In Nikon lenses, the Active mode is a mode of Vibration Reduction (optical image stabilization) which is best suited when you’re taking pictures from a moving platform, such as a boat or a car.
Note that the Active mode is NOT the panning mode. Most contemporary Nikkor lenses can automatically detect panning in the Normal mode itself.
Nor is the Active mode the same as the Sport mode, found in some lenses such as the FL super-telephoto trinity (600mm f/4, 500mm f/4, and 400mm f/2.8).
What is the Sport VR mode then?
Nikon says the Sport mode is best used when you have a moving – especially erratically moving – subject in the frame, such as a football player or a flying bird.
The benefits of using Sport over Normal, says Nikon, include a smoother view in the finder and better burst performance.
The Active mode, on the other hand, is designed for when the camera-lens setup itself is moving significantly, which is what happens when you’re shooting from an aircraft flying over the Okavango Delta, or a boat in Kabini or a vehicle in Bandhavgarh, whose engine hasn’t been turned off.
Another mode that Active mode is often confused with is the Tripod mode.
The Tripod mode is not an actual separate VR mode, but merely a technology that detects that the camera has been mounted on a tripod and disables VR.
When to use which VR mode?
- If you’re photographing from a still platform, use Normal mode.
- If you’re photographing from a moving platform, use Active mode.
- If you’re photographing something moving erratically, use Sport mode if you have it.
- If you’re photographing from a still platform off a tripod, or are panning with a slow shutter speed, stick to Normal mode.
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