Vibration reduction with Nikon lenses

Nikon builds vibration reduction into some of its lenses, as does Canon. Not all Nikon’s lenses have vibration reduction and for very short focal length lenses it is not necessary. Vibration reduction, or image stabilization as some other manufacturers call it, stabilizes the camera. It does not stop the subject moving so it is no advantage in sports photography where very fast speeds are required. But it is useful in low light.

In the Nikon Imaging site, a Mr Kazutoshi talks about the development in vibration reduction technology in Nikon lenses. He says that VRII, the second generation incarnation of this technology means that:

The detection of the low frequency band in camera shaking has been greatly expanded, so the VR effect has become available even if the shutter speed is quite slow. I believe that a VR effectiveness equivalent to about four stops in shutter speed covers most shooting conditions. When we were test shooting during development, we couldn’t assess the effectiveness of four stops in shutter speed until well after the sunset, so we had to shoot through the night for some time.

For those not familiar with what four stops in shutter speed means, cameras are designed so that there is a constant relationship between the aperature and shutter speed. Each stop opening up the aperture, doubles the light that gets into the camera during the shot. And shutter speeds double in the same way, so that it is meaningful to measure an increase in one stop of light by saying it is equivalent to a doubling of the time the shutter remains open.

So translating this into what we can acheive with Vibration Reduction on a Nikon lens, let’s suppose I am shooting a lens with a focal length of 135mm and that I using a camera with a crop factor of 1.5, (which means all of Nikons DSLRs with the exception of the new D3, which is full frame).

So the 135mm lens has a field of view equivalent to a 200mm lens (more or less) in a full frame 35mm film camera, which is the standard that focal lengths for lenses are described against.

Now it is generally accepted that to be pretty sure of getting a sharp shot hand-held, the slowest shutter speed should be no slower than the reciprocal of the focal length, in other words for a 135mm lens on a digital SLR with a 1.5 crop factor, the slowest shutter speed I should use is 1/200th second.Continue reading “Vibration reduction with Nikon lenses”