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I was given a Nikon AF-S VR Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED lens as a Christmas gift. It takes great pictures, but one thing I noticed immediately is that it makes a buzzing or humming noise when focusing. The noise is definitely related to Vibration Reduction - if I turn off VR using the switch on the lens, the noise stops immediately. I can feel a slight vibration coming from the lens when it does this. I mounted it on two cameras, with slightly different behavior:

  • Nikon D500: makes the noise when shutter button is half-pressed, noise continues for about 5 seconds after shutter release (regardless of whether a photo was taken).
  • Nikon Z6: makes the noise all the time unless VR is off.

I called Nikon about it and they said that it's the VR (duh) and if I wanted I could send it in to them for review. I decided instead to just exchange it for a new copy with Amazon (the one I got was brand new anyway but I thought it might just have been bumped or something). Not surprisingly though, the replacement (also brand new) behaves exactly the same way.

It's not a big deal since the photos it takes are fine, but this is the first lens I've seen that does this. My other Nikon lens (DX Nikkor 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR), which came with the D500, does not make this noise. My Sigma 150-600 S also does not make the noise.

So some questions:

  1. What's the deal? Why is it doing this, and should I insist on getting it repaired by Nikon directly?
  2. When I called Nikon, they suggested that when I use the Z6 I turn off the lens VR, meaning I'd be using just the Z6's built-in VR. Yes this would make the noise go away, but doesn't lens VR work in combination with the camera body? Meaning, lens VR + body VR = much more awesome VR (as opposed to just lens VR or body VR alone).

Thanks in advance! I uploaded a couple of YouTube clips if you want to see / hear for yourself.

  • D500: www.youtube.com/watch?v=dCx__7BqOAg
  • Z6: www.youtube.com/watch?v=xpXTfOVXxWI
  • Since the Z6 is a mirrorless camera that uses the sensor to feed an electronic viewfinder, VR is active anytime the camera is turned on and VR is enabled. With your D500, if VR is enabled it is only active when metering is active (such as when the shutter is half pressed). – Michael C Jan 5 at 21:02
  • I got the same problem. The humming sound only stops when releasing the button. It is then followed by a click. very strange. Since yesterday on both my bodies. Should I be worried? – Xavier Jan 11 at 6:39
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This is completely normal, mine does it too. The sound is normally quite soft though, I don't find it disturbing.

The sound is caused by gyroscopes. These are fast spinning wheels, or rings in case it is for a DSLR lens (because one cant see much through a solid disk). It is a system very similar to the gyroscope behind the virtual horizon in an aircraft.

  • Thanks @Orbit - any thoughts on why this happens only on this lens? Are these gyroscopes not present in my other Nikon lens? – Mike Willis Jan 5 at 21:24
  • Are you sure there are physical gyroscopes? That's awfully power hungry, and moving parts would be a maintenance / failure issue for Nikon. Most rate sensors in consumer devices are MEMS gyroscopes, and operate at speeds beyond the range of human hearing. – scottbb Jan 5 at 21:27
  • assuming they also have VR (obviously), that's a pretty good question. I did find this question about it: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/804/… Maybe there is another method to measure the angles too, like micro gyro's, or some lenses could rotate the ring more silently. Do you hear anything if you put your ear to it? – Orbit Jan 5 at 21:30
  • @scottbb VR does use quite a lot of power on my 18-270 Tamron, it zooms (buzzes) too. I really have no idea what else would cause the buzz. – Orbit Jan 5 at 21:35
  • probably just the small servomotors that move the lens elment(s). They are probably use pulse-width modulation (PWM) to control power in/to the motors. That tends to cause an audible buzz. – scottbb Jan 5 at 21:42
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Optical image stabilisation uses correction lenses that are basically suspended in a magnetic field of variable strength. Maintaining a semi-constant position tends to result in some microvibration. When using a tripod, switch off VR: that also saves battery power.

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