The image stabilisation setting

Image Stabilisation

Written by Mark Burton, author of "The Gadget Scientist Guide to Using Your Digital Camera"

This week I received a message from a friend who is on a cruise. A hand symbol was always appearing on the screen on their camera, and they couldn't work out what it meant.

The macro icon

I can only assume my friend’s copy of The Gadget Scientist book had accidentally fallen overboard – because what serious holiday-maker would leave the house without it?! But, nevertheless, I was of course happy to provide the answer (despite being disappointed my friend hadn’t committed every single page of the book to memory!)

Using the image stabilisation setting

Reduce the effect of camera shake by using the image stabilisation setting.


The hand symbol represents the Image Stabilisation feature:

This reduces the effect of blur in low-light conditions due to camera shake. Camera shake happens when the hand holding the camera moves when a photo is being taken. This commonly happens in low-light conditions because the camera needs longer to take a photo.

Camera Shake Icon

A red-flashing camera symbol is a warning that your photo will be blurry.

How do you know when to use Image Stabilisation?

If you have a compact camera, then it will probably show a red-flashing camera symbol as a warning that your photo will be blurry. When this happens, turn on the Image Stabilisation setting and the hand symbol will appear.

Image Stabilisation with Camera Shake

If it's too dark the camera shake icon will appear, even when using IS.

The image stabilisation feature (or 'IS') can usually be turned on and off in the MENU. If the red-flashing camera symbol is still showing when using Image Stabilisation then there’s not enough light to take a photo without blur - even with image stabilisation. If this happens, use a tripod or turn on the flash.


Continuous IS:

My friend on the cruise was worried because the hand symbol was permanently showing. This is because their camera was set to continuous image stabilisation and on compact camera’s this is OK. You can leave it on all the time and image stabilisation will kick-in when it's needed.


DSLRs and Image Stabilisation:

Image stabilisation on DSLRs is a specific feature of certain lenses. For example, I have a Canon 75-300mm lens with image stabilisation. It’s turned on and off using a switch on the side of the camera.


Two important things to know about IS lenses:

  • The image stabilisation is made possible by gyroscopes in the lens. Make sure you turn the image stabilisation off when travelling. This locks the gyroscopes and prevent damage in transit.
  • Image stabilisation is very power hungry. Only turn it on when you need it, and remember to turn it off afterwards. Otherwise, you’ll eat up battery power very quickly.

The Gadget Scientist Guide to Using Your Digital Camera

 The Gadget Scientist Guide

We hope you enjoyed this Gadget Scientist post based on content from our digital camera guide book!


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