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.
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.
So what is image stabilizing, vibration reduction or or shake reduction? It is the ability of the camera / lenses to help remove minor shake when taking pictures. As I tell all my students if you have a major case of the shakes from too much, or not enough, coffee then IS will not help. It is designed for minor shake or movement only. As an added benefit using IS will allow you to shoot a couple stops slower than you can without having IS. So if you could reasonably shoot handheld at 1/100 of a second without IS, having IS will allow you to shoot at 1/60 of a second without the need for a tripod or other stabilizing device.
So what situations would require IS? Really there is not a situation that would require it as you can easily work around not having IS, but there are many shooting situations that IS will help. Shooting a wedding and you are not allowed to use flash? Using IS will help in case of movement or with allowing you to shoot at a slower shutter speed and not have any movement, plus it will save you having to lug around a tripod or monopod. Shooting wildlife in low light? Sure you can use a tripod but with IS you can push the limits of the lens and still get some great pictures. Shooting in a wind? That slight movement / shake will be corrected when using IS.
So is the extra cost of buying a lens with IS worth it? This is not all cut and dried. Many of my students say they want to save some money so they buy lenses without IS as it was a big difference in price. I understand that, and I have done it myself to save some money, but the problem with this line of thinking is that once you lay out $1000 for a non IS lens and you find later that you really do want or need IS it will require you to buy an completely new lens for a lot more money and you will not get anywhere close to what you paid for the non IS lens should you decide to sell it. I have a non IS 70 – 200 L series lens that I LOVE. The cost for this lens was $600.00 with IS it would have been $1100.00, if I want to upgrade to the IS at this time I would be lucky to get $300 for the non IS, so it would have in fact been a better idea to buy the IS first and I would have saved money if I want or need IS in the future.
Some lenses I do not see the need to have IS and would NEVER spend the extra if it was an available option. My 10 – 20 I have no need for IS as I can handhold that at such low shutter speeds without IS that I really do not see a need. Other lenses like my 500mm I love having IS as I am always pushing the limits of hand holding.
SO before you buy non image stabilizing lenses take some time to decide if you want or will need IS in the future. It may not be an easy decision but taking a little longer to decide may just save you some money in the future, even with spending more money today!