The Ultimate Guide To Image Stabilization In Lens

guide to image stabilization in lens

Image stabilization in a lens is a great feature that almost every camera manufacturer uses on high-end camera lenses nowadays. It is because image stabilization has the ability to avoid blur on photos if your camera shakes during a photo-shoot.

By using image stabilization in the lens, you can go with a slower shutter speed with absolutely no blur on photos. This slow shutter speed along with optical image stabilization is pretty useful for night photos, low lighting conditions, and other situations where you actually need slower shutter speed.

Talking about image stabilization in photography, image stabilization actually refers to optical image stabilization which is generally found inside high-end camera lenses. Apart from the Dslr camera, image stabilization is also found on some high-quality smartphones like iPhone 7 though.

Many manufacturers named image stabilization in many ways such as Canon generally call it image stabilization (IS) whereas Nikon named it Vibration Reduction (VR) etc. which can counteract camera shake during photo shoots. In short, if your camera shakes while taking a snap then the element inside the lens also shakes which counteracts that shake, producing sharper and blur-free images.

Many high-quality smartphones like the iPhone 6s have virtual image stabilization. Though the lenses found inside the iPhone 6s do not move still the movement can be recorded and the camera tries to produce sharp images algorithmically. Though it is not as effective as the image stabilization found on the high-end cameras still captures sharp photos.

There are a variety of names that image stabilization has; such as optical image stabilization (O.I.S.), Vibration Compensation (VC), Vibration Reduction (VR), in-body image stabilization (IBIS) simply called image stabilization, etc. These all functionally do the same thing – that can control the camera shake which eventually gives you sharper images.

In recent years in-body image stabilization has gained a lot of attention from photographers. Canon and Nikon have also introduced IBIS image stabilization in their camera which attracts lots of photographers to go for.

So with that keep in mind, actually how does image stabilization work? So, let’s discuss…

Why do photographers need image stabilization in lens?

At the beginning of your photography career, you may be learning the foundation rule of photography; where you have to take the blur-free images while handheld and while doing so your shutter speed should not be slower than the focal length.

Suppose you are shooting at a 50mm lens, so if you want a clear, sharp, and blur-free image then you must have to shoot at 1/50th of a second in order to avoid camera shake. For 200mm lenses, the picture should be shot at 1/200th of a second and for higher lenses like 400mm lenses, the shooting should be done at 1/400th and so on.

But if you add an image stabilization system to the lens then you do not have to obey the above rule for the photo-shoot. Nowadays many modern image stabilizers offer 3-5 stops of image stabilization.

That means if you take a shot at 1/200th of a second at 200mm (theoretically) then the same image can be shot at 1/13th of a second (i.e. at 4 stops). This is really pretty effective in low-light situations and handheld shooting. That’s why many camera manufacturers are working to produce 6 stops image stabilization or more than that.

As the cameras are three-dimensional tools, the image stabilization system generally works on six different planes in order to counteract the camera movement. Actually, most of the camera shakes are horizontal, vertical, forward/backward shakes, etc.

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How does image stabilization work?

How does image stabilization work in lens

Actually, there are two types of image stabilization. Those are in-lens stabilization and in-camera body stabilization. Though these two image stabilization systems work differently, they produce the same results.

The lens stabilization comes with a floating lens element. These floating lens elements are electronically controlled by the microcomputer. This floating element works by shifting in the opposite direction of the camera shake which ultimately stabilizes the image. All of this works in microseconds and has the potential to give up to 5 stops of image stabilization which actually depends upon movement, focal length, and lens.

Actually, in-lens image stabilization is a common type of image stabilization. Apart from that, there is another image stabilization that is getting more popular nowadays called in-body image stabilization (IBIS).

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How does in-camera/in-body image stabilization work?

In recent years, in-body image stabilization is commonly found in most cameras. As above mentioned, in-lens image stabilization has floating lens elements which counteract the camera shake whereas in-body image stabilization associated with the floating sensors has the ability to neutralize any movement within the camera.

So if your camera has IBIS then you have the advantages that all the lenses you use on your camera must have image stabilization too.

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Which is better? In-lens image stabilization or In-body image stabilization?

It is quite difficult to say which is better?. However, both systems come with advantages and disadvantages. Moreover, in-lens stabilization is great for longer focal lengths where it actually works better.

It is because the camera shake needs more compensation than within the lens. That’s why Sony telephoto lenses come largely with in-lens image stabilization though they have IBIS on their mirror-less cameras.

Advantages of in-lens image stabilization

  • In-lens image stabilization is pretty effective in telephoto lenses i.e. if you shoot at telephoto end like 500mm then your in-lens will get more compensation than camera body.
  • Lens stabilization is pretty effective in low lighting conditions whereas in  in-body image stabilization you may have trouble metering and focusing especially in low lighting conditions.
  • In-lens is better than IBIS, because the image stabilization is fine tuned for each lens.
  • In-lens stabilization system has no effect on metering and autofocus.
  • In-lens stabilization systems can give more battery life.

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Advantages of in-body image stabilization

  • In-body image stabilization is generally cheaper.
  • In-body image stabilization works pretty well with all types of lenses.
  • IBIS actually works in such a silence that you will hear no sound while photo shooting.
  • IBIS has the ability to produce clean and sharp Bokeh.

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What are the misconceptions about image stabilization?

There are a few misconceptions regarding image stabilization which can be found below.

Q. Can you use both in-lens stabilization and IBIS?

A: Yes, you can use both of them together.

Q. Should I turn off IS before dismounting a lens?

A: Yes, you should turn off IS before dismounting a lens. If you do not do so then optics inside the lens will remain in a floating state which can cause damage to the optics.

Q. Does image stabilization helps with fast-moving objects?

A: No, image stabilization can only reduce camera shake and have no control over the moving objects.

Naming schemes of image stabilization systems by various brands

There are numerous brands out there that named the image stabilization system are as follows:

Lens BrandImage stabilization Names
CanonIS (Image stabilization)
NikonVR (Vibration Reduction)
SonyO.S.S. (Optical steady shot)
Mega O.I.S.(Mega optical image stabilization)
PanasonicPower O.I.S. 
Dual IS
SigmaOS (Optical stabilizer)
TamronVC (Vibration Compensation)
FujifilmOIS (Optical image stabilization)


The above article briefly describes image stabilization and how it works. We have tried our best to cover all things related to optical image stabilization. However, if you have questions in your mind you can ask in the comment box. Hope you like the article.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Do you really need image stabilization?

A: Not often but in low light situations one must need image stabilization.

Q. When should you use image stabilization?

A: When there is low light availability you must use the image stabilization feature.

Q. Does image stabilization reduce sharpness?

A: A little bit of drop in sharpness can be seen.

Q. Do DSLR cameras have image stabilization?

A: Yes, DSLR cameras have image stabilization.

Q. What is IBIS in photography?

A: IBIS refers to in-body image stabilization, which actually stabilizes the sensors in order to produce shake-free images.

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