Mega OIS (Optical Image Stabilization)

The DMC-L1's excellent kit lens has one more trick, and that is Optical Image Stabilization (prefix Mega if you prefer). This is provided by a movable lens element controlled by a microprocessor (a full Venus engine no less) which receives inputs from gyros within the lens. The DMC-L1 provides two OIS options; Mode 1 (stabilize all the time) and 2 (stabilize only during shutter release).

The stabilization test

This test was first used in our Sony DSLR-A100 review, thirty hand-held shots were taken of a static scene, ten without stabilization, ten using OIS Mode 1, ten using OIS Mode 2. The shutter speed was then decreased by a stop and thirty more shots taken (from 1/80 sec to 1/10 sec). The L1's lens was set at around 38 mm to produce a 76 mm equiv. FOV. The test chart was approximately 1.2 m away from the camera.

The resulting 80 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 (76 mm equiv. FOV)

The results here show that at 1/80 sec all of our shots were sharp, but this dropped to just six at 1/40 sec, 3 at 1/20 sec and none at 1/10 sec (although one shot, 'soft', could be considered usable at small sizes).

Hand-held, with Mega OIS Mode 1 (76 mm equiv. FOV)

Here we see an immediate improvement, Mega OIS Mode 1 operates continuously, even during composition. One slight oddity was the one soft image at 1/80 sec we can only assume caused by the OIS system moving the lens element when it was unnecessary. With Mega OIS Mode 1 we achieved 7 sharp images at 1/40 sec, 6 at 1/20 sec and a fairly good 4 at 1/10 sec.

Hand-held, with Mega OIS Mode 2 (76 mm equiv. FOV)

Switching to Mega OIS Mode 2 however we saw a huge improvement, in this mode the OIS system only starts moving the lens element during the actual shutter release, this ensures that the system doesn't reach its limit of correction before the shutter has even opened. As you can see from the results below Mode 2 provides almost two stops of absolute advantage and even managed an impressive 6 sharp images at 1/10 sec (three stops slower).