I recently started shooting with a Nikon Z 7 and noticed something interesting when reviewing some images from a shoot. There was a feature that I didn’t pay much attention to, but I think it’s really undervalued.
Before the Z 7, I was shooting with a Nikon D810 and primarily the Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8. My version lacked VR, and while some of my other lenses had it, I didn’t get into the habit of using it.
On the Z 7, stabilization is available for any lens, as it is built into the sensor. Having it always available has already expanded my handheld shooting envelope, allowing for some shots that would have otherwise required too high of an ISO. Additionally, this opens up a number of possibilities for stabilizing lenses that have never had the option of VR.
For example, this recent shot required me to dangle the camera out at arm’s length to get the appropriate perspective and was about 3 stops slower than the reciprocal focal length guideline. Despite those two factors, it is sharp, given the shallow depth of field. Don't take this as a technical test, as the light source created both fringing and a fine grid pattern that isn't present under normal light.
Given this was an adapted Nikkor 24 f/1.4, there would not have been a reasonable way to stabilize this shot before the Z 7, and my test shots with VR disabled were too blurry to be usable. I understand VR itself isn’t revolutionary, but to me, always-available VR is a huge convenience. It isn’t a replacement for a tripod, but for marginal situations, it can be a huge help.
Lastly, I’ve noticed an increasing movement against tripods in the places I enjoy shooting- for instance, Zion National Park banned some instances of tripod use and many buildings prohibit it outright. In these cases, VR is the only option for adding stability.
Have you shot with a body that has built in image stabilization? I didn’t consider it an essential feature on lenses before, but it’s already proven useful.
Cover image by Yunming Wang