There are several things that could ruin a potentially great photo. A shaky camera is one of them because it causes your photos to appear blurry.
Thankfully, more and more good-quality smartphone cameras come with image stabilization of some sorts to help deal with this issue.
What we’re going to look at in this article is what image stabilization is, the different types of stabilization, and how it helps you take crisp photos with no motion blur.
What is Image Stabilization?
Image stabilization refers to methods or techniques that aim to improve picture quality by reducing the amount of motion blur that is associated with camera movement while a photo is being taken.
Depending on the stabilization technique used, image stabilization can be achieved mechanically, digitally, or through a combination of both.
The most common form of image stabilization that ideal for photography that’s found on mobile cameras is OIS, which is a mechanical method.
Types of image stabilization
Currently, there are three types of image stabilization found on smartphone cameras: optical image stabilization, electronic image stabilization, and artificial image stabilization.
Each of these image stabilization methods works differently and are geared towards a specific type of image.
Optical Image Stabilization (OIS)
OIS is an image stabilization system that enhances mobile photography by physically moving the lens module or image sensor to counteract any slight camera movement to avoid blurry photos.
OIS is useful any time you want to take a photo, but more especially so in low light. However, OIS cannot perform miracles. Optical image stabilization can only compensate for small camera movements, not massive camera shake.
How does OIS work?
Camera manufacturers use a gyroscope system inside their cameras that sense when there is movement. Using a voice-coil motor, the gyroscope then counters the movement of the camera in the opposite direction.
So, if the phone moves to the left, the gyroscope will move the internal mechanical components of the camera to the right to counter that movement. This is pretty much how video camera stabilizers such as the DJI Ronin work.
Without the gyroscope, OIS simply cannot work. The gyroscope collects all the data regarding the smartphone’s position and orientation and then feeds the information to the microcontrollers.
The microcontrollers then use the gyroscope’s yaw, pitch, and roll data to determine, depending on movement intensity, how much and in which direction the lens or sensor should shift to negate the camera’s movement.
Small electromagnets along with the gyros correct the angle of the lens or sensor depending on the type of OIS system used.
Types of OIS
Yes, there are two types of image stabilization technologies and a further two types that fall under the optical image stabilization bracket-- the sensor-based optical image stabilization and lens-based optical image stabilization.
This sensor-based OIS system effectively moves the camera’s image sensor in relation to the movement of the phone. While doing this, it can adjust the focal length between the sensor and the lens. This is more commonly found in smartphone cameras.
On the other hand, the lens-based optical image stabilization system affects the lens system and not the sensor. The lens module is suspended above the sensor and moves when the camera does in order to control the path of light to the sensor.
When movement is detected, the gyroscope moves the lens axis to keep the image coming through perfectly aligned with the sensor.
Because of size restrictions, lens-based OIS is found predominantly in DSLRs and not smartphone cameras.
OIS and magnetic interference
It’s true. A strong magnetic field can interfere with the OIS capabilities of a mobile camera, as even Apple has noted with their iPhones. That’s because all the moving mechanical bits and pieces inside the camera unit are responsive to magnetic fields.
This can have an adverse effect on the OIS system of the camera because it affects the accuracy of the technology and limits its range of movement.
The main cause of this is the presence of large magnets near the phone’s camera unit. This is largely caused by phone accessories that have magnets powerful enough to disrupt the camera optics.
A common example of third-party accessories that have magnets or magnetizable metal plates is phone covers that use magnets to latch folio covers, attach to mounts, and so on.
The best thing to do to avoid magnetic interference of your smartphone camera’s optical image stabilization system is to avoid mobile phone accessories that have strong magnets or magnets that are placed in close proximity to the device’s camera.
Impacts of OIS on the image
Optical image stabilization works well at countering slight camera shake in order to produce sharp and clear pictures.
And because this is all done optically using physical moving parts, OIS does not degrade the picture quality. It just decreases the chance of blurry photos although not by a whole lot.
Just remember that blur and motion blur are not necessarily the same thing, even though they might be similar. While blur can be caused by a number of things, motion blur comes primarily from the movement of the camera or the subject in front of it. So, even if your camera is perfectly still on a tripod, you can still experience motion blur.
OIS deals with small jitters of the camera and not the movement of the subject, so it can’t help with that kind of motion blur. To resolve issues with motion blur, you might have to adjust your mobile camera’s shutter speed.
Just be mindful when dealing with shutter speed because, if you don’t know what you’re doing, it can lead to truly horrible pictures. So, make sure you familiarize yourself with the exposure triangle before tinkering with it.
Electronic Image Stabilization (EIS)
Unlike with optical image stabilization, EIS is a purely software-based stabilization system that relies on no moving mechanical parts to counteract camera shakes.
While capturing a shot or video, the EIS microcontroller keeps a reference frame in memory to compare subsequent frames to it. The frames are then compared to the first one and then, variations in position calculated and then horizontal and vertical adjustments are made to make the video look smooth.
Artificial Image Stabilization (AIS)
This stabilization system is currently found on Huawei devices. AIS stands for Artificial Intelligence Stabilization and is mostly not any different from EIS.
Artificial Intelligence Stabilization is powered by an NPU (Neural Processing Unit) which predicts where the subject is moving to keep it in focus. After that, the image is cropped to avoid any jerky looking images.
This makes it possible for you to take videos and pictures while walking or even running without having too worry to much about shaky or blurry images.
OIS vs EIS
The primary concern of OIS is to physically compensate for shaky camera work and thus improve the camera’s low light capabilities within each individual picture frame.
EIS, on the other hand, is more geared towards video recording applications. The electronic image stabilization system improves shaky video by maintaining a consistent framing between multiple video frames.
Is image stabilization really necessary?
Any time you take a photo with your mobile camera, the image is taken over a period of time. If the lighting is sufficient, the shutter speed should be quick enough to capture a crisp shot without a problem.
The problem comes when the lighting is poor. In order to take in as much light as possible, the camera will expose the sensor to light for an extended period. During this time, if the camera moves, the shot will come out blurry.
Smartphones are not ergonomically designed for photography. As a result, they can be tricky to hold and, which may lead to shaky shots. Image stabilization helps with this by countering minor shaky hand movements.
As stated earlier, OIS cannot help with serious camera shake. For that, you’ll need a camera support system of your choice to keep your phone steady. The tripod in all its various shapes and sizes is a popular investment, and for several good reasons too.
How do you enable image stabilization on your phone?
Image stabilization can be switched on and off. Where you can enable and disable it depends on the phone you’re using and the camera app you have chosen.
In some instance, image stabilization can be engaged and disengaged right from the camera app’s main screen by tapping on the relevant button. In other cases, you might need to navigate the camera app’s settings or shooting modes to activate image stabilization.
If you’re using a tripod, then using image stabilization becomes redundant. So, you can disable it. Doing so can actually be beneficial because image stabilization does use up some battery power. It’s best, then, to use it only when you need it.
Image stabilization is one of several important things that make a good mobile camera. But that on its own is not enough to make you take good photos with your phone. It all depends on you to develop the right skills to do so to avoid making some basic mobile photography mistakes.
You need to know your smartphone camera and understand how it works. When you finally get the hang of it, you’ll know how to get the most out of your mobile camera and shoot photos that look really good and could earn you some extra money online.
If you want to learn about how to improve your smartphone photography, download the 5 Ways To Improve Your Smartphone Photography ebook by clicking on the banner above or by clicking here. There’s a lot to learn in its 22 pages of content and it’s ABSOLUTELY FREE!!!
Otherwise, for some quick tips on how to capture great photos with your phone, check out these 15 Tips on How To Take Amazing Photos With Your Phone.