Image Stabilized Lenses – waste or need

I get asked a lot about the need for an image stabilized lens (or for that matter a point and shoot camera with image stabilization).  People want to know if they are needed or a benefit to buy.  If you would have asked me 3 years ago I would have said don’t waste your money on one, but for the last year I have been testing out a lens with image stabilization and have to say that I do like it.

First a little background – image stabilized lenses have been around for a long time. In the past they have been used in larger lenses to eliminate the need to use a tripod.  But since the advent of digital photography auto focus has moved into wider angle lenses.

Now with digital cameras and the fact that people have been having trouble getting pictures in focus or without movement, camera manufacturers have found it necessary to use image stabilized lenses in just about all cameras or lenses that they have produced in the last several years (a notable exception to this rule are the lenses that some manufacturers are putting on their entry-level SLR cameras).  A lot of the problems with camera movement can be solved with proper camera techniques (if you haven’t taken one of my courses this would be a good time to add a little plug that in my course I also go over proper camera holding techniques) but most people do not use stable enough camera techniques and have been finding a large number of pictures that are either out of focus or have some major camera movement.  One of the big benefits of image stabilized lenses, even with proper camera techniques, is it you are able to use longer lenses without the need for a tripod,  or wide-angle lenses at settings that before using an image stabilized lens would produce out of focus pictures.

Now do you really need an image stabilized lens?  For most photography you do not.  If you set your camera with the proper film (camera) speed and hold your camera correctly the need for an image stabilized lens is reduced to zero.  But because we always try to push the limits of photography I would say the little bit extra that an image stabilized lens will cost you will save you from a large number of out of focus pictures.

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