By Don Lindich
Week 15, 2018
Q. I have tremors (not Parkinson’s) that keep me from taking clear pictures. Are cameras with advanced stabilization features enough to overcome this problem? Is there another solution, or do I just have to watch other people taking pictures? Please recommend something in the $500 price range if possible.
-Name withheld for privacy
A. There are many ways to prevent camera shake, and keeping the camera steady is something photographers have had to deal with long before optical and sensor-based stabilization systems came along. Because of your medical condition you may need to take a more aggressive approach, but I am confident we can find a way to make it work for you. I will recommend a camera at the end, but first we will discuss ways that all photographers can create sharper pictures.
The following things help battle camera shake whether you have a stabilized camera or not. They are using a tripod, bracing the camera against an object, setting a high shutter speed, and using a wide-angle setting. The wide-angle setting is important as the more you zoom the lens to make the subject bigger, the bigger the effect of camera shake.
Using a tripod is obvious. It may keep you from being spontaneous, but most photographers will tell you that when they use a tripod they take their best pictures. Using a tripod forces you to take your time and work deliberately, leading to better images. Because of your tremors you can use a phone app or the camera’s self-timer with a short delay so the act of pressing the shutter button does not cause camera shake.
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.
When you don’t have a tripod, bracing the camera by pressing it against a pole, a wall, a garbage can, or any other fixed, stable object is the next best thing.
Next we have a high shutter speed. If you can set the shutter to 1/500 of a second, or even faster such as 1/1,000 or 1/2,000 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.
So, even if you do not have a tripod, if you get a camera with good stabilization, use a high ISO enabling yourself to set shutter speeds of 1/500 of a second or better (I am actually more comfortable with 1/1,000 or higher in your case,) try and stay at the wide-angle lens settings, and brace the camera against a fixed object when you can, you should be able to get clear pictures. You can also use a fast setting that takes 7 or 8 frames per second so you have multiple frames to choose from. One of them is bound to be sharp.
The camera with the most effective stabilization for around $500 is the feature-laden and compact Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GX85, which can be found regularly for between $549 and $599. This interchangeable lens camera that has dual image stabilization that combines the optical stabilization in the lens and the stabilized sensor in the camera to provide 4 stops of stabilization, which means at 1/125 of a second you get the effect of using a 1/2,000 of a second shutter speed. There are many more great things I can say about this great camera, but I am out of space. Check out the Panasonic DMC-GX85 online to learn more.