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IS on or off?


I was at a road course event this weekend. Was using a Canon 1DX with a Canon 400L 2.8, first generation. Thing is like a boat anchor so I was using my tripod and my Wimberley Gimbal head. I have a **bleep** near 50% fail to focus rate when I was using this set up. Question is...when using a long lens on a Gimbal head should the IS be on or off. I know that everything I have ever read said when a tripod is used to turn off the IS...but when chasing a vehicle going in excess of 100mph, I was going for the car is in motion look so I was using slower shutter speeds, I should have the IS turned ON, correct? By me chasing the vehicles I am in essence creating camera shake, despite the tri pod, correct? What I noticed is the first image in any given series is locked on, then things got sporadic. I am not going to do like I normally do and make a multitude of changes at once. Thing that is making me ask this question versus just going sitting on the side of a freeway and experimenting is the nearest busy, 60moh road is a good 40 minute drive for me.... Appreciate any and all advice....



I have done numerous testing using side by side and independent people to judge the results on this topic.  My conclusion is it doesn't make any difference if you leave it on or not. I think Canon recommends to turn it off but my own real world tests shows me doesn't bare that advice to be necessary. Now can you come up with a scenario where it does hurt the performance?  Most likely, yes, as I can not duplicate every conceivable situation.

IS becomes less and less effective as either the SS goes way up or if the SS goes way down.  Either way doesn't matter its effect is lessened. I use lenses all the time that do not have IS and they seem to work just fine and if I were shooting a situation like you described in your post, I would have turned IS off. Perhaps even turned AF off also.


BTW, the gimbal head has nothing to do with IS working or not.  But the combination of motions like you were trying just might.

However, the bestest answer would be to try it both ways!  Just like you bracket when you aren't sure of exposure.  If something isn't working try something else.

EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and less lenses then before!


Does the IS have a panning mode? (mode 2). If it does then my thinking is to have it on because it's not sitting on a solid tripod since you are panning rather than shooting stills. That said I'm assuming you had it in AI servo and the camera set to track the object & to ignore sudden changes to the background or foreground.

"A skill is developed through constant practice with a passion to improve, not bought."


I use a 300 2.8 handheld quite a bit for sports and never have IS on because of the shutter speed I am using.  With the slower shutter speed while panning on a tripod it MAY help.


With the first image locked but others dropping out, you need to check/experiment with the AF personalization.  The Canon guidebook for AF in this series is more useful than what is in the main owner's manual:


Also check how your AF servo second image priority is set, you may have it biased towards speed instead of level of focus.



EOS 1DX M3, 1DX M2, 1DX, 5DS R, M6 Mark II, 1D M2, EOS 650 (film), many lenses, XF400 video

Thanks for the link. Previous owner of the body had the Case settings all changed...amongst other things.....

When you said "motorsports" I assumed vehicles but now you're saying motocross which I haven't ever shot but the majority of photos I do see of it have been shot at high shutter speeds. Spokes, tires etc frozen in the photo rather than showing motion. I have no idea what the prefered method of capture is but it's worth looking in to. 

This is a link to motocross photos showing both high shutter speeds & slower ones. It's a lengthy thread & many of the early images are gone thanks to Photo Sharing Sites making big changes to free sharing so I've given you the link to the last page & you can work backwards. It should show what's acceptable but not necessarily what a magazine editor requires.

"A skill is developed through constant practice with a passion to improve, not bought."

@inkjunkie wrote:
Thanks for the link. Previous owner of the body had the Case settings all changed...amongst other things.....

Yeah, resetting all of the setting in the camera is highly recommended with any used camera.  Be aware that you need to reset settings in at least three or four places, not just the main menu “Reset To Factory Defaults” selection.  That function does not reset Custom Controls.  Some of the utofocus settings require a separate reset.


As far as IS goes, setting the right IS mode is crucial for getting sharp images.  Here is the correct use of Mode 1




Here is an example of using Mode 1 for panning, when I should have switched to Mode 2.  But, I would have missed the shot.




These were shot with a 7D2 and an EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM.  Shutter speed was 1/1600.  Camera motion blur is not the reason why the second shot is soft.  It is caused by me using the wrong IS mode while I fired a few shots.

"The right mouse button is your friend."


Certain combinations of bodies and lenses are capable of disabling IS when the combo is mounted on a tripod, which would explain why it might seem not to make any difference whether or not IS is enabled.


All of the 1Dx bodies are able to automatically disable IS with any of the current super telephoto primes.  The 1Dx bodies are also able to disable IS with “L” lenses introduced after 2012. I do not think there is any way to disable the behavior, either.


Even with a first generation 400mm f/2.8L, a 1Dx should be able to automatically disable IS.  But, from your descriptions of soft image it does not sound like IS is being disabled.  According to this review, the lens is tripod sensing.


I would be inclined turn IS off when panning, but the IS mode 2 in the lens is supposedly for panning.

"The right mouse button is your friend."




From lens instruction manual

John Hoffman
Conway, NH

1D X Mark III, M200, Many lenses, Pixma PRO-100, Pixma TR8620a, Lr Classic

When one says 'using a tripod" I don't think it relates to using a tripod with a gymbol in order to pan. To me that's a mode 2 situation just as it is if hand held.

"A skill is developed through constant practice with a passion to improve, not bought."