To IS or not to IS? That IS the question...

To IS or not to IS? That IS the question...

Super lame title for this one but sorry, couldn't resist ;)

Actually, after doing a few tests it's not much of a question at all in my opinion. I set up shop at B&H today and tried various Canon lenses on my 7D and I now feel confident that, yes, if you want to shoot handheld with HDSLR's, having a lens with Image Stabilization (IS) is tremendously helpful. I have the 24-70 2.8L zoom and it's quite a nice piece of glass but the more video I've been shooting, the more I find the inevitable camera shake with this lens to be unbearable. The Zacuto setup helps take the curse off but really, if you don't want to feel your body's every little twitch and tremble on the video, you need to be on sticks or you need to go with an IS lens. I've heard that an IS version of the 24-70 2.8L is on the horizon but that's just message board chatter so who knows really. For now, if you want a fast Canon multi-purpose zoom, it seems were stuck with this one. The obvious alternative is the Canon 24-105 IS which is a wonderful lens but at f/4, it's a little slow for most of us doing video. Part of the reason I got the 7D is I want to be able to pull it out of my bag and shoot a little HD whenever I feel like it. Spontaneous filmmaking. Shaky video is nauseating to me and completely unacceptable for the kinds of images I'm hoping to create with this camera. If I have to shoot at f/4 to use this camera the way I want to, then that's just how it goes.

This video was shot with the 7D at 1/50" shutter, 1080 24p, f/4 on both lenses - EF 24-105 f/4L IS and EF 24-70 f/2.8L (no IS). Shots were done hand held with no additional support or aids - just the camera in front of my face.

Canon Lens Tests on 7D from Ben Cain / Negative Spaces on Vimeo.

Addendum 01/20/10:
I exchanged the 24-70 for the 24-105 IS. I now have the video camera that I can whip out of my bag at a moment's notice and roll with. I shot a bunch of long lens stuff handheld in Midtown today and I was very relieved to find that I can "pretty much" operate this camera the way I want to. Close enough anyways. I'll post some footage from that in the next few days. The IS function of the lens combined with the Zacuto Rapid Fire is a great "low impact" solution for spontaneous filmmaking and image capture. I can deal with the f/4, just need to keep the lens open and the Genus Fader Variable ND is the way to do it. I'm sure I'll be needing faster lenses but for now they can be rented easy enough at one of the many photo houses in the city for 40 or 50 bucks a day. Not that I have any intention of using this gear professionally. This is purely for my own amusement and desire to independently make images.

Hopefully Canon will wise up and realize that you need IS to shoot handheld video with these cameras. When they put out the 16-35 and 24-70 in an IS version, I'll go back to B&H and pick them up. I'm surprised more people aren't talking about this because this is huge issue in my mind. The camera shake on the non-IS lenses is truly hideous unless you're on sticks or a very heavy, weighted down shoulder rig.

Canon 7D, 24-105 f/4L IS, and Zacuto Rapid Fire with Z-Finder. A video/stills solution that shoots excellent photos and acceptable video that you can carry around in a small backpack for just under 4 grand. I've got to say, I'm pretty happy with it.

Addendum 01/21/10:
I'm quite certain these IS lenses were not designed to have their IS feature permanently turned on for hours on end. The lens emits a distinct "grinding" sound that I'm sure is normal but indicates some strain on the motors. Because this nice but mass produced lens is designed to be used for short bursts of fractions of a second as opposed to being constantly activated, I'm assuming I'm going to wear the lens out far sooner shooting video than I would just shooting stills. Anyone know anything about this?