More About VR

When is VR Active?

Vibration reduction is always active when the Z System camera is active if you've set Vibration reduction to Sport or Normal in the camera menus, or have turned VR on via a switch on the lens. VR also works somewhat differently for Z System cameras than it did with DSLRs, and this has to do with stabilizing the viewfinder. With DSLRs VR only occurred when triggered, while with Z System cameras VR is always active if the Z System camera is active. Thus, the view through the viewfinder and the focus system are both stabilized, all the time a Z System camera is active. This has a slight power drawback compared to DSLRs, as VR requires power, whether in the lens or on the sensor.

When the Z System camera goes inactive or is turned off, you'll probably hear a clunk on most FX cameras. That's because the VR platform is being locked (Z5 through Z9) or repositioned (Zf). Likewise, you'll a similar noise when the camera is turned on or reactivated from sleep as the platform is re-activated. No Z System DX camera has sensor-based VR, so you don't get that VR sled clunk sound like you do on the FX models.

What is Synchro VR?

This is a system where both the lens VR and the sensor VR work better in conjunction with one another. This only happens currently with a  handful of VR-enabled lenses and cameras (see list, below). Generally, this improves the CIPA rating number by about a half stop, but I believe Synchro VR helps with many situations more than that improvement suggests, as its primary function appears to be handling larger camera/lens movements, particularly rotations. That's something that occurs regularly with long, heavy telephoto lenses, where the lens VR is working closer to the likely rotation point when you're handholding.

The lenses that are known to support Synchro VR are:

  • 28-400mm f/4-8 VR
  • 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S
  • 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S
  • 105mm f/2.8 VR S
  • 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S
  • 400mm f/4.5 VR S
  • 600mm f/4 TC VR S
  • 600mm f/6.3 VR S
  • 800mm f/6.3 VR S

The cameras that are known to support Synchro VR are:

  • Zf
  • Z8
  • Z9

Why does my viewfinder jump?

You're in Normal VR mode. In this mode Nikon uses their re-centering system, which helps guarantee that at the time you press the shutter release, the VR system has its full flexibility to move in any direction. If you're not holding the camera very steady, you'll see a jumpiness in the viewfinder because of this. I'd put it like this: if you're seeing a lot of jumping in the viewfinder, you are absolutely relying upon VR to correct your camera/lens handling, so you'll want the VR to be re-centered periodically (normally that happens in the blackout time on a DSLR, but we now have mirrorless cameras with no blackout).

Sport mode doesn't perform constant re-centering on bad handling, and it primarily corrects motion for the axis you're not panning on (e.g. vertically when you pan horizontally). 

Should I turn Off VR when using a tripod or monopod?

With a tripod that is providing clearly solid support (including with gimbal heads), I'd disable Vibration reduction. With a monopod, I'd consider trying Vibration reduction set to Sport, but I don't think VR is necessary on a well-handled monopod. The reason why I might try Sport with a monopod has to do with certain handling characteristics, particularly rotation of the camera. We don't want the system to be correcting our panning, but we do want it looking for movement outside the pan.

While Nikon says that the VR system can detect when it's on a tripod, I've found that there are instances where this becomes an issue. You can avoid those instances by just turning VR off. If your support system is doing the right job—and trust me, not all do—you don't want the VR bits to be responding to anything. Nikon's advice is to never turn VR off, even if on a tripod, but I consider this an 80/20 thing: 80% of the time you'll see no impact from following that advice, but 20% of the time you might. 

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