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When I got my DSLR, I took a lot of pics and all of them came excellent, even though I had VR at the "Off" position.

Since those came out so well, I wonder when should I turn VR on, and when I should just leave it off.

I found this article which answer this question in detail, but that's too much for me to understand easily. Can someone explain the strict rules in short?

Should I use VR with tripod? When should I use it when I'm not using a tripod, and when should I leave it off?

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    The question (and title) seem to be incomplete. You may want to edit them.
    – ysap
    Sep 15 '11 at 19:22
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Image stabilization (VR, IS, SR, AS, SSS, OS or VC depending on the brand) can safely be turned on under most hand-held conditions when it is working properly. There were apparent some bugs which caused it to induce shake at high shutter-speeds but I've never seen it.

When on a tripod, image stabilization should not be used as it is known to cause a feedback loop. On most lenses and cameras that means you have to turn it off yourself but some systems try to detect those cases and disable themselves automatically while others turn of stabilization when the self-timer or a remote-trigger is used. In these cases, there is no action to take on your part.

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  • Most early IS lenses had feedback loop problems. This is not true of all lenses with IS. Canon's Super Telephoto series have modes specifically intended for tripod use, including one that is optimized to counter the vibrations caused by mirror slap.
    – Michael C
    May 31 '13 at 6:40
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As for tripod, the rule with most VR (IS) systems is to turn it off, as the system will introduce shake to the VR element and thus induce blur. Some newer lenses have more intelligent VR systems that sense when the lens is on a tripod and automatically shut-down the system.

Note that I am referring to VR in a general sense here. It is IS for Canon and other designations for other manufacturers. You really need to check that on a per-lens basis.

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    One lens I have has two image stabilization settings, one for "normal" IS, the other intended for use on a tripod. It doesn't auto-sense, you have to choose the right setting for the conditions. Sep 15 '11 at 19:48
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    Which lens? I have not seen that. Sometimes there are two modes for bi-directional vs uni-directional stabilization, the latter is used for panning.
    – Itai
    Sep 15 '11 at 19:59
  • @Warren Young - why would you need a special mode for tripod? You just shut it off.
    – ysap
    Sep 15 '11 at 20:39
  • @Itai -just to make sure, does your comment refer to Warren's comment or to my answer?
    – ysap
    Sep 15 '11 at 22:22
  • @yasp: It helps with unsteadiness in panning. That's my recollection anyway. Maybe the mode is for hand-held panning instead. I don't have the manual here to check. Sep 15 '11 at 22:46
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You may want to turn off VR if you are getting close to exhausting your camera battery. This has saved my bacon a couple of times. And, as others have mentioned, when using a tripod, in most cases.

One other factor: The VR by default starts to do its thing once you half-press the camera shutter. It will then take some time, around half a second, for it to get up to speed and actually stabilize the image. In other words: If you need to "snap-shoot" photos, turn VR off... during the half-second spin-up time it may very well be introducing blur instead of reducing it.

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The correct answer totally depends upon the specific lens and also upon the manner in which you desire to use it.

Even when using a lens on a tripod, some lenses require you to turn IS off, some do it automatically for you, and others actually have IS modes specifically created for tripod use. The last category includes Canon's Super Telephoto series that are tuned to reduce the effects of mirror slap when mounted on a tripod.

Once ingrained in a particular culture, such as professional photographers, some ideas are hard to modify when the current state of technology makes those ideas outdated and in need of modification if not outright obsolete.

One glaring example is Image Stabilization. When the IS lenses for interchangeable lens SLR cameras first began appearing in the second half of the 1990s, there was an issue with vibration feedback loops when the camera and lens were mounted on a tripod. Vibration from the IS unit would cause the camera to vibrate, which would induce correction from the IS unit, which would cause vibration, which would induce correction from the IS unit, which would cause vibration...

By the year 2000 pretty much every lens manufacturer had upgraded their IS technology to automatically turn off IS when the camera was detected to be mounted on a tripod. Some lenses have even appeared on the scene that have IS profiles specifically designed to be used with a tripod. Yet more pros than not will still tell you in 2021 to ALWAYS turn off IS when you are using a tripod.

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  • Do you have any source for IS upgrades? I'm curious to learn more about this...
    – maples
    Sep 9 at 14:00
  • You can download and read the owners manuals for lenses such as the EF 400mm f/2.8 L IS II or EF 600mm f/4 IS II.
    – Michael C
    Sep 15 at 5:46

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