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Old Apr 23, 2008, 1:02 AM   #1
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Image stabilization has apparently become the "must have" feature for digital SLRs over the past few years. And while I can certainly see the usefulness of IS at the long end of a 300mm telephoto zoom or in a low-light situation without a flash... I have to muse just a bit.

It seems to me that IS has become "must-have" because almost all of the kit lenses (and even some lenses a step or two up from that) for DSLRs are rather slow. Typically, kit lenses run in the f/3.5-5.6 range. It seems to me if one uses faster, brighter lenses (say, in the f/2.8 range - maybe up to f/3.5 at the long end of a zoom lens), one might not need IS all that much. A number of moderately-priced prime lenses for all the major camera brands are even faster (f/1.8 or f/2.0).

I don't claim to have all the answers. Is my thinking faulty here? I'd like to hear from some DLSR owners with IS in their cameras. Do they use it that much? Do faster lenses negate the need for IS in the real world? Or have lenses fast enough to make IS unnecessary simply become too expensive for most of us?

Inquiring minds want to know!
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Old Apr 23, 2008, 3:22 AM   #2
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There are lots of threads about this.

For the majority of my work I don't use IS. I have a fast 50mm lens and a camera that has very good high-ISO performance.

But IS does what it says on the box, it reduces camera shake by about 2-4 stops, depending on the system. Sometimes that's enough, sometimes not. If you absolutely have to stop the shake a good tripod is still the best.

If you want to shoot at f14 for DOF then having an f2.8 maximum aperture doesn't help. Under some light IS will do the job.

A nice article on the subject:


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Old Apr 23, 2008, 5:53 AM   #3
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I have 2 IS lenses (24-105mm f4 IS L and 70-200mm f2.8 IS L) in my Canon setup and it is only something that is used occasionally. Usually I will use it when shooting a wedding where I'm working with low light and there is minimal subject movement, apart from that it is turned off. There are times when even lenses with IS wont solve the problem so I go with a fast prime.

Before using Canon I was a Konica Minolta DSLR user so have in body IS and again the same things were found that often it wasn't on.

A lot of IS is marketing hype that has convinced people you need to have it and it takes away the need for a good photography technique. With PS cameras where the ISO handling is not nearly as good then there aremore times that IS is needed as you are often working with lesser shutter speeds.

I shoot a lot of sports and never have IS turned on so it's like everything, it's a tool to be used at the right time in the right place.
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Old Apr 23, 2008, 7:50 AM   #4
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  1. I'm an available light photographer. I use a Konica Minolta Maxxum 5D, which has sensor shift image stabilization in the camera body. I have it turned on all the time, unless I'm using a tripod, which is rarely. For instance, every Christmas Eve, I go around my community taking photos of the the Christmas decorations, so they can be published in our community newsletter. The only light is the decorations, so the shutter speeds are long (for hand-held) and it's cold, so I'm probably shivering. Before I had IS, I was only able to use about 10-15% of my shots. Now I can use about 95% of my shots. For other ocassions, I don't know how often IS has saved my butt, but I know that it has, and that's good enough for me. [/*]
  2. Most zoom lenses (wide angle to moderate telephoto) are not fast enough for available light. If you don't mind using flash (I do), then the flash should freeze the action, so you could do without IS. But even the best zooms only have maximum apertures of f/2.8 (or so.) I use a Tamron 17-50/2.8 for a lot of my indoor available light shots, along with IS and an ISO setting of 400-800, and have been pleased with the results. I also use a 50/1.7 frequently in the same circumstances, and am equally pleased.[/*]
Faster lenses and better high ISO performance certainly help, but neither of them, alone, will give you the 2-4 f-stop advantage that IS will. And taken together, they are a great combination.

IS is a tool, one of many. If you've got IS, you can turn it off when you don't need it. If you don't have it, you can't turn it on when you do.
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Old Apr 23, 2008, 10:59 AM   #5
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I've just always leftImage Stabilizationon, on my Olympus E510 as it doesn't seem to significantly affect battery performance. There's no doubt I could probably do without it using my 14-54 f2.8-3.5, but I've definitely benefitted from itat the longer end of my 70-300 f4-5.6 Digital Zuiko.

I might be able to "make do" with a faster prime and no stabilization, but financially it's hard for an advanced amatuerto justify the cost of a 300mm f2.8 no matter the brand, unless you've just gotthe fundsin your bank accountand have nothing better to do with it, or are a trust beneficiary with discretionary money to burn!
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Old Apr 23, 2008, 11:50 AM   #6
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From my experience, anti-shake / VR / IS is a very much over-rated feature. Much like megapixels. And just like that other tool (mp) there are certain types of photography that greatly benefit from it. But there are many types that do not.

Furthermore I think it is one of the most mis-used tools. People rely on it when it's a poor choice - taking 1/15 ss pics of people for instance - yes the AS does it's job and their is no camera shake but the subject being human did not stay frozen for 1/15 so the end result isn't great.

In general, and this is just my opinion, IS is most beneficial to more advanced photographers. Seems counterintuitive doesn't it? The reason I say this is - as mentioned above novice photographers often misuse it. Talk to a pro landscape photographer - they'll tell you it can be beneficial but it is no substitute for a tripod. Talk to a wedding photographer - they will tell you there are instances where it is beneficial but is no replacement for fast lenses and for a good flash system / strobes. In short the more seasoned photographers know how to use it to turn already very good photos into great photos. But more often I see novices using it as a poor substitute for faster lenses or flash use or tripod.

So, just like MP, high ISO performance, frames per second, IS is a feature. It may or may not be beneficial depending on the type of photography you do. But is it must have? No. No more so than more mp is 'must have'. It's just the latest buzz in the buyer community just like mp or high ISO performance

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Old Apr 23, 2008, 9:59 PM   #7
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Well, thank you for the responses. All very interesting. Generally, you all seem to back up my own general impression that IS can be a useful tool, but is not a must-have, unless you do a lot of the kind of photography that can take advantage of it.

On the other hand, while fast glass can help offset the need for IS, how many non-professional photographers (I consider myself a well-experienced hobbyist) can afford to drop $1000-$2000 or more apiece on really good lenses? So if one is on a budget like I am these days, IS can come in handy on some occasions.

So. Now I'm going to have to digest all this and decide if I want to go for an Olympus E-510 (or 520 if they bring it out quickly enough) or settle for the E-420. The idea of the smaller camera with that cool 25mm f/2.8 lens is very appealing. And the two Zuiko kit zoom lenses have a great reputation as well. Those three lenses might be all I would need with either camera. There are other good entry-to-midline DSLRs out there, of course. But in the sub-$1000 range, Olympus seems to offer really good value and I want to avoid locking myself into an expensive lens system.
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Old Apr 23, 2008, 10:18 PM   #8
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I agree with TCav: IS is well worth having. Glad I have it, and would be very unhappy if I had to give it up.

I also agree with JohnG: IS does not solve all problems any more than any other camera feature will beit high shuitter speed, large aperature, high ISO, high sync speed, ... IS is not a substitute for a tripod any more than high ISO is.
... and I want to avoid locking myself into an expensive lens system.
Only your own self restraint will acomplish that. It has nothing to do with the choice of cameras, though some do have more options to drool over than others.
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Old Apr 24, 2008, 12:39 AM   #9
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I'm sure if I had IS available, I would find occasion to use it. Since I don't, and never have, I don't miss it. Whether it is worth paying extra for, either in-body or in-lens, is mostly dependent on your own needs and wants, and anticipated uses for the camera.

Learning the limits of your equipment and yourself takes time regardless of the equipment. The only real advice I would offer is that if you have a feature and don't need or want to use it, it can usually be turned off. If you don't have it and end up needing or wanting it, you may find you have painted yourself into a corner.

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Old Apr 24, 2008, 2:36 AM   #10
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Have a look at the prices of the higher-end Olympus lenses. They are not cheap, certainly no cheaper than the Canon or Nikon equivalents.

But I do think the 410+25f2.8 is a fantastic little combo, emphasis on little. Great for street work and snapshots.
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