Image Stabilizer

The E-520 includes in-body stabilization, meaning that any advantage gained will be applied to any lens you should choose to attach. The latest implementation allows the user to specify the focal length of any lens that doesn't report its specifications to the camera, so even non-Four-Thirds lenses can be stabilized. This is a nice feature to have for eBay fiends and those with a selection of older lenses.

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 one third of a stop and repeated (from 1/100 sec to 1/3 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 320 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 1/30th 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 should be immediately obvious that the IS system gives a distinct advantage, greatly increasing the chances of capturing a perfect or near-perfect image even down to very slow shutter speeds. A 50% perfect rate at 1/15th of a second, with a 100mm equivalent focal length is pretty impressive, especially when you consider that we were barely getting any tolerably sharp images at that speed without IS.

Our tests suggest a clear 2 stop advantage, which is undeniably handy in the real world. We're not going to weigh in on the in-lens vs. in-body stabilization debate (as each approach has its own advantages), but we do feel that it's really useful to have stabilization of one form or another. Even if you are an experienced, steady shooter whose friends sometimes mistake you for a tripod - you'll find you get a better number of perfectly sharp images if you have IS.