Image stabilization is a pretty amazing technological breakthrough, when you think about it. Your lens actually helps steady itself. Amazing! With built-in electromagnets and gyroscopes, vibration-reducing lenses counteract the camera shake caused by your unsteady hands, which is the cause of many blurry photos. First-gen stabilization was good for one stop, maybe two. That meant that if under normal circumstances it would require a shutter speed of 1/60th to get a sharp image, you could actually handhold at 1/30th or even 1/15th of a second with stabilization turned on and still get sharp photos. Recent advancements have manufacturers advertising up to four full stops of handholding power. That means in the scenario I just mentioned you could handhold safely all the way down to 1/4th of a second. But no matter how amazing lens stabilization technology gets, it still can’t compensate for one thing: operator error. There’s one crucial time when image stabilization actually causes blurrier photos—and that’s when you’ve got your camera locked down to a tripod. Check out Steve Berardi’s PhotoNaturalist blog for more info on when not to use lens stabilization to get sharp photos, including photographic evidence that shows just how blurry a stabilized image can be when used incorrectly.
Photo by Steve Berardi