One thing about bird photography is when it comes to gear and technique often there is what is good for us and what is good for the rest of the photography world. What works most other places is often just not very important when it comes to avian exposures. Low light sensitivity is a perfect example, it is nice to have, very valuable to most photographers, but not really necessary for birds. Once again let me say it is nice to have and yes you will benefit from it from time to time but it is not necessary.
I have had one stabilized lens for as long as I can remember, but only one. I always say that stabilization known as VR on Nikons, IS for Cannon and OS on the Sigma line really is not that important in bird photography. If you are in the market for a new lens stabilization is kind of a no brainer, if they have it you should get it, but there is also a brisk market for used lenses with features like VR commanding higher prices than older non stabilized lenses. That begs the question ” Just how much do you need stabilization on a long lens?” When I bought the 300mm lens a couple of years ago I made a point of getting the VR feature with the two modes of “active” and “passive”. I have been using that lens relentlessly the last two years often with a teleconverter. The other day I thought the VR had crapped out because I couldn’t see, hear, or feel it engage. Mostly because I was in a noisy, windy environment but non the less I thought it stopped working. I began toggling the VR on and off and purposely bumped aperture so the shutter speed was low and oh yeah it was working just fine. The difference was night and day. It was an added benefit of the lens that I had grown to take for granted. Because all my other lenses are non stabilized and because keeping an eye on shutter speed is engrained in my DNA, the effects of stabilization are seldom front in my mind. Bottom line is the day I thought the VR wasn’t working was a distraction and distractions are never a good thing and if you are reading carefully you will note that I had to change my setting just to see if the feature was working. I leave the VR on all the time and don’t see any bad side effects either. High shutter speeds, it all seems to work just fine for me. Also remember that stabilization effects everything from the glass of the lens back through the camera and into your body, it has absolutely no effect on anything beyond the glass. Motion in the frame is still the same if you need a certain shutter speed to freeze the action you will still need that same speed.
Yeah I enjoy having the technology of stabilization, I find it very handy from time to time but essential none of the time. There were lots of amazing images made before there was ever a single stabilized lens, and let that be your guide. If the difference of having a VR or IS lens is also the difference between having a lens or not, don’t worry about it, get some glass, go shoot and work with what you have.
Thanks for reading everyone. Don’t forget to check me out on twitter @RonBoyd.