What is OIS and why does it matter on your smartphone?

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Smartphones are evolving and so are the cameras on them. From having no cameras, to having single lenses, then dual and now to multiple camera setups, smartphone manufacturers have really taken their camera game up several notches (pun intended). But smartphone cameras are not all just about number of lenses and megapixels. To make phone cameras replace digital cameras to some extent, if not completely, manufacturers have also been adding other features to the phone cameras that add to the results. One of these features, that was earlier exclusive to digital cameras is OIS. But what is OIS and why does it matter?

What is OIS
Ever thought you have taken a great picture only to be disappointed later when you find out that it is a blurry shot? Especially when there is not enough light to take a picture. Well, you are not alone, we have all been there.

To understand what OIS means and what it does, let’s first get the basics right. We all know how a camera works and how it takes pictures. Light enters into the camera through an opening called aperture which then passes through the lens and falls on a sensor which forms the image. Now, generally this process happens very fast. You click the shutter and the image is taken. But when there is not sufficient light, then your camera takes a little more time than usual to take a picture. And the longer it takes for the camera to take a picture, the higher will be chances of the picture getting blurred, especially when you do not have a tripod.

So, how can you keep your pictures from getting blurred in such situations? Well, this is when OIS comes in the picture. OIS or optical image stabilisation is technology that helps counter balance the slight physical movements that can make your pictures blurry.

How it works:
When a smartphone comes with support for OIS, it comes with two basic gyroscopes that detect the speed and the angle of movement. When it is detected, a microcontroller moves the lens in the opposite direction to counterbalance the shake that can cause the blur in your images. This means if your phone is moving on the left direction while taking a picture, OIS will move the lens on the right, and will produce an equivalent movement to cancel out the movement of the phone. Now, OIS can only detect and counterbalance small shakes, so do not expect it to fix extreme movements. Plus the technology can only prevent motion blur caused by the movement of the phone. This means, if you are trying to capture a moving subject, the blur caused by that will not be fixed by OIS.

Why your next smartphone should have OIS:
OIS may not be able to help you with significant shakes and motion blur caused by subject but that does not mean that the feature is not useful. OIS comes in handy when you are taking pictures in low light when the camera needs a little more time than usual to get the light needed to create a picture. Not only that, some smartphones now come with optical zoom, where the lens zooms in on a subject without losing out on detail, in that condition OIS is very useful, simply because it counterbalances the shake caused in the camera when it moves closer to the subject.

Another area where OIS is very helpful is videos. We all know keeping your hands steady while taking a video can be a little painful (quite literally). In such situations, if you have a device equipped with OIS, you will surely get lesser blurs as compared to a device that lacks OIS support.

So the next time you are serious about the camera in a smartphone, check for OIS.

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