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David Zax

A View from David Zax

Image Stabilization Trickles Down

A suite of new cameras offer image stabilization.

  • February 9, 2012

Our cameras demand increasingly little of us. Do photography students these days even learn about aperture and shutter speed? Increasingly, they will also be able to ignore admonitions to keep their cameras steady in order to avoid a blurry picture. Image stabilization joins a suite of new lenses and cameras announced this week, at both the high and low ends of the price scale.

Take, for instance, Tamron’s new 24-70 mm F2.8 zoom lens. When the product was announced this week, it was the first in its category to offer images stabilization technology, per CNET–Canon and Nikon had not yet added such features to their 24-70mm F2.8 equivalents. Image stabilization works by moving around elements of the lens during camera shake, and Tamron explained that it used a new technology to get the feature into its new lens, reversing the traditional positions of a magnet and coil. Tamron didn’t name a price, or say when the model would ship.

Not to be outdone–quite–Canon announced overhauls to its F2.8 lenses. Canon would be bringing image stabilization to the 24mm and 28mm F2.8 lenses, a first for the company. But it would not be bringing the technology to its 24-70 mm F2.8, leaving Tamron to take the lead there. It’s a bit of a sting to Canon fans, though; zoom lenses are much more popular in the mainstream market. Canon’s new zoom lens will sell for $2,300 in April, $1,000 more than its first-gen model; the fixed-lens options will go for closer to $800, and are expected in June.

And while these titans of the prosumer world duke it out, meanwhile we find image stabilization trickling down to even entry-level point-and-shoots, notes Engadget. Canon will also be updating its PowerShot A-Series cameras. Some of these models–the A4000 IS, A3400 IS and A2400 IS–will pack image stabilization tech (guess what that “IS” stands for), whereas a few other models don’t. The A2300 shares specs with the A2400 IS, for instance, but lacks image stabilization. (It only costs $10 less, though, so if you have a bit of an unsteady hand, or simply use your zoom a lot, why not shell out the extra Hamilton?)

Whether your next camera has image stabilization or not, it can’t hurt to use some of the old tricks they taught me back in photography 101, a class in which I spent hours fumbling in the dark to get exposed black-and-white film onto spools in order to be developed. Use zoom sparingly, hold your elbows on your hips, and exhale sharply before snapping a picture (that last one may have just been a superstition of my photo professor).

Or simply find something to balance your camera on, for that especially tough shot. Sometimes the best image stabilization technology is your own common sense. 

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