What is Image Stabilization?

Today’s consumer-grade digital cameras make it almost impossible to take a bad photo. They’re designed for everyday users — the people who want to capture candid moments on their smartphone, and take party photos in dim lighting. To help improve sharpness, many smartphone cameras and point-and-shoots have image stabilization features. Below, we’ve outlined what image stabilization does, the differences between the two main stabilization techniques, and how the technology can be used to improve videos as well.

What is Image Stabilization?

Essentially, image stabilization (IS) analyzes your camera movement and adjusts the lens to minimize any potential blurriness. If you’re taking photos while walking, riding in a car, or your hands are a bit shaky, IS tries to offset that unintentional movement. The two most popular IS techniques are called optical image stabilization (OIS) and electronic image stabilization (EIS).    

Optical Image Stabilization

Since it’s a common feature in today’s smartphone cameras, OIS has become a trendy term, but it’s also one of the most accurate stabilization technologies on the market. Having OIS on a phone can make a huge difference in photo quality, especially when it comes to addressing camera movements that arise from screen taps or shaky hands. However, the technology does not reduce motion blur that occurs when your subject is moving.   
So in the case of OIS, what is image stabilization actually doing? Essentially, OIS moves the lens module in real time to rectify any user movement, and this straightens the optical path from image sensor to subject. The lens can shift independently, or the entire module can tilt, depending on what is necessary to reduce blurriness. To determine how much the lens should adjust, there are a variety of sensors collecting data on the camera’s movements.

Electronic Image Stabilization

Meanwhile, electronic image stabilization (EIS) relies entirely on software algorithms to deal with camera movement. This has the potential to be less expensive than OIS, but it may result in lower image quality and some frame cropping. Today’s smartphone and digital camera manufacturers have created OIS solutions that are small and cost-effective, so EIS has lost some of its appeal. However, if you have to use an image stabilizer, EIS can definitely boost the sharpness on a shaky photo.   

How Does Image Stabilization Work with Video?

Lastly, image stabilization tools like OIS and EIS can also be used in a multi-frame context (i.e. video recording). Just like with still photography, the stabilizers can adjust the camera’s optical path in real time while shooting video. To gain more visual data, many stabilization tools also analyze previous and future frames, so that they know how much to adjust the camera lens in advance. Having a ½-second head start can make all the difference.  

  • Was this article helpful?

Can’t find what you’re looking for?