Compact camera users are oft en
faced with a dilemma – what are the important features that they should look out for? Autofocus, good build quality and ergonomics are nowadays taken for granted but the two features that really matter for today’s compact camera users are image stabilization and Wi-Fi. Unless these two features are included in the camera specs, one risks immediate obsolescence and blurry pictures.
Image stabilization refers to the technique used to reduce blurring associated with the motion of a camera at the time of exposure. Most compact cameras are small, difficult to hold, lack optical viewfinders and therefore have to be held at a distance when shooting. This, inevitably increases the chances of camera shake and therefore blurry pictures.
Camera manufacturers have used different systems to overcome camera shake and they can be broadly categorized into two:
1. Optical Image Stabilization:
This is a system followed by Nikon (VR or Vibration Reduction), Canon (IS or Image Stabilization) and Panasonic [Mega OIS (Mega Optical Image Stabilization) and Power OIS]. In this system, the image stabilization is installed in the lens of the camera. In an optically stabilized lens, certain lens elements move to counteract the motion of the camera. Manufacturers claim that this system of stabilization enable the users to take images at 3 or 4 stops lower than normal.
2. Sensor-Shift System:
This is a system followed by Pentax (SR or Shake Reduction), Sony (Steady Shot) and Olympus. In this method, it is the sensor in the camera body that moves rather than the optical elements in the lens. The benefit of this system is that it is not dependent on the lens to get sharper results. Older nonstabilized lenses can easily be used since image stabilization works through the camera body.
Which of the two systems is better? We would say that lens-based image stabilization is superior. However, that superiority comes at a cost since all your lenses will have to be image stabilized.
The problem of camera shake can be overcome in other ways as well. One method is to boost the ISO speed which is, however, risky as there is a possibility of getting noise in your shots. A shake reduction filter is also available in Photoshop CC. The risk here is you may get artifacts in the images.
As regards Wi-Fi, not having it means you are shutting out an increasing number of photographers who want to share their images immediately aft er they are shot. Can any manufacturer afford to ignore this category of photographers?
H. S. Billimoria