Why Action Camera’s Electronic Stabilization is So Smooth?

Why Stabilization Works So Well On GoPro

No matter how hard you try to stabilize your photography and videography, you might experience a camera shake in your footage if you are shooting handheld. And there are many technologies to counteract that shake. There’s optical image stabilization which shifts lens elements to eliminate shake. And there’s also sensor-based image stabilization in which the sensor changes its position to compensate for the shake. And finally, we have electronic image stabilization, which stabilizes the footage digitally.

Now sensor or lens-based stabilization not only increases the cost of manufacturing but also takes space. And this is why they are less of an appealing option for smaller gadgets like smartphones and action cameras. So most smartphones and action cameras use electronic stabilization, and it works really well.

Let’s start with how does electronic image stabilization work? Your camera basically analyzes each frame and determines how the camera has moved and how the subject has shifted in between those frames. Then it applies a crop in the process of aligning two frames, and that’s how it stabilized the footage. Besides, the frame per second is always set to a higher number in most action cameras and smartphones. For example, GoPro hero 9 shoot 4k videos at 60 frames per second.

When you are shooting at a higher frame rate, the camera movement from one frame to another becomes trivial. So there is less amount of work that the electronic stabilization has to do per frame. And this is why actions cameras and smartphones tend to use electronic stabilization. And the results are stunning.

However, electronic image stabilization does have some issues. The first problem is related to the shutter speed. When you are shooting a video, you might want to have some level of motion blur as the person or subject in the frame moves. And this is how we see things around us.

Now if you are not into filmmaking, you might not notice that actions cameras with default higher shutter speed miss the creative look of the slower shutter speed. But if you want that artistic look in your videos, then electronic stabilization might not be the perfect option for you.

Another question is- why electronic stabilization in bigger-sensor cameras doesn’t perform the same as actions cameras. Well, there are some obvious reasons. First off, the rolling shutter issue. Electronic stabilization cannot fix distortion caused by the rolling shutter effect. Smaller sensors tend to have a lesser rolling shutter effect because smaller sensors come with a faster readout. But bigger size sensors, like full-frame cameras, come with a significant rolling shutter effect because of slower sensor readout.

Another reason is- users usually shoot at 24-30 frames per second with bigger-sensor cameras. Besides, the data that a full-frame of medium format cameras produces per frame is simply too much, and thus it can’t be stabilized with electronic stabilization alone. Moreover, As the difference between two frames is usually substantially larger, electronic stabilization might fail to align correctly.

And This is why bigger sensor cameras can’t entirely depend on electronic stabilization. Even if we find digital stabilization in bigger-sensor cameras, it usually works in conjunction with sensor-based or lens-based stabilization. So that was all about why electronic stabilization works so well on action cameras and not in full-frame or medium format cameras. So do you have an action camera? How does the stabilization perform?

Joe Pfeffer

Joe Pfeffer

What started off as just a dream for Joe Pfeffer, turned into his passion and livelihood. He started his career as a wildlife photographer and then transitioned into becoming a cinematographer. With a decade of raw on-the-field experience, Joe Pfeffer has all the technical knowledge about the ins and outs of cameras. Now, he uses his vast experience to educate others about photography.