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2006.08.28

Implementing image stabilization by shifting the image sensor was Konica-Minolta’s most brilliant recent invention. Since Konica-Minolta is no longer in the photography business and its related intelectual property has been passed on to Sony, the future of CCD-shift stabilization, or Anti-Shake as Konica-Minolta called it, was temporarily uncertain. Of course, Sony was expected to use it, and it has in its recently available Sony Alpha A100.

Until now, this seemed to be the only event preventing Anti-Shake from becoming extinct. It was therefore a great surprise to find out that 5 digital camera companies currently use this idea! Nearly all these companies implemented CCD-shift stabilization after Konica-Minolta’s exit from the camera business. Coincidence? Obviously, Sony was handed over the technology, so their timing makes perfect sense. As for the other companies, it is hard to tell. Did they think Konica-Minolta would have sued them but Sony would not?Maybe they know Sony does not pursue for such things? Did they suddenly realize the potential of CCD-shift stabilization? We would really love like to know. Perhaps it would have been sadder if CCD-shift stablization ceased to exist rather than a large number of companies adopting CCD-shift stabilization after the demise of its inventors.

We now have Pentax with its K100D, Optio A10 and Optio A20, Olympus with its Stylus 750, Nikon with its Coolpix S10, Sony with its Alpha A100 and Ricoh with its G-series. This leaves out Canon, Fuji, Panasonic and Kodak. All these companies except Fuji use optical stabilization on some digital camera models, although Kodak only has one such model. In most cases, it does not really matter how the camera is stablized, only that it is. Perhaps it matters to the engineers, but not to the end-user, except in the case of DSLR cameras. This is why the Sony Alpha A100 and the Pentax K100D are so important. They each provide a way to stablize any lens placed on them. For fixed lens cameras, stablization technology is mostly a detail. For digital SLR cameras, it is an effective cost-reducing feature. Not only are stablized lenses more expensive than their non-stabilized counterparts, there are many lens focal lengths which do not have stabilized versions, at any price.

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