Today’s Question: Our photography club said not to use IS [image stabilization] on a tripod. With absolutely no movement, the lens will start vibrating to create motion that it can stabilize. I read this somewhere else too, but most people don’t seem to know.
Tim’s Quick Answer: This is one of those bits of advice that has become slightly out of date. With some lenses you can indeed leave image stabilization turned on even when using a tripod. Other lenses include stabilization modes specifically designed for situations where you are panning with a subject.
More Detail: With most older lenses that include image stabilization, it is absolutely true that you should leave the stabilization feature turned off when you are using the lens with a tripod. Otherwise the stabilization technology can actually cause movement that translates into a blurred shot, defeating the whole purpose.
Many newer lenses, however, have stabilization technology that works well even when using a tripod. Some lenses even include special features that enable image stabilization to effective when panning. For example, Canon has incorporated a “Mode 2” option for some of their lenses that is designed for use when panning.
The key is to make sure that the lens you’re using has image stabilization technology that works well with a tripod. But in general you’ll find that with modern lenses the advice to turn off image stabilization is no longer critical advice.
As a general rule, with a static subject when photographing with the use of a tripod, I myself am still in the habit of turning off image stabilization. But in truth, most newer lenses with image stabilization technology (going back to 1999 in the case of Canon lenses, for example) can be used with a tripod even with image stabilization turned on.