Is image stabilization worth $70 and half a pound on the lens?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by mrgreen4242, Dec 29, 2008.

  1. mrgreen4242 macrumors 601


    Feb 10, 2004
    I'm looking at the 18-200mm class lenses for my D40. The Nikkor is just too expensive, so it's down to the Tamron and Sigma lenses. The Tamron is only $230 after rebate, but is probably the "worst" of the three - looking at a side by side it's pretty damn fuzzy compared to even the Sigma. The Sigma without optical stabilization is about $290 and is about as sharp as the Nikkor in the center and just a little fuzzier around the edges. And 1/3stop slower at the long end. I'm fine with all that for a $300-400 savings.

    The Sigma with OS is about $70 more that the Sigma without, and is substantially heavier. I guess the question is whether the Sigma is worth the extra $60 and if the OS is worth another $70 and half a pound on top of that?

    I'm inclined to go for the "best" lens (Sigma with OS) but the idea of $130 in my pocket and half a pound not in my bag (or on the end of my light camera) is pretty appealing. Any advice?
  2. rKunda macrumors 65816


    Jul 14, 2008
    IMO, for that lens: yes it's worth it. VR/IS/whatever technology works very well, especially for longer focal lengths.

    I have the 55-200 vr and it's amazing. I've compared the the stock 18-55 to my 18-55 vr and it's not really noticeable for *most* situations, but it is helpful.

    Only problem with VR is it helps with handshake, not with movement... obviously. Indoors, you'll often find you can get crisp exposures of backgrounds with blurry moving subjects. It sounds obvious, but worth noting nonetheless.

    As for brand, if you're not willing or unable to fork out the dough for the Nikon 18-200VR lens, I think Sigma beats out Tamron hands down on every lens I've handled.
  3. jbernie macrumors 6502a


    Nov 25, 2005
    Denver, CO
    If you are in the position to get a lens with IS as opposed to one without I would suggest for going for the one with IS. I can't help you when it comes to lenses for Nikon cameras but there are plenty on here who can.
  4. wheelhot macrumors 68020

    Nov 23, 2007
    Get with IS, it works great and you might be able to hand hold it with slow shutter speed and still get sharper pictures compared to non IS which will force you to bump the ISO in order to get a clear image with a good shutter speed.
  5. liquid stereo macrumors regular

    Jan 21, 2005
    Saint Paul
    One of the benefits of the Minolta/Sony and Pentax systems

    VR/IS/SSS comes with every lens and no additional weight.

  6. GT41 macrumors regular

    Apr 25, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    For longer focal lengths especially on slower lenses 5.6 or 6.3 etc I find the IS really helps. At 200mm which would be 300 on your crop body, I can't imagine hand holding without IS in less than sunny conditions. Overall I'm not caught up in having IS but I found I really make use of it with my long lenses.
  7. mrgreen4242 thread starter macrumors 601


    Feb 10, 2004
    Thanks for commenting everyone. I think you are all right - it would be silly to get the lens without the IS, considering it's a 200mm zoom. The money isn't the biggest issue - I'm mostly concerned about adding half a pound to an already fairly heavy (compared to the D40 kit 18-55mm lens) lens.

    I'll have to some measuring and add some weight to my camera to see what it will feel like with and without the IS...
  8. iBookG4user macrumors 604


    Jun 27, 2006
    Seattle, WA
    On the Nikon cameras this is not true. That is only on dSLRs with the IS/VR built into the body.

    I would get the lens with IS. I tried going the cheaper and lighter route with one of my lenses and I regret it, so best to get IS now. You get used to the extra weight pretty quick if you use it often.
  9. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    Why do some many people ask "which is best" without giving us any idea what kind of subjects the lens will be used for or any other information about how the lens will be used.

    Lenses are neither good nor bad, they are either matched to your needs or not.

    OK as a general rules you do not need IS (or VR) if you can shoot with a shotter speed faster then 1/(focal length) or if you can use a camera support. Are you doing any of this?
  10. mrgreen4242 thread starter macrumors 601


    Feb 10, 2004
    I didn't ask "which was better". In fact I SAID which was better. I asked for opinions whether the "better" lens with more features was worth the extra money and WEIGHT (most importantly).

    Thanks anyways.
  11. compuwar macrumors 601


    Oct 5, 2006
    Northern/Central VA
    But you didn't give out enough pertinent information about your budget or ability to carry/use the lens- let alone how you're going to use it. How good is the advice you're going to get if you don't give out enough information?

    You might be one of those people who can't lift a lens that's 90g without screaming in pain. You might want to use the lens for motor sports at the far end where subject motion blur makes stabilization a moot issue. You might shoot where the lens is up to your eye for 20m at a time, or where it's just up to take a quick picture- that makes a huge difference in terms of weight.

    I routinely shoot with a 400mm f/2.8 lens, I wouldn't even notice the difference between the two lenses if I had to pack them for a week in the field or hold the camera up to my eye for an hour at a time.

    You're kidding yourself if you think the Sigma is about the same as the Nikkor- here's an example test result:

    Finally, a lens is generally at least a 10yr investment, so it's difficult to make a case for a fifty eight cent a month difference in ownership without any idea of how much the lens will be used.
  12. mrgreen4242 thread starter macrumors 601


    Feb 10, 2004
    I will grant that I didn't give a complete description of what I'll be using the lens for. But I think ChirsA missed the point of my post - I was asking for peoples opinions of how they were using the lenses and whether they thought the IS was worth the costs, both money and weight on the lens. I should have been clearer about that. Sorry!

    Back to the "kidding myself about the Sigma". I guess I'll start with a few disclaimers - I've used neither, I never claimed the Sigma was "about the same", the only mention I made of the Nikkor 18-200mm was it was out of my price range, and I admit up front that the Nikkor is almost certainly the "best" lens without considering price.

    But, just looking at the reviews online, using the one you link as an example give a 7% difference between the Nikkor and the Sigma WITHOUT OS. Go into the "results" section of that review and look at the samples. "The centre crops in the middle row clearly show the Sigma being the sharpest, although when it comes to the edges, the Nikkor lens takes the lead."

    Everywhere but the edges of the frame the Sigma is as sharp if not sharper than the Nikkor. It has the same focal range, both have IS. The Nikkor is 1/3 of a stop faster at the longest zoom range. It's also nearly twice the price.

    If you are looking at comparing the two dollar for dollar the Sigma would likely win, but it you are just looking at the optical performance only the Nikkor is clearly superior. That however doesn't do me any good as I can't afford a lens over $600 - and even if I had $600 to spend on a lens, I'd almost certainly still get the Sigma and add a fast prime to my collection as well, a opposed to getting just the Nikkor.

    Thank you for your input though, sorry if came off a little grumpy in my last post - I had a cranky morning! :p
  13. Mantat macrumors 6502a

    Sep 19, 2003
    Montréal (Canada)
    At same aperture, go for the IS version.

    That being said, there are some complicated choices, for example in the Canon world:

    24-70L2.8 vs 24-105LIS4: both have their uses. the 24-70 is for wedding and 24-105 is the perfect traveller lens

    70-200F4IS vs 70-200F2.8: I have had both (traded the 2.8 for the f4IS) and again they both have their use. 2.8 makes better bokeh but the f4 is perfect for travel and low light (I shoot at 1/30sec without too much problem, something I would never do with the 2.8).

    There are many other situations like the ones above and you really have to think about the lighting condition you will be in /subject speed to determine which one you want.
  14. compuwar macrumors 601


    Oct 5, 2006
    Northern/Central VA
    But stabilization is only "worth" it depending on what and how you shoot-
    for instance I shoot hand-held maybe 15% of the time and that's almost always in a situation where I'm using strobes. There's a short decision tree for stabilization:

    1. Do you normally shoot where 1/fl won't work
    Yes -> 2
    No -> you don't need it
    2. In those cases, do you use a tripod?
    Yes -> You don't need it
    No -> 3
    3. Are you shooting moving subjects?
    No -> You need it
    Yes -> You don't need it unless you're panning a lot

    You started down the slippery slope of "sharpness in the middle."

    Yet they quote identical resolution figures, however, and this is my point though admittedly I didn't elaborate on it- center sharpness isn't the be all and end all of image quality. Given the roughly even resolution figures it's not clear if we're in sample variation territory- however if you look at the fringing, by f/5.6 the Nikkor is pretty-much gone, and the other lenses are still not great at f/6.3- however this may all be moot- it looks like the OS version is a slightly different optical formula (18 instead of 15 elements) and will obviously test differently.

    Dollar-for-dollar a $20 keychain camera beats a Hasselblad- that's not a good measure. ;)

    It doesn't sound like you really have anything in mind for this lens, in which case you may be better off saving up for something that's more in line with what you shoot or that will open more creative avenues than a general-purpose superzoom.

    Here's a question I always ask myself before I fall into lens acquisition mode:
    "What images will this lens get me that my current ones won't?" Answer that and you'll know if you need it and with which features.
  15. mrgreen4242 thread starter macrumors 601


    Feb 10, 2004
    For neatness I'm not quoting compuwar's post, but replying to it.

    Sure, center sharpness isn't everything, but it's a large part of apparent image quality when you look at the final results. There's some differences in fringing and other optical quality issues, but they're not terrible especially if you aren't doing lots of giant blowups, which I likely won't be.

    As for my usage, volume wise most of my photos right now are indoor pictures of people, mainly my 10 month old son. I have an SB400 flash, so I use that in "bounce mode/position". The 18-55mm covers most of all this shooting pretty perfectly. There's times, maybe 20% of my current shots, that I wish I had a little more zoom to tighten up portrait type shots - Usually 70-80mm would be sufficient here.

    As you note a lens is a multiyear investment. I'd like to get an 18-200mm for the coming summers when my son will start walking and playing outside - trips to the park etc. Beyond that, future family vacations, trips to the zoo, stuff like that. This would be my "all purpose" walk around family photographer lens.

    I didn't go into a lot of this because i wanted to see what other people thought of the lenses for their own uses, and how they were using them, etc. I wasn't looking for a response one way or the other, I just wanted personal opinions - I've read all the reviews.

    As far as the dollar for dollar argument, the two lenses in question are very much in the same class/category, unlike a "keychain camera and a Hasselblad", so I think comparison is fair. Anyways, this wasn't meant to be a comparison of the Nikkor and Sigma lenses.
  16. compuwar macrumors 601


    Oct 5, 2006
    Northern/Central VA
    So long as (a) You're aware of it and (b) you're also aware that the often-used center AF point is compositionally about the worst thing you can do to get good shots, then I've happily covered my point.

    Then I'd gently suggest that you scope out one of the 55-200mm lenses ($159 Nikon, $134 Sigma) which are cheaper, and perhaps start saving up for an interesting lens that'll let you explore other photographic avenues like the Tamron 90mm SP Di macro or Sigma 30mm f/1.4 HSM. After all, the major advantage of a DSLR over a Superzoom P&S is really the ability to change lenses if you're not going to be doing enlargements.

    But the main issue (OS or not) is really usage-based. [/dead horse]

    But my point stands that dollar for dollar is a bad comparison technique for photographic equipment. It really should approximate "what's the minimum quality that will meet my needs/standards and can I afford it?" That saves a lot of mistakes and bad choices in my experience.

    Happy New Year!
  17. jaseone macrumors 65816


    Nov 7, 2004
    Houston, USA
    Do you have a steady hand and can you hold your camera perfectly still? If not like the majority of the population then image stabilization is well worth it, it is as simple as that.
  18. mrgreen4242 thread starter macrumors 601


    Feb 10, 2004
    Again, trimmed your reply for neatness. I'm definitely considering the 55-200mm lenses for an "outdoor" lens (keeping my 18-55mm as an "indoor zoom"). The trouble is that I need to be able to get a little wider than 55mm and little closer than 55mm a lot of the time - an 18-80 would probably get the job done for me, but lenses in that class are almost/as pricey as the "bigger" zooms.

    I have been thinking about what you've been saying and I would love the 30mm or 50mm f1.4 (not sure which, the 30mm is probably closest to the "sweet spot" on a DX camera, but I like not having to be right up in someone's face to take a portrait (especially my sticky handed grabby 10 month old) so the 50mm might work best. I've been "locking" my 18-55 in 30mm and 50mm and taking pictures to see what it looks and feels like, but I'm still undecided.

    What I am looking at as an alternative to the (pricey) 18-200mm lenses or the somewhat inconvenient 2-lens combo of 18-55 and 55-200mm is the Nikon 18-135mm. No IS, but the IQ is as good as my 18-55mm (which I am prefctly happy with), the zoom range is about exactly what I need, and the price ($220 refurbished, minus the resale of my 18-55mm which I won't need anymore) is right. It's also pretty decent weight-wise which is important to me as I like the fact the D40 is very compact and I carry it with me pretty much 100% of the time.

    That would leave me with an extra $140 or so to start saving towards something a little more "exciting", like a fast prime or a super long telephoto or underwater casing (Ewa-Marine bag style, not the $1400 hard casings - I dive so this would be a great investment for me). I have a bday coming up so there's a good chance that I wouldn't have to wait long to add enough to that $140 to get somewhere...

    I appreciate your comments, definitely gave me some things to think on. Oh, and for jaseone, I actually have pretty steady hands. I can shoot handheld down to 1/15th reliably, even at the "long" end of my 18-55mm kit lens. Nothing super human, but probably a little better than average. :p
  19. compuwar macrumors 601


    Oct 5, 2006
    Northern/Central VA
    I like messy :p

    That sounds like a reasonable compromise...

    I'd think the 30mm would be more useful underwater, but it's been a looooong time since I dove and I never dove a lot in photogenic places so I never got a Nikonos. Taking a picture of a mud puddle would be about as useful as the (puffs up chest) manly and real diving (Quarry, Atlantic, Chesapeake Bay) I did most of the time, rather than that wimpy, soft and completely uninteresting (*cough*) warm water, high-viz stuff stuff people do with cameras (Bonaire is fantastic- erm, I mean for total wimps!)
  20. mrgreen4242 thread starter macrumors 601


    Feb 10, 2004
    Ya, for diving the 30mm is probably better, and it's probably the more versatile of the two above water as well. It's also $50 cheaper, which is a pretty decent plus.

    The only real advantage for the 50mm is the fact that I could get some nice tight portrait shots without being up in my sons face where I would be distracting him and giving him something to reach out and grab... :p
  21. bubbagates macrumors newbie

    Jan 3, 2009

    I will simply answer your question.

    If you are going with a 200mm lens, I would go with IS.

    I use the Canon 70-200mm f2.8 Zoom without IS and at 200mm and unless I'm on a tripod, then camera shake is there.

    I have the same lens coming next week but with IS as I shoot large scale model planes in flight because I cannot be on a tripod/monopod for those types of shoots and if you are planning on shooting a child in a park, IS will certainly help as you can bet the child will be doing something suddenly and you may find yourself with a shot that would not normal come out well without IS
  22. compuwar macrumors 601


    Oct 5, 2006
    Northern/Central VA
    The earlier you teach them to handle lenses, the better off you'll be ;) Plain glass filters work well too- and you get to blame the kid for the expense! You may find cropping worthwhile for kid shots too- can you crop at 30mm now and see if it's ok? Better yet, get the kid duct taped down and eating, shoot them at 50mm, shoot them at 30mm and crop the 30mm shot to the 50mm field of view- that'll give you a good comparison, and if you taped it right, you can go out to a bar and celebrate your new knowledge before it gets loose! ;) Personally, I think Gorilla Tape may be better than plain duct tape, in terms of pure child stabilization. :D
  23. mrgreen4242 thread starter macrumors 601


    Feb 10, 2004
    Well, I created a couple smart folders in iPhoto (yes, I use iPhoto :p); one for images taken with a D40, that are scored 3 stars or more, and in the focal range of 27 to 33mm. The second smart folder is the same, but 47 to 53mm.

    I have about 50% more shots in the 30mm group than the 50mm group. But, on closer inspection the 50mm group has more of my favorites (call the 4 star or better) and the 30mm also has a higher rate of cropping, which with "only" 6MP can get a little dicey at times.

    So, in short, I'm no close to a decision. :p
  24. compuwar macrumors 601


    Oct 5, 2006
    Northern/Central VA
    In that case, you'll have to use the age-old ancient preferred acquisition strategy. Plan on getting them both!

    Now you just have to decide which to get first! :D

    I'd still go with the 30mm- portraits of a kid aren't going to give you as many memories in 10-15 years as the kid in the environment. (Ok, that's pure conjecture on my part, but I still think I'm right.) Certainly, the child is more likely to remember stuff in the environment rather than just what their face looked like at the time.

    Good luck with the decision!
  25. PCMacUser macrumors 68000


    Jan 13, 2005
    Would you mind elaborating? I realise that centring subjects in the frame is damned awful, but the way I shoot is to focus my subject using the centre AF point, and then recompose the shot so the subject is positioned at a third or wherever. Is there something wrong with that AF point that I don't know about?

    My EOS 1V has 45 AF points, but I don't use them all, just the centre one.

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