Croydon Blur – Does VR Help?

I usually like my own pictures to be sharp. It doesn’t worry me that something like 2/3rds of Henri Cartier-Bresson‘s greatest pictures are said to be – by modern standards – lacking in this respect, and I love some of Robert Frank’s Welsh images that are grainy and almost blurred out of existence, when he photographed coal-blacked miners in dark interiors. But mostly I’m working in at least half-decent light and there really is little reason for blur, given too a camera that can work at ISOs well beyond film.

© 2010, Peter Marshall

© 2010, Peter Marshall

© 2010, Peter Marshall
Three consecutive frames taken over around 15 s

Most of what I took at the BNP demo in Croydon is sharp, but exactly when things got a little more exciting I got a series of slightly blurred images. And I’m not entirely sure why.

I’m shooting at 1/250 f8, and with the lens at 30mm and focussed at 2 metres.  I think I was focussed on the hood of the guy being held, and that is almost sharp, though perhaps that was a bit closer. Things were happening pretty quickly at the time but I was taking my time and shooting carefully, zooming out from 35 to 30 and then 19mm. They are reasonably dramatic, but I’d have liked just a little more bite, and a few of the other frames are softer still.

One problem is obviously camera movement, and I’m obviously following the movement of the foreground figures with the camera, and thus blurring the background.

Had I known this was about to happen, I might have increased the ISO to get a higher shutter speed – I was working at ISO400 and could easily have given myself another stop or two. But I don’t think this was really the problem, as later, shooting a further incident with the same settings everything was pin sharp.

I do wonder slightly if the vibration reduction system – which was switched on – had any effect on the image. Obviously I don’t expect it help get me sharp images of moving subjects, but in picking up my movement of the camera could it actually try to counteract that and in the process make  people who are moving in a different direction less sharp?

Let’s be clear. That was a question and not an answer. I may be talking utter nonsense, but I was surprised by these images. Would I be better off leaving VR off for most of the pictures I take? Who after all needs VR for a 16-35 lens?

2 Responses to “Croydon Blur – Does VR Help?”

  1. Joe D says:

    yeah, for action shots i don’t think it’s going to help. when i had a vr lens i found it often took a second or two for the vr to settle, so (assuming they all behave that way, and mine wasn’t dodgy) i can see it causing trouble when you’re trying to do action or spontaneous shots. i only ever considered using vr when there was no other way to successfully break the inverse shutter rule. i don’t suppose that’s going to be too much of an issue with a 16-35 at iso400 in daylight…

  2. I’ve only used on on a telephoto before, and I leave it on all the time and didn’t have any problems. But I think you are probably right and on the wide angle it’s probably better only to switch it on when you really need to.


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