Should VR Be On or Off?

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Many camera lenses now come with vibration reduction features to stabilize shots and improve shooting techniques. However, since image stabilization depends on exposure settings, should VR be on or off? We’re going to look into how vibration reduction works, its benefits, as well situations where you should not apply it.

Should VR Be On or Off?

You should only turn on the VR in a lens when there’s existing shaking. If you have a stable setup, it would be better to turn VR off as it would continue to look for non-existent vibration, which may then cause movement that shouldn’t be present in the first place.

Camera lens with VR

The built-in vibration reduction in a lens serves as an additional feature to help a lens stabilize. However, there are certain things you need to understand to help determine whether you should turn the VR on or off.

Vibration Reduction in Lenses Explained

Also known as image stabilization in some brands, vibration reduction is an image stabilization technology in lenses that decrease blur due to camera shake or movement. Enabling the VR feature counterbalances unnecessary or accidental motion when shooting.

One sensor inside the lens senses vertical movement, while another one focuses on horizontal movements. Together, they send this data to the motors that drive the stabilizer for the lens. In this way, the lens can determine how to compensate for the motion shake as you half-press the shutter button.

The extent or quality depends on the lens brand. However, lenses with VR help stabilize the viewfinder to make it easy for you to locate the focal point on a target area. There are two kinds of VR modes, although this may depend on the particular model of lens.

  • Normal Mode: The normal VR mode applies to general photography. It would compensate for the camera shake coming from movements like composition changes and panning.
  • Active Mode: This vibration reduction mode is ideal for correcting blur when shooting from unstable positions, like in a moving vehicle.

When to Turn On Vibration Reduction

The camera lens industry expects a global market value of up to $15 billion by 2027. This partly stems from the increasing demand for high-quality lenses with various shooting features.

Person wondering if he should turn on his lens VR

Among them is vibration reduction, which lenses incorporate in their systems to improve overall image sharpness and correct camera blur. Still, there are certain situations where VR would be most effective.

  • Handheld shooting: Motion blur would likely occur if you’re using shutter speeds slower than the focal range of the lens. In this case, turn the VR on, so you can continue using the camera settings without worrying about image sharpness. This typically applies to zoom and telephoto lenses.
  • Low light: Turning vibration reduction on enables you to shoot several stops slower in dim-light environments. In effect, you can apply lower ISO values to eliminate background noise, and consequently, maximize image quality.
  • Windy conditions: When photographing wildlife or landscapes, there’s a chance that you might encounter different kinds of weather. Windy conditions may cause lenses, especially longer ones, to have extra movements. Applying vibration reduction compensates for that shake, helping the lens stabilize and take sharp photos.
  • Panning mode: Panning is a photographic technique that involves moving the camera to follow the subject while using slow shutter speeds. The combination of camera movement and slow shutter speed would cause vibration, which is why you need to turn the VR on to correct motion blur. 
  • Focusing issues: A slight difference in your focusing position may hamper the focusing, blurring the shot in the process. When focusing on a small area, turning on the VR lets you stabilize the viewfinder and achieve a more precise focusing. With that said, vibration reduction would be helpful when using macro lenses. 
Both camera lens with VR

When to Turn Off Vibration Reduction

The best time to turn the VR off is when you’re using a tripod since the tripod already ensures there’s little to no movement when shooting. Hence, there’s usually no need to turn on vibration reduction for sports events, night, or wildlife photography.

Aside from that, you should turn the VR off when using a wide-angle lens because the broader the field of view and the faster the shutter speed, the less effect coming from motion shake. This is also one of the reasons why some wide-angle lenses don’t have built-in vibration reduction.

Keep in mind that it’s not cost-efficient to turn vibration reduction on at all times because it won’t automatically go dormant when there’s no motion. The bigger the sensor, the more it consumes power. Thus, it’s not good to turn VR on when you’re running low on battery power.

Conclusion

Ideally, you should turn off the vibration reduction in a lens unless you truly require its help. When you have the correct camera settings or shooting with a tripod, the VR would continue to look for vibration to eliminate. If there’s none, this would only cause a slight shake.

Kaitlin Cooper is an active professional wedding and portrait photographer in San Diego, California at Kaitlin Cooper Photography. She is also a contributor to many large publications, including Bridal GuideBustlePixpaWith Joy, and Hello Giggles.