Image stabilization

Fujifilm labelled the image stabilization in the F50fd 'Dual IS'. 'Dual' because the camera uses not only its new CCD-shift system when shutter times get too long but also pushes up ISO and tries to find the best balance between the two measures. In our image stabilization lab test we lock ISO and exposure times and thus isolate the effect of the CCD-shift mechanism. You can chose between two different IS modes in the menu: Continuous (IS on all the time) and 'Shooting only' (stabilization is only activated when the button is half-pressed to lock exposure). Continuous mode in theory makes framing easier - the system steadies the preview image - but obviously uses more battery power (it's on all the time).

The CCD-shift's performance is nothing to get excited about. Whether you use mode 1 or 2 does not make too much difference; in both settings the effect of the image stabilization is fairly small. In fact, it was so bad that we repeated our lab tests several times, but with the same result. While other systems make handheld shots at 2 even 3 shutter speed settings slower than normal perfectly possible, the IS on the F50fd won't get anywhere near that - although it slightly increases your chances of getting a usable shot at very slow shutter speeds.

The stabilization test

In this simplified version of our SLR IS test, ten hand-held shots were taken of a static scene with the stabilization off and on. The shutter speed was decreased for each shot (from 1/200 sec to 1/13 sec). The zoom was set to its maximum position (105mm equiv.), the test target was 2.0 m away from the camera. The test was repeated 3 times and an average taken.

The resulting images were then inspected and given a blur score - 'Sharp' (no visible blurring at 100%), 'Mild Blur' (the kind of camera shake that is tolerable at small print sizes) and 'Heavy Blur' (virtually unusable due to camera shake) and 'Very Heavy Blur' (little discernible detail).

Hand-held, no stabilization (105mm equiv.)

As you can see from the chart below only at 1/100th sec or above can we be confident of getting sharp results from the majority of shots, at 1/50th sec we still get a large proportion of usable shots but at 1/25th sec and below the majority of shots are heavily blurred, and a sharp shot is highly unlikely.

Hand-held, stabilization on (105mm equiv.)

With stabilization on the results are only marginally better - in fact at 1/50 sec they are actually slightly worse. At very slow shutter speeds (1/25, 1/15) however you can roughly double your chances of getting a sharp shot. If you're shooting at three stops below the recommended minimum shutter speed at least you have a one in five chance of getting a completely sharp and an 50% chance of getting an at least acceptable image. Looks like you'll be needing the high ISO aspect of the 'Dual IS' after all.