Ultra-wide angle lenses with stabilization / vibration reduction
The need for stabilization in the ultra-wide angle lenses, might appear to be a slightly redundant feature. After all, camera shake is less of a problem the wider your focal length. On a 16-35mm lens, it would really seem to not be that important.
Now, I sometimes second-guess myself about what lenses I need. And what the gaps are in the lenses I have. The Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G (affiliate) is a modern legend, and I love it. But with the bulbous front element, it can’t take filters. A polarizing filter and neutral density filter are staples for landscape photographers, or any photographer really that want more control over the elements in the frame. A polarizer cuts down on glare and reflections, and saturates the image. A neutral density filter allows for slower shutter speeds – river steams can become more ethereal if the movement of the water is allowed to smooth out with the use of an ND filter.
With that, I bought the Nikon 16-35mm f/4G VR (affiliate) specifically for the use with filters. At the time, the Vibration Reduction spec didn’t affect my decision at all. For Canon shooters, the Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS (affiliate), is a spectacularly sharp ultra-wide lens. Read my review: Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS.
Then the VR / IS capability of this type of ultra-wide angle zoom, became essential. With a recent elopement wedding in New York, I wanted to play with the often-seen idea where your subjects are sharp, but the fast-moving people in Grand Central start to blur. This would need an extra-slow shutter speed. But tripods in Grand Central Station, will more than likely get the attention of security, and they will put a speedy stop to the photography. (You might remember this behind the scenes video clip of the Profoto B2 review photo shoot, where I was asked to move along.)
Aside from that consideration, a tripod would just be extra bulk while walking around Manhattan. I like working faster on a shoot like this.
This is where the VR / IS capability came in very handy. I asked the couple and their daughter to remain immobile for a while, and then I fired off a few sequences.
My camera settings for the image sat the top: 1/2 sec hand-held @ f/8 @ 800 ISO
Now, even with an ultra-wide angle lens at 16mm, that is a very slow shutter speed to hand-hold. But with the stabilization, I actually got a few frames where the three central people were sharp … and everyone around them that moved, blurred.
With the central composition, and the little girl’s wide-armed gesture, your attention is drawn right to them … especially with the blur of people around them.
The capability of this lens made this photograph possible. There might be some photographers cool enough to pull this shot off, hand-held with a non-stabilized lens, but I need the technology to drastically improve my chances of success here.
So now I have reason to keep the 14-24mm f/2.8 optic and the 16-35mm f/4 VR too. There is duplication, but each lens has its own set of advantages.
Stabilized wide-angle zooms
- review: Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS
- Faster shutter speeds for sharper photos
- Frida & Peter – New York elopement wedding
11 Comments, Add Your Own
Hello Neil!Wonderful post as many others…Please keep posting…Maybe you could post soon a theoretical and real practice comparasion between Tokina AT-X 24-70/2.8 PRO FX,Tamron SP 24-70/2.8 Di VC,Nikon AF-S 24-70/2.8E ED VR and Nikon AF-S 24-70/2.8G ED…Thank you!
2Neil vN says
The Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8E hasn’t hit the streets yet.
As for the rest, some of them are covered in this comparison discussion.
3Valent Lau says
You shoot in Grand Central so much I’d have thought they all knew you by name now :)
4Bernardo Bennett says
Do you find it hard to get the subject sharp in such slow shutter speed, specially children? Did you use any flash at all?
5Neil vN says
I asked them to hold still for a few seconds at a time. Dead still. Eyes not moving. Then I would shoot a few sequences at a time.
Not every shot will work – but that’s okay. I just need 2-3 successful shots for my client.
No flash used.
6Arnold Gallardo says
Thanks for the wonderful demonstration pf VR and wide angles. I have been thinking the same advantage in having VR (along with needing it for ACTIVE VR situations) but then again the 14-24mm f/2.8 G has been so legendary in its IQ. Having both lenses (14-24/16-35) surely is best, this is why I have the Nikkor 24-70mm and the 24-120mm f/4 VR but this is moot now that the Nikkor 24-70mmE VR is going to be out. Just too bad that they only want 1200 for my old 24-70mm and it is better to keep that as a secondary backup lens instead of selling/trading it in.
Am I missing something here? That shot with the three people in center of frame is not sharp by any stretch of the imagination. It’s either that, or my monitor has developed some serious issues. Or perhaps you were illustrating the need for VR/OS/OSS/IS or VC, depending on the maker of course. Please, I mean no disrespect. I understand everyone else being blurry, but it looks like a polaroid. 1/2 second hand held is quite bold…
8Neil vN says
The full-resolution file looks sharp enough.
Maybe it is in how I down-rezzed it for web here? There is loss of quality anyway, when saving-for-web.
So I wouldn’t make any mission critical judgements off the small image here.
You’re probably correct Neil. I KNEW it must be something!! Almost every image I;ve ever seen you upload was stunning. Again, my apologies if I in any way sounded disrespectful. Thanks for the update my fellow Jerseyian
9Neil vN says
The key phrasing here is “sharp enough”.
Here is the 100% crop so you can see how sharp it is. There is image softness, but not enough to detract from the overall photo and mood. With a tripod, it would’ve been sharper.
But we are also dealing with people here who will sway a little bit during the 1/2 second exposure. So that will create softness as well.
Still, it is sharp enough. And mixed in with the selection of photos of their afternoon in New York, it works well. And for me, worked well enough to stand on its own here in this short article.
As I stated, for you to take that shot at 1/2 second….Bold move, and well done Neil. I wouldn’t have ever gone and don’t go below 1/30 without a tripod…shaky hands