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Good Handholding Technique

Blurred images can be quite troublesome and are usually a result of poor handholding technique. I've struggled with them for a while, especially when I moved from the D70 to the D200. The higher resolution brings poor handholding technique out in the open and frequently the camera gets blamed. Obviously if you are getting blurred images while the camera is on a tripod then the problem lies elsewhere.

The age-old rule of thumb (before digital sensors and vibration reduction technology) states that you can safely shoot images with a shutter speed the inverse of your focal length. So, for a 100mm lens this would be 1/100th second and so on. This rule changes a bit when using a digital sensor smaller than 35mm which I will get into a bit later.

This rule of thumb works, but only if you are holding your camera correctly. Here is a list of things to remember to keep those pictures sharp.
  • left hand cradles lens, right hand holds camera with a finger on the shutter release
  • tuck in your elbows close to your body, the more tucked in you are, the steadier your hands will be
  • if you can lean or brace against something, then do it
  • do not hold your breath, doing so will cause slight vibrations which will show as blurring
  • bracing your camera against your forehead also gives another steadying point
Now we come to the effect of a smaller sensor. On a 35mm body, a 200mm lens is just a 200mm lens. However, when put on a digital body, the sensor crop factor changes the lens field of view to 300mm. This is based on a 1.5 focal length multiplier which varies slightly by manufacturer. Given this fact, we have to use the inverse of the effective focal length, and not the focal length of the lens itself.

There are a number of factors that will affect this number, such as the weight of your setup, wind, how steady your hands are, and vibration reduction if your lens has it. As a general guideline, this rule works quite well.

Vibration reduction is a great feature. It will help to eliminate some of the vibrations that plague even the most hand-steady photographer. Be aware however, that it will not help with subject motion. Some manufacturers claim a 4 stop advantage when using VR, but in reality I have found this to be around 2 to 3. 4 is possible if you have really steady hands. Remember to keep it off when using the camera on a tripod though.


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