Last month I felt compelled to write to Outdoor Photography Magazine regarding their review of the new Nikon 105mm VR macro lens, which has image stabilization technology built in. Undoubtedly a good lens, I think it was somewhat oversold, below is my letter.
I wonder how many other readers saw Andy Luck's review of the Nikon 105mm VR macro lens (p.80-81, Issue 117) and thought "Image stabilised macro lens? Been using one of those for years on my Sony/Olympus/Pentax".
I had to chuckle at 'handholding macro shots has only ever been a pipe dream', when it's something I've been happily doing for the last two and a half years with my Pentax K10D and Sigma 105mm, where the Anti-Shake feature really does make a difference.
Attached is a photo of a Longhorn Beetle taken with this camera/lens combo, and although I'll admit to resting the front of the lens hood on the log the beetle was on, 1/8th of a second isn't an exposure I'd try without some sort of image stabilisation.
Although I kept the tone of the letter lighthearted, this sort of sweeping statement only helps to reinforce the view of Nikon and Canon being the only real options when it comes to buying a 'proper' camera. I'm pro-choice, I happen to like Pentax, but I can see merits with all the camera systems, and it's really down to the photographer to pick the one that fulfills their needs best.
For me, one of the main considerations is the weight of my kit. It wasn't always so, I've used 300mm f/2.8 and 80-200mm f/2.8 lenses in the past, but got to the point where I couldn't be bothered to carry such large, heavy equipment with me all the time. I'd start leaving lenses behind, and then regreting not having them when I was out.
As a quick comparison, let's take a look at the Pentax K-7 with smc DFA 100mm f2.8 Macro lens and the Nikon D300S with 105mm F2.8G AF-S VR IF ED Micro Nikkor lens...
The D300S is approximately 22% heavier than the K-7, and 33% larger by volume.
The 105mm Nikkor is more than twice the size and weight (118% and 109% larger respectively) of the 100mm Pentax.
The combined weight of the Nikon combo is 1.64Kg, the weight of the Pentax body and lens being 1.1Kg. The volume of the Nikon kit is 80% larger.
Not only does this extra weight and bulk mean I'd probably get fed up carrying the thing around all day, but it would also mean I'd need a larger camera bag, which is heavier in itself. It wouldn't just be this lens, but a 300mm f/4, standard zoom etc. It would all add up...
But each to their own - if someone's happy to carry around that sort of weight, then that's fine, it's their choice. As long as they don't think they have to in order to get handheld macro shots.
As a final shot, here's a dragonfly at 1:1 magnification, taken handheld back in 2006 with my old, non-stabilized Pentax *istD. "Handholding macro shots has only ever been a pipe dream"... I ask you!