Before the XF16-55mm was announced, there was a lot of talk about whether it would be equipped with stabilization or not. Personally I don't mind it not being there. But my blog entry for today is not about Fuji's new lens, but about "Image Stabilization".
"Optical Image Stabilization" or OIS is the term Fujifilm uses for its vibration reduction technology which is the more correct term. Why, because the image we are shooting is already stable - it's the camera vibrations caused from the handholding, pressing the shutter release and the actual shutter movement itself that need to be combated against. Anyway, no matter what camera you are using, or what the technology is named, my recommendation is to leave it off, as in always. Whenever you pick up the camera it should be turned off! Start shooting and only, and I mean only if you notice that during image playback you notice that your camera-holding-technique isn't steady enough for the selected shutter, then and only then should you turn on image stabilization. This is my recommendation for how best to use this technology. Now the internet is a big place, so obviously there will be plenty of you who disagree with me and that's fine. If you have the time, share your opinion below. I'm always open to learning and bettering myself. As for my reasoning, please continue reading!
So do I want image stabilization on a wide angle zoom? I don’t think so! Image stabilization is a needed function on some mid range tele-zooms such as the 70-200mm simply because it’s the most common tele-zoom that’s handheld for the most part of its shooting life. On anything longer or wider, it really isn’t necessary. I mean wide angle or very long telephoto lenses are usually on a tripod and if they aren’t, they are usually used in combination with higher shutter speeds than their focal lengths require.
So why do so many manufacturers produce wide and tele zooms with image stabilization? Simply because it's profitable, because it makes them money!
Please take into consideration that adding image stabilization to a new lens design will always degrade the maximum optical performance from what would have been possible without. Another issue to consider is lens life. Manual focus lenses from 50 years ago are still in service today. On the other hand a lot of the modern electronic lenses from the 90’s on aren't in use anymore simply because there are no electronic motors (AF, AFS, EF, VR, IS etc) available as spare parts. The less electronics in a lens, the better. Personally, I would prefer image stabilization in the camera body, it offers way more benefits. For instance the camera body will always get changed before a lens change, plus with the image stabilization in the body you can even use an old manual focus lens, and let's not forget that any new lens for your camera will be that much cheaper plus lighter without the extra motor and to finish off let's not over-emphasize the fact that it will be that much better optically.
I had originally drafted this blog post a while back when the first rumors of its existence came to being. At the time there was plenty of talk about whether it would come with OIS or not. A teaser from the Fujifilm X Magazine had the lens listed as having OIS so did an edition of Fujifilms roadmap and Fujifilms international website. So naturally the internet picked it up on it and for a while everyone was expecting it to have OIS. So when Fujifilm finally announced the final product without OIS, there was some disappointment from a large group of people.
I haven't used the XF 16-55mm and personally don't plan on getting one any time soon simply because the XF 18-55mm which I already own does a fine job. Either way though, as I have already written at the start of this post, I don't mind not having OIS on a wide angle fast zoom and honestly I don't think you should either.
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