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Sunday, 07 December 2014


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What is the best practice for handheld shooting with cropped-sensor cameras? (Say, a 50mm lens using an APS-C camera with a 1.5X crop factor.) Is the recommended minimum shutter speed:

a) 1/focal length: 1/50, or

b) 1/EFOV: 1/75 (i.e., 50 X 1.5 = 75 mm-e)?

I use 1/60 or 1/80 because 60 and 80 are the next available (discrete) shutter speeds on the front dial of my GXR-M.

You're excused for this rant, Mike, as we are fast approaching one of the "silly seasons" of the year.

My take is that whatever settings / camera / lens combo I need for my next picturing are directly proportional to the statement I wish to make.

Further to my question-

When shooting in full manual mode at base ISO. The GXR-M has no IBIS.

(When using my GRD IV which has IS, I use shutter or aperture priority at base ISO.)

Well no, I don't do tests like this one regularly, but I can confirm that the 2-way IBIS in all our E-PL5, (former) E-PL1, and E-520 cameras is also quite good. So good in fact that I also don't bother switching it off on a tripod.

What I *did* do some time ago was the dreaded 'brick wall test' to compare my OM Zuiko 50mm 1.8 and 1.4 lenses against a OM Zuiko Auto Macro 50mm/3.5, and the M.Zuiko 45mm/1.8. That test confirmed the feelings I had about all these lenses (with the Micro Zuiko "beating" them all), but I've taken good photos with all of them.

From my blog, clicking on a photo opens Flickr in another window or tab of your browser, where you can get the hi-res versions for pixel peeping if you so desire.

In the hope that this is helpful for someone... oh, and the obligatory real world cat photo isn't missing of course. That one was taken with the "weakest" of these lenses, hand-held (with IBIS of course), while our furry friend was sitting on my lap.

Interesting post. Adding the shutter times would've been useful for comparison.

I've been using E-M1 for about year now and after few quick bookshelf test shots I went shooting in the night time as the best test is to use it and find the limits =)

Before I used Olympus E-5 which had good traditional in-body IS, but the IBIS of E-M1 blew my mind. The difference is that big!

I don't have that good camera holding technique, but with IBIS it's really easy to get sharp photos 1/6th sec @12mm and 1/8th sec @50mm is doable with some backup shots. Few times I've managed to get something like 1/2 sec exposure @12mm hand-held.

With some support it's possible to get sharp ~1sec exposures when using wide focal lengths and IBIS. Nowadays using tripod or gorillapod is quite rare. Basically only with long focal lengths in darkness or when there's a need longer shutter times.

IBIS is great in situations where you could have used a tripod anyway.
In any situation which involves hunman or other moving life forms its use is negligible.

More relevant is how slow can you go and achieve acceptable results using good holding technique?

Yes, I do test. Some weeks ago I tested a newly purchased € 1000+ lens and found it to be decentered. The top left hand corner was always much less sharp than the other three corners. I emailed proof shots of some USAF test chart to my local dealer where I had bought the lens. An hour later I had the response: "Bring it back, we have a second lens here and we have reserved it for you."

USAF test chart and kitchen drawer knobs test shots are OK, but I prefer real life situation tests. I tested the OSS on my new Sony/Zeiss 16-35mm f/4 and have published some shots on Flickr. (Sony A7R, RAW, then the following LR presets: B/W, Auto Tone, Medium Contrast, Punch and Sharpen. Fully LR loaded, but that is irrelevant for reviewing the effectiveness of the OSS.


Oly's IBIS rocks....

Trying it at 1/focal_length doesn't tell you much, as this is the rule of thumb for shutter speed. Try again at 1/5 second, even better with a longer focal length. I find my E-M5 produces many very sharp results under those conditions.

Some years ago, I saw Ctein's IS test on here. He was using a latticework lit from behind. The strong contrast between light and shadow gave a really unambiguous reading of blur, and gave some directional cues as well.

There's another fellow who posted a comment on here who used narrow parallel lines on a black computer screen to do a similar test. I recall Ctein rather liked his approach.

As for technical tests, I really enjoy reading about how they are done - it scratches the problem solving itch for me. I haven't come across a good forum for digital cameras that focuses on practical ones, like you use. For film, nothing beats reading largeformatphotography.org's forums! That's a wonderful group of smart and curious folk who are always game to try something new or re-test something old.

I would really enjoy a few posts collecting some of the better "home tests" people can do to figure out their equipment. For instance, Carl Weese's "paper towel test" was a really neat way to check for highlight blowouts. But I wonder what people would make of that today, given how much software has changed.

I took a photo at a speed of 0.3 seconds at a moderately wide focal length recently and to my amazement and pleasure it was nice and sharp. Shall we gloss over the fact I'd left the aperture on the daylight setting of f/6.7 and would have been surer of a sharper result at, say, f/4?

As usual I did everything I could to make a sharp photo; feet apart, camera braced, body relaxed and a slow gentle press, really a squeeze, on the go button. Technique makes a lot of difference; I try to expose carefully enough that I'd have a chance even without image stabilisation.

This was with a zoom set to 24mm on a Pentax K20D, with shake reduction. I mean, Shake Reduction.

I quit worrying about it after I once got two out of three sharp photos in a critical situation with a 100-300mm f4 Tamron at 300mm and 1/15th second on my OM-2n.

Have you bonded with your E-M1 yet?

I'm not an Olympus owner but I would assume that IBIS should NOT be turned on when using a tripod, nor a shutter speed over 500. Neither of items were mentioned in this well written article.

[Uh...the former was directly mentioned, and tested. I did one series each with the camera sitting flat on the desk (simulating a tripod) with the IBIS on and the IBIS off. I could see no appreciable difference. I would conclude (provisionally as always) that it makes no difference if you have the IBIS on or off when shooting on a tripod. --Mike]

Running your own tests should be required (well, almost) for all photographers. Many (most!) of the questions people ask about technique can be resolved by a tiny bit of testing, and quite a few arguments can be avoided the same way.

I almost always "test" new lenses — not to see if they are "good copies," since they virtually always are. Rather, I do this to more quickly learn the personality of each lens — the strengths and weaknesses that would otherwise take months of shooting to discover.

Thanks Mike,
After a rigorous analysis of your testing techniques I have come to the conclusion that you should never take more than two shots...

I could have used IBIS (or a tripod) in this hand held photo.

Hmmmm — you must not spend much time looking at the typical camera/gear forums and elsewhere. They're mostly full of gear "tests", combined with hand wringing over how terrible this or that product is compared to $OTHERBRAND's offering.

I'm pretty steady at low shutter speeds and routinely shoot at 1/15s. I tried tests very similar to yours with my then-new Olympus E-PL3, which offers a more basic IBIS system. I found, to my dismay, no improvement in low-shutter-speed photographs—at 1/15 second, my hit rate was slightly lower with IBIS than without. (Could be faulty IBIS on my camera, of course.)

However, when I repeated the tests a year later with a client's then-new E-M5, my hit rate was similar to yours—absolutely stellar with the IBIS, even as low at 1/10 and acceptable without.

On my E-PL3, I've found that switching on the anti-shock setting and switching off the IBIS is my best bet—as well as offering a less effective IBIS system than the later E-M5, the E-PL3's shutter action seems a little harsh and shake-inducing and the anti-shock helps with that.

I haven't tried an E-M1; does that have an anti-shock setting?

I ran a similar version of this test with my E-P1 not long after I first got it. I came to the conclusion that I was pretty safe at 1/10th of a second using the 20 mm lens.

I have not repeated the test on any newer cameras or with other focal lengths for the simple reason that I realized I could mostly solve the problem with chimping. If things in the shot are moving, then I need to set the exposure to take that into account, and it will almost always be fast enough that I don't have to worry about shake. If they aren't moving, then I usually have the luxury of taking a quick zoomed-in glance at a given exposure to see if I got it sharp.

Mike wrote:

I wonder how many photographers—digital natives especially but not exclusively—actually run their own tests on their own equipment any more.

"Careful photographers run their own tests." — Fred Picker

This has been my way for *many* years. I don't pay much attention to charts, others' tests, etc. I purchase from a reputable dealer, run my own tests, keep the product if I'm happy, return it if not.

As far as image stabilization: my Panasonic FZ1000 has 5-axis IS. At 25mm I can hand-hold down to 1/20 sec. At 400mm, consistent at 1/160 sec. It is the best image stabilization I've ever experienced.

- Richard

Very easy to get used to the IBIS, even in the EM5 (especially like the 17mm, almost light proof). A bit of a shock when you try out a non stabilised full frame with the same abandon!

Mike: I was pleased that I did almost as well with the IBIS off as with it on, at 1/focal length [1/20th] (I used the 20mm lens).

Sarge: What is the best practice for handheld shooting with cropped-sensor cameras?

The old 1/focal length heuristic works for 35mm cameras so the equivalent 35mm focal length not the actual focal length of the lens should be used. In this case you're already twice as slow as the heuristic with 1/20th as a 20mm lens on 4/3" is 40mm eq.

But digital cameras definition of sharpness (inspection at 100%? good enough in a big screen image?) is rather more stringent than inspecting (color) film for sharpness. Clearly as the number of megapixels increases, especially for 38Mpx cameras like the D800, D810 or the A7r, this becomes more of an problem. So the heuristic is a bit questionable today, anyway.

A better way to estimate your "slowest shutter speed" is by taking 10 (or 20) images and just counting the "sharp" ones over a range of slowing shutter speeds. There isn't a sharp cut off in what you can handhold. The odds of an acceptably sharp image just drops off as the shutter speed slows. That's why taking three images is not a good way to estimate this value. Set your lower limit for the odds of a sharp image that you like. I think 50% chance is perhaps where I draw the line. Then try the same experiment with the IBIS to see what the difference in shutter speed is. What's your shutter speed for a 10% change of getting a good image?

Finally does continuous shooting help? Often I find the second and later images in a burst after you press the shutter release have less shake than the first.

Isn't the definition of a measurebator a man with a camera and a notebook? Some numbers are worth remembering but not noting down! This is perhaps one of those numbers. And you can get to it in LR or Aperture with pick or reject to classify the images then count the good images.

Dear Mike,

That matches up pretty well with my experiences, 'cept you've a steadier hand than I-- I get comparable results at 12mm. Not complaining; IBIS is pretty damned wonderful.


I take exception to: "In Ye Olden Daze it was sort of a given that you'd run tests as needed, or as time allowed."

Really? In what alternate reality? In the one I lived in, back in the years BD (Before Digital), very, very few photographers ran any kinds of tests on their equipment, to my observation. They mostly relied on us precious few photography writers for that.

Exceptions abound, especially amongst folks who worked in the field under difficult conditions, but they were still exceptions.

One of the annoyances of the digital age is far too many people fancy themselves a testing expert because they know how to pixel-peep.

pax / Ctein

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