Photography Club of India

Learn Photography & Knowledge base => Tips, Tutorials & Interviews => Topic started by: LightWave on January 18, 2014, 04:57:37 AM

Title: Tripods and Image Stabilisation
Post by: LightWave on January 18, 2014, 04:57:37 AM
With advances in technology, a lot of features have been made available to the current generation of photographers which the prior generations could hardly imagine. One of the common features offered to us, which is so ubiquitous as to be taken for granted is Image Stabilisation. Referred to by various lens manufacturers by different names like Image Stabilisation, Optical Stabilisation, Vibration Control or Vibration reduction, this helps to reduce the blue that can be produced in images by the sheer movement of the photographer's hands. While this is usually helpful for handheld photography, traditionally it has been told to us to switch this off when mounting the camera on a tripod. This is because on a tripod, IS is not needed and could introduce unnecessary blurring.

Being of a scientific bent of mind, I did not want to continue following this practice without putting it up for experiment once. I had been following this principle as a rule, because when using tripod, specially for long exposures, the camera might detect motion of things like waves or birds and try to stabilise the image when it was not needed. But We may be tempted to as, "If there is no movement around, IS cannot be bad is it? It may not be required but it is not really harmful to image making right?"

To this end, I set out this experiment on my recent trip to China, where late at night there were no moving objects ... only the buildings and road lights. I set up my tripod in the balcony of my hotel room (it was freezing cold but it was fun) and took a couple of 15 second exposures with and without IS. Then I pixel-peeped into a lit area to see if there was any difference in sharpness. Both images were shot with 10 second delayed shutter to eliminate vibration due to shutter release.


The results are as follows (click to zoom):

Image with camera on tripod with IS "ON":


Image with IS "OFF":


Crop from Image with IS "ON":


Crop from Image with IS "OFF":


I think the results speak for themselves. The traditional teaching holds and IS is better switched off on tripod unless the camera itself is going to be moving, say like while tracking moving objects like birds or vehicles.

Additionally one can also use mirror lockup and wireless triggers to shoot for elimination of other causes of blur due to vibration at camera level.

Title: Re: Discuss - Tripods and Image Stabilisation
Post by: theqca on January 18, 2014, 09:50:50 AM
What about mirror lock up on the tripod..what are your thoughts...will the pic with VR off + mirror lock-up be sharper than the pic with VR off and no mirror lock up?
Title: Re: Discuss - Tripods and Image Stabilisation
Post by: somnath goswami on January 18, 2014, 09:55:55 AM
A stable tripod plus mirror lock up plus cable release and of course vr off works best in my opinion....
Title: Re: Discuss - Tripods and Image Stabilisation
Post by: LightWave on January 18, 2014, 10:21:01 AM
Ah ... didn't experiment with mirror lock up. It was off for both pics .... though both pics were shot with 10 second delayed shutter release to avoid vibration.
Title: Re: Discuss - Tripods and Image Stabilisation
Post by: naturecloseups on January 18, 2014, 10:55:21 AM
A "stable" tripod legset is one of the requirements in ensuring stability, but not the only one. Below are some of the other aspects to keep in mind, some of them often overlooked.

Not in order of importance, instead start from the lens end -- shall we? :)

0. VR on or off? I would go by whatever the OEM expressly recommends if any -- or stop worrying about it and just turn VR off. Haven't seen any conclusive tests on how VR affects performance on a tripod, and it also seems to depend a lot on the technology inside even within lens lineup from the same OEM.

1. (Relevant mostly in macro) when using multiple stacked extension tubes or other behind the lens accessories for that matter, try using ones with better fit and tighter tolerances (less/negligible play between joints). Generally speaking, vibrations (due to mirror/shutter curtain movement) take longer to dissipate in such systems system where there is increased play between joints. I once tried something called I think Zeikos extension tubes that had this problem -- nowhere close to Kenko or OEM tubes. Same goes for adapters -- RainbowImaging generally not as good as Voigtlander/Metabones/Novoflex.

2. In-body stabilization -- see #0.

3. Camera plate/clamp -- use Arca style dovetail plates and clamps or else be prepared for surprises in at least certain situations. Same reason -- loose tolerance and play. The Manfrotto/Slik rectangular plates from a decade ago were/are particularly susceptible, the hexagonal Manfrotto plates a bit better but still not at par with Arca.

4. (Ball)head -- A chain is as strong as the weakest link. Same goes for a tripod system. A ballhead+clamp+plate with wobble and play cannot be helped even with the most robust legset money can buy.

5. Legset -- we're spoiled for choice more than ever before. Choose your favorites with matching clamp and head (cannot have just one if you are serious) -- here are mine

a) Gitzo Explorer G2228 Carbon Fiber + Acratech Ultimate Ballhead (a little less than 3kg)
b) Manfrotto 190 MF4 Magfiber + RRS BH 25 (a little over 2 kg)
c) Slik Sprint Pro + Sunwayfoto FB-28 (a little over 1 kg)
d) Slik Sprint Mini GM + Novoflex Ball19P (a little less than 1 kg)

In terms of frequency of usage the order is c, d, b, a.

Once you have chosen your favorites -- there are certain techniques that are mostly common knowledge (avoid myths though) and not worth repeating here. Below are the key principles that I personally find important

a) Ensure minimal play in leg joints and center column (a criteria for selection)
b) The less the center column is extended the more stable the system
c) The less number of leg sections extended the more stable the system
d) The more equi-distance the leg tips are from the center of gravity, the more stable the system.


Follow-up note: Mirror up or down? Definitely up for best results (YMMV) but doesn't solve the entire problem since shutter movement is a potential source of vibration as well. I am personally convinced about the effectiveness about electronic first curtain shutter and would not want to shoot without this feature (in my limited knowledge at the time of writing -- presently only offered by Canon and Sony and in some Panasonic bodies as electronic shutter)
Title: Re: Discuss - Tripods and Image Stabilisation
Post by: LightWave on January 18, 2014, 12:40:27 PM
Minor edits made to article as per above posts.
Title: Re: Discuss - Tripods and Image Stabilisation
Post by: Pankajkumars on January 18, 2014, 07:04:27 PM
I have learned selfie:
In case of absence of wireless trigger, 10sec timers works better for long exposure shot.
IS On/Off is auto sense for some lenses.
Title: Re: Discuss - Tripods and Image Stabilisation
Post by: sambk on January 30, 2014, 08:03:16 PM
Was reading on a forum at  about Canon 70-200 mm f/2.8L IS lens and it reads -

"The included Mode-2 IS is designed for panning. Use it for a subject moving in one direction - pan the camera with the subject. Good subjects for Mode-2 IS include a bicyclist or a vehicle. Blur the background with motion - leave the subject sharp with good depth of field.

 This IS version is tripod-sensing - The Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS USM Lens knows that a tripod is being used when vibrations go below a certain level. Keep IS turned on when mounting on a tripod to take advantage of this secondary IS mode - reducing mirror slap, shutter and tripod vibrations. The downside is the slightly additional battery drain. "

Pleased to have your comments.
Title: Re: Discuss - Tripods and Image Stabilisation
Post by: LightWave on February 01, 2014, 01:00:34 AM
Not all IS lenses have both modes of IS. The Mode 2 is indeed good for panning shots but I never personally had a chance to try it out as a strict test on with and without tripod scenario as in the article. Perhaps need to try that ... maybe one of the members could put to test in this fashion?
Title: Re: Discuss - Tripods and Image Stabilisation
Post by: Brendon on February 01, 2014, 11:24:52 AM
I have taken a couple of tests with my IBIS offered by Sony cameras and my findings are that upto 1 sec speed keeping stabilization on causes a noticeable softening in the image if the camera is mounted on a tripod. Beyond 2 secs, IS is switched off automatically.

I don't know if Sony has this panning IS as I hardly shoot panning shots.
Title: Re: Discuss - Tripods and Image Stabilisation
Post by: yndesai on February 24, 2014, 09:29:20 PM
Yes Brendon. For Sony SteadyShot should be turned off if used with stand. I faced lot of issue when lot
of my pics were blurred when I had kept it on while using tripod.

By the way I use SLT hence no need to lock mirror. Shooting using timer on tripod have given good result.