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jbarrick Dec 30, 2006 2:25 PM

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How affective is VR?

I am considering getting a Nikon 70-300mm VR lens and wanted to compare it to the IS on my S2IS, before spending over 500 bucks on one. Attached is an image at 12x/430mm with and without IS. I need it for handheld birdshots.

  • Would the VR be comparable, or as affective at 300mm?[/*]
  • Is the $300 price difference worth it? [/*]
  • Other lens options at this price range?

Thanks Jeff

JimC Dec 30, 2006 8:02 PM

It would probably help to know the camera settings used (aperture, shutter speed, ISO speed). ;-)

But, in general, stabilization should be good for at least 2 stops (and up to 4 stops).

The "rule of thumb" for a hand held camera is 1/focal length. IOW, if shooting with a lens zoomed into 100mm, use 1/100 second or faster. If Shooting zoomed into 200mm , use 1/200 second or faster, etc.

But, that's only a rule of thumb, as some people can hold a camera steadier than others (and some people may require even faster shutter speeds to minimize blur from camera shake).

Let's take an example...

If you are shooting at 400mm and need a shutter speed of 1/400 second to reduce blur from camera shake, you should be able to get by with a shutter speed of around 1/100 second with a stabilization system that gives you a 2 stop advantage (and 2 stops is probably the minimum benefit you'll see with any major stablization system).

But, you've also got to take other settings into consideration for a given shot. With a DSLR, you can use a much higher ISO speed. So, if you were shooting at ISO 400 with the DSLR, versus ISO 100 with a non-DSLR model, you'd already be getting shutter speeds 4 times as fast for the same lighting and aperture, even without stabilization.

Of course, aperture enters the equation, too. The 70-300mm VR lens you're looking at has a widest available aperture of f/5.6 on it's long end. So, it's a much dimmer lens compared to the lens on your S2IS, which has f/3.5 available on it's long end (f/3.5 is approximately 3 times as bright as f/5.6).

But, the ISO speed differences (you could use a higher ISO speed with lower noise with a DSLR) would more than make up for the difference in lens brightness. You could shoot at ISO 400 with the DSLR at f/5.6 and get faster shutter speeds compared to the non-DSLR at f/3.5 and ISO 100 (and probably have lower noise, too).

Then, it's a matter of the difference between stabilization systems, and I would expect them to be on "equal footing" at that point using shutter speeds where mirror slap did not enter the equation (and it shouldn't at wider apertures in daylight as in the shot above).

jbarrick Dec 30, 2006 9:15 PM

It would probably help to know the camera settings used (aperture 5.6, shutter speed 1/50, ISO 50). I thought about adding this information before posting although I felt I was generally speaking, sorry.

I understand by making adjustments to your aperture and ISO settings you can increase your shutter speed.

Example poor lighting at 400mm use 4.5 or 5.6 aperture and raise ISO to reach a 1/400 shutter speed.

My question is: If I can make adjustments to the aperture and raise ISO to reach a 1/400 shutter speed what do I need VR or IS for? What is the advantage?

I believe I am trying to justify spending $500 when a $200 lens can affectively reduce image blur, sharpness is a different matter.
Thanks Jeff

Canon S2IS & Sony VCL-DH1758 Tele Lens

JimC Dec 30, 2006 9:43 PM

Well... lighting may not be so good in shadows (or early AM, around sunset in the evening, etc.), and/or you may not want to use a higher ISO speed in less than optimum lighting, depending on your subject (moving or stationary).

You may also want to stop down the aperture (smaller aperture represented by a higher f/stop number) for more depth of field.

It depends on the conditions, the depth of field you want, the subject type and more.

I'm probably the wrong person to comment, since I'm a big fan of stabilization (I'm using a Konica Minolta Maxxum 5D, so all lenses I use with it are stabilized).

Personally, I wouldn't buy another camera without this feature, since I've found it to be very useful (I do a lot of low light shooting where it really comes in handy, especially since it works with brighter primes, too).

If Iwere using a Nikon DSLR, I don't know if I would spend an extra $300 to get VR in that lens.

I'd probably be more inclined to go with a faster lens to start with (i.e., buy a Nikkor 80-200mm f/2.8 and use a 1.4x TC with it, giving me a stop brighter lens compared to the 70-300mm VR, even with a TC). VR won't help with motion blur from subject movement and a brighter lens will (since you've got wider available apertures).

You can find a non-D Nikkor 80-200mm f/2.8 AF Lens for under $500 if you shop around at vendors like Of course, the f/2.8 lens is larger and heavier. Pros and cons.

Hopefully, someone that has the lens can comment on it's merits.

jbarrick Dec 30, 2006 10:40 PM

Thanks Jim,

I would prefer a camera with body stabilization as well. I have read the reviews on the Pentax K100 and K10.

Steve's Conclusion K100
"The Shake Reduction feature did not quite live up to the Pentax claim of a 2-stop improvement. We were able to obtain consistently blur-free images at about 1 1/2 stops slower than the rule of thumb minimum shutter speed of 1/focal-length, but at 2 stops results became less consistent".

DPreview Overall conclusion K10

"in-camera Shake Reduction which delivers at least some low light advantage with all your lenses" Some low light advantage doesn't sound promising for a $1000 camera.

I am going to take a look at Sony A100.
Thanks again,

Canon S2IS & Sony VCL-DH1758 Tele Lens

JimC Dec 31, 2006 2:26 AM

Well... the Sony has a bit higher noise than the older Konica Minolta 5D, 7D; or newer Pentax K100D. So, you've got to take that tradeoff into consideration if you are planning on using it much in low light.

It's image detail is very good though, and it's sensor sensitivity is a bit better than the ISO speed set on the camera. Also, some of the tests around the net can be a bit misleading on noise levels, as it's metering tends to underexpose to protect highlights, giving you faster shutter speeds with higher noise from the underexposure in some conditions. Any camera's metering will take some getting used to. It also uses less aggresive noise reduction compared to most other models. Pros and Cons.

Even taking all of that into consideration, it is still a bit worse than most DSLR models in the noise area, but fine for most uses. The stabilization is a great feature, and it can let you use lower ISO speeds than you would normally be able to get away with using a hand held camera.

However, if you needed a camera for use at higher ISO speeds more often (for example, trying to shoot low light sports at ISO 1600), I'd probably look elsewhere (stabilization is not a substitute for good high ISO performance and a bright lens when shooting non-stationary subjects in low light). Now, noise levels are going to seem great compared to a model like your Canon. They're not going to be in the same class in that area (or most other areas). The DSLR is going to have a number of advantages.

I shoot at ISO 1600 often, so noise levels are important to me and I don't plan on upgrading to a DSLR-A100 for that reason (at least that's my current thinking on this issue, especially since my KM 5D is working fine and I rarely print at larger sizes). I don't really need the extra pixels. I'd rather have the lower noise.

If you shoot mostly outdoors in daylight, you may not care about ISO 1600 noise levels and may appreciate the higher detail from the Sony (it outshines other similar cameras on resolution charts that I've seen).

Of course, if you aren't printing at larger sizes, you may not even see any difference in detail between them. Everyone's needs are going to be different.

Also, you really start getting into "splitting hairs" when comparing some of the similar cameras within a given market niche (and I'm often guilty of that, too). None of the popular DSLR models are bad cameras, but they can all take good or bad photos. Your skill is going to be the most important aspect of getting a good images unless you have some special requirements.

I assumed that you already had a Nikon DSLR when I responded. There are pros and cons to any of them. If you're debating on a camera and lens(es) to use, I'd probably ask for opinions in the What Camera Should I Buy Forum, where you may get some comments from users.

There is no one perfect solution for all conditions and any choice is going to be a compromise in one area or another. The trick is finding the solution that fits your needs the best within a given budget. The good news is that the harder the decision is to make, the more likely you'll be happy with your choice.

I wouldn't get too hung up on a single feature (unless it's a deal breaker for specific reason), as things like metering, control layout, viewfinder, lens selection and availability, AF speed, ergonomics and more can impact the model that can make a "good fit". Make sure to test drive models you consider in a store, too. You want to be comfortable with the camera (and lenses) you choose.

Stujoe Dec 31, 2006 10:51 AM

JimC wrote:

VR won't help with motion blur from subject movement and a brighter lens will (since you've got wider available apertures).
Very good point which a lot of people overlook. IS/VR/OIS is a great feature for reducing camera shake and would probably give a great image of that birdhouse that was posted. However, if you have a bird flittering and moving around on that birdhouse, the stabilization won't do anything to reduce the blur of the bird moving. You still need a fast shutter speed to stop action.

A 300mm f/2.8 VR would be the best of both worlds I guess...if it wasn't $4500! :cry:

jbarrick Jan 1, 2007 6:23 PM

My point in posting the question is "How affective is VR?" is still a mystery.

Close to 200 people have viewed this post in the last 3 days, one can lonely assume they were wondering the same thing at one point or another.

Dose anyone with first hand experience have an opinion??

"would probably give a great image" Isn't very reassuring.

Thanks Jeff

Canon S2IS & Sony VCL-DH1758 Tele Lens

WCube Jan 1, 2007 7:14 PM

I have two VR lenses, 18-200 & 80-400. The VR feature is most affective when you are trying to capture something like a plane landing where you are panning the camera. It will not help stop a humming bird's wings but it allows you to take sharp pictures when you would not be able to due to hand shake or low light. I can take my 18 -200 and zoom out to 200mm without the VR feature on and track an aircraft on final. You can see the hand shake in the view finder. If I took the picture it would no doubt show the plane to be blurred when I view it in full scale. Once I push the shutter button half-way the VR will come on and the plane is steady, it works even more when using my 80-400mm zoom.

VR will not guarantee a good shot every time, I have many shots that are not as sharp as I know the lens is capable of, but I know that without it I would not be able to take nearly as many good shots as I do. You just have to decide what you are trying to capture. If you want some help when taking hand held shots, VR is a good tool. I personally feel that the extra money I spent has been justified; others may not feel the same way.

jsfox Jan 1, 2007 11:22 PM

When I am considering a purchase I first talk to people in person and online just as you are doing, but in the end the only way I'll know if something is really going to work for ME and give ME the results I'm after is if I try it myself. You really need to either rent one for a few days or buy it from somewhere with a liberal return policy. Between B'ham, Auburn (nice win today), and Montgomery I'm sure there's some place that can help you out.

Good luck,

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