What Is VR on Nikon Lens?

What Is VR on Nikon Lens featured photo

If you have shopped for Nikon lenses, you probably came across the abbreviation VR. I used to think it stood for virtual reality, but I learned it had a different meaning. Below, I will share the true definition of the two letters.

VR on Nikon lenses refers to vibration reduction. It is an image stabilization technology from Nikon. It can minimize camera shake and movement to ensure sharper photos.

VR lenses have other features, which I will cover below. This article also answers your popular questions, such as the best times to use vibration reduction and examples of Nikon lenses.

What Is VR on Nikon Lens?

VR Lens Unit

VR is the abbreviation that Nikon uses for its image stabilization system. VR or vibration reduction can reduce the effect of camera shake. It can help stabilize your movement to capture more detailed images. 

The Nikon vibration reduction (VR) feature is particularly useful when shooting handheld. It can detect the slightest movement of your hands and reduce its impact during image capture.

It is also suitable in low-light situations when you usually need to use slower shutter speeds. These camera settings can emphasize every minor movement, leading to blurry and unclear images. The VR on a Nikon lens can control and limit camera motion to ensure sharp photos.

Finally, vibration reduction is an effective image stabilizer for lenses with longer focal lengths, such as telephotos. These lenses tend to be more susceptible to camera shake. Hence, they have a greater need for VR.

Not all Nikon lenses have VR branding, though. It is only available to select lenses, whether for SLR cameras, digital cameras, or binoculars. And the lenses with this feature are more expensive because of the benefits you will get.

Overall, VR on a Nikon lens refers to the in-body stabilization system. It is a handy tool for photographers who want to capture sharp images in different shooting situations.

How Does a Nikon VR Lens Work?

A Nikon VR lens uses gyroscopic sensors and motors to counterbalance camera movement while shooting. This vibration reduction or image stabilization system can immediately detect camera motion, no matter how small. Then, it controls the internal lens elements to reduce the effect of this movement. It ultimately leads to sharper and clearer images.

A VR lens (vibration reduction) lens has a microcomputer and two gyro sensors. One can identify horizontal movements (yaw), while the other can detect vertical motion (pitch). Both angular velocity sensors work together to handle diagonal motion. Whenever these sensors detect unnatural activity, they send signals to the microcomputer in the lens.

In turn, the microcomputer determines how much countermovement is needed to negate motion. It gives the VR motor the necessary information. Then, this motor adjusts the position of the lens elements to counteract any camera shake or vibration.

Some Nikon VR lenses allow you to choose between two or three vibration reduction modes. The modes let you change the stabilizing function depending on the shooting situation. For example, VR mode 1 is ideal for general photography. Mode 2 can handle panning shots or panoramic images. Finally, mode 3 is usually designed for action and sports photography.

And unlike other image stabilization technology, VR or vibration reduction originates in the lens rather than the image sensor. That means the algorithms apply to individual lenses instead of the camera. It also lets you press the shutter button halfway and compose your shot with ease. Finally, it can detect the use of a tripod and vibrations caused by a vehicle and fixes them accordingly.

When to Use Vibration Reduction?

Technically, you can use VR (vibration reduction) on your Nikon lens at all times. However, doing so can drain the battery of your camera faster. So, you might want to enable VR only in certain shooting situations.

The most common scenario where to use VR is handheld shooting. It is challenging to hold the camera as steady as possible. In some instances, it could be impossible, especially when you have longer and heavier lenses. Every hand movement leads to camera shake, which produces blurry photos. Fortunately, a VR lens can counteract unnecessary motion to give you sharper images.

You can also use vibration reduction or image stabilizer when shooting in low-light conditions. During these times, you are likely to use a slow shutter speed to let more light inside the sensor. However, doing so can capture every minor camera movement and vibration. Enable the VR on your Nikon lens to reduce blur caused by camera shake.

You may also want to use VR technology when handling heavy or long lenses. That is because these lenses tend to emphasize camera motion, including internal shutter vibration. So if you do not want blurry images, keep the image stabilization on.

Finally, consider using a VR lens when capturing moving subjects. For instance, if you do action or sports photography, you can rely on the system to produce detailed photos. You can also use it for wedding images to keep the bride and groom in focus.

When to Turn Off VR?

While VR is beneficial in many situations, it can also be unnecessary in some instances.

First, if you use fast shutter speeds, you can actually freeze the moment. You can already eliminate camera shake and vibration at 1/500 and higher shutter. Hence, you can turn off the VR function on your Nikon camera lens.

It is also best to switch off the vibration reduction when using a flash. The sudden burst of light can seemingly stop movement and capture a sharp image.

Finally, disable VR on your lens when using a tripod. Note that this image stabilization technology functions as a “tripod” if you do not have a physical one. But if you already mounted your camera on one, the VR may be unnecessary.

That said, consider the outdoor conditions before turning off this function. For instance, you likely need the image stabilizer in windy weather or unstable terrain because it can knock off the tripod.

What Are Popular Nikon VR Lenses?

Nikon VR lenses are known for their image stabilization technology that can reduce camera movement. Below are some of the most popular Nikon VR lenses.

  • Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR Lens
  • Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR Lens
  • Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR Lens
  • Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR Lens
  • Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 16-35mm f/4G ED VR Lens
  • Nikon AF-S VR Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED Lens

See our recommendations for lenses for the Nikon D7100.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do VR and VR II differ?

When shopping for Nikon camera lenses, you may come across VR and VR II. The latter is an upgraded version of the original VR technology. However, it also has other features that you cannot find in the first vibration reduction system.

A VR II Nikon lens has a built-in lock switch on one side. It prevents creeping, which happens when the lens starts zooming in even without touching it. It is a common problem among zoom lenses with the VR function.

The VR II technology can also give you four stops of compensation to fix more intense movements. In contrast, the original VR only offers three stops.

Hence, VR II delivers better image quality and stabilization than the older version. It even has a more silent operation.

Does VR affect image quality?

Vibration reduction (VR) on Nikon lenses can minimize the blur caused by camera shake and movement. Hence, it can affect the final image quality. It helps you capture sharper photos in low-light situations, windy conditions, or handheld shooting.

Should VR be on or off?

It depends on the current shooting condition. Turn on the VR function if you are expecting excessive camera movement. For instance, shooting handheld and in low-light situations can cause vibrations. VR can correct these unwanted motions.

Switch off vibration reduction if you are using a stable tripod or shooting at extremely fast shutter speeds.


Nikon lenses have several markings that indicate their features. One of these functions is VR or vibration reduction.

It is a term used by Nikon for its built-in image stabilization technology. It can correct camera shakes and vibrations to ensure sharper images.

Do you have more questions about Nikon VR lenses? Let us know by sending a message to our contact page!