The question of whether someone needs IS lenses or not is one I get a lot. So often, in fact, that I’ve put together an entire eBook on the topic. The answer to whether you need an IS lens always starts with “It depends”. I’d done a lot of waffling on this subject, and eventually decided that I do not need one. Do I want one? Well, that’s another question altogether.
At the end of the day, my decision was based on a number of factors, but the biggest factor was how I actually shoot. I pulled some statistics on my photographic habits out of Lightroom based on what shutter speeds I shoot at, and the results were telling:
You can see from the above graph that I have shot periodically at very low shutter speeds according to the statistics from this catalog of nearly 40,000 images. Also notice though, that many of these longer shutter speed captures are one-offs. In other words, not very often. If I were to look at the instances where my numbers are the highest using the handy dandy ListView plugin, my shooting style turns out to be very different:
So, in looking at the image counts and percentages above, some interesting results start to bubble up. These numbers say a couple of things. My biggest takeaway is 3 specific details:
43% of the time, I am shooting at 1/100th of a second or faster (image stabilization is not needed)
55% of the time, I am shooting at 1 second or slower (at this slow a shutter speed, I am likely on a tripod, and IS is turned off)
3% of the time, I am shooting in that fuzzy area where IS would help my shots
What do all these numbers mean? Well, for me, it means that IS lenses are likely not a good investment because I don’t spend a lot of time in that area where I would benefit from image stabilization. Does this hold true for you? Ya gotta run the numbers!
Many have come to me asking this question, and I’ve always come back with my own analysis which surprises a lot of people. At the end of the day the follow-up question I get is twofold:
First – how did I get those stats? And second, can I run the numbers for them? Want to know more? Sign up for the eBook where I go into much more detail about the pros and cons of image stabilized lenses!