I'm wondering if one brand performs better or if they behave differently under different circumstances.

Do the same limitations here apply to Canon IS? Obviously some of them do (like IS won't help you if your subject is moving) but I could imagine max shutter speeds varying.

2 Answers 2


As a photographer I'm 'camera agnostic' and use both Canon and a Nikon systems on a daily basis, so I do have real-world experience with both systems. Both the Canon and Nikon stabilization systems are designed to perform the same function (stabilize the image from hand-held camera shake), and they do it in the same way (a floating element within a lens manipulated electromagnetically). In my experience, there is no appreciable difference between the two systems.

To address your additional question, Thom Hogan's 'rules' as outlined in the the cited article will apply equally well to Canon's IS system and are more-or-less what I teach my students about image stabilization (though some of my students would probably say that Thom's article is more succinct than some of my rambling explanations!).

Bottom line: Don't make IS or VR the 'deciding factor' if you're in the process of 'going Canon' or 'going Nikon,' for all intents and purposes the systems are equivalent in functionality, features, and operation.

  • Thanks, Jay. Nice answer! I am not making VR/IS the deciding factor for which platform to pick. Rather, I'm trying to decide if a 24-70mm will be a good lens as my first one. I'm wondering if I'll regret not having image stabilization, but it doesn't sound like a big loss from what people are saying. Thoughts?
    – Tom
    Dec 28, 2010 at 22:10
  • Unrelated to this question, I am trying to decide nikon vs. canon. I'm a little bit torn. I am going to try holding the 60d, 7d, and d7000. I think I ruled out 60d. 7d seems better than d7000 but I think it seems like Nikon lenses are ultimately nicer so I may go Nikon. Also, d7000 is cheaper than 7d. Thoughts?
    – Tom
    Dec 28, 2010 at 22:14
  • I wouldn't say that all Nikon lenses are nicer, nor would I say all Canon lenses are nicer. Both lines of lenses are pretty much on par, with specific lenses from one brand being a bit better than the other at times. For example, Nikon's 14-24mm wide angle zoom is a superb lens, and many Canon users adapt it to work with their Canon bodies. The 16-35mm L II, however, is also a superb lens with fantastic optical quality. It is a little softer at the extremes than the 14-24mm, but that is likely due to it having a larger zoom range (2.2x vs. 1.7x).
    – jrista
    Dec 28, 2010 at 22:39
  • Lenses and lens quality are too complex to simply boil it down to "Brand X is better", its far more complicated than that. One thing I will note is that Canon's EF mount is an extremely versatile mount. There are adapter rings for Canon FD, Nikon F, Leica R, and Pentax/Zeiss Contax M42 mounts. Additionally, it is also possible to mount many medium format lenses on EOS cameras, including Hasselblad, Mamyia, and Pentax 6x7. Not every lens from all of these mounts will work, but many of them do. If you like Nikon glass, you can mount many of them on Canon in stop-down mode with an adapter ring.
    – jrista
    Dec 28, 2010 at 22:46
  • 1
    @Tom: As you might imagine, as a photography instructor I get the 'Canon or Nikon' question all the time. I mean... All. The. Time. ;-) It's important to remember that both Canon and Nikon equipment are capable of producing exceptional images. Both Canon and Nikon have a full range of very high quality lenses. A lot of students get 'caught in the chaff' of a zillion 'Canon vs. Nikon' debates by fanboys of various stripes that seem to litter the internet, but the thing I always tell folks is that there isn't a 'right' answer, except what is 'right' for you. Dec 29, 2010 at 0:53

As far as I know, they're roughly comparable and slightly better than in-body options from Pentax and Sony though those two offer it on any lens. Both use basically the same technology, a floating lens element that is electromagnetically manipulated based on movement detected by gyroscopes.

In any case, I would expect any variance to be lens based, some better than others, across the two brands rather than anything specific to a system. Limitations and usage generally apply to all stabilization systems, there is a time and place for them.

  • 1
    Sorry but I see no evidence that in-lens stabilization is better than in-body stabilization. Of course Canon claims it is and I am certain we can get a similar claim for Nikon. Based on hundreds of tests I have performed, I cannot conclude either way. There are too many variables, types of movement, types of vibration, focusing distance, focal-length etc.
    – Itai
    Dec 28, 2010 at 2:35
  • @Itai - I shoot Pentax, so I'm fully aware of the advantages of the in-body system, but the one you're missing is the viewfinder. Body stabilization cannot stabilize the view as you're composing and that is a huge advantage to anyone shooting long focal lengths. Sigma has realized this and has started adding stabilization to their lenses for Pentax and Sony. So, in my opinion, you're wrong and I seriously doubt that many would disagree. However, I'm sticking with Pentax for a host of other reasons...
    – Joanne C
    Dec 28, 2010 at 3:09
  • @john - I guess I used the wrong word, sorry. I meant 'effective'. 'Better' is more subjective. The stabilized view seems like a nice advantage but I doubt it has anything to do with being better at stabilizing movement. I think the Pentax system particularly has more degrees of freedom compared to lens based stabilization but even knowing that I have seen no evidence that it is more effective.... and I did spend quite some time testing those systems.
    – Itai
    Dec 28, 2010 at 3:32
  • @Itai - Better is, of course, subjective. One could argue that the Pentax/Sony option is "better" because it stabilizes all lenses, but that's part of the picture. When I compare the system of stabilization, lens versus body, then I just compare what each offers directly. In terms of stops, that depends on the person, and so I suspect that they generally are within range of each other, but the optical viewfinder equation is then a distinction that cannot be matched by Sony or Pentax, hence the "better" designation I give it. Obviously, Pentax/Sony wins when the lens doesn't have that. :)
    – Joanne C
    Dec 28, 2010 at 3:37
  • @Itai - Just to continue... Slap a 400mm lens onto a camera and decide then. When you don't have stabilization in the lens, the minute shake in your hand is magnified dramatically in the viewfinder. The end result may be equal, but in terms of composing the shot, it is not and that means, for those of us shooting Pentax, that there is a little more luck that needs to happen in the final result.
    – Joanne C
    Dec 28, 2010 at 3:42

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