VR or not to VR - image softness ??

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This may have been discussed before, but when I searched for it on the forum, I couldn't find anything.

From time to time, I'll shoot some photos that come out a bit soft. Not sure if they're a bit out of focus or if I'm just too shaky. I notice it with both my 16-85 and my 70-300 on my D300. I tend to associate it with times when I have VR normal turned on. Even with shutter speeds over 1/200. I see it rarely when either the camera is on a tripod, VR off or shooting action sports at 1/320 min., VR off. I'm starting to wonder if the VR function is "jiggling" things around and is causing some minor blurriness. What to you folks think - does VR cause these kinds of problems?

Here's an example from last week in the mountains (handheld, VR normal, 1/400 @ F8, 300mm, ISO 400):

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You're right, Rich. The image I posted was probably not the best example. I should have picked something that was static, this image was handy cause I shot it just a few days ago. I have noticed the softness with stationary subjects, too so I'd like to hear some feedback from you Cafers' out there.
 
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Whenever possible, I use a tripod and turn VR off. With a cable release and locking up the mirror, I'm giving myself the best chance of getting the sharpest possible image.

However, I don't hesitate to use VR for handheld shots. The only exception is when I'm shooting fast moving subject (i.e., sports). I find that VR slows down the autofocus acquisition in these situations. So, I turn VR off in those situations.

Glenn
 
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Glen - I do the same thing with sports and turn the VR off to speed up the focus. I think what made me wonder about the VR is that my images of motorcycle racing, handheld, VR off, shutter @ 1/320 were often sharper than my handheld shots of landscape stuff with VR on similar shutter speeds.

Varmint - Thanks, I agree about the limits @ 300, but as I mentioned above it seems like I often get sharper images with VR shooting moto races, even when I'm shooting at less than 300.

Dave
 
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I thought the newer VR II lenses will automatically detect when the lens is on the tripod? Is it then OK to leave VR on then?
 
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The flower, in the picture you posted, looks pretty sharp to me. In my case, when I want a sharp picture, I use my tripod.
VR is very convenient when the camera is hand held but as Glen pointed out to you, there are limitations. VR does not help with subject motion.
A good rule to follow is always use a shutter speed equal or higher than the focal length of the lens in use to control motion.
Tripods are not accessories, they are a necessity.

William Rodriguez
Miami, Florida.
 
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Thanks for the comments, guys.

Andrew - I was waiting for the VR to settle in, but thanks for the reminder.

William - I think the water below the flower looks sharper that the center of the flower itself which is what I was focusing on. I agree in that I always use a tripod whenever possible and have typically tried to follow the rule of thumb re: focal = shutter.

Stephen - I'm not aware of VRII detecting the tripod. I've alway manually turned VR off when I use a tripod.

Dave
 

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