I believe that stabilization you refer to David would have been available in film cameras and lenses if digital had never been invented, it's interesting to speculate what modern film cameras would be be like if the R&D budget and effort spent by the manufacturers on digital imaging had been spent on film photographic equipment.
I can buy any of the NIkon VR lenses for the FX format and use it on my F5 and it would have the VR features. I am sure it would work on the F6 and perhaps the F100 as well. I can't do it on the F3 because the F3 was introduced before the VR was invented. Nikon or Canon doesn't discriminate against film cameras in this case.
As I understand it, Canon's change to the EOS system and the EF mount was motivated by a desire to increase the speed and efficacy of the automatic systems in the cameras, with particular emphasis on auto-focus.
“Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”
Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2
kintatsu: the string idea is one that I have known about but (stupidly?) never tried. It really does answer many of the questions with a simple comcept that is worth trying and very easy to implement. I wonder how many others reading this have tried this 'no frills' approach?
benjiboy: yes, another whole thread could be dedicated towards "what would have happened if digital had never been invented?". What really astounds me about digital cameras (I finally bought a used Canon IS S2 Powershot for $30 and do love it but see some deficiencies faults with regard to film cameras) is the fact that most indoor scenes do not require flash and can be handheld, both because of the IS (image stabilization) and the speed capability of the sensor. The lack of shadow in the back of the subject is very desirable.
All: At least I am not the first person who has posed this question. Thank you for the links. Informative, if not frustrating. - David Lyga
As far as the string-pod, I found it helps to tie a little dowel or other item to the end of the string. It helps with gripping it to the floor. Also, if you make about 6" short of eye level, it will give more stability. I've tried this where I couldn't use a monopod or tripod in the Cologne Cathedral, and gotten some nice shots, being able to handhold at 1/4 second.
I wish I could be more help, though, as your question is one I know I've wondered about.
If you're doing the string trick, it works better if you attach a short (30cm) length of something rigid to the bottom of the camera, and then attach the string to the bottom of that. Without the rigid section, the string will prevent up/down motion but the string+stick constrains vertical rotation of the camera too.