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I'm trying to make a good shot of moving vehicles, but don't get which settings are best to do that.

I'm using Nikon D750 with kit 24-120mm f/4 lens, the later have following switches for image stabilization:
VR on/off
VR mode normal/active

The manual says that active VR mode are to be used then shots are taken from moving vehicles and I believe that it also should be used for panning.

The shooting settings on camera are "continuous AF" and "continuous shooting", the shutter speed is usually 1/60.

I tried every combination of VR options (active, normal and even disabled) and still don't get which are best. I understand the technique itself requires some practice, but want to know how to configure my camera+lens to learn properly.

  • Are you deliberately trying to freeze motion by panning while maintaing a slow 1/60th shutter speed rather than using a higher shutter speed? – user50888 Nov 8 '17 at 16:34
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    Not sure I've got your question, can you elaborate? I was trying to shoot trams which are quite slow vehicles, but wanted to have blurred background, so the shutter was set to 1/60. – okutane Nov 8 '17 at 16:45
  • That's exactly what I was asking. I thought so, but wanted to make sure. – user50888 Nov 8 '17 at 17:58
  • This Nikon resource might be helpful if you have not seen it: nikonusa.com/en/learn-and-explore/a/tips-and-techniques/… and it is better than anything I might write on the subject. – user50888 Nov 8 '17 at 19:03
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Nikon VR generally has panning detection built into the Normal setting (see here), and generally speaking for smooth panning (e.g. a bicyclist riding by) you want to be in Normal mode. Active is for when your own motion (in a vehicle and you are bouncing around) is undesirable, as opposed to panning where your motion is desirable. Using active in panning will cause it to fight against the pan motion, and be jerky as it recenters.

The general recommendation is that VR be disabled at higher shutter speed (I've read many different values, but anywhere in the 500th to 1000th seems accepted). I have yet to personally see any degradation above those speeds, but VR is ineffective above them and reported can actually do harm. I often use it, however, on very long focal lengths even at very high speed to help steady the viewfinder image (especially in windy conditions with big lenses); I think any degradation is probably lens specific and if you find the need to use it at fast shutter speeds, experiment to know if it impacts you.

Below those speeds handheld, keeping it turned on and on normal most of the time will usually yield the best general results, switching to active only in unusual situations. I also agree, however, in experimentation I see little effective difference in active and normal, though in Nikon literature it is well defined.

On tripods with the camera locked down (unless your lens has a specific tripod mode- auto or manually applied) turn off VR, it can do more harm than good, especially in very long exposures. Different lenses have different VR setup (especially later ones and especially with regard to tripods), so referring to the manual is always a good idea.

  • Whoa! Thanks, I missed that manual part because it was translated not as panning but as something close to "panorama-ing", will never do same mistake again. – okutane Nov 8 '17 at 16:01
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For panning it should be that "active" setting, like your manual says. Normal VR mode could try to compensate for the camera movement and ruin your shot.

Continuous AF is pretty much a must, unless you KNOW where the object will be at what moment and just wait there with your viewfinder and manual focus (very hard in real life).

Continuous shooting is a matter of preference. I normally don't use it, because I feel I'm firing a gatling gun instead of taking photos, but I know people who go for that burst.

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Nikon has an informative resource on panning. The gist of it:

  • Panning is hard.
  • The "keeper rate" is low even for a pro.
  • There are no "best settings".
  • Different settings are appropriate for producing different results.
  • Practice is critical.
  • Speedlights are helpful.
  • Experimenting and evaluating the results will create a feel for which techniques produce particular results.
  • Shutter speeds are often 1/15th second and below.
  • Sometimes autofocus is useful.
  • Sometimes zone focusing is useful.
  • Different VR settings (including off) are helpful in different situations.
  • Tripods are often useful.

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