Does it make sense to use vibration-resistant lenses for ultra-sharp landscapes?

I mean when the F is 16, we'll have to lower the shutter speed to a great deal.

So, if I use a VR lens, will I still require a tripod or will the VR lens handle the hand shaking on its own to a great deal?

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    Btw, its usually not needed to go to f/16 for landscapes. You're well into losing quality due to diffraction probably and odds are you'd have sufficient DoF at a lower f-stop and it'd be easier to hand hold. If you're doing long exposure shots intentionally...its a whole other issue though. – rfusca Dec 19 '11 at 0:56
  • @rfusca I'll start a new question for that. – Aquarius_Girl Dec 19 '11 at 3:51
  • I'm with rfusca on that. Use a calculator to find out a hyperfocal length ( dofmaster.com/dofjs.html for example ) and keep at F11 or below. – Andrei Rînea Dec 2 '12 at 14:00

The rule of thumb is you can hand hold a 50mm lens at 1/50th second, or a 100mm at 1/100th second and have reasonable lack of camera shake. VR extends that a few stops. So it depends on the amount of light.

In bright sunlight, at f/16 and a 35mm lens, you wouldn't need a tripod or VR.

In low light, VR won't be enough, you'll need a tripod

In between there will be a few instances where you could make use of VR, where hand- holding would not really be possible, but there is enough light that with VR you can get a decent image. But as the light fades you'll have to increase to f/8 and f/5.6 because VR won't be enough when the shutter speed drops to 1/8th second.

You can steady the camera against a tree or rock or car window if you don't have a tripod, but as a general rule I'd say a tripod is more useful to landscape photography than VR.

  • What does this mean? VR extends that a few stops. – Aquarius_Girl Dec 16 '11 at 10:50
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    Meaning if you could hand-hold at 1/60th, then with VR you could handhold at a slower speed: 1/30th would be one stop, 1/15th two stops, 1/8 three stops. – MikeW Dec 16 '11 at 10:55
  • Though you do have to factor in the crop factor - the focal length/shutter speed correlation is based on full frame/35mm formats. – ElendilTheTall Dec 16 '11 at 20:16
  • It's a rule from the film days, but I wouldn't bother adjusting it, it's not anything scientific, just a rule of thumb? – MikeW Dec 16 '11 at 20:33
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    As a matter, I think you have to adjust it for resolution too. On a 24 MP DSLR vs a 6 MP one, you need a faster shutter-speed to get things sharp. – Zak Dec 17 '11 at 16:55

In addition to MikeW's answer, I would suggest a few other benefits that tripods provide for landscape photography.

Often with landscape photography there is the desire to compose an image exactly and then wait for the light to be "right". With a tripod it's possible to set up in advance, and then wait for the sun to rise or set or for that shaft of light to pop out from behind that cloud!

Many landscape shots rely on a longer exposure as they are often taken at twilight or early morning light, or want to generate the smooth water effect with a river / waterfall / seascape.

If you are planning on using HDR techniques it's much simpler to achieve good results if you start with a tripod-mounted camera.

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    Which other answer is "the current answer"? (What about three years from now, and if there are five other answers added to the question?) I suggest making your answer comprehensive even if it is partially redundant. That way, the question-asker can accept the one best answer, and future people with the same question can get what they need all in one place. – Please Read Profile Dec 16 '11 at 18:52
  • mattdm - fair point, I will avoid that in future :-) – Maynard Case Dec 19 '11 at 10:08

Personally I was always taught that if you attach your camera to a tripod, then you should turn OFF vibration reduction/image stabilisation.

VR / IS is looking for the minute movements of a handheld camera. If there are none, the moving elements can actually 'cause' some level of blur. Therefore, any tripod work (in which, inherently you won't get camera shake), you should turn the VR mode OFF.

If you are hand-holding, then turn the VR ON, and if it's not enough, try to increase your shutter speed by boosting your ISO.

However for good landscape shots, I would recommend the tripod route, VR OFF, ISO 100 (again, doesn't matter as you're using a tripod so you can afford to have a longer exposure), shoot in aperture priority at anywhere between f/8 to f/16. No higher.

  • That was true of older Canon IS lenses. The current crop of lenses, dating back several years, does not exhibit this behavior. Sadly, I am unable to find the online reference where I read this, it may have been my lens owner's manual! – Paul Cezanne Dec 17 '11 at 14:30
  • I don't know about actual practice by any given manufacturer, but vibration resistance works by "error feeback" and intelligent interpretation will allow tripod mode to be sensed and allowed for. An intelligent controler (and an intelligent manufacturer) can arrange to ignore error noise if it is consistently small compared to eg off tripod error signal by some measure that they devise. eg if error < super steady hand held for > 1 second conclude must be on tripod and do not correct for minute error noise below that lvel until larger noise again occurs. – Russell McMahon Dec 18 '11 at 21:13
  • I'll follow that if I get a VR, thanks though.: ) – Aquarius_Girl Dec 19 '11 at 3:50
  • I know that some newer lenses have intelligent enough IS to recognise the fact they are on a tripod, but I don't know which ones these are. Pretty sure my (only lens that has IS) 100-400L doesn't do this, so it's still good practice to turn it off when using a tripod anyway).... – Mike Dec 19 '11 at 8:38

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