iPhone 13 Models May Have In-Body Image Stabilization

Shake it like a Polaroid Picture

Key Takeaways

  • The entire iPhone 13 lineup will get a stabilized sensor like the iPhone 12 Pro Max.
  • Sensor stabilization is faster and more efficient than lens stabilization.
  • Stabilized photos aren’t just for use in low light.
iPhone 12 pro max on an angle and on a black background
Apple

Apple may add sensor-shift image stabilization to the entire iPhone 13 lineup, according to MacRumors, citing a report from Taiwanese publication DigiTimes. Today, only the huge iPhone 12 Pro Mac has this feature.

Sensor-shift stabilization, aka in-body image stabilization (IBIS), moves the camera’s sensor to compensate for your wobbly hands while you take pictures. It lets you snap photos that are sharper, even in very low light. And it may be in every iPhone 13. 

"Generally, better stabilization in cameras will give sharper images at slower shutter speeds," photographer Nathan Hill toldLifewire via Twitter, "as it helps compensate to any tiny movements while the image is being captured that would usually cause blur. Usually means improved low-light images on phone cameras."

Anti-Wobble

There are two kinds of image stabilization. One moves the lens itself, the other moves the sensor. Both kinds have their advantages. On a camera with interchangeable lenses, in-lens stabilization can be tailored to that particular lens.

"In the end, phone cameras are already good enough for most people. They’re already better than the pocket film and digital cameras we all used to use."

The iPhone doesn’t have such a requirement, and so IBIS is a better bet. In-body, or sensor stabilization, only has to move a small sensor instead of a heavy lens. Considering that it's compensating for tiny, fast movements, the differences in momentum can be significant.

However you stabilize things, the result is the same. You can hand-hold the camera for longer exposures, without your shaky hands introducing motion blur. This is most useful at night or indoors, where light levels are low.

To capture more light, the camera will open its shutter for a longer time. If you move while it’s open, then normally you blur the picture. Stabilization compensates by detecting your tiny movements, and moving the sensor or lens in the opposite direction to cancel them out.

Not Just Low Light

Stabilization isn’t just handy for low-light shots. You also can use a slower shutter speed for special effects in regular light. The cliché here is a picture of moving water, a fast-flowing river or a waterfall. You can use a longer shutter speed to blur the water.

Harrison Wright Falls No.2, Rickett's Glen State Park, Pennsylvania.
Thomas James Caldwell / flickr

Usually, you have to use a tripod so that the rest of the picture remains sharp, but with image stabilization, you can hand-hold such shots. 

Another nice example is a portrait taken in a busy street. You can allow the surrounding people to blur, while your non-moving subject stays sharp. This can look great. 

St. Pancras standing still.
Simon Jowett / flickr

Computer Cameras

The iPhone and other smartphones have a huge advantage over regular cameras because they have powerful computers built in. High-end mirrorless cameras do have a lot of computer power on board, but it is specialized image-processing hardware.

Phones are general-purpose computers, and can, of course, run apps that take advantage of their hardware.

It’s this tight integration of hardware and software that makes features like night mode, video stabilization, HDR, and portrait modes possible. Right now, purpose-built cameras still have advantages—more ergonomic design, bigger sensors, and better, interchangeable lenses—but those differences are constantly being eroded by smartphone makers.

And, in the end, phone cameras are already good enough for most people. They’re already better than the pocket film and digital cameras we all used to use.

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