Q: Very Nice 300mm Lens, But What About Camera Shake?

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Here is my answer to this member's question:

A:    Dear eBay Member,

You have asked a very important question. Yes, "camera shake" can be a serious problem, especially at longer focal lengths, but there are several ways to deal with it. Your lens is "fast" enough, but at longer the focal lengths, even tiny movements will get "magnified". This results in blurry pictures.

You could increase the lens's "speed" by increasing the ISO speed in the camera's settings. Change it from ISO 100 up to 400 or even 800. That will help a lot. Carefully watch the shutter speed in the eyepiece display and try to keep it above 1/120th of a second or faster. The ISO increase should let you do that more easily. Don't overdo it though, if you set the ISO speed too high you will add a lot of "noise" to your photos. It's a bit of a "balancing act" to get it just right.

The other solution is to use a monopod with a well-designed "ball head". When you see sporting events on TV, almost every professional photographer covering the game has a long telephoto lens (most of them are Canons), mounted on a camera on a good monopod. They are very light, incredibly adjustable and are able to do things that a tripod cannot. I use a Manfrotto monopod and head. They are very effective and much more convenient than a tripod.

I know a few (usually very young) photographers who are so steady that they can shoot with a 300mm lens "handheld". These are very well-trained pros who work very hard to learn to be totally steady. They learn how to hold their breath at just the right time, to place their feet in the most stable stance or find nearby supporting surfaces to brace themselves against. Another method is to precisely "follow" (panning) a moving subject and to watch very closely for any jittery movement through the lens. These photogs are truly a rare bread of people. For the rest of us mere mortals, we use monopods or tripods and we set our cameras to higher ISO settings, as required.

Canon's "IS" (Image Stabilization) technology was designed specifically to reduce the effects of camera movement. When you want to take clear pictures in low light conditions, IS lenses can help somewhat. These lenses counteract "camera shake" when you are shooting "handheld" at slower shutter speeds. However, IS lenses were not intended to freeze "action". In fact they can actually cause some problems when photographing subjects that are in motion. This "feature" is not recommended when your camera is mounted on a tripod or monopod. The Canon lens instructions recommend that you switch off the IS function any time the camera is on a stable  "platform". Personally, I have experienced enough image "artifacts" (unwanted distortions) when using IS that I am not a huge fan of this feature. For many photographers "IS" can be an advantage, at least when it is used in the recommended circumstances. I have noticed that some of the newer "L" professional lenses are using a "new & improved" version of IS, which has reduced some of the problems that I have experienced with "Mid-Grade" Canon EF models (like the EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM). Unfortunately, these are extremely expensive lenses.

You may find that the IS function helps you capture sharper pictures in poor light, especially with a longer telephoto lens, but it doesn't make up for less-than-stellar optics! When choosing a lens, I prefer to put my money into the "glass", which will benefit ALL of my shots, not just a few pictures that were shot under certain (very specific) conditions.

There are very good reasons why photography is consider an "art". There is something called "photographic technique". There are hundreds of great books on the subject. Fortunately, there is also a ton of excellent information available for free on the web. Try to Google "photographic technique" too see what you can find there too.

Thanks for your very interesting question.

Best wishes,


Introduction To The Q & A Guide Series:

I have been answering potential bidder's questions about the items that I have listed on eBay for several years. One kind person suggested that there may be other members who have wondered about the same subject, but may have been too shy to contact me directly. He suggested that it could be useful to post his question, and my answer, for others to see. He recommended that it could be done in the form of an eBay Guide.

This is the seventh in a series of Q & A "Guides" that will be posted.

This series of eBay Guides is based on real questions that were asked of me through eBay Messages, using the "Ask The Seller A Question" feature on my listings. Hopefully, these Guides, based on my actual responses, might provide useful answers to some of your questions too.

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