When to turn off Image Stabilisation

Posted by on Jan 25, 2015 in Techniques | 3 comments

When to turn off Image Stabilisation

On a recent workshop I was reminded how important it can be to think about checking the small things when it comes to landscape photography. After grabbing a few shots of the Story Bridge for sunset, I looked back up the river and noticed a very nice pattern formed by the new walkway on the river. After trying to frame the image using a 10-20mm lens, I decided to change to my new Sigma 24-105mm lens. I fitted the lens, framed the shot and made the photo. Looking at the back of camera I noticed that the photo was blurry, no problem I thought, I must have bumped the tripod. Tried again with similar results.


With my image settings being f10 for 15 secs, keeping the camera stable during the photo is critical. I checked a number of things, making sure the tripod was not moving and that I was using the 2 sec timer to trigger the camera. It was whilst checking the manual focus on the lens I noticed that the Image Stablisation was still switched on. After turning off the mode on the lens, I recaptured the scene and it was wonderfully sharp.


So what is going on here? It is quite simple and an easy mistake to make. The lens is fitted with Image Stablisation (also called Optical Stablisation by some manufacturers), this technology is designed to compensate for the slight movements that occur when we are hand holding the lens. It allows for the lens to be used at slower shutter speeds, generally around 2 stops lower than a lens without the IS technology. This benefit is gained by the lens containing a number of movement sensors and electromagnets that move a glass element inside the lens, basically they detect the movement and make adjustments inside the lens to compensate. When the lens and camera is mounted on a tripod, as was the case in this shot, these movement sensors can be fooled and make unnecessary compensating changes resulting in blurry images.

So a good general rule to think about with Image Stabilised lenses to ensure that the image stabilisation feature is turned off when you have the lens mounted on a tripod. Switching off is a simple matter of finding the appropriate switch on the outside of the lens and switching the feature off. In the photo below you can see the switch on the Sigma 24-105mm lens is located near the Autofocus switch.




Ozlight Photo adventures run regular sunrise/sunset and city lights workshops where you can learn more about this function and other skills to help you get better photos. For more information check out the following links, Sunset/sunrise workshops and City Lights workshops.

Ken Dickson is an Australian based photographer with nearly 30 years experience. A regular contributor to international competitions, Ken holds honour levels both within Australia and Internationally. He started in photography when travelling the world with the Navy using both film and slide film. Moving to digital in 2004, Ken has embraced the available technologies to continue his artistry. With a love for sharing his knowledge and experience Ken helped to launch Ozlight Photo Adventures (www.ozlightphoto.com) providing courses and practical workshops in all aspects of photography.


  1. Keep up good work. Proud Aunty ca’nt help commenting on your wonderful photography ox

  2. Thanks Ken, I know the rule but I’ve never seen it demonstrated so well. Bob

    • Thanks for the feedback Bob. I was surprised at how clear the difference was on this lens.

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