A lot of cameras come with an Anti-Blur mode. This is marketed to reduce blur in your photos; particularly when indoors or at twilight. But does it work, and how can it help with your photography?
Does Anti Blur Mode work? Yes it does. It can stop (or limit) blurry photos caused by low light.
Should I purchase a camera with Anti Blur? No. Don't purchase a camera just because it has an Anti Blur Mode. As I explain below, Anti Blur is actually just a marketing name for a feature that almost all cameras have already!
What causes a Blurry Image?
Blurry Images are one of the biggest problems that can occur with digital cameras. It happens when the camera or the subject moves while the shutter is open.
Normally, your camera's shutter operates quite fast (less than 1/100 second). That is fast enough to create a sharp image (unless the subject is moving very fast like a race car).
When there isn't much light around (indoors and twilight are two excellent examples) the shutter needs to stay open for longer so enough light can get into the camera. Depending on the brightness of the light and other factors, the shutter speed can be anywhere from 1/30th of a second to 2 seconds or even longer.
The longer the shutter is open, the more chance your subject will move (causing a blurry subject, like the first image to the right) or the camera will move in your hands (causing the whole image to be blurry, like the second image).
What Is Anti-Blur Mode?
When you enable Anti-Blur mode, your camera makes sure the shutter speed is always fast - above 1/100 second. With this fast shutter speed, blurry photos are much less likely to occur.
But with low light photography, the shutter speed needs to stay open for longer to get enough light into the camera. Without enough light your photo will appear dark, or under exposed. How can the camera ensure enough light gets in while keeping a fast shutter speed?
The ingenious answer lies in what is called the "Holy Trinity" of exposure - Shutter Speed, ISO Value and Aperture. The correct settings combination of these three leads to a correctly exposed image (one that's not too dark or too light). If you change one value (like decreasing the shutter speed), you need to compensate by changing a second of the three settings otherwise your image will no longer be correctly exposed.
Since the days of film cameras, your camera has worked out the correct settings for you. It has taken your set ISO (usually set with the type of film placed in the camera) and changed the Aperture or Shutter Speed to ensure a great photo. Digital cameras have done the same thing even though these days you can change the ISO with the flick of a switch.
Anti-Blur mode switches this around. When your camera notices it needs to keep the shutter speed high, it also increases the ISO. A higher ISO means less light is needed to correctly expose the shot; so the shutter doesn't need to be open for as long.
So Anti-blur is just a marketing name for the camera modifying the ISO setting to keep the shutter time short. It's that simple.
But it raises the question... If it was that simple, why haven't camera manufacturers added this feature before?
Trouble in Paradise
The problem comes when you look at your photos. The higher the ISO value, the more 'digital noise' appears in the image (for a full explanation of noise and how to reduce of eliminate it, check out the noise bonus book that comes free with my Digital Photo Secrets book).
So your image may be blurry-free, but it's still not a fantastic image because of all the noise.
Fortunately, noise is not as much of a problem as it used to be. Camera technology has improved in recent years and (depending on your camera) ISO speeds as high as 1600 can now take excellent photos. This has allowed the camera makers to add the Anti-Blur feature.
Another way to counter noise is to take photos with a lower resolution (4 megapixels rather than 8 megapixels). So you might find that when you enable the Anti-Blur mode, your photos won't be as large.
Home Anti-Blur Solutions
What if you have a camera without an Anti-Blur feature?
Fortunately if your camera doesn't have an Anti-Blur feature, you can still reduce or eliminate blurry photos by making the ISO adjustment yourself.
Just before your take a shot, check the shutter speed your camera is going to use. If it is slower than 1/50 second, increase the ISO value one value (like from 100 to 200, or from 200 to 400) and check the shutter speed again. Keep increasing the ISO until the shutter speed is around 1/100 second.
I recommend you don't use your camera's highest ISO setting (usually 1600 or 3200) as this will create too much noise. Instead increase to the second highest setting only.
It also helps to hold your camera steady while taking the photo.
What is Anti-Shake? Is that the same?
No. Anti-Shake technology uses gyroscopes and moving parts to move the camera's lens as a 'reaction' to you slightly moving the camera while holding it. It is useful in helping to reduce blurry photos caused by this method. I recommend using both technologies - Anti-Shake and Anti-Blur.
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