VR is not magic. It's a sophisticated application of physics and optics that, like most technology, sometimes helps and sometimes doesn't.
The old adage was that you could handhold a lens at the reciprocal of the focal length. I realize there are debates about this rule with FX versus DX or whether the D800's extra pixels require upping the shutter speed, but none of this matters. I'm only using that number as a starting point.
When shooting with a 200mm the recommendation is that you not go below 1/200 sec. But sometimes the situation — low ISO, higher F shop for DOF, lousy light — make achieving that speed impossible. With, say, a three stop VR benefit, you can work at 1/25. A very nice benefit!
Let's apply this to a wide angle lens. With a 24mm. The old adage says you can handhold at 1/25. Hmmm, you are already down in the shutter speed range achieved by VR on your telephoto, and you got there not with VR but because you are using a wide angle lens. Would VR be useful, so that you could handhold to 1/3 sec? Occasionally. Not too often.
Referring to two images above:
Shooting at 16mm at a shutter speed of 1/100 is fine. Guarantees great sharpness (wind on leaves excepted). But VR did very little to help, it as a tripling of the minimum handheld shutter speed that froze camera movement — like using that 200mm at 1/500 sec.
Tristan's night shot is very nice and VR helped. But without VR most people wold get that shot, especially if they fired two or three frames. A normal lens at 1/50 is, well, normal. If you had shot this at 1/30 or lower, you have gotten a lot of VR benefit.
The not-discussed question is whether or when VR may harm the shot
Things to remember about VR: • VR is of more benefit with longer lenses • Above a certain speed, VR does not help • VR can introduce a slight delay in shot acquisition • VR changes the composition • VR and tripods usually don't mix (this is lens dependent)
Do I use VR? Sometimes. Below 1/250 sec. and when shooting still subjects. For action, even theatrical shoots, the fraction of a second delay hurts. And I'd rather up the shutter speed, when I can, to kill camera motion. If not, I may use VR.
Jon Kandel A New York City Nikonian and Team Member Please visit my website and critique the images!