Image stabilisation addresses one of the common causes of blurred photographs: camera shake. Most cameras now boast image stabilisation, anti-shake or vibration-reduction features to counteract these tiny motions. We select four of the best, using different types of image stabilisation.
Some cameras compensate for your tiny movements by physically moving elements of the lens or sensor. This approach is used in Canon's IS (Image Stabilisation) cameras and lenses, Nikon's VR (Vibration Reduction) lenses and Panasonic's Mega OIS (Mega Optical Image Stabilisation) cameras, among others.
The compact Canon Digital IXUS 950 IS employs this lens shifting technology, while the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX10 is one of the budget compacts now packing optical image stabilisation into smaller frames.
Camera shake is most likely to be a problem when you're taking photos in low light conditions. If there isn't much light, your camera will set a slower shutter speed and higher ISO to compensate, requiring you -- and your subject -- to hold still for longer. This method should be approached with caution, as higher ISO levels often leads to speckly, noise-blighted images, so ensure that the camera you are considering has a decent high-ISO performance. The Fujifilm Finepix F40fd is designed to be free of noise at higher ISOs, allowing you to snap away in darker conditions without compromising on detail or losing that cosy ambience.
Using a long lens to magnify your subject also magnifies any small movements of your hands, making it even harder to keep the camera steady. The massive 18x zoom of the Olympus SP-550 UZ uses sensor-shifting technology to minimise vibration when pushing your zoom to the limit.
Image stabilisation won't cure all your camera-shake problems, but it does give you more leeway, enabling you to capture twilight or party scenes without using a flash and bleaching out the warm atmosphere. It lets you reduce your shutter speed by two or three stops, which means that instead of needing a shutter speed of 1/1000 second, you can get away with 1/250 second or even 1/125 second. And don't forget the lo-fi approach: a tripod.