Canon SX230HS Image Stabilization vs. Tripod

Just got a new pocket camera (a Canon SX230HS) to replace that one, read the manual (I can’t help it), and discovered that they recommend turning image stabilization off for tripod shots. A bit of rummaging turns up conflicting advice, so I figured a quick test was in order.

[Edit: it's really the Canon SX230HS, not the 320 as I originally mistyped. I'm not changing the post's permalink, for obvious reasons, and I'm stuck with bogus filenames. Grumble, etc.]

This is a dot-for-dot crop from two images of the torso of the Pink Panther Woman in black ABS, showing the rather nasty seam produced with Clip = 0.1. The pix are seconds apart at f/8 with manual focus and flash illumination, so they’re as alike as I can make them. Clicky for more dots.

Pop quiz: which side has stabilization turned on?

Canon SX320HS Image Stabilization

Canon SX320HS Image Stabilization

Answer: left = ON, right = OFF. Yeah, I was surprised, too; even the dust specks look the same.

So, as nearly as I can tell, image stabilization doesn’t add any jitter to a tripod shot. At least not on the scale I’m using, which is a Good Thing: turning it on & off requires a trip through the menus.

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  1. #1 by david on 2011-08-12 - 10:40

    Huh! My Pentax SLR has the same advice but now I wonder if it matters there. Although in that case there’s a hard switch on the back, so it’s no trouble.

    • #2 by Ed on 2011-08-12 - 14:51

      a hard switch on the back

      How quaint! I really miss those things…

      It might matter more on a DSLR, where the bigger sensor would see smaller errors and the correction mechanism must move more mass. But I’d still want a demonstration before trusting any advice on the subject.

      • #3 by frenzie on 2011-08-16 - 05:13

        I’m pretty sure most, if not all, (D)SLRs have such quaintness. :P My Sony (that is, a Minolta with a Sony logo on it) certainly does.

        • #4 by Ed on 2011-08-16 - 08:49

          Now that you mention it, my Sony DSC-H5 has exactly that button on the top, although it’s called “STEADY SHOT” (their choice of caps). The H5 is sort of a prosumer camera: moderately bulky, manual controls, no interchangeable lens. Works for me.

          Nowhere do they recommend turning STEADY SHOT off when using a tripod, which makes me wonder why they provide a physical button. Maybe it’s a reverse advertisement: “This feature is so great that you’ll never want to turn off!”

        • #5 by frenzie on 2011-08-16 - 17:18

          My Sony Alpha has Super SteadyShot as well, but I’m pretty sure it’s rebranded Minolta Maxxum image stabilization (known simply as Anti-Shake, but perhaps developed further). It’s more about what you’re going for, although in practice I use the ability to e.g. quickly physically turn off autofocus plenty, whereas Super SteadyShot is something I tend to leave on.

          Of course Sony also felt the need to make the battery incompatible with the Minolta batteries, which is annoying. Oh well, compared to the reusable lenses they’re peanuts I guess.

          • #6 by Ed on 2011-08-16 - 18:58

            turn off autofocus

            The Canon doesn’t have enough power-on hours yet, but I spent a lot of time fighting the Casio’s automation to a standstill before taking any pictures that I really cared about. Ditto for the Sony cameras, although to a lesser extent; mostly they’d get pretty close to the right answer.

            My pix must be three sigma off to one side of the curve…

            Sony also felt the need to make the battery incompatible

            At least the Sony Memory Stick Pro Duo is compatible with a MicroSD sliver in an adapter. Sheesh

        • #7 by frenzie on 2011-08-17 - 04:24

          The autofocus is just fine really, but sometimes you need a different kind of focus and I could either go into the menu to change to one of the other options or turn it off and do it myself. In time it probably doesn’t matter much either way, nor in results, but taking care of it myself directly rather than indirectly through a different focus setting sure is more satisfying.

          • #8 by Ed on 2011-08-17 - 07:25

            taking care of it myself directly

            We just can’t accept that somebody’s algorithm can do a better job!

            Which, for my photos, it can’t. In particular, I don’t get along with auto exposure metering: spot is too tight, center-weighted is too loose, averaged is awful. It’d be great to have *that* on the STEADY SHOT button!

            Admittedly, the H5 does cycle through focus settings with a hard button, which is a Very Good Thing…

        • #9 by frenzie on 2011-08-18 - 06:13

          All those auto-settings not under buttons can be changed very quickly within about three to four keypresses on my DSLR. On my aging P&S (that I haven’t used in 2-3 years now) all that was much harder, if possible at all. The primary reason I bought a DSLR in the first place was for control purposes, plus past positive experiences with an ’80s Minolta SLR compared to e.g. a more modern Canon DSLR (and, of course, lens switch- and reusability).

          • #10 by Ed on 2011-08-18 - 07:32

            All those auto-settings not under buttons can be changed very quickly

            Yeah, if they’ve done it right, everything’s in a table anyway, so all you need is a way to edit the table pointers.

            That’s on the list for the Next Big Camera, which will be a long time coming…

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