Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I enjoy every image I take: I hope you'll enjoy looking at them.
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10 Oct 2020 11:48AM   Views : 502 Unique : 323


Do you worry about camera shake?

Quite a few years back, before IS lenses arrived on the market, the only anti-shake devices were the brain and good technique. Broadly, most people could hold a camera sufficiently steady, most of the time, at 1/60th second with a 50mm lens on it. 1/30th was a reasonable risk, and some people with steady hands could do much better.

Zoom lenses with restricted apertures made the appropriate shutter speed a rather moveable feast, but then early lens-based IS began to make it easier for those owning the right Canon and Nikon long lenses. In-body systems extended stabilisation to every lens, and there’s no doubt that the technology got better.

But it is still (so to speak) a very individual thing. If you are fit and have steady hands, you’ll be able to hold a camera steady for a longer exposure than I can: and if I forget to take my beta blocker pill in the morning, I’ll lose at least a stop of anti-shake. It’s not just snooker where blood pressure medication steadies the hand! And standards have risen, I think, in many ways, over the last 20 years.

I recall seeing a very precise and methodical approach described in a camera magazine, involving a very small light source and a mirror. I can’t recall the arrangement, but the effect was to double the effect of camera movement. I didn’t try it – in the days of film, it would have been an experiment that took money as well as time and effort. Without EXIF data within each file, you’d need to make a manual record, with pen and paper, of the exposure details for each frame.


But try this. Put a printed page where you can line a camera up on it easily, and take frames at different shutter speeds, starting from two speeds above the ‘One over focal length’ formula – say, for a 50mm lens on full frame, 1/200th second, and reducing until you get obvious blur.

Have a look at the slowest decent frame on the computer, and look for a slurring movement – full stops showing as a short line. Then shoot ten frames at the same settings, and compare them. You may well find that some are not so sharp. This gives you a feel for how reliably you can hold that camera and lens still. If, between them, these have IS, try with it switched on and off. This shows you how effective the mechanism is.

Think about the results you get: if you need to, post a couple of frames in the Critique Gallery. And remember the results when you are shooting for real. When you know that you can’t hold the camera steady at 1/8th second, there’s no excuse for not raising the ISO so that you can use a speed that you’ve got confidence in. And once it’s printed, the camera club judges won’t know what ISO you shot at…


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dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
10 Oct 2020 11:51AM
Shake isn't a big problem with a fisheye (bottom picture, Freya and her parachute dress at Silverwell Studio), But it begins to be an issue at surprisingly high shutter speeds with modern cameras and very high resolutions (top picture, at 105mm and f/5.6 - so few focus worries: Alicia K at the Boardroom in Derby). With any manual lens, such as the Lensbaby I used for the portrait of Freya, you need to set in-body IS to the correct focal length.
chase Avatar
chase Plus
18 2.5k 682 England
10 Oct 2020 12:06PM
Camera shake isn't generally a problem with me, a good, sturdy tripod is my bestest friend Wink
Mirror lock up helps too.
It's the keeping it level that I find most difficult, even with all the indicators on the camera and tripod, it will still be wonky !
I'm gonna take your shake test.......
GGAB Avatar
GGAB 7 31 1 United States
10 Oct 2020 1:05PM
OK, I'll bite.
How or Why is camera shake an issue with a sturdy tripod, remote shutter release and mirror lockup or mirrorless camera?
I would think that model movement would be a bigger issue.
chataignier Avatar
chataignier Plus
10 254 15 France
10 Oct 2020 1:31PM
Something I find helps when obliged to push the limits is to use burst firing. The first frame suffers from movement due to pressing the shutter release, but subsequent frames are usually better.
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
11 Oct 2020 10:22AM
George - camera shake isn't an issue with a tripod. However, putting a camera on a tripod IS an issue for my way of working. I rely on making detailed (and rapid) adjustments of camera position, and a tripod inhibits this: not everybody works this way, but I do, and so do many other photographers.

As timing matters for sport and wildlife, so 'flow' matters when working with a model. And for many people, carrying a tripod around is a burden they don't willingly accept: think of the effect of having a two-second delay in your shutter release in your specialisms... It's that crippling, in practice.

It's not to say that I never use a tripod: I'm planning to do a series of images with a large-format camera. Without a viewfinder (other than the ground glass screen), a tripod is absolutely necessary! And it will be a harsh discipline for both me and the models in front of the lens...

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