Image Stabilized Lenses – Gimic or Need

Image stabilized – yes or no??

I get asked a lot about the need for image stabilized lenses. Many people also want to know if a point and shoot camera should have image stabilization.  People want to know if it is needed to get good pictures or just a gimmick and if it is worth the money?

If you would have asked me years ago I would have said outright don’t waste your money. But as I get older and I push my photography limits I have to say that I do like it.

First a little background

Read moreImage Stabilized Lenses – Gimic or Need

My lenses

I often get asked to describe the lenses that I use and to let people know what I think of them so I will do an update on my lenses. Not a lot has changed in the past year for the lenses that I carry but I have found out a few things that changed the way that I use some of my lenses.

The lenses:

My wide angle lens is a Sigma 10 – 20 F3.5 and I love this lens for so many things. I bought it to use shooting a project and fell in love with it the first day that I used it. I missed the wide angle lenses that I had in years past and this lens made up for a number of other lenses that I gave up when I went to digital. It is sharp all the way from 10 – 20 and really worth the investment if you are looking for a wide angle lens. One note is that Sigma makes this lens in a F3.5 or a F 4 – 5.6 for the price difference for most photographers stay with the F4 – 5.6

Medium range lenses are the work horses of the studio. Christmas eve saw the sale of one of my camera systems that was the backbone of the studio for years as it was replaced by the Canon 18 – 135 that came with the 70D that I bought a year ago. The 18 – 135 is one of the best kit lenses that I have ever seen. I would rate it as a pro lens if this would not offend a number of the photo techies out there. It is sharp, fast and has a great range for shooting in the studio and out of the studio. I have not found a draw back to this lens and currently am thinking of another one for the location bag that I carry.

Another medium range lens that I have and love is the Canon 70-200 F4L. I love this lens, and use it both in the studio and on location. It is also sharp and fast. It is not a IS (image stabilizing) lens and really I find very few times that I need it or would want it.

The only fixed lens that I carry is a throw back to my film days and that is a Canon 100 F2. A GREAT lens, sharp, fast and nice and bright. With the cropped sensor that I use it is actually a 160mm F2 and works great. Amazing for those times that you need a low light lens and with enough reach to keep you out of the action in weddings, sports and news photography.

For big glass I currently only have one lens and that is the Sigma 150 – 500 5.6 – 6.  I bought this lens as I wanted a good quality lens that was above the 300mm that Canon offers as a add on to many of their packages.  I was not happy with the Canon 300 at 300 as it seemed to be soft and the versions that I tested were really slooooooooow and very soft and I was nervous about there L series that it would not be much better.  I heard about the Sigma and after trying it in store I got it for a trial and never took it back (I did pay for it 🙂 ).  I love the 500mm range and the F6 is a good aperture.  It is pretty sharp for the size and price and when it is on the 70D I am able to program the focus to make it even sharper using the focus fine adjust.  If there is a draw back it is that I find it soft at the minimum aperture settings, to beat this I have started setting the aperture at F 8 or 9 and it is so much sharper.  Another drawback when using a big lens is the time to adjust focus from close to infinity, so to beat this I have started to set the focus at infinity when I am out shooting wildlife (this is with any larger lenses so really not specific to the Sigma).

So as of today that is what I have and I am using.  Is there anything that I would change? If I was buying today I may change the 70-200 to the 2.8 but I really don’t know as the difference is so small I really don’t think it is justifiable for me for the price difference. Only in the big lens have I been thinking seriously of making a change and again this is so hard to decide on.  I have heard some good things on the Tamron 150 – 600, I read a really good review on it and at the end he compared the Sigma to the Tamron and decided that it would not be worth the difference to upgrade so that did not help me. Sigma is coming out with their own 150 – 600 and early reviews say it is amazing but this is not everyday users so I am VERY nervous to do any updating based on this.  I want to see some real reviews from everyday photographers before I am going to spend $2000 on this lens.  As well I have finally saved enough to add a Canon 800 F5.6L to my arsenal but even with the money I cannot justify it (yah I know I should just do it and get this lens). I figure the size and the cost and I would probably leave it in the vehicle a lot of times, like today when I had to walk on ice covered walkways and one slip would not be good for me or the lens.  I have heard a lot of great reviews on it but the size, cost and the fact that it is a fixed focus and I just cannot bring myself to get it, maybe when it warms up.  REALLY would like to see Canon get into some better zoom lenses like a 200 – 600 F4 or F 5.6 L series that would take the 1.4 or 2 x converter as I know that the market is there if they could keep the price around the $3000 – $5000 mark.

Image stabilizing lenses do you need them or not?

Image stabilizing lenses do you need them or not?

First let me say that I am talking about image stabilizing, vibration reduction and shake reduction but I will refer to it as IS as I shoot with Canon and that is the term that I am familiar with. Also, this article applies to DSLR cameras that have the IS in the lenses and not point and shoot cameras, Hybrid or DLSR cameras with the IS in the body.

Image Stabilizing Lens

So do you need image stabilizing lenses?

Honestly, no you do not.  Even with so many people saying that you do – really you do not.  A good sharp lens and you are all set, if you need more stability you can simply use a tripod or a mono pod.  But in the real world it is not always that easy.  I have a number of lenses without IS and really I do not have a problem with shooting with those lenses and I get some great pictures from them.  But I do like the lenses that have IS and I do like the ability to push the limits of my photography and the lenses that I use.

Read moreImage stabilizing lenses do you need them or not?

A lens filter or no lens filter?

When teaching I am always telling my students that buying a lens filter for the sake of having a filter is not a good thing, the only thing that you are doing is adding to the stores profit margin.  Sure I have heard all the sales talk about how a lens filter will protect the lens glass and save the lens, but honestly in all my time taking pictures and teaching I have never seen a filter that has protected a lens, or for that matter a lens that had the front glass scratched.  It may happen but I have not seen it.

The other night when teaching Astro photography one of my students took a picture that I was shocked to see all the reflections on the image.  So I asked him to take the filter off and take another picture.  Sure enough the difference was amazing!!

Paterson Photography UV filter
With a UV filter

Paterson Photography No Filter

No filter used on the lens

Even the best filter can cause your lens to loose quality and the two pictures above show just one thing that can happen.  With the added glass you can get softer images, lens reflections, etc.

If you have a real use for a filter buy one, if you are just buying because the sales person has told you to, be careful.  I strongly suggest that if you are looking for a filter, or filters, look at Lee or Cokin filters.  They are not designed to be left on the lens but do a great job of “filtering” your image.



Autofocus Microadjustment on the 70D

I decided that I would do a Autofocus Microadjustment on my 70D for my Sigma 150 – 500.  I was happy with how the lens and camera focused but was finding I had many shots that were sharper just to the front of the subject, and after talking to a photographer this past weekend in Glacier figured that I would give it a shot (pun intended).  So I did a test shot without the adjustment and a shot after I adjusted it and was happy to see that it was now a lot sharper on the subject.  I really don’t think that it is the lens as much as the way that I shoot so now I have the focus dialed in more for me.

Am I going to do all my lenses? I am not sure.  I shoot differently with all my lenses so to do them all may cause me issues.  For now I am going to watch and see.  I may do my 70 – 200L series as I use that one a lot like the Sigma but I will have to prove to myself that it is working.

Do I recommend this for everyone?  NO!!! (Note: many cameras can only do this if sent to the manufacturer and I would not do this unless I had a lens that was giving me issues) If you can do this yourself on your camera first do some tripod tests using a tripod, then make the decision but only after a lot of tests.

Canon 70D Update on the new camera

Well I have had the Canon 70D for over a month and thought that I should do an update on my thoughts.  I can say that so far I have not had a problem with this camera (and the 18-135 lens).  I am very impressed with the quality and the way it functions, now for the bad news – it is SO overloaded with features that it can be hard to operate.  Sure it does a lot but if I am honest I can say that a lot, or for that matter most, of the features are not needed for the everyday photographer.  It is nice that I can fire the camera with my tablet but honestly a wired remote does the same thing without the issues of setting it up.  It is nice that I have many other features as well but when all is said and done they are just not needed, will I play with them – Yes!  Will I use them in a work shooting situation – No.

I really wish that camera manufacturers would have a beginner, intermediate and advanced mode on their cameras.  I can see many people getting frustrated with so many menus as by the time you find what you were looking for you forget what you were doing.

So some reviews (1 to 10 – 1 Bad, 10 excellent)

Image Quality – 10

Color – 10

Auto Focus – 10 (Single point for me as multi point worked but I was never sure if it was on the subject)

Lens Quality – 9 (18-135)

Remote Shooting from tablet – 6 (It is fun to use, cool that I can change the settings of the camera from the tablet, a pain to keep the network running around other networks, REALLY not impressed that I cannot use a bulb setting from the tablet, still need to get a wired remote to shoot in bulb).

Flip out screen – 10 Although for most shooting it is not needed, it is nice when you need it.

Touch Screen – 7 – This has some cool uses, but again in the heat of a shoot will I use it? More than likely not as it is not as fool proof as many would have you believe, I prefer  using the menu as then you know you are where you want to be.

Camera Card – 6  Nothing wrong with the card or the speed, I really miss the compact flash cards as my bigger fingers do not like the tiny SD cards and I keep loosing the card.

Vertical Grip –  10 I would not be without it.

I have been asked by a number of people if the 70D was a worth while purchase from the 40D, that is sooo hard to say.  For those shots where I need the higher ISO and more megapixels I say yes,  when I need these I need them and there is no way around it. But in everyday studio work, location shoots, average nature and wildlife I have to say no.  The 40D has large enough files to print easily to 20×24, and for most work I shoot 100 or 400 ISO and the 40D was great at that.  I would say if you have a 30D or older or a older Rebel that the 70D is a good step up. If you have a 40D, 50D, 60D or a newer Rebel and you are happy with what the camera is doing I would say stay with the body that you have an instead buy a/some better lenses instead.