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OIS, EIS and HIS: Image stabilization in smartphone cameras explained

An optical image stabilizer (OIS) is one of the quality features of a good smartphone camera. But there are also the variants EIS and HIS. We explain to you what is hidden behind the individual abbreviations.

What does smartphone image stabilization actually do?

Those who are barely familiar with video and photography may not even know what function image stabilization fulfills in (smartphone) cameras. Very simple: it should prevent shaky photos or jerky videos. Such suboptimal results can occur if you do not hold your smartphone steady or move during the recording. The image stabilization tries to compensate for any movements that would otherwise have a negative effect on the image material. However, this does not mean that you no longer have to watch out for a steady hand or that you can even take pictures while running. You just have a little more leeway. How much exactly depends on the type and quality of image stabilization.

OIS: Optical image stabilization in smartphones

The optical image stabilization compensates for movements under hardware control: a gyroscope detects the direction in which your smartphone is moving and adjusts the camera position accordingly. With a slight hand movement to the left, the camera lens moves a little to the right thanks to OIS. Optical image stabilization is particularly useful in weak light or darkness. Because in such a situation the camera lens has to remain open longer in order to capture sufficient light. Hand movements are then even more noticeable in photos and videos. Telephoto lenses are also very vulnerable. Here, the effect of movements is reinforced by the narrower field of vision. Even then, an OIS is worth its weight in gold. However, the whole thing also has its price, which is why the optical image stabilization is more likely to be found in somewhat more expensive smartphones. And even then, as a rule, not for all lenses in the camera.

EIS: Electronic image stabilization in smartphones

The abbreviation EIS stands for an electronic image stabilizer. The goal is the same as with the OIS, but the method is different. Instead of a hardware solution, it is mainly the software that has to tackle here. First of all, however, the acceleration sensor on your smartphone is used to record the direction in which the device is moving during the recording. Then the camera software tries to iron out the whole thing.

However, this can affect the image quality of photos and videos in a number of ways. In some cases, for example, distortions occur that result in videos that appear unnatural. The biggest problem, however, is that cropping occurs when using the EIS. In the end, the entire image is no longer visible, as the edges serve as a buffer and - as a sort of waste - fall victim to image optimization.

The following clip shows the difference between EIS and OIS when recording video:

Video: Youtube / Beebom

HIS: Hybrid image stabilization in smartphones

The third variant is a hybrid image stabilization (HIS). As the name suggests, it is a combination of the two approaches described above. So both an OIS and an EIS are used. The disadvantages of electronic image stabilization are not so significant here, because it is only responsible for fine-tuning. Most of the work is done by OIS. Since this already noticeably stabilizes the starting material, the cropping is much milder. In other words: Your smartphone does not crop recordings at the edges as much as it would with a pure EIS.

However, an HIS only really pays off when it comes to videos. An OIS is sufficient for photos. HIS only makes sense for HDR images or long exposure photos at night. You can see how much one can improve videos in the following clip using the example of the somewhat older Google Pixel 2:

Video: Youtube / Made by Google

If all else fails ...

... you can think about a gimbal for your smartphone. This is basically a large gyroscope that you plug your smartphone into. Gimbals try to keep your cell phone in the same position at all times and usually use motors to compensate for your hand movements. They are intended for recording videos and allow you to give your clips a Hollywood look. The following video gives you some tips for making smartphone videos with a gimbal:

Video: Youtube / Peter Lindgren

Image stabilization in smartphones: the most important things at a glance

  • OIS stabilizes your recordings with hardware support. The camera moves in the opposite direction from you. This optical image stabilization has no disadvantages.
  • EIS is largely software-based. This results in various disadvantages such as distortion or cropped recordings.
  • HIS is the combination of both and the best solution. Because the EIS only takes care of what the OIS “leaves” and gives your videos the finishing touches. In the case of photos, on the other hand, there are hardly any advantages over simple OIS.
  • If you are not satisfied with the video image stabilization in your smartphone, you can try a gimbal.

Are you satisfied with the image stabilization of your smartphone? Please write us a comment!