Is Image Stabilization better in the lens or the body? Someone already asked that.

But I'm trying to make a purchasing decision. It seems that the short answer to my title question is that it's cheaper to put image stabilization in the body since you don't have to pay for it with each lens. But somehow that's not enough for me.

I guess I'm wondering how much cheaper it is. I would think it depends on what kind of equipment I purchase. I'm considering purchasing an entry level DSLR (Canon Rebel EOS T2i or ... preferably cheaper) I would probably stick with no more than two lenses. (I'm thinking one zoom lens and one "regular" lens.)

I'd love to price out two comparable sets of equipment, but I don't know enough about photography to really know if the lenses/cameras are of comparable quality. Can someone suggest a set of lenses cameras for this price comparison?

What brands put image stabilization in the camera?

  • 2
    You kind of trail into some additional questions there. :) As of right now, Sony and Pentax make DSLRs with in-body stabilization, while Canon and Nikon use lens-based systems. Olympus also uses in-body stabilization in their DSLRS, but seem to be concentrating on their m4/3rds system — where they do the same. Panasonic, on the other hand, uses lens-based.
    – mattdm
    Oct 19, 2011 at 3:33

3 Answers 3


You're right! This really depends on the specifics.

For some lenses, like the Pentax Limited series, but basically small prime lenses in general, a lens-based approach just wouldn't be possible at any price. I don't think Canon offers any prime lenses with IS at a focal length under 100mm, and Nikon's 85mm is their only exception to the same rule. Arguably, image stabilization is less important for wider lenses, but the fact remains: if you want image stabilization in a wide or normal prime — or even a short telephoto — in-body is the only way to pay for it.

So, if that appeals to you, in-body is very much the way to go.

If you're just looking to get the setup you describe — one zoom lens with IS and a prime, and you're done, and if you decide that you don't care about IS for the prime, there's really not much of a difference. Either way you're just buying IS one time, and there are some reasonably-priced entry-level zooms with the feature. Even if you buy two such lenses, the price difference due to other factors might be bigger.

If you're looking for a fast, pro telephoto zoom, the situation is different — but not uncomplicated, because we can't compare apples to apples. Canon's image stabilized pro 70-200mm f/2.8 lens is about $1000 more than the non-IS version, and the Nikon equivalents (there, the non-IS version is 80-200mm) have a comparable price spread. But, Sony's equivalent lens is in the ballpark of the pricier choices, and it's hard to tell if the couple-hundred in savings is due to IS or some other decision. And Pentax doesn't even make 70-200mm lens anymore, instead of focusing on the designed-for-APS-C 50-135mm. So is in-body IS a win here? Hard to say!

So, what I'd suggest is to take a look at How much do lens lineups vary across DSLR platforms? and the answers there, and think about what you expect your total lens system to look like, and think from there.

But — and I can't stress this enough! — you can't really plan until you get your camera and start shooting and discover what you like. When I decided on a camera brand, I sat down and made a chart of what lenses I would theoretically buy to cover this and that focal range, and plotted out my future purchases. Turns out, I love those tiny prime lenses I mentioned above, of which only one was on my imaginary roadmap. Now that's all I have! (Plus some older Pentax primes and a Lensbaby — also image stabilized.)

And, I value having those primes all stabilized. But if that weren't my thing, it might not be important at all. I have a friend who stretched his budget and immediately started out with the Canon pro-level 24-70mm and 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses (the later with VR), and he's been so happy actually taking photographs that he hasn't once stopped to stress about what other lenses to buy.

  • "you can't really plan until you get your camera and start shooting and discover what you like" LOL, I'm trying to plan ahead so I buy the perfect camera for me. Maybe I'm putting too much pressure on myself.
    – Stainsor
    Oct 19, 2011 at 4:41
  • 1
    Yeah. :) This is why some people strongly recommend starting with a good point-and-shoot. I think it's worth starting with an SLR if you think you might be serious about the whole thing, but you've got to either — depending on personality — a) leave yourself open to an ultimately expensive journey in which you change your mind several times or b) just suck it up right now and spend a lot more right away than you'd planned to, and don't look back at gear choices for a long time.
    – mattdm
    Oct 19, 2011 at 5:24
  • Of course there's always the chance you'll get lucky with a first purchase, and maybe some more research can help there. I think that lens-lineup question I linked is one of the most helpful on the site for this decision. The truth is, all of the major and semi-major (*cough* Pentax) systems are really good, and you can't really go far wrong. You may end up thinking "huh, that would have fit my style better", but usually that's grass-is-aways-greener impulses and you really can make your own system work in that way if you want.
    – mattdm
    Oct 19, 2011 at 5:27
  • 1
    another thing to consider is why you'd even want stabilisation in the first place (let alone in short lenses...). So if you're only going to be using lenses where stabilisation wouldn't do much of anything, why pay for it?
    – jwenting
    Oct 19, 2011 at 7:14
  • @mattdm, Right, I don't think someone can really make a good decision about whether they want a lot of primes until they've really had some experience with one. Shooting with a friend's camera is ok -- "wow, that's fast" -- but no substitute for say travelling with one and seeing if you like the light-gathering, or if you get annoyed by the inflexibity. So - get an SLR, try it out, perhaps you'll change system in a while.
    – poolie
    Oct 19, 2011 at 8:40

Well, it's not that hard to see...

Canon T2i w/ 18-135 IS is $949.99

Pentax K-r w/ 18-55mm and 55-300mm is $709.95

All at B&H Photo. So... Substantial difference IMHO, without me putting a prime on either, and both are good cameras with decent kit lenses (for what that's worth) on them. Now, I'm a Pentax shooter, so I'm biased to Pentax, but I would suggest that price here isn't the only factor. There are other things to consider when talking stabilization, not the least of which is the effect of lens-based stabilization on the viewfinder image and that Canon has more muscle. Still, I'd go Pentax, but my reasons are more about the photographic experience than anything specifically technical.

  • 2
    Good answer! Also as a rule, the more expensive the lens, the more expensive the stabilization. A number of Canon lenses come in stabilized and unstabilized versions and you can pay around $500 for the stabilized one. Non-telephoto primes are rarely stabilized, so the sometimes stabilization is priceless :)
    – Itai
    Oct 19, 2011 at 4:00
  • Can you give an example of two canon lenses that are equivalent except for image stabilization? What's the price difference?
    – Stainsor
    Oct 19, 2011 at 4:47
  • @Stainsor — for example check out the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L lenses mentioned in my answer.
    – mattdm
    Oct 19, 2011 at 5:21

General rule: It's cheaper to have it in the camera body (all your lenses get IS). BUT when it's IS in the lens, the IS is specifically built for the lens and will give you a better result in general. You get what you pay for.

  • Better accuracy of in-lens stabilization is a myth. In lens IS stabilizes only 2-axis, sensor stabilization stabilizes 5-axis. It is not possible to compensate rotational movement by an in-lens system. Additionally in-body IS has additional uses that in-lens systems can only dream of e.g. simulating AA filters or sky tracking for astrophotography. Jul 31, 2017 at 12:32
  • @PiotrKolaczkowski Then again, IBIS can't move the sensor far enough and fast enough to correct for five stops with a 400mm lens like the EF 400mm f/2.8 L IS III does. Even if it could, all of those older legacy lenses wouldn't cast image circles large enough to fully cover the sensor when it had moved that far. There's a reason why Sony and Olympus make IS telephoto lenses for their IBIS cameras.
    – Michael C
    Apr 22, 2019 at 2:41

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