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I would say it also depends on shutter speed. At the faster speeds 1/125 and above, the difference between VR on or off when on a tripod diminishes, upto about 1/500 or 1/1000 above which VR is theoretically useless anyway.
Generally speaking, IMHO and based on all evidence I've read on the subject -- yes, VR/IS elements slightly degrade IQ. VR/IS adds a lens element (correct?) to the optical formula -- which is not exactly Super-Low dispersion glass. However, the technological innovations in optics has come SO VERY FAR that I would think any reduction in IQ would be almost non-existent in the top-end lenses. There's a reason Canon didn't include IS on their stellar 24-70/2.8 II which has NOTHING to do with weight or cost. If IS didn't reduce IQ then I fiurmly believe Canon would've included it to further show up Nikon's own 24-70/2.8 --- which was universally regarded as superior to the 1st version of Canon's 24-70/2.8.
Tcole . Like you I always left VR on, but at 1/45 with the new 80_ 400 @ 400mm it defiantly must be off on a tripod ( no I am not pixel peeping the difference is very noticeable
As far is IQ, I can't see how VR would cause degradation.
And, lastly, I'm with @TaoTeJared , I have definitely lost more photos because I was concerned with IQ at high ISO (thus avoiding a higher ISO setting) than I have because of using VR. Thankfully, on the D4, I don't worry about running ISO1600 or ISO3200 (or higher) as long as I am < 1/1000th on the shutter. Above that, I feel like I lose saturation/contrast for sure.
last night, when shooting Glastonbury Torr, after sunset with the new 80 -400 @ 400mm, I discovered it does and the difference is enormous
I prefer to shoot with out a tripod but as the light dropped, one became essential
but I did not turn the VR off
Apart from some loss of colour depth, the hand held ones at 1/750 f 5.6 ISO 800 were fine
but the later ones taken with a tripod 1/45 f8 ISO 100 were blurred and unusable
Tests today in the studio confirm, a big degradation in quality if the VR is left on with this lens on a tripod
Other lenses will automatically detect being placed on a tripod, and will switch to Tripod VR by itself (there's no separate Tripod setting).
Yet other lenses have no tripod mode at all, so you have to manually turn off VR when the lens is locked down on a tripod. The 80-400 falls into this category. However, you may still want to keep VR on when actively panning on the tripod.
There's a reason Canon didn't include IS on their stellar 24-70/2.8 II which has NOTHING to do with weight or cost. If IS didn't reduce IQ then I fiurmly believe Canon would've included it to further show up Nikon's own 24-70/2.8 --- which was universally regarded as superior to the 1st version of Canon's 24-70/2.8.
For example, the last non-VR 300/2.8, the 300/2.8 VR, and the 300/2.8 VR2 all have the same identical construction, with 11 elements in 8 groups including 3 ED elements.
VR simply needs one or more lenses to be "floating" (to enable electro-magnetic control). This floating lens element can be one from an existing formula.
And look at the Nikon 200mm f/2G VR II. This is the sharpest lens in Nikon's entire lineup, and it's a VR lens.
I think any lag for the VR to get ready before the shutter opens is a separate issue vs. whether or not the camera is on a tripod or monopod.
Over 1/500th: VR does effect quality as it thinks there shout be movement but their isn't, so it introduces "shake". Always turn VR off above 1/500th (1/750th for DX) tripod or otherwise.
Zooms: if the shutter is lower than the widest focal length, Turn VR off
Primes: Turn VR off always on a tripod
VR is designed specifically for each lens model and fine tuned to the lens's designed purpose. VR for a 18-55 is different than the 16-85, 70-300, 70-200, etc. Pro lens VR is better than consumer as well. I would caution on what you read and question their experiences and how old the information is. Most arguments against VR/IS I have seen are always rooted in the additional cost that people don't want to pay. Many are also due to the miss-use or lack of understanding of how to properly it.
Canon has said clearly that they didn't include IS to the new 24-70 due to adding $1,000+ cost to the lens.
However not all VR lenses have that capability. Some require you to manually place the VR setting to "tripod" mode, while others must be manually turned off.
With all of the times that you should NOT use VR or that VR would not help, it sounds like there aren't all that many times when I should use VR. Just when I hand-hold the lens at a slow SS. Am I getting that?
it sounds like there aren't all that many times when I should use VR
If you have been shooting with VR on and are happy with your results. I would do some tests before turning it off (unless you normally use a tripod or always shoot at 1/1000 or above )
The great thing about shooting digital, is you don't have to wait till you get back to the darkroom ,to see the results. Take some shots with VR on and VR off and using the magnifying button and check the results for your self
1/8 shutter speed hand held
200mm hand held at 1 second
but it isn't going to help if stuff is moving...
1/60 on tripod with VR on