Eliminating camera shake with program and aperture priority

Rules are there to be followed/broken in photography, but for eliminating camera shake then you better follow the handholding rule. Take the reciprocal of the lens focal length as your shutter speed and you should be ok…

One over the focal length

Ever since I picked up my first book on photography I learnt about the handholding rule. Setting the shutter speed to “one over the focal length” was the easy route to eliminating camera shake. Then digital cameras gained more megapixels and the old rule might not be enough. Or maybe I’m getting old or drink too much coffee?

A number of recent advanced EOS cameras have a function designed to reduce camera shake when you use program (P) or aperture priority (Av) modes with auto ISO. Normally EOS cameras aim to set a shutter speed inline or faster than the handholding rule.

Twice as fast – the new ‘rule’

In my view once you go beyond 24MP, the rule needs a bit of modernisation. In fact I’d care to suggest that setting one over two times the focal length should be the rule for cameras with 24MP or more. The good news is that a number of advanced EOS cameras have exactly that ability just waiting for you to discover it.

So turn the mode dial to P or Av, hit the menu button and find your ISO speed settings menu, and then press the SET button.

eliminating camera shake

Right at the end there’s Min. shutter spd. and your’s is probably set to AUTO. If so you get the original version of the handholding rule, 1/focal length.

eliminating camera shake

eliminating camera shake

A press of the SET button brings up the screen you need, here you can increase, or decrease, the handholding rule for when you are using P or Av with auto ISO. Turn it to Auto(1).  Now your camera will set a shutter speed that’s 1-stop faster than the hand holding rule would otherwise give. If you do have the shakes – three of those double espressos for breakfast does that – then you might want to go even further.

eliminating camera shake

Let’s imagine your using a 100mm lens. The rule says 1/100s should be ok for handheld photography without camera shake. Choosing Auto(1), and the camera would aim for 1/200s with a suitable ISO if you’ve not reached the limit of the Auto ISO range.

eliminating camera shake

There’s also a possibility of electing to set a fixed minimum shutter speed, rather than the intelligent shutter speed linked to the lens focal length. In the photo above a 24-70mm zoom at 70mm was used, so the camera opted for 1/80s, but to ensure sharper portraits at shorter focal lengths a fixed minimum shutter speed would be beneficial.

Remember Image Stabilizer cannot counteract the movement of the subject, only the camera movement.

The downside – higher ISO

You rarely get anything for free in photography, so this method will mean your camera sets a higher ISO. However I’m firmly in the sharp shots with a little noise is better than blurred shots camp.

If needed you might want to revise the maximum setting for your camera’s auto ISO range.

Which camera have this capability?

This function is a feature of many advanced EOS cameras, check the list below.

  • EOS-1D X Mark II
  • EOS 5D Mark IV
  • EOS 5DS / EOS 5DS R
  • EOS 6D Mark II
  • EOS 7D Mark II
  • EOS 80D
  • EOS 90D
  • EOS R
  • EOS RP
  • EOS M6 Mark II

Note: Speedlite flash and aperture priority

If you use flash, then this clever bit of helpful technology is not applied. You might want to read my post about how Canon’s flash system has changed in recent times.

If you’re a manual exposure kind of photographer, you might be more interested in this post...