Alley in Pisa, Italy

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I've read a bunch of the questions here about image stabilization, but I don't see any concrete examples/proof or references with regards to the benefits of turning off image stabilization.

I've got two lenses that use it, the 24-105mm f/4 and the 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II and I've never noticed any difference in results on either. I usually use the 70-200mm for quick hand-held sports shots and the 24-105mm for long night exposures.

Under which circumstances would someone actually disable Image stabilization and why? Can it possibly be make-specific (in my case, Canon) or the principles can be applied to any IS lens?

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marked as duplicate by mattdm, Itai, John Cavan May 31 '13 at 15:08

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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Related - photo.stackexchange.com/questions/15710/… –  MikeW May 31 '13 at 6:35
    
Also photo.stackexchange.com/questions/8803/… –  mattdm May 31 '13 at 14:01
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4 Answers 4

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Keep IS turned on all the time, unless:

  • you have noticed unexpected degradation of image quality at fast shutter speeds
  • you're using a tripod and have a very old IS lens that lacks tripod detection
  • you're executing panning shots and have an IS lens that lacks a panning setting
  • you're shooting a video and want to avoid any IS artifacts in the footage at the expense of a potential increase in shake
  • you're extremely concerned about battery usage

Image stabilization usually use power only when you half-press your shutter, so for a very short time, or when your DSLR is in live view or movie mode. In this latter case it may drain quite a lot of power, since it will run for a lot longer time.

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When you are panning also you should switch off IS, unless you have lens which has vertical IS. Shooting movies (bit offtopic I know) gives also strange effects when IS is on. –  Rafal Ziolkowski May 31 '13 at 8:18
    
@RafalZiolkowski both valid points –  Matt Grum May 31 '13 at 9:32
    
There is one reason I forgot :) If you are using Canon 17-55 f/2.8 USM IS lens... I have heard IS tend to break if is on all the time. –  Rafal Ziolkowski May 31 '13 at 11:16
    
@RafalZiolkowski - I had the EF-S 17-55 2.8 IS USM for a couple of years and never had any issues with the IS on mine!! –  Mike May 31 '13 at 14:14
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@RafalZiolkowski I'm dubious about that last claim, most people leave the IS set to on the whole time, if there was say a 25% chance of this leading to IS failure then there would be tens of thousands of lenses failing and it would be all over the internet! –  Matt Grum May 31 '13 at 14:16
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Basically, one of the recommendation that are always taught is that it is advisable to turn on IS or VR when shooting below the shutter speed of 1/60 or shooting beyond the focal length of 70mm or BOTH. Also turn it on your your hands are shaky.

But when you're in tripod, technically, IS lenses look for vibrations in your camera in order to reduce it – however if they don’t find any (like when you are using a Tripod) they actually can cause it. But today, many newer IS systems can detect when the camera is secured to a tripod, or have a “Tripod” mode and that issue has resolved.

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The main reason you would want to turn off IS is either for battery life, because it is completely unnecessary or because it is interfering with intended movements. Most mechanical IS systems work by using gyros (fast spinning weights) to stabilize either a key lens assembly or the sensor itself. It takes a fair bit of energy to keep those gyros spinning even if they are near frictionless due to the energy they are expending to keep things stable.

Additionally, they may induce a small amount of vibration themselves as a result of any imperfections in their spin. If you are using a sturdy tripod, then the spinning gyros could actually cause more vibration and thus loss of sharpness than they prevent, so turning them off could help overall.

Finally, gyros don't only stop unintended movement, but also fight against intended camera movements. If you are trying to move the camera around a lot, it will slightly delay your movements and cause your movements to continue slightly after you stop as the system reaches equilibrium again. This lag with the camera fighting against you can be disconcerting and interfere with video or fast action photography. Some IS systems offer a setting to disengage the stabilization in one axis so that you can make horizontal movements without lag, but even then, if you need to make broad vertical and horizontal movements, IS may interfere more than it is worth.

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There are some lenses whose IS should be turned off if the camera is mounted on a tripod.

You won't notice a difference if shooting at high enough shutter speeds that camera shake isn't happening anyway. But you'll see the difference when hand-holding at 70mm and 1/15th or 1/30th of a second.

Should I turn off optical image stabilisation when shooting long-exposure photos?

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Okay, but why and what will i actually notice? –  NULLZ May 31 '13 at 6:44
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