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Thursday, 06 September 2007


Call me lazy. I hate schlepping a tripod. I've got some good ones but when I'm travelling my wife hates to wait for me to set the damn thing up. So I'm with you Mike. I've even hand held my mirror 500mm on my K-M 7D and taken some great shots of birds. That would have impossible without a tripod.

As technology evolve all cameras would make clean ISO3200+ pictures. I am sure S'SSS would become less of a factor, if we bump up the ISOs. Of course that may be a bit different if we are handholding under starlights... : )

Thanks for sharing and the discussions.

When the dust settles after all the exciting new camera introductions (this year or any other year), my personal Jiminy Cricket whispers in my ear: "But will they expand your ability to take pictures?"

Well, I'm not trying to form a parade behind Mike...but I have been frustrated by not having enough light to shoot a picture many times more than not having a long enough lens. Or wide enough. So much that passes for interesting happens in low light.

The flashgun worked incredibly well for Weegee, but I have always avoided flash if possible. Now we have IS becoming a standard offering (shifting sensors or shifting lens elements) and I think that's GREAT.

In fact, come to think about it, pushing boundaries of light may be the singular advantage that photographers have today over the great pratitioners of the past: the setting sun does not close up shop for hand-held shooting, black-and-white or color. The beat goes on. Just like life.

Okay, Mike, now I understand....yesterday when you said, "Oh, goody!! I can't wait—I get all happy thinking of the shots I'm going to make at ISO 800 and ƒ/2 and 1/5th of a second. I'll be a pig in mud.", I kinda thought, "Hmm, I don't get what Mike is on about...the number of times I might be doing a shot like that might be .5% of my photography."

But seeing your work with these lovely photos taken, as you point out, w/o *any* IS, I totally get it. (this work also reflects, as we been discussing lately, that you totally have your chops down). My experience with IS in Canon lenses, is that IS works best when shooting as you do...handheld in low available light, with big apertures and low shutter speeds. I've never shot with anti-shake in camera bodies, but I don't know that for what I do, I would want it. Turning on IS on lenses for shooting rapidly moving racing vehicles slows down the lens, and you miss shots waiting for the gyros to "spin up".

BTW, your work with shots of people reminds me to some extent of Sean Reid's, and with no disrespect to Sean's work, I personally find your shots more personal, and in that sense, more resonant. I liken this to how I find Ansel Adams work, technically perfect, but somewhat cold and distant....Brett Weston is more resonant for me. In particular, the shot of the kids in the boat, and warm available light shots are wonderful.

I think this a very good article and thread, and a lively discussion.

FWIW, I don't really have a thing for telephotos per se. It's not that I like shooting with them so much as I need to, to obtain the content I need to provide for deadline press. They are a tool for getting a job done. The telephotos are really big and heavy. They are hassle to shoot with for 8 hours at a crack, standing on your feet and hiking literally up and down hill with them all day long, slung over your back and shoulder. They wear me down and hurt my back carrying and using them by day's end.

In actuality, I really would much prefer to shoot with smaller lenses if could, like I used to be able to do in the 80s...they are much easier to carry and work with, not to mention considerably less expensive.

When I am not shooting motorsports, the lens I use most frequently, believe it or not, is my much-loved Canon 17-40/f4.

call me lazy, stupid, or a human tripod (though my ex-gf may disagree with you on that one), but I personally have little love for tripods, and even less for IS on all it's shapes and forms. I can shoot something pretty acceptable at ~40mm and 1/6th on my feet and I've gotten some pretty sharp stuff at 1s with my elbows on a table, and neither speed is what I'd call "human-safe" let alone "child-safe" so extending the possibilities in that territory is as good as useless for me.

but that's just me of course, and while I know some people that can accurately meter within half a stop just from looking at a scene with their naked eye, I'm almost useless in that area even *with* the help of good ol' TTL metering, so who am I to dictate which features are needed on a camera and which ones aren't?

so yeah, I may not like IS, but as long as manufacturers don't start putting weird names on their cameras because of it (Pentax K110D I'm looking at you), I have no problem with them incorporating IS on their products. Heck, someday I may even start to appreciate it myself...

IS (in camera or lens) gives some of us another option as well - trade a stop of aperture for reductions in size and weight.

I just replaced my Canon 70-200 f2.8 with the much smaller and lighter f4 version which has a more effective IS giving me back (in some situations) a stop.

Now, I know there is no substitute for the optical qualities of fast glass (though in most cases I would stop down a bit for quality anyway).

But for those of us who travel and face with hassles of weight & size of carry ons, smaller lighter lenses can be critical. In fact the f4 version of the 70-200 fits inside a deep jacket pocket and doesn't get counted at all.

If Canon would produce a "latest generation" IS f5.6 500 (or better yet) 600, I'd trade in my enormous f4 500 in an instant. Heresy to some, I know, but I figure the best lenses are the ones you can get the most use out of.



First, I couldn't agree more. The available light concept has never been about tripods (at least from a point of desirability). The intimacy and strength of one of those images is only allowed by the flexibility of a low light-capable camera. By the way, the digital world also opened this door to non-connoiseurs, since long exposures in film times required a lot of knowledge and it took a lot to get hooked, while now you can look at wonderful little experiments in your camera lcd as you shoot through the night, and that does enlarge your perceptions.
Second, people can't get over the idea that all we have are opinions. People feel always tempted to say "things are better this way", instead of "things work better FOR ME this way". And accordingly, when you openly state an opinion, they translate their need for reassurance to you and assume you are stating universal laws. It's just fear of uncertainty. There might be sure things in the real world, but all that comes out of our mouths are personal views, and people would get along a lot better if they could keep that in mind.

I do a lot of available light photography at distances of less than 3 meters. Because of this, I don't own a zoom, haven't for decades. What I would like from Canon is a fast prime with IS. Think: 50/1.4 with the ability to handhold to 1/4 second. Now that would open some really interesting possibilities. I'm not holding my breath, however. The current IS-in-lens technology I think dove-tails with the fact that most folks' normal lens is a fairly slow medium-focal-range zoom these days. And the days are gone when I would consider dumping a camera system for another because of one technical feature. I can dream though, right?

In body IS and decent high ISO performance has allowed me to work with telephoto lenses handheld where I wouldn't have dared before. This shot is a perfect example:


With the SR [shake reduction] and really decent ISO 1600 performance of the K100D, I was able to shoot this with a Tamron SP 300mm f2.8 handheld (without bracing against anything). The shutter speed isn't out of this world slow (1/200th), but it's still slow enough that I would have had to worry about blur with such a large lens.

It may not be for everyone, but I really love my SR, and the fact that I can use it with old Tamron Adaptall equipment (or even 40 year old M42 lenses for that matter!) is just icing on the cake.

As someone who spent all of his deformative years push-processing Tri-X to 3200 or 6400 (anyone else use and love Ethol UFG?) in search of speed for "challenging" situations, I see IS (or VR) as a way to make up for sensors that aren't fast enough.

For me, in-camera IS would be spiffy, but I'd be just as happy with a sensor that showed less noise at higher ISO. I'd even trade significant amounts of resolution. Give me a mode where I can shoot a relatively low-noise ISO 6400 and I'll be happy with a few MP. Give me that plus IS, and I'll be happy as a pig in slop.

But I'd also be almost certain to throw a long tele on such a camera and head down to the local rink in the middle of winter and try to shoot pick-up hockey under streetlights with it.

Hi Mike
Having used rangefinders for years with 1.4 lenses (latterly the excellent 40 CV) I found myself asking what was the purpose when you got a front to back sharpness in the viewfinder.
Now with the Alpha/anti shake/30 1.4 Sigma and 50 1.4 Sony life is bliss, especialy when the light goes down.

In support of image stabilisation fast lenses and low light.


I-m 100% with you ... If you believe me,when I read your questions and doubts i thought: he
took word from my mind.Low light shots - that's a reason to be upset about photography, taking photos and trying to write with light, to tell a story about fine shadows playing on human faces.
Have a good light,

My first experience with IS was with the EF-S 17-85 that I got with my 20D. It made a world of a difference. (My brother has appropriated that lens, leaving me with just a fond memory and lovely photos of my neices).

I'm a fan of the in lens IS though. One problem with the in body sensor shifting is that it is limited to shifting the sensor to within the area that the image is projected onto. This means that it doesn't work properly with existing lenses and a full frame sensor. It also might not work properly on lenses that are "designed for digital" and only project an image onto the area of the APS-C sized sensor.

The one thing that I've never understood is why some people hate it so much. If you don't like it, buy a body that doesn't have it (or turn the feature off) and ensure that your lens doesn't have it either. If you think it's a cheat, fine... let me cheat. You are free to work with with the old techniques.


IS is better than a tripod when you are not on terra firma. Shooting from a boat on rough water or from a bridge with heavy truck traffic will simply transfer the vibration through the tripod.

But I use IS most to compensate for small aperture/high depth-of-field situations. I often find myself working a near-far composition where I'm at f11. This would otherwise be tripod time if the light is low and you want to stay with a low ISO.

Dilip, your concerns about in-body IS and 36mm x 24mm sensors (or APS-C sensors and reduced frame lenses) is not really valid. I've done tests on how much the sensor moves and it's not very much at all. For instance, I took about a dozen shots at 210mm and 1/20th second of a set of pin point lights. The maximum blur (streaking of the lights) out of the twelve shots was 24 pixels (on a 7D), in most of the shots the blur was much less than this. BTW with AS I could get sharp photos at that shutter speed no problem. At a pixel pitch of 7.8 microns, 24 pixels is less than 200 microns of image wander at the sensor plane. I'm not a particularly steady shooter so I don't think this result is atypically small. Note that the use of a crop sensor camera does not matter as the image wander will be the same for a non-cropped sensor at the same focal length and shutter speed (angle of view simply gets bigger).

From the streak pattern (mainly straight), this indicates that the amplitude of image wander would be roughly constant if we increase focal length and keep the shutter speed at a constant ratio of "1/f". Hence, even for much longer lenses, the absolute motion of the sensor at ~3 stops under "1/f" (e.g. 420mm at 1/10th) will be approximately the same 200 microns. The sensor motion will need to be faster of course, but this is simply and engineering task, not an insurmountable obstacle.

I've not had any problems with vignetting due to AS on the 7D and the Tamron 17-50mm/2.8 at 17mm so it seems not to be a problem for reduced frame lenses either. Looking at the image circle (on a Minolta AF 9000 film camera), the edge is not a sudden cutoff but is more gradual so the sensor would have to move a long way to get its corner into a zone of substantially lower illumination.

The test is so simple to perform that you don't have to take my word for it. If you don't believe that the sensor only needs to move 0.2mm for a > 3 stop improvement under "1/f", then you should try it yourself. Don't just take somebody elses word that a certain technology cannot work due to unsubstantiated arguments which can be easily proven to be incorrect.

You photograph with a minolta, right? It sounds to me that either the sony a100 or better yet, the a700 will be in your arsenal of equipment soon. SSS and ISO6400? Those should make for very good 'abilities.' While the F707 has a fantastic lens, the alpha bodies will probably cry for a CZ 16-80 too. Okay, i'm ranting and this prediction is going to be very expen$ive for you :)

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