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Why you should use a tripod, remote and MLU

Over on the CameraTechnica.com website, Preston S. has published a couple of interesting video demonstrations (original, reloaded) of just how important a tripod. mirror lock-up, and a remote shutter release is to prevent motion from blurring your photographs in the “danger zone” from 1/60 second to about 2 seconds.

In the experiment, a laser pointer is attached to a Canon 7D mounted on a tripod as a vibration detector. A separate camera is then used to record a video the light from the laser hitting a target about 6 meters away. The video of the experiment consists of four segments:

  1. In the first segment, the camera is used handheld and the shutter button is pressed manually.
  2. In the second segment, the camera is put on a tripod and a hand is placed on the camera and the shutter button is pressed manually.
  3. In the third segment, the camera is on a tripod, the shutter is fired remotely, but the mirror was allowed to flop normally.
  4. In the final segment, the shutter is also fired remotely, but with mirror lock-up enabled.

The tripod used in the experiment is a Manfrotto 190X tripod with a Giottos MH-3300 ball-head. While not super-sturdy, it is a good tripod and typical of what many amateur photographers may use.

The video clearly shows that hand-holding requires fast shutter-speeds, and that a tripod in this class is not enough to keep things perfectly still as long as the shutter is tripped manually. Using a remote shutter release, as shown in in segment three, improves things substantially. In the fourth and final segment, it is shown that using mirror lock-up may also help to reduce vibrations at slow shutter speeds.

Here is a summary of the most significant findings of this experiment:

  1. Manually pressing the shutter button is by far the most significant cause of vibration during image capture.
  2. In order for mirror lock-up to be worthwhile, the camera must be on a tripod with remote shutter release attached.
  3. Mirror vibration can be significant in some circumstances. For slow shutter speeds, significant degradations in image quality were noted.
  4. For fast shutter speeds, mirror vibrations seem to have negligible impact.

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