Photography Tip - When NOT to Use Stabilization

2 min read
Dialed-In's avatar
By jxsnyder
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Many camera lenses come with some kind of lens stabilization technology. It’s usually called something different by every camera manufacturer (e.g. Nikon calls it “vibration reduction” and Canon calls it “image stabilization”), but they all have the same goal: helping to stabilize your lens.

It works great for those times when you’re forced to hand-hold your camera, but you should always make sure to turn it off when your camera is on a tripod.

The stabilization technology works by unlocking part of your lens, which allows the lens to “correct” movements. But, when your camera is sitting still on a tripod, the stabilizer will often look for movement that isn’t there, resulting in a blurry photo.

To illustrate this, take a look at the two photos I shot below. For both shots, my camera was locked onto a stable tripod. In the image on the left, I had the lens stabilization turned OFF. And, then I simply turned it ON for the image on the right.

Both photos above were taken with the same camera, lens, and tripod. The camera’s position did not move between the shots, and the aperture/shutter speed/ISO also stayed the same. The only difference between the two photos is that lens stabilization was turned ON in the photo on the right.

Interestingly, as I shot more photos with the lens stabilization turned ON (and the camera still in the same position locked on a tripod), the images got sharper with each shot. So, it seems like this particular lens was able to “learn” that the camera was on a tripod. But, every lens works differently, so it’s not safe to assume ALL lens stabilization works like this.

Some lenses claim to have the ability to always detect when your camera is on a tripod (and it’ll turn off the stabilization automatically), but I wouldn’t recommend relying on that feature. I’m sure that detection isn’t always 100% accurate (just like your autofocus isn’t always 100% accurate).

Plus, image stabilization uses up your battery. So, keeping it turned off will let you take more photos or shoot more video on one charge.

© 2014 - 2020 Dialed-In
anonymous's avatar
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The-Egg's avatar
I'd always just left this on despite the fact that I'm almost always shooting from a tripod thinking "it couldn't hurt":lol:. Thank you for this, maybe I'll leave it off unless i'm shooting freehand or on a bridge that's vibrating a bunch from traffic.
jxsnyder's avatar
I noticed a dramatic difference in my HDR processing when I took images from a tripod.  The lack of camera shake from the image stabilization helps to further create a sharper/clearer image.
robpolder's avatar
yes, good tip! I do it if I don't forget it.. another issue is that your shutter responds (a bit) quicker with VR/IS etc turned off. at high shutter speeds you don't need VR. I did not find this out, but got it from byThom:… cheers, rob
LillianEvill's avatar
Thanks for the link you put here. I just read it and now, I understand why some of my images taken from a car driving are clear, and when I used tripod they were blurry.
jxsnyder's avatar
I was not aware of the faster shutter response.  That's something I'll need to look into a little further.
kelmeloo's avatar
Thanks so much! Never knew..
jxsnyder's avatar
Glad you found it informative!  :)
wiwionart's avatar
Thank you for this tip!
jxsnyder's avatar
Not a problem!  :)
BrazenDahlia's avatar
My camera has build in image stabilization but when I put it in the setting for shooting with a remote or on a timer, the feature automatically turns off. Pentax must naturally assume that if you are using a remote you are on a tripod as well. 
Great tip! :clap:
jxsnyder's avatar
Pentax makes some nice stuff!  Is the image stabilization built into the camera or the lens?
BrazenDahlia's avatar
It is built into the camera.  The camera turns it off when you put the camera in remote mode or timer mode. I love my pentax! 
LillianEvill's avatar
I never thought about it. :o (Eek)  Sometimes some of my pictures were blurry, and I didn't understand why. I'll turn off image stabilization next time to see what will happens. I read many tutorials on the web, but I never came across this information or I haven't paid attention on it. Thanks for the tip! 
jxsnyder's avatar
Glad you enjoyed it!  It was something I noticed a while ago when shooting with a neutral density filter off of a tripod.  I was able to minimize camera shake by using either mirror lock up or live view but the image still had some noticeable blur when it shouldn't have.
LASKANWLF's avatar
That's very interesting. I never knew that Joshua. Great tip! :thumbsup: I wonder if it would be smart to turn the lens image stabilization back ON during windy conditions when mounted on a tripod. :shrug: Just a thought.
jxsnyder's avatar
Never tested in out during a windy situation.  Makes me wonder what would happen when using a monopod?
LASKANWLF's avatar
I have one, so I can test it out. Now I have to figure out why my shots of the Bighorn Sheep I took at Glacier National Park turned out so clear from nearly 200 yards away when I used my 150-600mm lens and left my IS turned on while mounted on a tripod. some experimenting to do I see. =D
anonymous's avatar
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