what is the rule regarding the minimum shutter speed necessary to handhold a camera?

Question by Joe: what is the rule regarding the minimum shutter speed necessary to handhold a camera?
Is it the maximum focal length of the lens being used? Say for a 17-55mm lens, what is the minimum shutter speed necessary to handhold? 1/55 of a second?

Best answer:

Answer by George Y
The old rule was that for 135mm lens, you needed at least 1/125 of a second. For each focal length, your minimum shutter speed was supposed to match. You can imagine how difficult that would be with an 17mm, as you’d need around 1/25 or slower! With a zoom, you’d have to choose a ‘safe’ speed that matches the highest focal length, or change it constantly as you zoom.

Now, with VR technology, one can handhold much slower speeds. Also, with practice, you can do better with any lens.

I was able to be pretty steady at 1/25 when shooting in the 24-85mm range. But, when I got my Nikon 18-200mm VR, I found myself shooting at the 200mm end of the range, at only 1/4 of a second!

If you read here, you’ll find too many people who are getting blurry pictures all the time and blaming it on the camera. Actually, it’s because the photographer hasn’t learned the best way to hold and use the camera. A good grip with the lens supported, elbows in, and a steady front-to-back stance does wonders.

I hope you find this helpful.

Know better? Leave your own answer in the comments!

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5 Responses to what is the rule regarding the minimum shutter speed necessary to handhold a camera?

  1. tigerrrgrrl says:

    It depends on how steady your hand is, but my general rule is anything slower that 1/20th of a second needs either a tripod or a VR lens. VR is fine for still objects but no good for moving ones. If you’re getting a lot of blur, try a VR lens or a faster 1.4 or 1.8 lens for lower light situations.

  2. Dr. Sam says:

    You understand the “rule of thumb” perfectly well, but if you were shooting your lens at 20 mm, let’s say, you would be able to go to 1/20 sec.

    Read George’s answer on “VR,” though.

  3. Bob says:

    The shutter speed closest to the reciprocal of the focal length.

  4. water_skipper says:

    I agree with Tigergirl. It depends on how steady your hand is. In a pinch, I’ve managed to get “tolerable” quality pictures at 1/4th of a second. Like someone else said, the normal rule was 1/125th of a second before image stabilization and so on. You just need to experiment and see what works for you.

  5. Martin S says:

    The rule of thumb was 1/focal lenght for the minimum shutterspeed – (the smaller the figure after 1/ the longer the exposure time). The shorter the focal lenght the less camera movement matters and vice versa.
    So with a 17-55mm lens with a shutter speed of 1/60 (and faster like 1/125, 1/250…) you will be on the safe side if you have an average steady hand.
    If you are using a digi cam that has image stabilization longer times will be possible, of course.
    It’s also easier with a camera that has an optical finder (analog cameras, digital SLRs or older digital P&S cams with an optical finder) as the camera is stabilized not only with your hands but also with your hand.
    Experience helps a lot to shoot also quite long times.

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