Steve's Digicams Forums

Steve's Digicams Forums (
-   General Discussion (
-   -   Handholding high resolution cameras. (

peripatetic Dec 2, 2009 2:55 PM

Handholding high resolution cameras.
The rule of thumb has long been 1/focal length to get a sharp image.

For smaller sensor cameras - > 1/equivalent FL.

Image Stabilization of course gains you "Up to" 4 stops. But in practice I don't believe, even with short focal lengths, that it is possible to get sharp images handheld for shutter speeds exceeding 1/25s, even with IS.

But now we are finding with high-resolution sensors that people are starting to question this.

I can hold a Canon 5D (12Mp) with 50mm lens and get sharp images at 1/60s.

But I cannot do that with my Canon 5DMkII (22Mp). Handheld I need 1/125s at least to get shots that are sharp at 100% view. Or 1/2X FL. I can manage 1/FL with an IS lens down to around 1/25s.

And the new medium format digital backs and cameras are being reported as needing 1/3X FL. With the Leica S2 and an 80mm lens, you are going to need a shutter speed of at least 1/250s to handhold.

JimC Dec 2, 2009 3:30 PM

This is a complex subject.

I'd have to dig around for formulas and research that's been done on it. But, for the human eye to perceive blur in an image, it has to occur across a certain distance for a given viewing size and viewing distance. IOW, if it's only occurring across 1/100 of an inch, you may not see it. If it's occurring across more than that, you may be able to detect it (and those figures are not accurate, I'm just using them for an example, since I'd have to spend some time digging around for the research that's been done on it).

That's why blur is going to be more obvious at larger print or viewing sizes (because the movement is occurring across a greater distance, taking viewing size into consideration).

So, if you're looking at 100% crops, then yes, you may see more blur in a higher resolution image (because the image is going to be larger, making blur more obvious since it's occurring across a greater distance considering the viewing size at 100%). But, at equivalent viewing sizes, I suspect that blur will be the same.

The camera design also comes into the equation (as does your ability to smoothly squeeze the shutter button and make sure to wait until the shutter opens and closes before removing your finger from it).

I've seen some members claim that a heavier camera is harder to hand hold and get blur free images. Frankly, I've found the opposite to be the case. For example, I had the opportunity to use a D3 for a while, and I was *very* surprised at how easy it was to get relatively sharp images at very slow shutter speeds with it, even though I was not using a stabilized lens (I was using a Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 with it for the most part). I credit that to the size/weight of the camera (as the heavier camera is going to resist vibration/movement more when depressing and releasing the shutter button).

TCav Dec 2, 2009 6:23 PM

Ok, first, its a "Rule of Thumb." From the Wikipedia Article:

A rule of thumb is a principle with broad application that is not intended to be strictly accurate or reliable for every situation. It is an easily learned and easily applied procedure for approximately calculating or recalling some value, or for making some determination.

It's a starting point. That's all. If your experience is different, you are free to make your own adjustments, but the rule still stands as a method for others to use as a starting point.

Second, let's keep this to apples and apples. Your 5D and 5D MkII are 'Full Frame dSLRs, so, when using a 50mm lens, applying the rule of thumb would determine that you would need to use a shutter speed of 1/50 second to capture images free of motion blur due to camera shake. Since I doubt that Canon allows you to select a shutter speed of 1/50, it would make sense that you would need to go to the next faster shutter speed to obtain sharp images.

But your 5D MkII has about twice the resolving power of your 5D, so comparing a 100% crop from the 5D to a 100% crop from the 5D MkII is not a fair test. Since the MkII has twice the resolution, it would make sense that minute amounts of motion blur due to camera shake would be evident where none appears in images from the 5D. So halving the exposure time would be appropriate for the more stringent test.

TCav Dec 2, 2009 6:27 PM


Originally Posted by peripatetic (Post 1024572)
... But in practice I don't believe, even with short focal lengths, that it is possible to get sharp images handheld for shutter speeds exceeding 1/25s, even with IS. ...


Originally Posted by peripatetic (Post 1024572)
... I can manage 1/FL with an IS lens down to around 1/25s. ...


Ordo Dec 2, 2009 8:53 PM

Weight is important. I can get reasonable sharp film picks handheld with Mamiya 7, 400 ISO, 1/30. Weight adds a lot to keep the camera still. That, and of course the very subtle rangfinder shutter (no mirror). A heavier camera is less prone to shacking.

peripatetic Dec 3, 2009 1:50 AM


I know what a rule of thumb is.

I was hoping to start a discussion with people who may have found something similar, or have a contrary experience. Not an argument for the sake of it.

Is it really comparing two completely different things to look at a Canon 5D and a 5DMkII? Actually it's the most natural comparison I can think of. And simply speaking, if you want to take advantage of that extra potential image quality you may have to start using a faster shutter speed.

As to the shutter speed "huh?" I presume that you knew exactly what I meant and are simply being pedantic. It should be very clear from the context what I was talking about, which of course snipping parts of sentences doesn't show.

"Down to" meaning on the dial, 1/25 is "down" from 1/60. "Exceeding" referred to the time duration.

In case you really didn't understand I meant, I was saying that:

1. It is not possible to get consistently good results hand-holding a camera with a longer shutter speed than 1/25s (e.g. 1/10s) , with or without IS on ANY camera.
2. I am able to get good results on a 50mm lens with IS at 1/25s on my 5DMkII.

Got it?


Yes, certainly - if I down-rez a file from the 5D2 to 12Mp the old rules apply. But that was my point. The extra resolution requires a change of mindset if you want to take advantage of it. Better technique is necessary for higher-resolution cameras.

And for me, somewhere between 12 and 22 Mp the 1/FL rule stops working well.

Camera weight is important, but the 5D and 5D2 are the same. Mirror slap too is becoming more important as resolutions increase.

JimC Dec 3, 2009 6:05 AM

I haven't tried to research the origin of the 1/focal length rule of thumb. But, most of those kinds of things are geared towards a specific print size and viewing distance.

Some of the formulas I've seen for human eye's ability to detect blur work that way. Most of those are geared towards motion blur though (taking subject size, direction, speed of movement, shutter speed, focal length, focus distance, print size and viewing distance into consideration). The idea is that the human eye must see a certain amount of movement to be able to detect it (and that movement will occur across a greater distance at a larger print/viewing size).

But, the same concept should apply to blur from camera shake (blur will be less detectable at smaller viewing sizes because it occurs across a smaller distance).

You'll find the same thing with DOF formulas (they were originally designed for a given print size and viewing distance).

So, with larger print or viewing sizes, the "rule of thumb" for hand holding a camera would no longer be valid (which is what i understand to be your point).

TCav Dec 3, 2009 7:44 AM

You're holding the 5D MkII to a higher standard than the 5D. That's my point. If you compared a 100% crop from the 5D with a 50% crop from the 5D MkII (both taken at 1/60 second), I suspect that you would find the same amount of image blur due to camera shake.

peripatetic Dec 3, 2009 7:46 AM

Yes Jim, that's it.

We all know that optimum resolution (the kind shown on the lens test sites for example) can only be achieved using a tripod, mirror-lockup, etc.

But of course there are many elements in the chain that limit your final resolution, the three relevant factors I am talking about here are sensor resolution, lens resolution and blur due to camera movement.

There is a big difference between a 12Mp image from my 5D interpolated to 22Mp and an untouched image from my 5D2. Interestingly I am not finding any difference in my better lenses - so the 5D2 is still not lens-limited at this time. It may well come with higher resolutions. But camera shake at the higher resolution is more of a problem.

I wasn't trying to make any earth-shatteringly profound statement or anything, but when one is used to working a certain way and you get new equipment sometimes the old ways are no longer good enough, and you must adapt your technique.

Some interesting reading...


Yes, I agree completely.

JimC Dec 3, 2009 7:46 AM


Originally Posted by TCav (Post 1024745)
You're holding the 5D MkII to a higher standard than the 5D.

That's the main idea behind buying the higher resolution camera to begin with (so you can make larger print sizes with more detail). ;-)

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 2:15 PM.