Should you use your IS (VR) lens on a tripod with the IS turned on to improve your shots? Do I need an IS (VR) lends for tripod long exposure work? Does it help at all?
NO, NO and NO!
“The IS mechanism operates by correcting shake. When there is no shake, or when the level of shake is below the threshold of the system’s detection capability, use of the IS feature may actually *add* unwanted blur to the photograph, therefore you should shut it off in this situation. Remember that the IS lens group is normally locked into place. When the IS function is active, the IS lens group is unlocked so it can be moved by the electromagnetic coil surrounding the elements. When there’s not enough motion for the IS system to detect, the result can sometimes be a sort of electronic ‘feedback loop,’ somewhat analogous to the ringing noise of an audio feedback loop we’re all familiar with. As a result, the IS lens group might move while the lens is on a tripod, unless the IS function is switched off and the IS lens group is locked into place.” -Chuck Westfall (Canon).
It’s true that newer lens will automatically disable the IS if they detect no movement, but the bottom line is to be safe and switch it off for tripod work, and if someone recommends an IS lens for low light tripod work based on the stabilisation features, don’t believe them. This may be why the wide angle lens traditionally used for landscape work still do not have IS (16-35, 17-40, 24mm, 14mm etc).