Whether you’re shooting a basketball game from the sidelines or the great wildebeest migration in the Masai Mara, you’re going to want a camera with a lens that’s fast enough to catch all of the action. While some prefer the flexibility of an interchangeable-lens system with a large sensor, others dislike the bulk and weight of the gear involved. Fortunately for us all, technology is catching up to those of us who want a small camera with a large sensor and the ability to change lenses. Whatever your preference may be—below is a list of the best reflex camera models
Best Reflex Camera
Canon EOS-1D X Mark II DSLR
For the absolute latest flagship release, the new Canon EOS-1D X Mark II features a 20.2MP full-frame CMOS sensor, Dual DIGIC 6+ processors, and a 61-Point High Density Reticular Auto Focus II with 41 cross-type points and a center point sensitive to -3 EV. This durable magnesium-alloy body has been designed for the pro shooter, delivering 16 frames per second when working in live view, and 14 fps when working with the viewfinder, not to mention the ability to record up to 170 raw files in a single burst when using a CFast 2.0 memory card. An expanded sensitivity range from ISO 50-409600 allows for greater low-light performance. Furthermore, the weather- and dust-proof EOS-1D X Mark II supports DCI 4K-resolution video recording at up to 60 fps, along with Full HD 1080p shooting at 120 fps for slow-motion playback. A built-in GPS module allows for in-camera geo-tagging and auto time sync while Wi-Fi sharing and wireless remote control is supported when using the optional WFT-E8A Wireless File Transmitter.
Nikon D5 DSLR
Another recent release, the Nikon D5 houses a 20.8MP FX-format CMOS sensor, an EXPEED 5 processor, and 153-point Multi-CAM 20K phase-detect auto focusing. Photographers wanting to capture a fast-paced sports game or animals in the wilderness running at top speeds will be delighted by the 14 fps maximum continuous frame rate with fixed focus and mirror lock-up. For those desiring full auto exposure and focusing, a slight drop to 12 fps is sure to capture the perfect action-packed moment with precise focusing. Nighttime wildlife feed times and night games won’t be as challenging to shoot with the native sensitivity range from ISO 100-102400 and the expanded range of ISO 50-3280000. Photographers who also work in video will be pleased with the D5’s 4K UHD video-recording capabilities. Wi-Fi connectivity is possible with the optional WT-6A transmitter.
Nikon D500 DSLR
For flagship performance in a compact DX-format body, the Nikon D500 DSLR Camera is another recent release to the market. Featuring a 20.9MP DX-Format CMOS Sensor, it houses the same EXPEED 5 processor and 153-point Multi-CAM 20K phase-detect autofocusing as the D5 for significantly less of an investment. Sports and wildlife shooters alike will readily take advantage of the 10 fps continuous shooting rate for up to 200 frames in a single burst. The native sensitivity range from ISO 100-51200 with an expanded ISO 50-1640000 is able to handle tough lighting situations. The D500 also offers up to 4K UHD video recording at 30 fps. Multiple sharing options like the built-in SnapBridge Wi-Fi connectivity, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology, and Near Field Communication (NFC) are all supported to provide quick methods for connecting to your mobile device.
Canon 7D Mark II DSLR
Another APS-C offering, this time from Canon, is the Canon 7D Mark II, which features a 20.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor with dual DIGIC 6 image processors and a continuous shooting rate of 10 fps. This fast action capture relies heavily upon the 65-point all cross type phase-detection AF system that makes it a great choice for sports and wildlife photographers. The combination of dual image processors and CMOS sensor contribute to the native ISO range of 100-16000, which can be expanded to ISO 51200. For those working across platforms, Full HD 1080p video recording is supported at up to 60 fps and benefits from Dual Pixel CMOS AF for fast focusing during video and live view.
Nikon 1 V3 Mirrorless Digital Camera
For a lot of speed in a compact mirrorless body, the Nikon 1 V3, available here with the 10-30mm kit lens, combines an 18.4MP 1″ CMOS sensor and an EXPEED 4A image processor to achieve 20 frames per second with full-time autofocus capabilities. Once the focus position is fixed after the first frame is recorded, continuous shooting captures up to 60 fps—perfect when you’re close to the action. The intuitive Hybrid AF system combines both phase- and contrast-detection focusing methods to capture all of the action with extreme precision. In addition to the high-resolution still photographs, Full HD 1080p video recording is supported at 60 frames per second with a sensitivity of 12800 and full-time focusing for constant sharpness. While many photographers still wrinkle their noses at a tilting screen, it affords easier visibility from a variety of angles that would be otherwise impossible with a traditional viewfinder. For the traditionalist, an auxiliary electronic viewfinder is included. The camera’s built-in Wi-Fi enables you to quickly share photos immediately after recording them. For existing Nikon shooters looking for a compact camera solution, slip the FT-1 Mount Adapter onto the Nikon 1 V3 so you can work with all your favorite F-mount glass.
Pentax K-3 II DSLR
Featuring a 24.35MP APS-C CMOS sensor, the Pentax K-3 II has a PRIME III image processor, optimized for high-speed shooting at 8.3 frames per second, and a competitive ISO range of 100-51200. Twenty-seven distinct phase-detection points include 25 cross-type for quickly and accurately pinpointing focus. Image quality and overall versatility is improved upon with a selectable anti-aliasing filter to gain higher resolution and sharpness or to protect against moiré. The sensor-shift design compensates for up to 4.5 stops of camera shake, aiding even the most experienced fast-action shooter, especially with longer focal lengths. Full HD 1080p video recording is supported in multiple frame rates along with time-lapse capture with the interval timer.
Fujifilm X-T1 Mirrorless Digital Camera
For those wanting to take advantage of Fujifilm’s history in traditional film-based photography, several Film Simulation modes mimic some of the classic film types in the compact Fujifilm X-T1, which offers a 16.3MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS II sensor and an EXR Processor II, both contributing to its top continuous shooting rate of 8 frames per second. The expandable ISO range, from ISO 100-51200 is equally competitive, as is its proprietary X-Trans sensor, which takes advantage of a randomized pixel array instead of the more commonly used resolution-reducing optical low-pass filter. Digital Split Image and Focus Highlight Peaking enable fast and efficient manual focusing. Built-in wireless connectivity allows for instant sharing of photos and videos to your Android or iOS mobile device, as well as remote camera control and monitoring.
Sony a77II DSLR
The Sony a77II features a 24.3MP APS-C Exmor CMOS sensor and a BIONZ X image processor that work together to produce continuous shooting at up to 12 fps for as many as 26 RAW frames. Translucent Mirror Technology enables the 79-point AF system with 15 cross-type points to work seamlessly while photographing in continuous shooting mode or while recording video and it enables full use of live view and the electronic viewfinder during shooting. Full HD 1080p video recording is supported at both 60 and 24 fps. Built-in Wi-Fi connectivity and NFC are both available without a complex setup.
Sony a6300 Mirrorless Digital Camera
For a smaller and more compact Sony body, the 14.25 ounce Sony a6300 is an advanced mirrorless option featuring a redeveloped 24.2MP APS-C Exmor CMOS sensor and BIONZ X image processor that work simultaneously to produce continuous shooting up to 11 fps. A 425-point phase-detection system with a 169-area contrast detection system allows for High-density Tracking AF for increased accuracy when following moving subjects across the image frame. Due to the on-sensor design of the AF system, it also works when shooting UHD 4K video, which is possible at a high 100 Mbps for maximum quality. Built-in Wi-Fi connectivity and NFC are also supported in the a6300 for direct sharing online to social networking, via email, and to cloud storage sites.
Sony RX10 Mark II
For those wanting everything (or as close to everything as technology will allow) in one package, the Sony RX10 Mark II offers a 20.2MP 1″ Exmor RS BSI CMOS sensor with a Carl Zeiss 24-200mm f/2.8 lens. This all-in-one camera offers a flexible built-in zoom that eliminates the need to carry additional lenses. Its constant maximum aperture of f/2.8 and sensitivity range of ISO 100-12800 provides excellent low-light capabilities. The BIONZ X processor enables continuous shooting up to 14 fps and contributes to the camera’s precise and speedy autofocus, as well as UHD 4K video recording. Built-in Wi-Fi connectivity and NFC round out the RX10 Mark II for direct sharing, as does its moisture- and dust-resistant construction, a built-in pop-up flash, and the Sony Multi-interface shoe for connecting flashes, microphones, lights, monitors, and other accessories.
Basics of photography
Every camera, from the tiny webcam embedded in your laptop to the full-frame pro cameras built by Nikon and Canon, operates under the same set of basic principles. They come from the very name of photography, the roots of which are the Greek photos, meaning light, and graph, meaning to draw or record — ergo, a photograph is essentially a map of light. When you take a picture of your favorite cityscape, you’re not actually documenting the streets, or the skyscrapers, or the milling crowds — you’re drawing up a recording of the light reflecting off of them.
The most common technique for making this recording is by channelling light through a lens onto a photosensitive material that soaks it up and turns it into an image. That light-absorbing canvas was once film, which has since been replaced by electronic sensors in modern digital shooters. In either case, initiating the light capture is done by opening a shutter in front of the photosensitive surface. By adjusting how long that shutter stays open (shutter speed), the sensitivity of the digital sensor (ISO), and how much light passes through the lens (aperture), you can control exactly how your image appears.
Since light is the only information your camera collects, it should come as no surprise that well-lit scenes typically come out looking sharper and nicer than dark and moody shots illuminated only by a streetlight — more light just gives you more information to work with. When shooting in the dark, the camera must work either harder (with higher ISO) or longer (with a slower shutter speed) to properly recreate the image in front of it. That’s where the flash comes in, a strobe of white light synchronized with the opening of the shutter. It comes with tradeoffs of its own, though: the strength of the flash can wash out fine detail in nearby subjects or lead to the infamous red-eye effect. Tripods are also invaluable in counteracting the blur caused by shaky hands. Unfortunately, they can do nothing about motion within your composition, and they aren’t exactly portable.
Ultimately, the number one lesson in photography is that there are always tradeoffs. If you want the best possible image quality, you’ll need specialized, expensive, bulky equipment. Should portability be your highest priority, you’ll have to accept that some photos and creative ideas will be beyond your reach. There are a number of other considerations to take into account when composing an image — and, consequently, choosing the best camera for the job — which we’ve detailed below. Once you’ve wrapped your head around what they will mean for your intended photography adventure, you should have a good idea of the kind of camera that will best suit your needs.
The key settings
If you’re new to digital photography, the three things you should acquaint yourself with first are the ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. The three work in concert, and if you can manipulate and control them all, you’ll take fabulous photos without even touching the rest of your camera. Together, they’re known as the Exposure Triangle, because they control how much light you’re exposing the camera to (aperture), how sensitive the camera is to that light (ISO), and how long your exposure lasts (shutter speed).
For some help calculating the depth of field for your chosen camera, aperture setting, and focusing distance, you can use Simple DoF on iOS or DoF Calculator for Android.
Coming from the International Organization for Standardization, ISO (it’s not an acronym) describes the light sensitivity of your camera’s sensor set against a common standard. It was originally known as “film speed,” as it was a static measure of the amount of light a given type of film could absorb, but in modern digital cameras ISO can be adjusted up and down. Higher ISO means a brighter image, which is achieved by digitally amplifying the information collected during exposure. It’s an imperfect process that generates errors, which become apparent in your pictures as discoloration and noise — the unattractive speckling effect you usually see in low-light photos.
The quality of your camera’s sensor and noise-reduction processing will affect the maximum ISO at which you can produce images that are still worth using. From among the cameras we’ve tested ourselves, Canon’s 5D Mark III and Nikon’s D4 are the best in that respect. They can shoot at ISO 12,800 the way most cameras perform at ISO 1000, allowing you to keep shooting in significantly lower light.
AS BRUCE DICKINSON MIGHT SAY, I’VE GOTTA HAVE MORE LIGHT!
Measured using the horribly confusing f-number scale, the aperture is another dead-simple setting saddled with obtuse nomenclature. Basically, most lenses have the ability to constrict the light that passes through them using an internal element (called a diaphragm), which can be extended and retracted using controls on the camera. If you want more light in your image, you pull that diaphragm back as far as it goes, or if you need less, you extend it and limit the incoming rays to a narrower, more focused hole. Aperture, therefore, is just a relative measure for the diameter of your lens opening. Lower f-numbers indicate a wider aperture, with f/2.8 and below being the extremes, while higher ones signify that more light is being blocked.
One side effect of a wide-open lens is that it lets in a lot of unfocused light rays. The result is a shallow depth of field, meaning anything in front of or behind the area on which you’re focusing will appear blurry. Wide aperture settings tend to constrict the in-focus area to a razor-thin sliver, particularly on nearby subjects, giving you the much-desired soft background “bokeh” effect.
When you want a larger focus, the obvious countermeasure is to tighten up the aperture to f/8 or narrower — it bundles up the incoming light into a more focused beam, which will result in greater depth to your focus area. The most extreme depth of field effects are the exclusive preserve of large-sensor cameras; you simply can’t achieve the same defocusing effect with smaller sensors, which retain a generous in-focus depth even at f/1.4.
Shutter speed controls how long the camera spends collecting light, as opposed to ISO and aperture, which direct how much light is absorbed at once. It’s measured in fractions of a second, so a shutter speed of 1/125 means the shutter is open for one 125th of a second. Higher shutter speeds mean the camera captures a shorter period of time, which is key for getting blur-free action shots, while lower speeds allow you to soak up more light, albeit at the risk of blurry results if your camera and subject aren’t still.
Of course, you don’t always have to fear motion blur. Strap your camera to a tripod and you can exploit the blur to your advantage — that’s how the pros create those pictures of highways decorated by streaks of light or waterfalls that look like they’re composed of cascading wisps of smoke instead of frozen drops of water. Most of the time, you’ll want to match your settings to your circumstances, but it’s also good fun to sometimes start with a given set of attributes and rearrange your scene to match them.
Other features that matter
The trifecta above represents the most important controls on your camera, but there are other attributes you need to be mindful of in the pursuit of the best image quality.
You can tweak your settings as much as you like, but without a truly sharp piece of glass to filter light through, your pictures will never look their best. The distinction between sharpness and softness in imaging is one of detail: sharp photos retain a clear separation between edges and colors right down to a pixel level.
Unfortunately, nobody has yet invented an easy metric for quantifying lens quality, so you won’t be able to simply walk into a store and order up the Superlative Edition of your favored lens. Part of the problem is that lens performance varies both with aperture and zoom level. The sharpest lenses at f/4 are typically f/1.8 or f/1.4 lenses that have been pulled back from their highest setting. Similarly, lenses start to exhibit distortion at the extreme wide (16mm and lower) and telephoto (135mm and above) ends of their zoom range, which some cameras are able to automatically correct for with software.
LENSES ARE LIKE SUNSCREEN: ALL-IMPORTANT
There are a couple of easy guiding principles that can steer you in the right direction. First: construction materials matter. Canon’s L series of lenses and the higher end of Nikon’s Nikkor line are both built out of real glass on the inside and extremely robust materials on the outside. The kit lenses bundled with DSLRs and the non-removable lenses on cheaper cameras are made from plastic both on the inside and out, which makes them less reliable in the long term and less impressive when you come to review your results. That’s not a universal rule — there are some exceptionally good lenses with plastic optics — but generally, you’ll be able to tell a good lens by its considerable weight and durable feel.
The second point to remember is that prime lenses — those without a zoom function, whose focal length is fixed — tend to perform better than zoom lenses thanks to their simpler construction. For the absolute best results, you’ll want a camera capable of exchanging lenses, along with wide-aperture lenses at each of the most common focal lengths: 24mm, 50mm, 80mm, 100mm, and 200mm, for instance. That’s more than a backpack’s worth of gear to heave around with you (and quality glass weighs quite a bit anyway), so do it only if you’re unwilling to compromise a little sharpness for a lot more flexibility.
A common misconception is that shutter lag actually has anything to do with the shutter. Sure, there’s a minuscule delay between the instruction to open and the shutter actually opening, but the lion’s share of lag actually comes from the automated focusing and metering systems. Metering is where the camera judges how long it needs to expose the image for, while autofocus is a little more self-explanatory. Cameraphone makers have gotten wise to the fact that people want to see the picture taken the moment they press a button, so we now have phones that continuously refocus and re-meter the scene so as to be ready at a moment’s notice. Samsung even features a “Best Shot” feature on the GS4, which takes a dozen photos while you’re focusing and firing and then chooses the best one automatically.
Every phone and camera maker is trying to dodge the problem of focusing speed, but the only true solution is more focusing points on your camera combined with a faster focusing motor for the lens. The reliability and speed of autofocus, particularly in low light, is one of the ways in which professional cameras still stand head and shoulders above the rest. Canon’s EOS 1D-X packs in a whopping 61 AF points, 41 of them of the more precise cross-type variety. Stick a fast-focusing lens on that camera and you can bid adieu to shutter lag.
STRAYING BEYOND 8 MEGAPIXELS IS OVERKILL FOR ALL BUT THE PROS
WHETHER OPTICAL OR ELECTRONIC, A GOOD VIEWFINDER IS WELL WORTH HAVING
If there’s one rule to follow in photography, it’s that bigger sensors mean better photos. That’s a generalization, of course, but it’s based on a very basic empirical truth: the bigger the photosensitive surface area, the more light is taken in at a time. Practical evidence for this is abundant, from the Nikon 1 series that disappointed everyone with its undersized CX sensor, to the Nokia Lumia 1020, the best cameraphone on the market largely thanks to its enormous 1/1.5-inch sensor.
Full-frame cameras derive their name from the size of their sensors, which match the “full frame” of 35mm film, and are predictably the professional’s favorite option. With a full-frame camera, a 24mm lens gives you exactly that focal length, whereas with smaller sensors, you’re subject to a crop factor that tends to turn everything into a slightly more zoomed-in version of itself (i.e. if the sensor is 1.5 times smaller than full-frame, as with Nikon’s popular DX format, you get 1.5 times the focal length; with a 24mm lens; that’d mean an effective focal length of 36mm).
Alas, price and sensor sizes scale rather proportionally, so medium format and full-frame cameras are usually outside the reach of most enthusiasts, which is why the most popular digital SLRs like the Canon Rebel T4i today feature the APS-C format. It’s a happy compromise.
Strictly speaking, a megapixel contains 1 million pixels, but it’s somewhat meaningless to know that your camera shoots 10 million pixels at a time. What you want to know, and what the megapixel count truly tells you, is how big you can make your image without having to enlarge it digitally (and suffer the resultant degradation in image quality). A 3-megapixel photo is more than dense enough to be printed out at the US standard 6- by 4-inch size at 300ppi, while 9 megapixels get you closer to a regular sheet of paper at the same density. Compromise a little on the pixel density, say down to 200ppi, and you’ll get massive printouts from a humble old 12-megapixel shooter. Now, there are no guarantees that the actual photo would look good — megapixel numbers only measure the number of data points recorded by the camera — but at least you’ll be able to do it.
Practically speaking, however, you’re not likely to need such huge images. Most digital imaging ends up being consumed on computer screens, and if all you need are new profile shots for Facebook even a solitary megapixel will suffice. If you’re shooting for billboards, murals, or other enormous photo sizes, you should get all the megapixels you can (like the whopping 36 from the Nikon D800) but for the average photographer, other specs matter far more.
VIEWFINDER / LCD
Optical viewfinders are a funny thing. Until you use one, you wonder why everyone bothers with the effort, then you get your first DSLR and suddenly you can’t live without one. Mirrors in SLR cameras reflect the exact image that will be imprinted onto the sensor through a sort of porthole atop the camera: that’s your viewfinder. Once again, the more expensive models offer a more luxurious experience, with the Canon 7D and Nikon D700 featuring bigger, more comfortable viewfinders than entry-level DSLRs. Electronic viewfinders (EVF) are getting much better and starting to compete, particularly in Sony’s line of single-lens translucent (SLT) cameras like the A77, and they offer helpful guides and more information to make your shot better anyway. It’s features vs. accuracy, and while the purists tend to stick with optical viewfinders, the electronic variety is catching up quickly.
If your camera doesn’t have a viewfinder, then you’d better make damn sure it’s equipped with a good LCD. You’ll be using it to both frame and review photos, so any shortcomings in terms of color fidelity or resolution can force you into a guessing game you don’t want to play. LCD resolution is measured in dots, with 230,000, 460,000, and 920,000 being the typical values. The more dots the better, obviously, but do take a moment to check out the quality of the screen as well. Sony and Samsung are using OLED displays in some of their latest cameras, which look fantastic. Touchscreens are finally starting to get good, too, from the tap-to-focus features on the Olympus PEN E-P5 to the completely touch-friendly Canon T4i — they’re not essential yet, but are increasingly a great thing to have.
Like a big-name actor who’s too important to sit in the middle of the cast list but not so crucial as to headline the show, the camera’s white balance (WB) gets a dedicated slot at the end. This is the function that everyone leaves on auto, which is why the majority of indoor pics on Facebook look yellow. In simple terms, cameras are a bit dumb. If you don’t tell them that you’re under incandescent lights (which cast a yellow hue), they won’t account for it and will try to balance the colors before them based on their presets. All modern cameras have a WB preset for artificial lighting, but only the more professionally inclined ones give you granular control over white balance and the ability to easily tweak it on the fly.
The best solution we’ve found for overcoming unnatural color tinging is to feed your camera a sample image. The majority of DSLRs now have the option to set WB by taking an image of something that you know is white under the particular lighting conditions you intend to shoot in. Thus, when the camera snaps a nice white sheet of paper under the lurid orange and violet lights of a trade show floor, it’ll calibrate itself to know that white looks a little different at that spot.
It was only a few years ago that video recording was considered a novelty in still cameras, but today HD video is a standard, and assumed, feature. Still, there are pitfalls to beware, such as a selection of cameras that will lock the focus and zoom when video recording starts (for example, the otherwise excellent Canon S95), significantly limiting your options. Reliable autofocus, in the cameras that are capable of it, remains a mirage. You’ll do well to learn to love manual focus if you want your videos to be free of the irritating focus jumps that cameras do when they get confused as to what you’re trying to film.
Cameras with larger sensors make capturing video a harder process compared to simpler point-and-shoots, owing to their greater sensitivity, bulkier bodies, and typically mechanical zoom and focus mechanisms. They give you more to worry about, as lens operation noises are often picked up by the integrated microphone. However they also provide access to a range of cinematic effects that smaller cams can’t touch. Want to start your movie masterpiece with a gorgeously circular bokeh that gradually comes into focus on your leading man? You’ll need something in the class of a Canon 60D with a wide-aperture lens to match.
FIGMENTS OF MARKETING IMAGINATION: DIGITAL ZOOM AND DIGITAL IMAGE STABILIZATION
Zoom is a simple concept — it’s how close you can get to whatever you’re shooting without having to physically move closer — but it’s not always obvious what you’re really getting. The actual x-multiple of your zoom is much less important than the angle measurements at the widest and closest settings, which measure how much you can fit into your photo. A camera that starts at 28mm and has 10x zoom will ultimately get closer (280mm) than one that begins at 24mm (240mm when zoomed in), though the tradeoff is a slightly smaller field of view when you’re zoomed out. If you want to be as close as possible to your subject, the most important number is the telephoto angle — more so than the x-multiple.
But be warned: cameras with huge zoom tend to be hard to hold steady when zoomed in, so getting sharp photos might be tough even with the best image stabilization. Additionally, as we’ve mentioned, great zoom comes with image quality dropoffs — lens makers have to compromise on something, so if you’re going after a massive zoom range, it won’t deliver sublime images the way a fixed focal length might.
When it comes to zoom operation, fixed-lens cameras have the upper hand. They usually have powered zoom mechanisms, allowing you smooth control at the press of a button. Interchangeable lenses are more fiddly for the newcomer, as their zoom is usually (but not always) controlled mechanically with a ring around the body of the lens. That gives more granular control to those who want it, but can be off-putting to the casual user.
Finally, do yourself a favor and ignore the very idea of a “digital zoom.” It’s done either by enlarging the picture (and reducing its quality) or cropping down to a smaller area of the sensor, both of which you can do much better with dedicated post-processing software on your computer — a few phones like the Lumia 1020 offer clever ways to zoom and re-process on your device, but they can’t match Photoshop or even your average desktop viewer.
As with digital zoom, digital image stabilization (IS) is more of a marketing ploy than a useful feature. The optical stuff, however, is a whole other story. Lenses with optical IS are equipped with internal elements that move in the opposite direction of any small movements you make, steadying the image that arrives onto the sensor. Nikon’s “Vibration Reduction” is particularly effective, allowing you to shoot at two or three steps slower shutter speed than you usually would be able to without motion blur. For example, if 1/40 shutter speed is your floor before you start seeing blurring on a regular lens, its VR version will move that down to 1/25. Canon’s version of this is called the “Optical Image Stabilizer,” Panasonic’s is “MegaOIS,” and virtually every other camera and lens maker has its own variety too.
Sony and Olympus have made a habit of building image stabilization right into the body of their DSLRs, simplifying lens design and reassuring users that all of their lenses will be stabilized. Ultimately, whichever system you choose, each serves the purpose of reducing the deleterious effects of unintended motion and should be considered highly desirable in a camera. If you’re going after a shooter with a long telephoto zoom, optical IS should be the first thing you look for.