Using lenses having Image Stabilization(IS)/Vibration Reduction(VR) is a great way to ensure you get sharp pictures. Most often, there are two version of the same lens – One having the Image Stabilization & one without it. Off-course the image stabilized version cost more over the non image stabilized. This puts a consumer buying lens in dilemma as to which version he/she should go for. Is IS/VR worth the extra cash? Does IS/VR works when the camera is mounted on a tripod? Does IS/VR helps when shooting moving subjects? Does one needs IS/VR on wide-angle lenses? I’ll answer all such queries in this post.
# Does IS/VR helps when shooting moving subjects?
First of all, the IS/VR is a mechanism inside the lens to counter-attack camera shake. That means, it would remedy the shake caused by unsteady hands, improper shutter release technique & so on. In short it rectifies the motion problem due to the photographer. However it does NOT works if the subject you’re shooting is in motion. It will not help you get a sharp picture of subject in motion, if you are shooting the subject at a slower shutter-speed. This means for shooting moving subjects, you need to have a proper shooting technique. IS/VR will compliment the technique & add to it but not on its own give you sharper pictures.
# Does IS/VR works when the camera is mounted on a tripod?
Most modern image-stabilized lenses have a mechanism inside which detects whether the camera is mounted on a stable surface(tripod). In such a case, the lens CPU automatically, turns off the IS/VR mechanism as it is not required. However in old lenses, there is no such feature & the user needs to turn off the IS/VR manually on the lens. IS/VR is known to induce a bit of shake even when the camera is mounted on a tripod as the mechanism to detect motion inside is active. This is due to ‘feedback loop’, as the lens group might move causing unwanted blurs when the IS/VR is set to enabled with the camera on tripod. So, its better to switch off the IS/VR when you mount the camera on a tripod.
# Does one needs IS/VR on wide-angle lenses?
Theoretically, one should shoot at a shutter-speed which corresponds to the current focal length to prevent any camera shake. This means, if you’re using a 100mm lens, then you should shoot at a minimum shutter-speed of 1/100th to get sharp pictures. Off-course, this does not apply to everyone as some people are not blessed with steady hands & in-spite of using the above rule, they may induce camera shake in their pictures. This means, having image-stabilization on telephoto end becomes absolutely a must. So, pick lenses above 50mm preferably with IS/VR mechanism. Don’t ever think of getting the larger telephoto lenses like 70-200 f/2.8, 70-200 f/4, 75-300 f/4-5.6 III USM, as you’ll not get sharp pictures unless the light is really strong to get a fast enough shutter-speed. Now, at wide-angles the IS/VR may not hold the same value as it holds for telephoto but it helps having IS/VR on an wide-angle lens since as the light gets low, it will come to your rescue. IS/VR always helps if you want to get the cleanest(due to able to shoot at slow shutter-speeds at a low ISO) & sharpest possible pictures hand-held. Again, if you’re a landscape photographer using wide-angle lens, you can get Non-IS lenses as you’ll mostly be using a tripod.
# Is IS/VR worth the extra cash?
Absolutely. Unless you can shoot with a flash or work with a tripod, getting IS/VR enabled lenses is highly recommended. The extra money is well spent & will definitely bring you more keeper shots. So do not skimp but save some money & get an IS/VR enabled lens itself.