The other day, I was using my Canon 500D with the EF-S 55-250 IS lens. A couple of times after focusing I tried to recompose the picture, and noticed the image in the view finder suddenly shifted.

I'm assuming this was caused by the IS mechanism trying to keep the image stabilized, and then all of a sudden giving up as I moved the camera too far and too quickly.

I'm guessing this is something I want to try to avoid, but could I actually damage the lens by doing this?

5 Answers 5


I very much doubt you can damage the lens in this way, the glass that the IS system moves is designed to be very light so as to have low inertial stiffness so it can move quickly and accurately. This same trait means it should be able to move against any momentum you put into the lens.

Empirically having seen the way some people abuse their super-teles (300 & 400 f/2.8) I think Canon would have had it by now if their IS system wasn't robust.


Moving is not a problem, it's the acceleration or deceleration that can cause problems. The sort of jolts and shakes you'd get by attaching a camera to the roll bar on a safari Jeep would be OK, but the sharp deceleration it would experience if said Jeep rolled over may prove terminal.

In general though, a lens should be able to handle most things - just don't try using IS on acrobatic jet...

  • 1
    Even minor knocks and bumps will subject a lens to forces of 10 or 20g, drop and lens and you're talking 100g plus. A fighter jet is at most going to pull 7-8g so, although sustained, this shouldn't damage the IS.
    – Matt Grum
    May 25, 2011 at 10:40
  • I was assuming the IS was in operation at the time. It's probably around the design limit though, although manufacturing tolerances would lead to some being better at coping. I can't find any quoted figure though. May 25, 2011 at 11:31

I recognisewhat you describe, and your assumption is correct. The stabilisation will counter small movements, but if you move too far or start to pan, it will "give up" and instead try to make the movement smoother.

For normal movements this is not at all harmful. As the lens contains moving parts, you could of course damage it with too vivid movement, but that would be something much more violent than just moving the camera a little.


The IS has for sure a saturation system. When the logic sees that you moved the lens too much to be compensated it will not try to compensate anymore and the IS system will be temporary disabled.

As said by others what really can damage mechanical parts is not speed, but acceleration (obviously including impacts) and vibrations.


From what you describe, you should be fine. I own the same lens myself. I move it quickly zoom in and out too, no problem at all.

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