Q: I have tremors that keep me from taking clear pictures. Are cameras with advanced stabilization features enough to overcome this problem? Is there another solution? Please recommend something in the $500 price range, if possible.
A: Keeping the camera steady is something photographers have had to deal with long before optical and sensor-based stabilization systems came along. There are many ways to prevent camera shake. Because of your situation, you may need to take a more aggressive approach.
I will recommend a camera, but first let’s talk about the other ways that you — and all photographers — can minimize camera shake.
For starters, set your camera to take bursts of photos — as many as seven or eight a second. This will give you various frames to choose from and improve the odds of at least one of them being sharp. Also, when framing a shot, use a wide-angle setting. This helps because the more you zoom the lens to make the subject bigger, the greater the effect of camera shake.
Setting a high shutter speed is another trick. The rationale is that it cuts down the amount of time you need to keep the camera steady. If you can set the shutter to 1/500th of a second, or even faster such as 1/1,000th or 1/2,000th of a second, it will help compensate for hand movement, especially at wide-angle settings. You can adjust the camera ISO to make these high shutter speeds possible.
In your case, I also would seriously consider using a tripod. Yes, doing so likely will hinder your spontaneity, but most photographers will tell you that tripods help them take better pictures. Using one forces you to take your time and work deliberately, leading to better images. If you can find one on the used market, the Tamrac ZipShot tripod is lightweight, very compact and unfolds and sets itself up automatically. It would be perfect for someone like yourself who would be using it frequently.
Once you get the camera set up on the tripod and have focused the shot you want, another thing you might want to consider is using the camera’s self-timer with a short delay (one or two seconds is plenty) so the act of pressing the shutter button doesn’t cause camera shake.
When you don’t have a tripod, bracing the camera by pressing it against a pole, wall or any other fixed, stable object is the next best thing. Even if you get a camera with good stabilization, bracing the camera is helpful.
I promised a camera recommendation. The one with the most effective stabilization for around $500 is the feature-laden and compact Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX85 (panasonic.com), which can be found regularly for between $549 and $599. This interchangeable-lens camera has dual image stabilization that combines the optical stabilization in the lens and the stabilized sensor in the camera to provide four stops of stabilization, which means at 1/125th of a second you get the effect of using a 1/2,000th of a second shutter speed. There are many more great things I can say about this terrific camera, but I am out of space.
Send questions to Don Lindich at email@example.com. Get recommendations and read past columns at soundadvicenews.com.