More Satisfying Photos

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More Satisfying PhotosLast week we talked about Image Stabilization, also variously referred to as Vibration Reduction, Anti-Shake and Anti-Blur. This week let’s look at a different feature that is often confused with Image Stabilization. Its name may sometimes sound similar but its function is completely different.

When turned on, Anti-Shock delays the shutter opening for some preset time (usually 2-5 seconds) after the shutter button is pressed.

Why would you want to introduce a lag time between when you press the button and when the picture is actually taken?

With SLR cameras, there is a mirror which sits between the lens and the “film plane”. You can see it when you remove the lens and look into the camera body through the flange. This mirror is hinged on most cameras (a few models have been tried over the years which use translucent mirrors that remain in place.) The mirror swings up out of the way while the exposure is being made.

The Anti-Shock delay is to allow vibrations from the mirror movement to dampen before the exposure is made. While this function is not useful for any kind of action shots, it can be very useful for landscape photos, macros and other cases where the subject is not moving and you want maximum sharpness.

Anti-shock is not available on point-and-shoot, rangefinder or other types of cameras without a mirror. And although it can be used at any time, anti-shock is only effective when the camera is on a tripod or other support.

One final thing to watch out for is that Anti-Shock is usually not self-resetting. Once you turn it on it remains on until you turn it off again. If you forget, you may find yourself trying to grab an action shot only to miss it because of a delay you weren’t counting on.

Does your camera have image stabilization (sometimes abbreviated as “IS”)? It’s becoming more common, even among compact point-and-shoot models. It may sometimes be called something like anti-shake, anti-blur or vibration reduction (look for “VR” on your lens.) But do you know when and how to use it? Do you know what it does? Do you know when it can make your pictures better and when it can actually make them worse?

In all cases, image stabilization works only when shooting handheld and can actually make your pictures worse when using a tripod or other solid support. The reason is that when image stabilization is turned on, the camera assumes there is some shake. If you are using a solid support which prevents camera shake, image stabilization may actually introduce some shake that otherwise wouldn’t exist!

There are other situations where image stabilization is counter-productive, such as when you are deliberately moving the camera during exposure. You might do this, for example when panning to follow a moving subject or zooming to add an explosion effect. There is even a whole genre in artistic photography which aims to reproduce the effect seen in impressionist paintings. (Achieving this effect is a topic all in itself and will not be covered here.) Or an even more extreme genre in which the camera is set on a timer and tossed into the air to make the exposure. (Note: This poses a serious risk of damaging your camera and we do not… Read more…

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