Anti Shake

Click for a larger image Click for a movie of the Anti-Shake system in action (exaggerated motion) - 2.1 MB

The DiMAGE A200 implements the same image stabilization system as the A2 (and the new 7D digital SLR). By placing the CCD sensor on a movable platform supported by two actuators (horizontal and vertical) the system can compensate for a certain amount of the blur caused by camera shake at lower shutter speeds and longer focal lengths. The system works by analyzing input from motion detectors in the camera body and producing an inverse movement in the CCD. The system can be disabled easily (by pressing a very prominent button on the rear of the camera) and can also detect a panning movement and only compensate for movement on the opposite axis. Minolta claim that its system enables shutter speeds of 8 times longer (3 stops) than you would be able to manage without it.

In use we found the combination of handling (fairly weighty, very well balanced, excellent ergonomics) and the AS system to be incredibly effective in most shooting situations. I mention the physical aspect simply because our tests showed time and again that even without the AS activated we were able to achieve surprisingly blur-free images using the A200, simply because it is so stable in the hand. At wideangle it is perfectly possible to hand-hold exposures down to 1/4 of a second - I even had some success with exposures as long as a second, provided that I held the camera in both hands and braced myself (elbows tight against the chest). At the telephoto (200mm) end of the range you can happily shoot at 1/40th of a second without worrying too much about camera shake (though I'd always take a few shots to be sure). All this would seem to support Konica Minolta's claims for a 3 stop advantage when using IS. Of course if you don't have a very steady hand or are shooting in high winds you'll soon find that extreme motion simply can't be corrected (the CCD cannot move far enough), but I'd certainly suggest the AS system on the A200 is as effective as the optical IS found on the Canon S1 IS and Panasonic FZ series, albeit in a lens with a less far-reaching telephoto.

Below are a few comparative 'real world' examples. Note also that all the images in the samples gallery are hand-held.

AS effectiveness at 1/4 sec, 57mm equiv. focal length
AS on 100% crop 57 mm equiv., F3.2, 0.25 secs, handheld
AS off 100% crop 57 mm equiv., F3.2, 0.25 secs, handheld

It is obvious from the examples above that even with a long exposure (here around 4 stops slower than would normally be recommended for this focal length), the AS system makes low light hand held photography possible.

AS effectiveness at 1/40 sec, 200mm equiv. focal length
AS on 100% crop 200 mm equiv., F3.5, 1/40 sec, handheld
AS off 100% crop 200 mm equiv., F3.5, 1/40 sec, handheld

In our tests we found that with a steady hand it is possible to shoot at the 200mm equiv. long end of the zoom at speeds down to around 1/20th sec - over 3 stops difference. AS also makes a big difference to macro shots, where camera shake is an ever-present threat.

AS effectiveness at 1/20 sec, 185mm equiv. focal length, macro mode
AS on 100% crop 185 mm equiv., F3.5, 1/20 sec, handheld
AS off 100% crop 185 mm equiv., F3.5, 1/20 sec, handheld

Anti-shake and mechanical zoom

The A200's unique combination of anti-shake and a mechanically-linked zoom can be used for great creative effect without the need for a tripod.

Here I simply turned the zoom ring during a 1/3 second exposure, hand holding the camera as steady as possible.

There is probably no other non-SLR camera on the market capable of taking this kind of image this easily, if at all.