Sunday, June 25, 2006

06/25/06: Shutter speed, focal length, and when to use a tripod

Shutter speed, focal length, and when to use a tripod

The general rule for hand held shots vs. using a tripod is as follows: use a tripod when the shutter speed is less than the reciprocal of the focal length. For example if the focal length is 100mm, you should use a tripod for shutter speeds slower than 1/100th of a second. For a telephoto lens like a 200mm (zoomed all the way in), use a tripod for shots slower than 1/200th.

The wider the focal length (wide angle, fish-eye), the more forgiving this rule is...while the longer the focal length, the less forgiving (meaning that the more you zoom in, the more you should error on the side of caution and use a tripod with the telephoto). See this post from June 17th for tips about avoiding camera shake.

** Special Note: Canon's Image Stabilizer (IS) lenses as well as Nikon's Vibration Reduction (VR) lenses allow you to cheat this a little bit -- about 2 stops, meaning that you could handhold a 200mm shot (with IS or VR turned on) at 1/50th of a second. As always, you should practice to test what kind of results you get -- some people are just more steady than others and don't require a tripod as often.


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