If you’re confused by the “IS” that might be tacked on to the end of the name of the digital camera you’re considering, you aren’t alone. IS, when used with a digital camera, is short for “image stabilization technology,” which allows the camera to help you reduce blurry photos from camera shake.
Although camera image stabilization isn’t new, more consumer-level digital cameras now include IS technology. As IS becomes more prevalent, it’s important to know what you’re buying, as image stabilization is available in a few different configurations.
The Basics of Image Stabilization
Image stabilization technology uses either hardware or software inside the digital camera to minimize the effects of camera shake or vibration. Camera blur is more pronounced when using a long zoom lens or when shooting in low-light conditions, where the camera’s shutter speed must be slower to allow more light to reach the camera’s image sensor. With a slower shutter speed, any vibration or shake occurring with the camera is magnified, sometimes causing blurry photos. Even the slightest movement of your hand or arm could cause a slight blur.
IS cannot prevent every blurry photo—such as when a subject is moving too fast for the shutter speed that you’re using—but it works well with correcting blur caused by the slight movement of the photographer (don’t feel bad; every photographer has this problem occasionally). Manufacturers estimate IS can allow you to shoot a couple of shutter speed settings slower than you could without IS.
If you don’t have a camera that offers a good image stabilization system, you need to try to shoot at a faster shutter speed, which can be difficult in low light conditions. Try increasing your camera’s ISO setting so that you can shoot at a faster shutter speed in low light if the camera’s IS setting is not giving you the results you want.