If you want to know more about the different action cameras image stabilization and what action cameras offer those stabilization, or simply how the different stabilization work, great! Because we will discuss on it in this article.
If not, feel free to comment down below. I’ll try to the best of my abilities to answer your queries.
If you own an action camera be it a GoPro, SJCAM, ThiEYE, Eken, YI, etc, there is a high likelihood that you have seen “Anti-Shake Image Stabilization” or “Gyroscope” lurking somewhere in your settings or camera before. It is quite easy to mix these 2 up because they are both stabilization options and thus hopefully by the end of this post, you will get to understand what are the differences and when you need them to be switched on or off.
Built-In Stabilization or External Stabilization?
Today, we are going to be discussing solely on built-in stabilization because I have written another post here on external stabilizations which will include things like gimbals and editing, to stabilise your footage.
Types of Built-in Stabilization
I noticed that many users in the internet are using terms such as digital stabilization, electronic image stabilization, optical image stabilization very loosely, making it especially confusing for shoppers new to action camera.
This is most likely caused by brands releasing different names for their technology but still utilising the same kind of stabilization technique. If you would like to more more, you can head over here to check out the different companies patenting the same stabilization technique using different names.
However, there are actually only 3 types of built-in stabilization in an action camera but I am going to classify it into these 3 categories:
1. Gyro Stabilization (Video Only)
This type of stabilization is actually digital or electronic, and does not require any moving or physical components.
It is also known as Digital Image Stabilization or Electronic Image Stabilization.
Don’t turn it on in Photo Mode
It should only be turned on when you are using video mode as using it in photo mode will actually diminish the quality of the image. This is because when it is turned on, it actually requires more processing power and thus less is able to allocate to the quality of the colour. Furthermore, other than the quality dropping, the field of view , which is the amount of details you can see will also decrease. That is the reason why most cameras have their gyro switched off by default.
Because constantly switching on and off the gyro stabilization is quite a hassle, several manufacturers have actually made it such that it can be switched on and off using a button. An example of a camera that can switch the gyro stabilization on and off using a button is the elephone explorer pro.
But I think manufacturers can be further make it more convenient by programming it to switch on during video mode and off during photo mode. Since there really isn’t a point other than that.
How it works
It works quite similarly to how stabilization in editing apps stabilises your footage, but instead of using colour tracking which is used in editing softwares, gyro stabilization uses a gyrometer to track the cameras’ motion.
Inside the camera, it has a gyrometer, hence the name, gyro stabilization. This gyrometer is able to detect the change of motion of the camera in 2 directions, vertical and horizontal. With that, the processor will then shift the electronic image from frame to frame in every frame, accordingly, to counteract the motion of the camera.
For example, when the camera is moved up and the gyrometer detects it, the frame is actually shifted down, vice versa, to counteract the motion and smoothen the transition between the current frame and the next.
It is able to be done because there are pixels at the edge that were originally used for filming are now used as a buffer to move the frame around in instead. Therefore, only the pixels in the middle (not the buffer pixels) are used for the actual filming. That is the reason why the field of view of the footage drops when gyro is turned on compared to when it’s off.
Below is an quick illustration as to what goes on inside the camera and how the frame moves to counteract the motion.
And this is a demo footage by Wideo using the Yi 2 4K camera to show the difference between switching on and off the stabilization.
After looking at the stabilised footage of many action cameras with gyro stabilization, I realised that they tend to stabilize better when it is moved up and downwards as compared to sideways most probably because there is more buffer edge pixels at the top and bottom as compared to the sides.
Anyways, below are a few examples of cameras with gryoscopic camera stabilizer.
- Elephone Explorer Pro – Full Review or Best Buys (About 90 USD)
- Firefly 6s – Review or Best Buys (About 75 USD)
- GitUp 2 – Best Buys – Banggood (97 USD – Coupon Code –BGGitUp) , GearBest (122 USD), Geekbuying (119USD)
- SJ4000 M20- Best Buys – SJCAM – 119 USD, GearBest – 114 USD, BangGood & Geekbuying (120USD)
- ThiEYE T5e – Full Review or Best Buys (130 USD)
2. Anti-Shake Image Stabilization (Picture Only)
This type of stabilization is also quite similar to gyro stabilization in that it does not involve any physical components moving. Hence, it is entirely digital and does not involve any mechanical parts.
What I noticed about most action cams is that if there is gyro, there would be anti-shake but not the other way around.
However, the difference is that this affects only pictures and does not affect videos at all.
The main idea of this is when you press the shutter and the camera shakes, it will smoothen the shake, resulting in a clearer shot.
This is not Optical Image Stabilization
Many of the times, people confuse anti-shake with optical image stabilization because as above mentioned, the internet have been using these terms quite loosely.
But it’s not the same, because optical image stabilization, which more on it is below, actually require either the lens or the image sensor to move to counteract the motion of the camera. But for the case of anti-shake, there is no physical components moving.
Only Works in Photo Mode
Unlike gyro which will affect photo mode if you switch it on, the anti-shake only affects images taken by photo mode, or pictures in other words. Therefore, it does not matter if you switch it on in video mode as it won’t affect the quality of fov at all, which gyro does. Conclusion? Just leave it on.
How it works
Regarding to how it works, honestly, I am not very sure of how it works exactly as there is no documentation of it online. But below is my understanding of it.
Anti-shake in most action cameras are actually the camera overriding various settings. It does so by increasing the shutter speed of the camera so that there is a lower likelihood of it becoming blur.
To compensate for the loss of exposure due to the increased shutter speed, it also increases the ISO sensitivity. Therefore, creating a less blurred image, at the same time retaining its original brightness and quality.
Below is an example, using my SJ4000 to compare the differences when anti-shake is on and off.
You can see from it that when anti-shake is on, it is actually more defined and sharp especially the leaves as compared to when anti-shake is off.
Action Cameras With Anti-Shake Image Stabilization
Almost all action cameras have this feature, including the ones at a lower price point (lower than $50), unlike gyro which only cameras in the middle and top end have.
Below are a few of the many examples of popular action cameras which have anti-shake image stabilisation.
- SJCAM SJ4000 –Full Review or Best Buys (About 70 USD)
- Eken H9R – Full Review or Best Buys (About 50 USD)
- Elecam Explorer Pro – Full Review or Best Buys (About 90 USD)
- V3 Sport Camera – Full Review or Best Buy (36 USD)
- GeekPro EOV1 Plus – Full Review or Best Buy (125 USD)
3. Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) (Both Pictures and Videos)
Last on this list, is optical image stabilization, also known as mechanical image stabilization.
This kind of stabilization is far more expensive and uncommon than the other 2 stabilizations above because it is more exclusive and require a higher production cost (physical components) and most action cameras tend to fall into the cheaper range.
How It Works
This type of stabilization is unique because unlike the top 2 types of stabilization, it actually involves the moving of physical components such as the lens or the image sensor.
There is also a gyrometer inside the camera, similar to how cameras with gyro stabilization has too. However, instead of digitally moving the image, either the lens or image sensor will move, to counteract the motion of the camera. Hence, when camera moves upwards, the lens or image sensor counteract by moving downwards.
Also as this does not involve the moving of electronic image such as the one in gyro stabilization, there is no need for buffer edge pixels and hence the field of view will be wider and image quality will generally be better than cameras with gyro stabilization.
Works for both videos and pictures
This type of stabilization, as mentioned above, involves physical parts like lens or image sensor to move, hence it does not matter if you use it for both videos or pictures as both of them will produce clear and stabilised image, without losing quality and field of view.
Well, other than it being costly, there is 1 other disadvantage that might discourage you from getting a camera with it. Cameras with mechanical image stabilization often aren’t able to take impacts that well as the lens or image sensor is actually floating within the camera itself and a strong enough force can actually damage it. Hence, if you want a good stabilization at the same time being able to withstand impacts, gimbals or post editing are other alternative you can consider.
An Example Of A Technology Using OIS
1 example of a technology using optical image stabilization would be Sony’s Balanced Optical SteadyShot (BOSS).
Traditional OIS works by only moving a single lens or image sensor to counteract the motion, ultimately negating blur. (First pic)
However, in the case of BOSS, it actually involves the whole lens barrel countering the motion of the camera, which provide a tremendous amount of smoothness and reliability to it. (Second pic)
An action camera that utilises this technology is actually the Sony FDR-X3000, which I have written a review on here. Although it certainly does not come cheap, but it really is an all in one package and it also one of the best in terms of action camera image stabilization in the market right now.
Examples of cameras with optical image stabilization
- Revl Arc (Built-in gimbal) – Review or Best Buy (400 USD)
- Sony FDR-X3000R (BOSS Technology) – Review or Best Buys(Around 400 USD)
I hope that after reading this post, you learnt more about the various types of built-in stabilization in cameras.
Also, something to note about built-in stabilization is that there is a limit to how much it can stabilise because it is all built in the camera itself. Its stabilization ‘strength’ is really ‘weak’ when compared other stabilization alternatives like gimbals and post editing, as it is only able to stabilise tiny motions or bumps. It can also be sometimes unreliable especially when it comes to minute shakes or trembles.
If you want to take stabilised footage either for vlogging or action sports, I’d recommend buying an action camera that is reliable and either buying a gimbal or edit afterwards due to the fact that honestly, the gyro in action cameras aren’t very great.
Last but not least, as this is a rather technologically dense topic, if you have any questions or are unsure of anything, please feel free to comment down below. I’ll really appreciate it and will surely reply to you! 🙂
Thanks for reading and have a nice day!