The Pros and Cons of Vibration Reduction

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vibration-reductionI recently communicated with a woman who uses her digital camera in her work as an artist. She creates beautiful pictures of flowers and nature. She wants to get a new camera and mentioned that her current one doesn’t have image stabilization.

I’m not going to go into the type of camera I would recommend for her at this point. However, it’s important to keep the end uses in mind. It’s possible that her money might be better spent on purchasing a good tripod versus worry about image stabilization or vibration reduction with her camera.

Here’s the lowdown on Image Stabilization (IS) or Vibration Reduction (VR)

This information was taken from my book, “Snap: the ultimate guide to digital photography for the consumer.”

“A key way that manufacturers have been able to get around the digital noise produced with small sensors in consumer digital cameras is to add vibration technology. This is accomplished on the low end by adding this technology into the consumer digital cameras and on the high end into the lenses themselves. Sometimes Vibration Reduction (VR) is called Image Stabilization. Vibration reduction involves small sensors that send information to your camera’s microprocessor to counteract extra movement. You should be very aware when you don’t have VR in your camera, because you will be hard-pressed to take acceptable photographs in low light situations.

This feature especially when combined with a higher ISO value such as 800 and beyond, will allow you to capture even more photographs in low light situations. If you keep your camera on automatic (I shudder at the thought), then you’ll notice less blur in your photographs. If you put your camera on shutter priority mode, you should be able to get a slower shutter speed with the same aperture. Without VR, you might have been able to take a photograph in the evening at F3.5 and at 1/30th of a second.

The VR system will allow you to take a photograph at 1/8th of a second with the same aperture thus extending the time you can take photographs in the early morning or evening by a few minutes. The DSLR camera class takes the most advantage of VR technology, because VR technology is built into the lens. There are two angular velocity sensors, one for pitch (vertical movement) and one for yaw (horizontal movement). Movement is determined by combining the results of pitch and yaw and sending this information back to a microprocessor built into the lens during very frequent interval such as every 1/1,000 second. This movement information is used to compensate for photographing from a moving car or capturing your scene without fill flash in a low light setting.

vibration-reduction2Nikon claims that its’ VR lenses give the photographer the ability to photograph at shutter speeds 3 steps faster and other manufacturers make similar statements. It’s been my experience that you can expect at least two stops of additional room (shutter speed) when using a VR lens. You can increase the stops of availability even more if you do a few simple things, using a vertical wall to lean upon, holding your breath and using your camera’s strap to give you some resistance.

Remember that while you might have VR, it is a ‘crapshoot.’ VR technology aids in the guessing game of compensating for movement. Some of your photos will be sharper, but others will be about the same. Don’t expect that every photograph will be perfect when employing VR. You still need to be competent enough to take good photographs in the first place. The idea is to take a lot of photographs (i.e. bracketing) in low light or in challenging light situations. The more photographs you have from which to choose, the better your odds of finding that perfect shot. This strategy is not to be confused with some photographers putting their DSLR camera on a high frame rate and hoping for one ‘lucky’ shot.

Recommendation: I would focus on the other features such as sensor size, MP count, zoom range, etc. and if those features are important to you and you have them on your ‘must have’ list for a digital camera, then having VR is a nice addition. However, you shouldn’t select a camera primarily with this feature in mind. NOTE: have a detachable checklist of the important features for consumer and then for entry-level professional cameras.

Mark Sincevich is the Executive Director of the Digital Photography Institute (DPI) as well as a world-class professional photographer. He regularly speaks about photography and related subjects, is frequently quoted in the media and is the founder and Chief Perspective Officer of Staash Press. Mark is also the creator of the Staash Perspective System (SPS). The SPS takes its inspiration from photography and teaches that simplicity leads to more powerful communications. He can be reached at 301-654-3010 or http://www.digitalphotoinstitute.com.

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