How to properly use Image Stabilization (IS) in Digital Cameras

Yogesh Sarkar

Optical Image Stabilization or OIS/IS as it is commonly referred to, has been quite a boon for digital photography enthusiasts, as it enables photographers to shoot handheld photographs at very slow shutter speed, which would otherwise be impossible to capture.

Benefits of Image Stabilization (IS) in Digital Cameras

The two photographs below, which were shot at the Bhugotu tent dhaba at night. Where the only source of light were two kerosene lamps, would have been impossible to capture without optical image stabilization. With ISO cranked up to maximum my camera could support (ISO 1600), the camera was still showing very slow shutter speed (½ - ¼ seconds). Use of a tripod would have killed the mood as every body would have started posing for the camera and with the flash, I wouldn’t have been able to capture the ambient light, which is the essence of this photograph. However all four photographs that I captured at that moment, came in sharp, in focus and without a hint of hand shake, thanks Image Stabilization.

ISO-1600, F2.8, ½ second shutter speed, 35mm (wide angle)

ISO-1600, F3.5, ¼ second shutter speed, 76mm (~2x zoom)

How to properly use Image Stabilization (IS) in Digital Cameras

While the Image Stabilization was a boon in above scenario, it can turn out to be a bane if you do not use it properly.

For instance, in photographs, where the exposure is for a second or longer, the image stabilization can actually end up blurring the photograph.

ISO-80, F4, 15 second shutter speed, 35mm

This is due to the fact that image stabilization is constantly at work, trying to counter momentum/shakes, even when it is placed on a solid surface or tripod, which is normally the case in long exposure photographs. Turning off the image stabilization in such a scenario, can actually help, as you can see in the photograph below, taken a couple minutes later at the same settings.

ISO-80, F4, 15 second shutter speed, 35mm

So if your camera has Image Stabilization (IS) or are about to purchase one, keep the following points in mind:

  • Don’t purchase a camera with “Digital Image Stabilization”, as it is only software based and “tries to remove blur” once the photograph has been captured, which normally ends up reducing the quality of the photograph.
  • In case you have a camera with “Digital Image Stabilization”, then switch it off! You will get better results without it, on most occasions.
  • When ever you are shooting photographs with the camera in your hand, keep the image stabilization on.
  • When you are shooting photographs with the camera placed on a tripod or a solid surface, switch off the image stabilization, as it would use battery unnecessarily and could end up actually blurring or softening the photograph.
  • For most occasions, “Shoot Only” IS mode is best, as opposed to “Continuous mode” which puts unnecessary strain on the battery and is mainly good while panning for action photographs.

Yogesh Sarkar

Casio Exilim 10.1 MP .... PnS.... Similar to the one Amit has
If it is EX-S10 then I don't think it has IS, but it does have "Auto Shutter", don't know what exactly mean by this

Let your Casio Exilim do the thinking for you. With Auto Shutter functions, your camera will detect the perfect time to snap your picture. The new Casio Exilim cameras are equipped with Auto Shutter Functions that will make blurry pictures a thing of the past.
Not really sure if it just delays the shutter release action the time till there is no momentum or it just uses a software to try and reduce blur. What ever it is, I would be a little hesitant to use it. You might want to check by turning it off to see if it makes a difference or not.

That's useful info.need to check how to turn the IS off now:(
Which camera do you have?

Yogesh Sarkar

In Canon and Nikon DSLRs, the camera body doesn't have IS, it is the lenses which have IS. Check your lens, it will have a small switch to turn on or off the IS.


Master of the OT Universe
Yeah, but if you have the Oly - then you DO have IS within the body only - its kinda logical, no? :D