Shaky hands, Blurry Photos, and Videos?
However ‘stable’ you may think you are. There are always times when you are in a hurry to capture a moment on your smartphone camera and you do. You are confident that your hands were quite fixed in space-time and the photo you took would be great. Then as always reality strikes and you see the photo full of blurs, with all kinds of dynamic special effects, you don’t want in a photo. That’s as common as it gets, even with the most stable hands in your band. Thankfully, camera manufacturers and concerned parties took this into consideration quite some time ago and resultantly we got the highly touted feature that can be seen branded now with almost any smartphone camera - Image Stabilization. Image stabilization is just a concept and is achieved by modern day cameras in using one of two approaches - Optical Image Stabilisation or OIS and Electronic Image Stabilisation or EIS. In this article, we’ll treat the question that just crossed your mind while reading this. What’s better EIS or OIS?
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Electronic Image Stabilisation (EIS)
Explained as with most problems in technology, we have two classical approaches - solve it using hardware improvements or let hardware as it is and let the software do the magic. Electronic Image Stabilisation as the name suggests takes the second route. It uses software magic to stabilize your photos and videos. Every camera has a component known as Charge Coupled Device (CCD), which is nothing but an array of photo-sensors. The light from subject falls on these sensors and they convert optical signals to electrical (digital) signals to be further processed by the camera.
The image processor in case of EIS takes portions of images and compares them with the next ones in line. It carefully determines if there was a movement or accidental shake, and makes required corrections in selected portions of the image to provide a sense of stability. As you might think, there’s a lot of computation, chopping, and shifting of frames to make a perfect picture, all done just in a blink, now there are some trade-offs here. To make the image stable computationally that fast, you have to drop a few frames and miss on quality. Though it is not that staggering but yeah, EIS does result in some degree of degradation. Modern cameras compensate for this decrease in quality by pumping the resolution so much that, It is barely noticeable.
EIS is magical, right? but every magic has its own weakness and so does EIS. Besides the quality issue, EIS is a not a very ‘intelligent’ method, well It has certainly come a long way in past couple of years, It is usually dumb and can’t differentiate an unintended movement from an intended one. But the sun is really starting to shine on EIS, as seen in recent efforts by Google. EIS coupled with some intelligence, all thanks to Google’s expertise in Machine Learning and computational photography has taken EIS to a whole new level, which is quite exemplary in case of Pixel 2.
Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) Explained
The Optical Image Stabilisation, yeah genius, takes the hardware highway to stabilize your photos and videos. Remember those Charged Coupled Devices (CCD) from EIS? Well, guess what, they are here as well, but not in play. The OIS system works differently, where a glass prism is placed before the camera lens to bend the moved image back.
The variable angle prism is a plain pair of glass plates, sandwiching liquid bellows. The whole system acts like a dynamic prism. This variable angle lens moves in the direction parallel to the image plane. Gyroscope and other sensors are used to know when these unintended/ sharp shakes happen, used to compensate for the movement using hardware. The lenses move to accommodate to cancel the unintended movement. That’s the gist of all varieties of OIS techniques, while you may come across different catchy names like PureView by Nokia, UltraPixel by HTC and more by others. Since all the stability comes from real-time manipulations and bending of light, no degradation in image quality takes place.
OIS seems like a better choice, as it works well in poor lighting conditions as well. As the stabilization is built upon optical signals, rather than electrical signals, Optical Image Stabilisation is a better choice in most scenarios.
Pros Cons of EIS and OIS
So which one is better, EIS or OIS?
EIS is going strong, with the inclusion of Machine learning. OIS is as good as always. The main disadvantage of EIS is that you get some degradation in image quality, but that’s not a big thing if you have a high-resolution sensor. In case of mobile devices, the resolution is getting staggering by each passing day, so the difference between EIS and OIS is getting narrower. While if you are considering a budget level smartphone, getting one with OIS would be a lot better compared to usual EIS.
Some recent trends also suggest that OIS is the favorite when it comes to smartphone photography, be it iPhone X or Samsung Galaxy S9. Google has really got me to place bets on EIS though, what Pixel 2 does is absolutely amazing and is unarguably the best mix of OIS and EIS to date on a smartphone. While I have big hopes from EIS, as I am a firm believer in the power of software, Its magic to change things overnight with just an update over the air, It seems like the OIS is a cut above presently.
So, we hope this article brought a lot of clarity concerning Image stabilization techniques in use today and what It really means when people talk all over the place about OIS and EIS. Image stabilization in smartphones is a die-to-have feature today, and pretty much every smartphone that stands above the low-budget bar has some sort of stabilization. So what are your views on OIS and EIS? Did we do a great job with the explanation, an okay one or a really terrible one? Do tell us in the comments. It really helps us to take the talk forward with you amazing readers.
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