Image Stabilizer

The E-510 is the first Olympus E series SLR with a shake reduction (though of course it's not strictly speaking the first Four-Thirds camera to offer this feature; that honor goes to Panasonic's L1, which is supplied with a stabilized kit lens). The E-510's system uses Gyro sensors to register camera shake, with supersonic wave drive motor then moving the image sensor to compensate.

The stabilization test

This test was first used in our Sony DSLR-A100 review, twenty hand-held shots were taken of a static scene, half of those with stabilization, half without, the shutter speed was decreased by a stop and repeated (from 1/125 sec to 1/5 sec). The lens used was the Olympus 50 mm F2 (producing a 100 mm equiv. FOV), the test chart was 2.0 m away from the camera. to exaggerate the effect of camera shake the camera was only supported with one hand.

The resulting 120 images were then inspected and given a blur score from zero to three where zero represented a very blurred image and three a sharp image with no noticeable blur (see crop examples below). Obviously the amount of blur which is acceptable will depend on your personal taste and the final image size (for instance a '2: Soft' will still look fine as a 4x6 print or in a web gallery). Example crops from these four blur scores can be seen below.

0: Very blurred 1: Blurred
2: Soft 3: Sharp

Hand-held, no stabilization (50 mm lens, 100 mm equiv.)

With no stabilization we struggled to get any sharp shots at all below 1/40th second (bear in mind that these were taken holding the camera 'single handed' so represent higher than average camera shake).

Hand-held, with Shake Reduction (50 mm lens, 100 mm equiv.)

It's clear that the E-510's stabilization gives real benefits in these shooting conditions, allowing us to capture perfectly sharp shots at least 80% of the time down to about 1/20 secs, and producing usable results with half the shots at 1/10th second. There are so many variables involved in measuring image stabilization - from lens weight to focal length to subject distance to the steadiness of the photographer himself and the nature of his 'shake' that it's impossible to draw any overall conclusions from this simple test.

But it's fair to say that in the specific conditions tested here (using real camera shake) the E-510's system seems to do a remarkably good job in the 1/80 to 1/20 sec region, allowing you to get sharp results the majority of the time at a good two to two-and-a-half stops below the recommended minimum for a 100mm equivalent lens (using the good old reciprocal focal length rule of thumb).