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What's the difference between OIS and EIS on my phone's cameras?

Android Police 12/4/2022 Parth Shah
© Provided by Android Police

With an almost identical specs sheet among the top budget Android phones, smartphone companies are looking at software and cameras to differentiate their offerings from rivals. Instead of glancing over how many cameras and megapixels the company has packed, check for important details like the type of stabilization on the main shooter. Terms like OIS, EIS, sensor-shift stabilization, and gimble camera may sound similar on paper, but they differ in cost, function, and overall impact on smartphone photography.

Whether it's OIS (optical image stabilization), EIS (electronic image stabilization), or any other system, their primary job is to stabilize the image and video footage. Without stabilization, images can come out a blurry mess (especially in low light), and videos might look a bit shaky.

Why do you need OIS or EIS on your phone?

A slight handshake can blur the final image when your phone camera opens the shutter to capture light. It's more visible when you shoot in the dark as the camera shutter stays open for a long time to capture more light. You can use a tripod or monopod to stabilize your camera, but it's inconvenient and not a viable option for everyone to carry around. Here's where a stabilization system kicks in to make up for handshakes.

Not every stabilization system is created and used equally. OIS is a hardware solution, while EIS relies on software and CPU power to deliver steady results. OEMs like Huawei offer AIS (artificial image stabilization), which is a part of EIS that uses AI to produce better-looking photos and videos.

Optical image stabilization (OIS)

An OIS-based camera solution relies on the phone's gyroscope and tiny motors to move the camera lens or sensor. The main camera lens is placed in a way to move along an axis. It can be a two-axis movement to shift left and right or up and down. A high-end camera system has four-axis OIS to move the camera lens in all four directions.

For instance, if you hold your phone and move to the right, the OIS system compensates the shake by moving the camera lens to the opposite side. It detects the movement using a gyroscope and shifts the lens using electromagnets and sensors.

OIS is a hardware solution and doesn't require any software trick to stabilize images or videos. In EIS, you may notice an unnatural stabilization effect in videos that create a jelly effect. That's not the case with an OIS-equipped camera.

Electronic image stabilization (EIS)

EIS skips on physical hardware and attempts to do the same as OIS using software tricks. The process uses your phone's accelerometer to detect hand movements and align each frame together. Since the camera lens or sensor doesn't move with EIS, capturing each frame is much quicker.

EIS takes the image and zooms in to make it larger than the sensor. The software scans the image to look for improvements. If it detects a camera shake, EIS moves the image in the opposite direction to eliminate blurry shots. Since EIS involves repositioning, zooming, or cropping the frames, the results may have a degraded quality. The system relies on software tuning and can be improved with future software updates.

EIS is useful when shooting videos. It predicts the direction you are moving while shooting a video and adjusts the next shift accordingly. The practice results in a much smoother video. EIS uses AI to detect the main subject in a video and lock focus. It sometimes results in unnatural distortion, often known as the jelly effect.

Gimble stabilization

Vivo is one of the major Android OEMs to use gimble-like camera stabilization on its phones. It is basically a beefed-up optical stabilization to deliver smooth videos and stellar low-light images. A gimble camera stabilization sports a magnetic frame managed by voice coils. While it sounds similar to a traditional OIS system, a double-ball suspension in a gimble camera enables X-axis and Y-axis movements of up to 3 degrees each, which is three times that of a standard OIS setup on other phones.

The gimble camera module carries more thickness and requires extra surface area. You won't usually see such complex camera setups on low-end or mid-range smartphones. Companies reserve it for high-end flagship phones. We would like to see more OEMs like Samsung and Google explore gimble cameras on their expensive offerings.

Sensor-shift stabilization

Apple's latest iPhone models have better video recording capabilities compared to Android rivals. The secret to such a feat is sensor-shift stabilization.

Most OEMs develop an OIS system to move around or float the lens unit. Apple uses sensor-shift stabilization in the iPhone 13 Pro Max and iPhone 14 series that moves the camera sensor for improved results. OIS can move the lens up to 1,000 times a second, while sensor-shift stabilization moves around the sensor up to 5,000 times per second. Technically, sensor-shift stabilization is better than a standard OIS and delivers superior results. Samsung also toyed with the idea but skipped it on Galaxy S22 series.

OIS vs. EIS: Cost and current offerings

EIS doesn't require extra hardware, and the camera module remains lightweight and affordable. The system is mainly found on low-end smartphones. The implementation depends on the software tuning, and the final results can differ from manufacturer to manufacturer. For instance, Google only used EIS in the first-generation Pixel, and we all know how good it turned out on the photography front.

OIS is a must-have in modern smartphones. Most mid-range offerings from Samsung, OnePlus, and Google come with an OIS on the main camera. OIS adds more weight to the camera, and it's more expensive.

High-end smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra have OIS hardware in the main as well as a telephoto camera for steady results in zoom shots. Vivo, one of the leading OEMs in China, uses a gimble camera stabilization system that's complicated, heavy, expensive, and more effective than traditional OIS systems.

These days, most flagship offerings have hybrid image stabilization (HIS), which combines both OIS and EIS to offer an all-around solution. If you are looking to get one, check our buyers' guide to pick the best Android phone for you.

Say goodbye to blurry images and shaky videos

Once you capture stunning memories, use the best photo editing apps before you upload them on social media. If you prefer to use a front-facing camera most of the time, check our dedicated tips to take better selfies.

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