What is OIS? Optical Image Stabilisation on your phone explained

If you’re choosing a smartphone camera then you might have noticed that some boast a feature called OIS. We’re here to explain exactly what that is.

There are many different features you’ve got to get to grips with when comparing the quality of smartphone cameras, and one of these is named Optical Image Stabilisation, or OIS for short. If you’re not sure exactly what this does or whether it’s desirable to have, then read on for our full explanation.

As you might have guessed from the ‘Stabilisation’ part of that initialism, this feature is all about reducing blur when you’re taking an image. This results in crisper and sharper images than you’d otherwise get if you didn’t have any stabilisation, particularly when you’re shooting with a handheld device such as a smartphone or a camera that’s not fixed on a tripod.

With OIS, the stabilising effect is achieved by a physical mechanism involving springs and electromagnets which adjust the lens while you’re shooting to counteract any shaking of the camera. This may not be as efficient as shooting on a tripod for instance, but when it’s applied well then it should still make a significant positive difference to your photographs.

Bear in mind that OIS doesn’t guard against all kinds of blur. It helps reduce the effect of your camera not being held perfectly still, but if the subject that you’re shooting is moving fast then it can’t do much to reduce the potential blur that happens as a result. Other settings such as shutter speed are more efficient at cutting out blur in these instances.

OIS isn’t the only form of stabilisation that’s available; there’s also a feature named Electronic Image Stabilisation. Whereas OIS uses a physical mechanism to achieve its aims, EIS uses digital effects to try and replicate the same stabilisation effect. Generally speaking, it’s preferable to have OIS as opposed to EIS, and so the former often seen as a more premium feature in smartphones. If you’re a keen mobile photographer, remember to check whether a smartphone has this feature on board before you buy.

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