Panasonic GX7 Owner assessment - Part 8 - IBIS - does it actually work at all?

I wrote in a previous post about some misgivings I have with the GX7 IBIS. Since the weather is appalling outside I thought I'd give this a prolonged test. This time with my Olympus 17mm f/1.8 lens. Now outdoors to be sure of sharp hand-held pictures without an OIS lens I'll try to shoot everything at 1/125th. sec. minimum. At a push I might go to 1/60th. sec. So for this test I tried 1/13th. sec and 1/8th. sec. I have been able with the 14-140mm zoom to get 1/15th. sec. at the long end with OIS turned on, pretty much 100% of the time which is remarkable. As I've often written, it may be me, but I've never been able to get anything close to that with an IBIS system.

Here are two 100% blowups from test shots I repeated again and again. The results were almost exactly the same every time.



I do seem to be able to get sharp results at 1/13th. sec. but they look pretty much the same to me whether IBIS is on or off. However 1/8th. sec. seems to be beyond me, again whether IBIS is on or off. I mentioned in my previous post that Gordon Laing at CameraLabs found much the same thing. I know I'm repeating what I published before but I'll reprint his comments again.

'I repeated comparisons under different conditions with different subject distances and different lenses too, but the overall result remained very similar: I was typically achieving only a stop or so of compensation from the GX7 compared to at least three from the EM5 under the same conditions. Maybe your mileage will vary, but I'd say judging from my tests in its current generation the GX7's stabilisation isn't anything to get too excited about. It may let you handhold at slightly slower shutter speeds, but it's not yet any substitution for an optically stabilized lens or of course the Olympus system.'

Now I'm not even really getting that one stop advantage. I have no reason to suspect my camera is faulty and as I say the degree of stability we can all achieve is somewhat different. It is the case that if you use a camera on a tripod then it's a good idea to make sure IBIS is off, because it can blur the image. Maybe because I can hold a camera very still after years of practice, I am almost turning into a 'human tripod' so the IBIS will in fact make my pictures worse at certain shutter speeds. The pictures of Jeff the cat above were mostly somewhat worse with IBIS turned on.

Now all of this just confirms my distrust for the version of this on the GX7 and IBIS systems in general. And yes I have used them on Pentax and Olympus cameras including the Olympus OM-D EM-5 with it's 5-axis system. I've also used a lot of OIS Panasonic lenses and VR Nikon lenses and have found them much more reliable and actually very useful. These GX7 experiences are just another example of how IBIS doesn't work for me. I know, because they have told me!! that some people find it useful, but I never have. And as I keep repeating ad nauseam, the vast majority of camera systems have lens stabilisation rather than body stabilisation systems. I am aware that the Canon and Nikon systems were developed for film cameras so there is that historical hangover, but surely if either of those companies thought that IBIS would benefit their professional customers then I'm sure they would have introduced it. 

Plus when you think about it, would you rather have your sensor moving about or the elements in your lens? Anyone who has used one of the latest Pentax DSLR's will have encountered the 'rattling' of the sensor. It's perfectly normal, but to me somewhat disconcerting if not downright worrying.

IBIS does have a supposed advantage in that it allows for lighter smaller lenses, but if it isn't particularly useful for many of us then I'm not sure I see the point. And in all my experiences with manual focus legacy lenses I've never seen any beneficial result from IBIS. I've often wondered if the camera even knows there's a lens on the front of the camera without some kind of electrical contact. You do usually have to engage a menu item that says SHOOT WITHOUT LENS : ON, so what exactly does that mean? Does the camera think there is anything there? Now I'm nowhere near qualified to comment on this and I guess only the engineers who design these IS systems know exactly what is going on, but again and again I've been disappointed by IBIS systems and see them as some kind of gimmick. Now I will admit the Olympus 5-axis system on the E-M5 did work, but again I got some strange smearing when I panned the camera shooting video. It was pretty terrible on an EP-3 I had and the E-M5 was certainly better, but in the end I just didn't trust it as I was unsure of the results.

Now I am aware that this is one of those topics that can provoke heated debate, but I'm just recounting my experiences. Personally I would love IBIS to work brilliantly and I'd be really happy to tell you that the implementation on the GX7 is wonderful. But for me it isn't and frankly a bit of a damp squib. And that is a real shame since it would seem to be a really useful feature. But I'm not in the business of pretending to myself or anybody else for that matter, that something works well and is useful to me when it doesn't and it's not. 




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