Do You Need In-Body Image Stabilization?

Do You Need In-Body Image Stabilization?

Nikon announced their production of full frame mirrorless cameras in 2018 and has since offered a wide variety of quality bodies and glass in this arena of camera gear. And for non-pro enthusiasts, their recent Z 5 mirrorless bodyboasts a slew of alluring selling points.

With a 24-megapixel CMOS sensor, this camera should provide a decent amount of low-light capability for the average hobby shooter. The Z 5 also offers dual UHS II card slots for a backup shooting option, which the Z 6 and Z 7 models both lack.

Nikon Z5's dual card slots

Image via B&H Photo/Video

But the most impressive feature on this camera might be its five-axis in-camera stabilization, or "Vibration Reduction," as Nikon calls it, similar to the one on the Z 6 and Z 7. This system allows for up to five stops of vibration reduction, meaning it will compensate for blur caused from camera shake for up to five stops of shutter speed error. Photographers are bound to benefit from a sophisticated in-camera stabilization feature, especially if they don't feel confident about nailing a proper shutter speed with every click.

a handheld photo, zero stops below sharpness
a handheld photo, five shutter stops below sharpness

The image above shows a handheld photograph taken at 1/10 s vs 1/160 s, five full shutter speed steps. This illustrates the amount of stabilizing power the Z5 body has.

When photographing handheld, the go-to trick for shutter speed stability is known as the Reciprocal Rule. This states that in order to avoid camera shake, handheld shooters should keep their shutter speed denominator at, or above, their focal length number. If shooting on a crop sensor, choosing the minimum fastest shutter speed is then calculated by multiplying your focal length by the camera's crop factor.

For example, an image shot at 400mm (telephoto lens) would generally require a shutter speed of 1/400 s or faster. And if you're on a crop sensor, you would multiply 400 by, say, 1.5x (crop factor) for a shutter speed requirement of at least 1/600 s. Of course, this only applies to avoiding camera shake, not necessarily to freezing action.

sharp image of a hawk on a lightpost
blurry image of a hawk on a lightpost

But with Z 5's in-camera stabilization, one should be able to shoot handheld at shutter speeds as slow as two seconds, at least when utilizing a wide angle lens. However, this extreme shutter length would still require some amount of user stability and skill.

In-camera stabilization is not only useful for novices who might not realize that their shutter speed is too slow, but could also save shooters from needing to bump the ISO up too high in low-light situations, thus achieving less digital noise.

detail of a hawk, noisy image

Detail of the same above image, but five full ISO stops higher. Note the amount of noise.

Both amateur and professional shooters can benefit from features such as in-camera stabilization, videographers especially. But we should also note that this camera is much more geared towards photographers than videographers.

Has in-camera stabilization made shooting a breeze for you before? Share your experiences in the comments section below.

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12 Comments

Lawrence Jones's picture

As someone who has suffered from neurological issues that made it difficult at times to hold a camera steady threatening my ability to keep pursuing photography- IBIS has been great. I remember seeing one article from a man who thought he would never photograph again until he picked up the original E-M1. For some it makes all the difference.

Michael Krueger's picture

Personally I don't need it, but it's nice to have and there's no reason to reject it.

jim hughes's picture

I think about half the people buying the buzzword believe it stops the motion of whatever they're shooting at.

Jeff Heinaman's picture

I've had IBIS on every one of my Pentax DSLRs starting with my first used K2000 from 2009. I found IBIS to be VERY useful in image stabilization including using it with old film era manual lenses back to the '70s and with adapted m42s back to the '60s and '50s. And then, with a GPS module, IBIS on Pentax gives me Astrotrace allowing me to photograph galaxies with just a tripod.

(Single 40 second image using Pentax K3 with Samyang 135mm F2.0 ED UMC lens at ISO 6400)

IBIS Is a great feature and useful on any interchangeable lens camera.

Charles Mercier's picture

I take a lot of low light photos without a tripod when I travel. Also, I like to do close-ups so I often close the aperture quite a bit.

Michael Rapp's picture

Stopping the camera shaking is only half of the equation. That is where IBIS shines.
The other half is stopping the subject from moving. And that's not doable by any form of mechanical image stabilisation - enter the realm of adding strobes, faster lenses, higher ISO capabilities and savy image computing.
(Don't get me wrong, I think IBIS is great, but it has, like everything else in photography, its limits and purposes.

Jon Kellett's picture

I found IBIS to be life changing when doing street photography, especially when the sun is low in the sky - Basically opens up a whole new world of creative options. Needless to say, when photographing wildlife with a 200-600 handheld, IBIS gives you a lot more freedom around shutter and ISO...

Marcin Smolenski's picture

I always thought stabilization was overrated untill i got tamron g2 70-200 f2.8. being able to shoot from hand on 1/20 shutter and get sharp images is nuts. I never thought i need stabilization but tamron proof me wrong.

Bob Locher's picture

My first exposure to stabilization was the purchase of the Sony 18-135 mm APS-C lens for my re-entry camera, the Sony A6000. I was blown away to discover I could actually get a pin sharp image with a 1/4 second exposure - yes, at 18 mm, but still!! I am 77 years old and simply not as steady as I once was. Later I purchased the Sony A6500 especially because of its built in IBIS, and was - and remain - delighted with the feature. I bought the Sony 70-350 mm zoom, which is also stabilized, and am so pleased with the hand-held results at 350 mm. IBIS and lens stabilization have hugely expanded my capabilities.

Mutley Dastardly's picture

I have stabilisation from the Minolta 5D - my first DSLR - it even had a button to put it out of usage. It was in the early stages, but useful. Mine has now a problem with the sensor so i bought a new used one. And from time to time i'd like to photograph with it. It's tougher than today - due to the not-so-great high-iso - but those colors at 100ISO are still unmatched!

Juan Carlos Ayala's picture

It’s a no brainer as it gives you those extra stops of light when you need it. IBIS with a 1.4/1.8 lens and that should cover the majority of low light situations.