Why Image Stabilization is Not Worth it

Manufacturers claim that their version of image stabilization will help you to capture sharper images.  In theory, it should work, but in most real life applications it proves to be rather worthless.  Let's explore several examples from a variety of shooting situations.

Landscapes:  When you are capturing images in low light around sunrise or sunset, exposure times can be several seconds long. IS and VR will not help you here as the camera must remain perfectly still.  A tripod with a cable release is a necessity for this type of shooting.  Most IS/VR lenses recommend the feature be turned OFF when using a tripod.  

Sports: For most sporting events you'll want to freeze the action. This requires a high speed burst mode and a fast shutter speed of 1/500 or better.  If you are using proper hand holding technique or a monopod, camera shake is highly unlikely since the shutter is simply not open long enough. The same is true for bird and wildlife photography.  

Weddings and events: The light will likely be very poor at an indoor event. As such, you'll be working with an external flash, or larger strobe lights. You'll use these in conjunction with the cameras flash sync speed. Depending on your specific camera, this is at least 1/200th of a second. Considering that you'll likely be using a lens in the 24-70mm ballpark, handholding at 1/200 or 1/250 is easily achieved without camera shake.

Macro: When shooting frame filling close ups of tiny subjects, even the tiniest bit of hand shake is greatly magnified.  Here is another example where Image Stabilization and Vibration Reduction is not recommended.  For truly sharp close ups, a solid tripod is required.  

Now, let's take a look at the cost difference.  The Canon 70-200mm f2.8L USM (NON IS) = $1449.  The same lens with Image Stabilization technology = $1999.  It also weighs approximately one pound more.  Can you justify the additional cost of $550 for a rather unnecessary feature?  

In a recent poll of over one hundred photographers ranging from amateur to professional, a surprising number reported to relying on IS/VR technology for the majority of their shooting.  In reviewing the results, it’s not surprising that so many photographers complain about soft images, or lenses that misfocus.  They appear to be using technology as a crutch for poor technique.   



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