Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ10; Big 12x Zoom Shows The Benefits Of A Built-In Image Stabilizer
A few years ago, when most
of us were shooting with 35mm cameras, a 400mm lens was considered to
be a super telephoto, intended primarily for professional sports photography
or for wildlife work. Today, an increasing number of digital cameras
incorporate optical zooms that extend beyond a 300mm equivalent focal
length, including two models with a full 420mm reach. (Even longer equivalent
focal lengths are possible with digital zoom but that degrades image
quality.) As cameras with powerful zooms become increasingly common
and affordable, super telephoto photography is accessible even to those
on a tight budget.
There are two common methods that we can use for making sharper images in low light. Mounting the camera on a rigid tripod is ideal, but a tripod is impractical or prohibited in many locations. The other alternative is to switch to ISO 400 or 800 for fast shutter speeds to "freeze" camera movement; if possible, bracing your elbows on a firm support to maximize the odds of getting sharp images. That combination of techniques can work well, but the images will probably exhibit obvious digital noise, colored specks resembling coarse film grain.
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But should you pay extra for
a camera with a built-in stabilizer? How successful is the technology
and will it solve all of the problems that cause blurry pictures? In order
to answer those questions, I recently tested the 4-megapixel Panasonic
Lumix DMC-FZ10 with a "Mega Optical Image Stabilizer" or OIS.
This is a system that detects the angle and speed of camera movement with
a shake-detecting sensor and compensates by shifting an internal lens
element. Consequently, the light rays reaching the image sensor should
be stable instead of vibrating at the moment of exposure, increasing the
odds of a sharp image.
Image Stabilizer Evaluation
The OIS Advantage