specifcations : For still images : Image sensor shift mechanism For Movies : Electronic.That is why I wondered if “Electronic” is different than sensor shift mechanism, then how is SONY achieving it?, using software?…

        • 70
          ) Zoltan

          Well, Rahul, I went to this web page: http://store.sony.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?langId=-1&searchType=search&storeId=10151&catalogId=10551&productId=8198552921666455171#specifications and NOWHERE I can locate what you are refering to.
          What I did find was: Advanced Features•Advanced User Interface : Easy-to-understand Graphic Display and on-screen Help Guide User-friendly function menu
          •Anti Motion Blur : 6-image layering
          •Auto High Dynamic Range : Yes, (Off/On, Auto Exposure Difference, Exposure difference Level (1-6 EV at 1.0 EV step)
          •Sweep Panorama : Yes (2D/3D)
          •Face Detection : Off, Auto, Child Priority, Adult Priority (up to 8 faces detectable)
          •Smile Shutter™ technology : Yes – Off, Slight, Normal, Big
          •Tracking Focus : Yes
          •Image Stabilization : SteadyShot INSIDE? in-body image stabilization

          SteadyShot® INSIDE™ stabilizationImage stabilization reduces blur by compensating for camera shake. Typical DSLR systems build image stabilization into selected lenses only. SteadyShot INSIDE™ image stabilization is built into the camera body itself. You’ll reduce blur with every a-mount lens, including macro and wide-aperture standard zoom lenses.

          So under which section exactly on this Sony Store page do you see the statement that you claim says “Electronic” .. I went through every section and do not see it.

          • 71
            ) Rahul

            Please visit this link and see the last page.http://www.sony.co.in/product/resources/en_IN/pdf/dslr/brochure-slt-a37.pdf

            Thx

            Rahul

            • 72
              ) Zoltan

              Rahul, hi .. I got in touch with Sony directly (luckily it was an 800 toll free number, cause I was sitting on there for almost an hour) .. first the online chat that you see below, was no help, so I called the toll free number given in chat.
              11:29 AM Connecting…
              11:29 AM Connected. A support representative will be with you shortly.
              11:29 AM Support session established with Jen – (C2AK).
              11:29 AM Customer:
              Hello
              11:29 AM Jen – (C2AK):
              Welcome to Sony Online Support.
              11:29 AM Customer:
              thank you
              11:29 AM Customer:
              did you get the question?
              11:29 AM Jen – (C2AK):
              According to the problem description, you have questions about the Steadyshot function on the SLTA37, is that right?
              11:30 AM Customer:
              yes and also the same for the model SLTA77
              11:30 AM Customer:
              what is the difference listed for picture taking mode and movie mode .. one says .. sensor image shift for pictures, for movies ELECTRONIC .. what is this meaning?
              11:31 AM Jen – (C2AK):
              Alright. Please allow me a minute to check on this.
              11:31 AM Customer:
              ok
              11:36 AM Jen – (C2AK):
              This is taking a bit longer than expected, may I ask you to allow me some additional time?
              11:36 AM Customer:
              sure
              11:45 AM Jen – (C2AK):
              I am still researching for the information. I am sorry for the long wait. Please allow me another minute or two.
              11:45 AM Customer:
              go right ahead
              11:49 AM Jen – (C2AK):
              Thank you for waiting. The camera has a built-in steadyshot in the camera body. There are motion sensors in the camera body that when it detects a movement in the body, those motion sensors will send signals to the sensor to compensate for the shake and produce a steadier shot.
              11:50 AM Jen – (C2AK):
              The image stabilizer in the camera works the same in video and still pictures mode.
              11:51 AM Customer:
              yes i understand that .. but why do they differentiate in the brochure and the owner’s manual between the still image mode and the movie mode..
              11:51 AM Customer:
              [SteadyShot]
              For still images System: Image sensor-shift mechanism
              Effect: Approx. 2.5 EV to 4.0 EV in shutter speed
              (depending on shooting conditions and the attached
              lens)
              For movies System: Electronic
              11:51 AM Customer:
              See? It says ELECTRONIC for movies ..
              11:51 AM Customer:
              and image sensor shift for still images ..
              11:52 AM Customer:
              what does ELECTRONIC mean ???
              11:52 AM Customer:
              and why is it differently stated?
              11:52 AM Customer:
              in other words .. why is MOVIE mode singled out as a different method of IS ??
              11:54 AM Jen – (C2AK):
              I was able to see that information as well in the Instructions Manual under the specifications. I am also checking on it as well.
              11:54 AM Customer:
              thanks
              11:57 AM Jen – (C2AK):
              You are welcome. I have tried to research on the information regarding the different steadyshot systems being used in Still Image mode and video record mode, but I was unable to get you the information. At this point, it will be best to contact our next level of techical support at 800-222-7669.
              11:57 AM Customer:
              ok i will thank you ..
              11:57 AM Jen – (C2AK):
              You are welcome.
              11:58 AM Jen – (C2AK):
              Thank you for contacting Sony Support.
              11:58 AM Jen – (C2AK) would like you to complete a brief Customer Survey. Open Customer Survey
              11:58 AM Jen – (C2AK) has ended the session

              .. So talking with a guy named Glen, I posed the question about the image sensor shift for photos and the ‘electronic’ IS for movies (I have the SLT – A77) which by the way, looking at the owners’ manual specification states the same thing (funny I didn’t notice it till now :) ) .. he finally came up with an answer that follows:
              During picture taking the image-sensor shift is used for IS, but while shooting movies, if the image-sensor shift method was used, the camera would OVERHEAT beyond acceptable limits, hence a ‘proprietory method of electronic image stabilization is used for movies’ .. he would not divulge the method used except it is camera internal software based stabilization. I hope that settles your curiosity (and now mine too I guess!)
              Zoltan

            • 73
              ) Zoltan

              PS. In case you don’t have this info, here is the manual in PDF for your A37: http://www.docs.sony.com/release/SLTA37.pdf

            • 82
              ) Flores

              Hi Zoltan.

              See my post to you and Rahul about software IS in movie mode on the latest Sony DSLTs

  21. 74
    ) Rahul

    Thanx a lot Zoltan.How is your experience with the movie mode of SLTA77 especially at long focal lengths?..Does the Electronic stabilisation work Ok ?..

    • 75
      ) Zoltan

      Rahul, you did not mention if you already have this camera or just planning to buy one. Have you used this model yet? To tell you the truth, my A77, being a HD 1080p/60 or 24fps with a large 24MP chip is quite different than the Sony video camcorders using MiniDV tape and only 720 res. My 2000 3CCD chip camcorder has an optical Super Steady Shot and a very large zoom range, especially using the digital 2X, and I found that since it does not have a ROLLING shutter such as the A77 and (A37), the image stabilization was much better on the optical camcorder.
      Using the movie mode in the A77 even at full wide angle setting exhibits a wobbly, jiggle and jello effect which the IS does not correct or lessen. Any sudden hand movement ever so slight back and forth is transferred faithfully into the image, hence I found the use of a tripod to be a necessity for absolute smooth pans, zooms and camera movement in movie mode.
      People keep telling me that with the large sensor it’s a different ball game with IS, but I find it to be useless pretty much when handheld. Now if you are planning to use this camera with a full motion picture steady cam, jib or crane rig, and shoot scene by scene, then you can get around the problem. But for family type use and everyday moving around kids, dogs, vacations where you have to hand hold, when you play it back on a big LCD panel (32 inch diagonal or bigger) be prepared to use barf bags !!

      • 76
        ) Rahul

        Zoltan, I have a SONY HX100V , am thinking of upgrading to a DSLR.I am quite satisfied with the movie mode in the HX100V with its carl zeiss lens and lens based stabilisation , works fantastically well even with handheld 810 mm shots.That is why I had queries about the software based stabilisation implemented in Sony SLT’s..But Now that you have given your first hand account I am quite sure that without tripod the sony SLT movie mode will not be as effective in controlling camera shake although nobody can beat its fast Auto focus I think…My mind is switching between the SONY SLT 37, NIKON 3100 and CANON 550 D.. :)..Any comments?..

        • 77
          ) Zoltan

          Rahul, I am not familiar with th Nikons and Canons .. nor the models you have listed, perhaps Nasim would like to comment, or you could search his site on whether or not he reviewed those models. The Sony A37 is basically identical to my A77 (transluscent mirror, inbody IS, etc.) .. so I would imagine the IS would be the same as mine. You are correct about the autofocus accuracy and speed, although I really did not think my Sony VX-2000 (2100) was a slouch in that department, if you plan to go fully automatic on that aspect. Even in pretty dim lighting the old MiniDV camcorder was very reliable in focus speed and accuracy.. of course if you want to be really ‘professional’ then you can use a focus puller, and do everything manually. That’s what I did when doing critical work with my MiniDV cam .. manual exposure, focus and audio settings using high quality external wireless mic inputs, not that the internal camcorder stereo mic was not very good, it just had it’s limitations like all built in mics. By the way, speaking of built in mics, the A77 (A37) is nothing to brag about, for one thing it is in total AGC mode, hence limiting the loud inputs and bringing up the low levels along with background noise (and preamp noise) but the worst case on the A77 is the fact that it has NO WIND SCREEN, hence any sligh breeze will render the audio useless, even with the so called WIND REDUCTION setting in the menu (cuts a lot of bass off, so is you are doing an outdoor ‘concert’, the audio will suffer badly).
          As far as you switching to DSLR based ‘movies’ for HD work, sad to say most new video camcorders also come with a ROLLING shutter and CMOS based chips rather than GLOBAL shutter and CCD image sensors, so be prepared for some nasty ‘bending’ of anything moving horizontally such as fences, lightpoles that are vertical, hence skewing the image. This was no problem with the old camcorders, but now it is an epidemic. SO … S L O W movements are the key, and planned shots in advance (sort of like motion picture making) but I would not rely too much on the built in IS. So for gaining HD, there is a sacrifice, at least for the time being.
          If I compare the ‘rock steady’ images I got in the past with the MiniDV cam and this new HD DSLR, it’s a big disappointment using it hand held !

          • 78
            ) Rahul

            Zoltan, thx for your feedback on SLT, From The homework that I have done using the internet it seems that Sony SLT’s seem to be a excellent technology for DSLR movies and the sensors of SLT’s are being given rankings at par or sometimes better than the comparable price(or even costlier) canons and nikons.The Alpha lenses too dont seem to be lacking far behind.Yesterday I tried cropping few first hand full size images downloaded from imaging resource ,shot with the SONY SLT A37.It seems you can easily crop atleast to the extent of twice the focal length of the lens without losing clarity .These were 200 mm(350 mm equiv) images and I could get good clarity after cropping to 400 mm(700 mm equiv).Ofcourse this may be true for the canons or the nikons also , but I could clearly see that the ISO 800 images had less noise on the SLT A37 compared with the NIKON 3200 or 3100 thus the cropped and magnified images looked very clean, and I guess for amateur wildllife photos (which would be shared on the net or displayed on 32 inch HD TV) , would certailnly come out clean even after cropping.

  22. 79
    ) Jamal

    Very interesting article regarding IS but except nikon and canon wanting to make more money over is or vr lenses i dont see a reason why they dont put in camera IS that turns off when you mount a vr lens so you get vr for ur telephotos and in body stabilization for ur primes and ultra wide! Shame on nikon and canon :(

  23. 80
    ) Nicolas

    Electronic View finders have some disadvantages left out.

    1. They use up battery power. I can look through my optical view finder as long as I want and it will never use up any battery power unless i hold down the shutter button. Then it will only use battery power to focus and power the IS.

    2. Not all camera’s with electronic view finders offer the option to disable exposure simulation. What happens when I am shooting in a pitch black room with an electronic view finder camera and non-compatible strobes? There’s also the issue where sometimes I can see better with my own eyes then the camera can.

    3. Resolution. So far the cameras with electronic view finders that I have used have sub-par resolution.

  24. 81
    ) Flores

    About movie mode image stabilisation in newer Sony DSLTs:

    To Rahul and Zoltan: as much as I can understand (and read from owners reports) newer Sony DSLTs (A65, A77 and A37) use software based IS when in movie mode, meaning the camera crops the image and displaces, by software, the crop window to achieve IS.

    The reason why I’ve said above that as caused some grief is because the crop factor gets bigger for movies than for stills and, at least on A65/A77, you cannot preview exactly how the image is going to be cropped until you really enter movie mode… Operation gets a bit trickier than it needed to be…

    I hope that helps, regards

    Flores

  25. 83
    ) Andres

    I am going to purchase my first non-point and shoot digital camera. I have a point & shoot, as well as my trusty work horse Minolta SRT-201 which as been me since my father passed it down to me. I am interested in doing extreme close ups (Macro) on bugs eyes, lizards skin etc. due to their texture any recommendations on which route to go for that line of photography?

  26. 84
    ) fawad ur rahman

    Nasim Mansurov I have a querry for u.

    if you had to choose between d5100 and pentax K30 WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

  27. 85
    ) imran

    Hi,

    I want to know that is the optical image stabilization is possible only by rotating the lens in yaw or pitch direction to encounter the rotational vibration effect, instead to move the lens vertically or horizontally
    as normally done by NIKON or CANON.

    Thanks.
    imran

    • 86
      ) Flores

      Hello Imran

      The sensor shift mechanism used by Pentax in their dSLRs can move the sensor horizontally/vertically and can also rotate the sensor (clockwise or contraclockwise). In some Pentax dSLR bodies the sensor rotation can even be used to automatically compensate for a slightly tilted horizon.

      As much as I know the sensor shift mechanism used by Sony in their SLTs (they no longer manufacture dSLRs) can only move the sensor horizontally and vertically (no rotation). Please note that recent Sony SLTs use sensor shift for image stabilization only when in still image (photo) mode, in video mode image stabilization is accomplished by software.

      None of the above mechanisms can tilt the sensor forward/backwards.

      There are other companies using sensor shifting to achieve image stabilizations, Olympus says that the mechanism they are using on their m4/3 OM-D E-M5 is revolutionary but I don’t know details.

      Please also note I’m writing about my experience with Sony and Pentax dSLRs and additional information I’ve found in documentation from both manufacturers and in reviews. If the exact capabilities of a certain image stabilization mechanism are of importance to you I strongly recommend you do your own research about it and, above all, always try before you buy.

      Best regards,

      Flores

  28. 87
    ) pano

    nikon D5100- or Sony slt a37– is better for video recording, and who is with less audio noise during video record. thanks

  29. 88
    ) Eddy

    the Sony A99 is a mirrorless camera — so is it right to say — the inbuilt image stabilization will be great for sports and wildlife photography?

  30. I’m not hung up too much on AF. My mission rarely needs speed or the convenience. I’ve been using valuable AIs primes since FM3a and Olympus E-1 days, then later used them on a Nikon D7000. That was about as close to film shooting as I could get and it was enjoyable but curiosity added an Olympus OM-D and I have to say that the D7000 will be used less, as much as it still offers. The OM-D IBIS in a mirrorless body with a stabilized EVF and a focusing zoom aid for critical focusing (with focus peaking on the E-P5) is sensational with the classic MF film lenses and more fun than I could have ever imagined. I believe Canon and Nikon are overly confident that past DSLR success will continue while mirrorless with IBIS seems to have more frequent improvements that already match most of their attributes. Focusing speed, EVF qualities or optional optical finder, phase vs contrast updates? I have no doubt that mirrorless will end up developing much of it if not already here. I can still use lenses from long past with all the new advantages of body stabilization and important operating controls and options I’ve not had before. So I now get even more out of a focus improved, stabilized MF lens. I’m sorry Nikon doesn’t share the same enthusiasm about its best history which, I sense, could have been part of its future. I’m sure it’s all about bean counting. At least they offer non-CPU lens calibrations but very little more… and they won’t unless they adopt an IBIS option and improved focus confirmation in the D series body but I think they’ll be into mirrorless before that happens.

    I do have VR zooms but the D7000 body is already too large for all day outdoor compared to an OM-D with its 14-42mm kit lens that’s so much smaller and can go on an even smaller MFT body. The VR zooms are way too large to justify stabilization.

    I like Panasonic’s optical stabilization lenses being used on the OM-D while IBIS is turned off. Again, more choices. I think I can see the limits on DSLR. I can’t see them on mirrorless and body stabilization is certainly a key difference.

  31. 91
    ) Mozart de Carvalho

    Which one is better: Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7 or Olympus OM-D E-M1?

  32. 92
    ) Leonard Coco

    I have mostly Nikon equipment and most of my experience is with Nikon so cannot really speak to other makes. Given current technology I simply do not understand why Nikon does not have at least one body with sensor stabilization. It would be a simple matter to have the body system turned off when a VR lens is mounted yet for that huge base of non VR Nikon lenses out there they would get the benefit of stabilization even if not as good as lens VR it beats nothing. Nikon has literally millions of 80-200mm f2.8, 85mm f1.8/1.8, 105mm f1.8/2.5, 180mm f2.8, 300mm f4 and many thousands of the super teles out there that are still very good sharp lenses – some as good as any produced today. It would be a big marketing leg up to Nikon and might actually lead to more lenses sales not less – after seeing what the 80-200mm f2.8 or the 300mm f2.8 of the 400mm f3.5 does with stabilization they may be more likely to pop for the latest and greatest new version and would be an additional reason to chose Nikon system over Canon or Pentax or whoever.

  33. 93
    ) Scrappy

    Hi Mr MANSUROV ! I got into digital photography a few years ago, and my first camera was a Nikon D3000. I bought Photography magazines and read everything I could about photography. Your article discusses the differences between Lens or Sensor based stabilization, in exactly the same way I’ve read about from my beginnings with a DSLR. This is the exact same mantra/propaganda the photographic industry imparts, and its all a load of nonesense, and extremely misleading.

    My VR in my D3000 was absolute rubbish, and VR is rated at a maximum of 3 stops of stabilization. It worked well at first, and over time it wore down, and was almost useless after a few months. In full sun @ ISO 100 (auto ISO) I was constantly getting blurry pics. Another major problem is that that VR (and the others) will rotate through a third axis, which has a “focus shift”-like effect, blurring up the pics. VRii has now got up to 4 stops of stabilization.

    I then switched to a Sony A65, and entered a new and vastly superior world of reliable stabilization. I was and still am blown away by its sensor stablization after 2 years of reliable service. Sony’s stabilization is rated to 4.5 stops of stabilization.

    I have also acquired a Pentax K-5 and SR is rated to 4 stops of stabilization. The stabilization can automatically level the sensor (Horizon Correction), Tilt – for tilt shift photography, widen a scene (Perspective Control), track the stars for bulb photography so you don’t get star trails (Astrotracer) …plus for cleaning …. plus anti-aliasing filter simulator (K-3 only). The K-3 has an improved SR, perhaps up to 5 stops or more.

    I will never go back to a lens based stabilization cameras or brands – because it is inferior. And I’ve gone back to stores time and time again to test them out, to check if I’ve made the right decision – and I most definitely have.

    The bottom line is this: Canon and Nikon IS and VR operate at 2-3 stops. Vrii is at 3-4 stops. Sony’s Steady Shot is 3.5-4.5 stops. Pentax’s Shake Reduction is at 3-4 stops, and the K-3 may be up to or exceeding 5 stops, because the 3-4stops cannot cope with a 24mp crop sensor and Pentax has improved the SR. This is the issue with the Nikon D7000 and D7100, where the D7000 is sharper hand held than the D7100 because the pixels are too dense and sensitive to the slightest movement, and current VR or SR and SS cannot keep up. (the same with my A65 and my K-5 is sharper hand-held).

    In heading 3”Advantages and Disadvantages” you’ve stated that lens stabilization is “more effective” to sensor stabilization – and I’ve shown above, that that is completely untrue, and you yourself can’t site the REAL independently tested figures.

    The argument “for” in telephoto, in that lens stabilizers have a greater throw than sensors – please show the throw (oscillations) in millimetres. The “arguments” for, are just arguments – heresay and conjecture. Please back up with verifiable statistics.

    The “argument” that lens stabilization is “more effective” in low light is again baseless. The argument that the image is stabilized through the viewfinder is inconsequential and again just a silly argument – the difference is minuscule, compared to having a whole host of non-stabilized lenses stabilized.

    Plus, as sensor stabilization is faster, naturally it is better with telephoto lenses. Plus you are forgetting the third axis of rotation (pitching) in VR and IS which causes a “focus shift”. 2 axis is all it needs.

    You should re-do this article – all the best !

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