I always take pictures with optical image stabilization enabled (except if I take long exposure shots with a tripod), but I was wondering if OIS could (in some cases) reduce the picture quality.

OIS works by moving one glass element inside the lens, so if I shake the camera while taking a picture the lens has one decentered glass element, which should cause some softness in the final picture I think, but that's something I never encountered.

Can an optical stabilization cause a reduction of the picture quality ? Is it something only visible on certain type of lenses or not at all?

  • I think this will depend, in part, on the specific type of optical stabilization, and to what degree it is enabled. For example, Nikon lenses have two modes with recommendations of when to use one over the other to guard against some of the problems you have imagined here. It also depends on the nature of the movement it is trying to manage.
    – user31502
    Dec 5, 2018 at 18:38

2 Answers 2


With lens based IS, the movements of the IS element/group introduce mild misalignment of the lens. This is viewed as acceptable if the blur introduced by the less than 'perfect' optical alignment of the lens¹ induced by an IS movement is less than the blur that would otherwise be introduced by the motion of the lens/camera. The largest advantage of LBIS is that for narrow angles of view (long focal lengths) much more correction can be done than can be done by shifting a sensor that is limited by both the size of the image circle and the speed and distance at which in-camera servos can move the sensor while remaining relatively compact and efficient with regards to battery/energy consumption/cost.

¹ There's no such thing as a 'perfectly' aligned compound lens, even among non-IS prime lenses. There are always manufacturing tolerances to be considered.


Canon, for example, claims that there is no reduction in optical performance when IS is turned ON. But, that could simply be a marketing claim.

Personally, I always get a sharper image when using a tripod. I find it hard to get up to that level of sharpness, consistently, when hand-holding w/ IS (no matter the shutter speed). YMMV as usual.

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