A Viewfinder Darkly

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Pentax Digital SLR Image Stabilisation

December 31 2007

by Phil Northeast

Shake Reduction in Pentax Digital SLRs reduces camera shake for the complete collection of digital and classic lenses used on their new K series digital bodies.

Pentax K10D Shake Reduction

Pentax K10D Shake Reduction

Canon and Nikon incorporate their Image Stabilization (IS) or Vibration Reduction  (VR) systems in special lenses, other manufacturers such as Pentax, incorporate it in the camera body.

To counter any camera movement, the free-floating image sensor moves. This means that any lens used on these cameras now has the benefit of image stabilization.

With the rapid advances in digital camera technology there is a constant stream of new camera bodies, so there are other benefits besides shake reduction in upgrading.

Pentax say their system is superior to other sensor moving systems because while the sensor can move horizontally and vertically, it can rotate as well. The sensor mounts on a plate along with electromagnets. Electrical signals from the camera’s movement sensing system use the electromagnets to create magnetic fields that react with permanent magnets on a fixed plate.

Does It Work

Carl Weese confirms the effectiveness of the system, providing examples of hand held photography in low light.

Weese suggests that some photographers may see more benefit from the system than others. He suggests that poor shutter release technique is a prevalent cause of camera shake. Photographers operating the shutter release with a smooth squeezing action are less likely to induce camera shake than those with a fast stabbing action.

Hand Holding Only

For some reason most of the stabilizing systems must be turned off when the camera is mounted on a tripod. Unlike other systems, the Pentax system does not automatically switch off if the camera is tripod mounted.

Pentax K10D

Pentax K10D

The system also needs disabling when deliberately moving the camera, such as panning while following a moving subject. The Pentax system is all or nothing, while others turn off the horizontal movement detection but will still counter vertical shake while panning. However, the momentum of the camera in a smooth panning technique is effective in reducing unwanted camera movement. A convenient rear body mounted control makes shake reduction selection a simple matter.

The ability to move the sensor functions as a system for removing sensor dust in the cameras.

Not a Cure For Poor Technique

While it covers up some deficiencies in technique, good photographers will use the extra couple of stops to enhance their creativity.

In the compromise between aperture and shutter speed in low light conditions the solution often is to increase the ISO setting resulting in an increase in image noise.

For the ultimate in sharpness mounting the camera on a good tripod will eliminate camera shake, and also help with critical compositional adjustments.

Image Stabilization In The Lens Or Body?

Both systems work well, with similar claims for performance. The in-body system has the advantage of keeping lens cost and weight down. Conversely, the in-lens system allows image stabilization for those photographers wanting to use their existing camera bodies.


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