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5 tips for image stabilizers

If you’re going to invest in a camera with image stabilization, you’ll want to get the most from it. Here are some dos and don’ts.

1. Conserve Batteries Turn off image stabilizers when your battery is low. Stabilizers use additional juice that you might want to save for those last few precious sightseeing shots.

2. Watch Tripods Check the manual to see whether you have to turn off the stabilizer when mounting your camera on a tripod (which you still might use when you want to jump into the picture, for instance). Older cameras require this, but many newer models automatically detect tripod mounting and compensate accordingly.

3. Remember Close-Ups Stabilization is usually more important at higher magnifications. If you use long telephoto lenses (200mm or more) or shoot in macro mode, make sure image stabilization is turned on.

4. Know Your Stabilizer Check your manual to learn about the different stabilization modes. For example, Panasonic’s $350 Lumix DMC-FZ8 has two modes. In Continuous, the camera keeps the stabilizer activated and displays the results on the LCD in real time. Shoot Only mode applies stabilization just when you press the shutter button. This consumes less battery power but doesn’t let you preview the results of stabilization.

5. Play Around Most companies provide specifications for the stabilizer’s range of effectiveness (usually measured in f-stops), but you shouldn’t rely solely on them. Some lenses with optical stabilization have a range rated as high as four f-stops, but your personal shooting technique may result in a smaller range. So test your equipment before important shoots, and find out what works for you.

[ Derrick Story is the digital media evangelist for O’Reilly Media. He also runs a virtual camera club featuring weekly podcasts and pro tips. ]

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