Learning Something New Every Day

1/800 of a second, without vibration reduction

It’s a good thing that knowledge improves our work more than new equipment does, because the price of knowledge keeps going down.

Online educational resources for photographers are plentiful, but the quality varies. I quickly learned that discussion forums work best when one asks a specific question and doesn’t mind digging through a pile of manure to find the pony.

On the other hand, I’ve come to trust Thom Hogan, Ken Rockwell, The Image Doctors, Russ MacDonald, David Hobby, Joe McNally, and Dom Bower for useful and often entertaining content.

Better still, these people are friendly and accessible, unlike most of my college professors. For example, Thom Hogan recently wrote that one should turn off Nikon’s Vibration Reduction (VR) feature when shooting at higher shutter speeds.  I was in the habit of leaving VR on all the time, so I sent Thom an email asking why I should change my default setting.

Here is Thom’s response:

“The sampling frequency of the VR mechanism is just above 1/500 (it varies slightly amongst Nikon lenses). Thus, if your shutter speed is 1/1000 and the sampling frequency of corrections is 1/500, what do you think happens?”

I love this, because Thom wants me to UNDERSTAND why I should turn off VR when I use higher shutter speeds. (The lens’s attempt to compensate for vibration could actually degrade sharpness). I always buy Thom’s books when I get a new Nikon camera – the camera manual tells you what to do, but Thom explains why you might or might not want to do it. I trust Thom, so I’d be willing to follow his advice by rote, but rote won’t help me figure out new challenges by myself.

1/1250 of a second and VR off. I'd swear this is sharper than what I was getting with VR turned on, but that could be the power of suggestion. Time will tell..

I ran outside this afternoon to shoot a few frames with VR turned off. I didn’t conduct a scientific test – and I never will – but I saw that I get sharp images without VR, just as I did for thirty-plus years before it was invented. I’ll report back on this topic in a few weeks.

I visit the aforementioned sites every day, and every day I learn something new, or I’m reminded of something I forgot. I only have one VR lens, but it’s the lens I use 80% of the time. Thanks to Thom Hogan’s generous sharing of his knowledge, I have the knowledge to get better results from my gear.

By the way, would you like to attend classes at Harvard, MIT, or Stanford? You can do so for free through iTunes U. This is what many people dreamed the Internet would become.

1/500 of a second, but focus is more of an issue than vibration. By the way, some will dispute this, but my experience says that a tripod improves sharpness at virtually any shutter speed. I'm still too lazy to use one, though.

2 Comments

Filed under Camera Settings, Nature Photography

2 responses to “Learning Something New Every Day

  1. myrna

    thanks dean … but now you have given me work to do as looking at my lenses to see which have VR and finding that setting in my D90 … if it has such a thing!!

    phooey … never did like the technical part of photography but it is necessary it seems

    myrna

  2. Ash

    Oh wow this is incredibly useful advice. I’m going to have to try it out.

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