I got a question today about my thoughts on image stabilization and I thought I would share on the site as well. I know a lot of you are long glass users and this may be a beneficial topic. This is primarily written from my own experience and use over the years. Your findings might be different. Again, it all comes down to what we are shooting and the variables at play. So here goes.
Image stabilization I feel was primarily a tool offered to compensate for your hands shaking. The general rule was that we needed 1/focal length for shutter speed to eliminate seeing hand motion in an image. So if you have a 200mm lens, then you need to shoot at 1/200 minimum to eliminate your hand vibration. This varies with different hands. I generally need a stop more with certain lenses. This completely is irrespective of the subject and subject motion. This is only dealing with out own generated vibration. This ends up looking like motion blur, but it is from our hands. Take two images at 100mm at 1/25 of a second. One on a tripod and one handheld. You will see your own motion blur.
As a tool, image stabilization is tremendously helpful. I’ve been able to shoot by hand focal lengths I considered not hand-holdable at one point just fine with the latest stabilization we have. The E-M1mkII has amazing stabilization based on the sensor. Lots of lenses have it too. And some cameras today sync the two up for even more amazing stabilization. 6 stops?!?!?!?! That is insane. And it works. But when do we need it. And a lot of discussion revolves around using it or not at high shutter speeds.
The old general rules that have worked tried and true over the years still seem to make sense.
Am I on a tripod? No need for stabilization.
Am I faster than my focal length? No need for stabilization.
Am I on shaky ground or a moving platform like a boat? Maybe I need it.
Am I hand-holding below my focal length in terms of speed? Yup I could use it.
Thom Hogan wrote an article about Nikon’s stabilization system and he touches on a lot of very interesting things. My experience in the field mirrors much of what he says. I highly recommend reading this. Much of it applies to other brands as well as in-body stabilization too.
So when it comes to fast shutters like 1/500, 1/1000, etc… what’s the deal?