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Minimum Shutter Speed for Hand Held Shooting

Marcus Peddle , Oct 20, 2006; 10:14 p.m.

I know that when I use a 50mm lens on my Nikon FM3a I should select a shutter speed of at least 1/60 of a second for hand held shooting. My new Contax 645 is much heavier so would I need to have a minimum shutter speed of 1/90 of a second when using the 80mm lens? Or could I go a little slower? Or do I need to go faster?


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Paul Trunfio , Oct 20, 2006; 10:31 p.m.

The 1/focal length is valid for MF too.

Robert Marvin , Oct 20, 2006; 10:50 p.m.

1/focal length might be a bit too simplistic for MF. A MF SLR needs a considerably faster shutter speed--especially if it has a big thumping FP shutter; a TLR or MF RF can usually be hand held at 1/the 35 mm equiv. of the focal length or even a stop slower.

Erie Patsellis , Oct 20, 2006; 11:22 p.m.

hmmm, with practice one can far exceed the 1/fl I routinely shoot a 180 2.8 handheld at 1/60th, sharp images too...


Chris Waller , Oct 21, 2006; 02:38 a.m.

I stick to the 1/focal length rule, so with an 80mm lens I'd use 1/125.

Geoff Goldberg , Oct 21, 2006; 08:09 a.m.

Depends on the camera - some MF can be handheld below 1/60th, others need the 1/125. Depends on weight, strap, shutter release, mirror or not, etc.

The best way to know is to get a roll of film in there and test it.

thomas scott , Oct 21, 2006; 08:48 a.m.

I suppose it all depends on how still you can stand. I once saw a guy shoot at 501 CM with a 100mm lens at 1/2 second handheld. Wasn't something I could do, but the negative was pretty sharp. I can do an 80 at about an 1/8th, but it's not in my comfort zone. I don't usually go beneath 1/30 for any lens.


You can either listen to all the old fogies or you can say f-it to the rules and step outside the box. It's only film, after all.

Marcus Peddle , Oct 21, 2006; 09:42 a.m.

Thank you all for your replies. I guess I will stick to 1/90 or 1/125 when I want to be safe and try to use a tripod at all times. It would also be interesting to take a few test shots to see how low I can go before losing sharpness.

Q.G. de Bakker , Oct 21, 2006; 01:24 p.m.

The minimum shutter speed is 1/1,000,000 sec., or there abouts.
The next question is how much image degradation, caused by handholding, are you willing to accept. You will obviously get more at 1/8 than at 1/8000. The choice is up to you.

Stuart Richardson , Oct 21, 2006; 02:16 p.m.

It really depends on the design of the camera and the lens. As others have said, the MF SLR's are more difficult to handhold largely because they are usually awkward to hold and have large mirrors with a lot of vibration. The Contax 645 that you mention is a lot better designed for handholding, and I would think you could get 1/60th to 1/30th with the 80mm lens. When I shot the Contax, that is what I remember. Of course, a higher shutter speed will usually improve sharpness, but 1/60th with the 80mm should be ok for most uses. With something like a Mamiya 7II, I have been able to get 1/15th with sharp results and even 1/8th on occasion with the 43mm lens but that comes from the rangefinder design with little vibration, a nice ergonomic grip and the fact that the camera is rather light. The Contax 645 also has a very nice grip, but it is much heavier than the Mamiya 7, has a mirror, and the way the prism sticks out it makes it harder to stabalize the camera against your face (you would poke yourself in the eye).

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