I don't want to distract commenters from Carl's question, but another idea regarding Shake Reduction came up in conversation last week with the guys at my local camera store. Unlike Carl, who was an expert competitive archer in his youth, I have always had trouble with hand-holding slow shutter speeds. In fact, I think I suffer from a form of what golfers call "the yips": a certain spasmodic tension that occurs just as I will myself too consciously to be calm—a tendency to get "shakey" precisely when—indeed, because—I'm trying not to. This isn't something arcane—I can feel myself doing it, and observe it in the viewfinder.
Oddly, this has shown up for me twice in objective camera-motion tests—but in an unexpected way. In the 1980s, following instructions in a Popular Photography article by Burt Keppler, I poked holes in a large sheet of black cardboard and lit it from the back, creating "points of light" that would show motion-blur very clearly. I then shot the setup with a variety of shutter speeds. I ran another camera-shake test in outdoor conditions using ND filters with a Canon EOS RT in the early '90s. In both cases, strangely enough, I did very well at hand-holding—in the second test, in fact, I was rock-solid to a half of a second! This is greatly at odds with my long experience as a photographer: I know I have trouble hand-holding 1/30th, and once, when shooting a perticularly upsetting assignment (the accident scene of a young black professional who had committed suicide by jumping from a bridge in Washington, D.C.), I had trouble hand-holding 1/125th. (Appallingly, the young man had jumped from right beside a non-working suicide hotline phone.)
So what accounts for my performance on both tests? I think it was simply that I was perfectly relaxed.
Because there was no picture, there was no pressure. Because there was no pressure, I was able on those two occasions to hold the camera steady at shutter speeds I am absolutely sure I can't hand-hold in real life.
So what does this have to do with Anti-Shake? Simply that this camera feature also helps make my "yips" go away. I don't worry any more about whether I can hand-hold a 30th, because I know the technology is helping me. So I relax—and hold the camera steadier.
This probably makes the technical feature work better for me, and increases the improvement the feature gives me. If I'm right about it—and I'm pretty sure I am, though only in my own case—it also underscores Carl's suspicion that the real, practical, in-the-field effect of anti-shake systems is not really possible to measure with perfect objectivity.
Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON