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What is The Difference Between Optical and Digital Stabilization in a Camcorder?

written by: Kristina Dems•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 6/10/2010

What is the difference between optical image stabilization and digital stabilization in a camcorder in terms of effectiveness? That and other concerns about image stabilization in camcorders are discussed in this article.

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    Camera stabilization technology is one of the features of a camcorder that helps to eliminate blurriness when capturing moving objects. Videographers are not always able to control hand shakiness and they can't carry a tripod with them all the time. But with this new technology, videographers today can take quality shots of falling objects, speeding cars and splashes of water, among others.

    There are two different camera stabilization technologies covered in this article, namely the optical image stabilization and digital stabilization in a camcorder. Discussed here are the comparison and contrast in terms of price, effectiveness and disadvantages of the two.

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    What is the Difference Between Optical Image Stabilization and Digital Stabilization in a Camcorder?

    The central difference between optical image stabilization and digital image stabilization in a camcorder is the way they handle shakiness. Optical image stabilization controls shakiness by making use of gyrometers that detect camera movement. This kind of image stabilization is implemented in the camera lens, making it extremely complex and more sophisticated than regular lenses. Digital image stabilization handles shakiness by using a frame-by-frame comparison technique that detects and removes unnecessary motion. All this kind of stabilization needs is good and reliable software to do the frame comparisons.

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    Difference in Terms of Price

    Because optical image stabilization requires a special kind of lens while digital image stabilization does not require additional equipment or accessories, camcorders that support optical image stabilization are more expensive. In purchasing a camcorder, it is recommended that you determine if the image stabilization implemented by a camcorder is clearly stated on the packaging. Image stabilization techniques can often be enclosed in a blanket "Anti-Shake Technology" term. Inspecting its image stabilization capability before making the purchase can save you a lot of money.

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    Difference in Terms of Effectiveness

    Optical image stabilization is more effective than digital image optimization. By utilizing gyrometers, optical image stabilization does its job even before the image is captured. The lens compensates for unnecessary movements. Usually, manufacturers include the option to toggle optical image stabilization as well as different modes that can deal with different kinds of movement like vertical and horizontal. Because digital image stabilization works on already captured images, it is less likely to give a far superior quality recording than optical image stabilization.

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    Difference in Terms of Disadvantages

    For optical image stabilization, the main disadvantage is the out-of-focus effect. Because the lens of an optical image stabilization-enabled camcorder shifts the light away from its true optical path to compensate for unnecessary movement, areas around an image may appear out of focus. This effect, however, is a form of artistic quality that some videographers enjoy. It's a matter of taste, actually.

    For digital image stabilization, the main disadvantage is the fact that it does not really work in dim light. Its post processing nature does not really lend itself well to medium to low light situations. Sometimes, it trades motion blur with noise, which does not really improve the quality of videos.