Is VR – IS – OS a must for your lens?

There are a lot of different names out there for lens stabilization features.  VR, or Vibration Reduction.  IS, or Image Stabilization.  OS, or Optical Stabilization.  These are just a few of them.

They all do the same thing.  They help the human condition that is lens shake.  They are fancy devices that can help you take a picture when you don’t have enough light by allowing you to use a lower shutter speed.  You can read more about the technical aspects here – we’re not going to even try to explain the science and physics behind it…

These features can be your best friend in some situations.

They also add $$ to the price of some lenses (new or used).  With some of the newer lenses on the market, you don’t get a choice.  There’s some great used glass out there without VR – IS – OS that can save you a lot of money as you work on filling up your camera bag.

But, do you need them?

After all, most of us lived without these features until very recently and still managed to get some great pictures throughout our lives.

The answer is maybe…

  • Let’s say you’re photographing a soccer game late in the day, and it’s getting dark.  VR – IS – OS will allow you to take a picture at a slower shutter speed – but that’s not going to do you a lot of good, because you’re photographing fast action, and it’s all going to be blurred.  In this case, you’re better off cranking up the ISO as much as possible within the performance limits of your camera.
  • Let’s say you’re in a museum that doesn’t allow flash photography or tripods.  Here, VR – IS – OS will definitely help you!
  • You’re at home, and your pet is sleeping in one of those contorted and twisted positions that defy your imagination and logic, and you know the flash will wake them up.  VR – IS – OS is your friend in this case.
  • Let’s say you’re photographing a scenic valley and you’re using your friends Mr. Tripod and Ms. Cable Release.  Turn your VR – IS – OS off!  In some cases, it will try to work on the tripod and cause vibration.
  • You’re shooting detail in the rocks in a canyon with your telephoto lens and you don’t have a tripod.  VR – IS – OS is your friend here.
  • You’re on vacation and your tripod didn’t fit in your suitcase.  More likely than not, somewhere, sometime during your trip, VR – IS – OS may be your friend.
  • It’s a sunny day and your shutter speed is well above 1/length of lens (for example, you have a 300mm lens and your shutter speed is 1/500).  VR – IS – OS is overkill.

So, now that we’ve established it’s a definite, absolute “maybe”, think about what you shoot most of the time and consider your lens options before you buy that new or used lens.

You might decide that you really need VR – IS – OS.  Or, you might decide that you can live without it and be able to get more bang for your buck.

Some of the Frog’s lenses have it.  Some don’t.  And he does just fine…