VR Tests, Pass 3 Part 2: Not Impressed

I’m looking for expert opinion, but my current conclusion is that my lens is broken. I’m supposed to get a 3-stop increase in handholdability from VR on this lens, and I don’t get anything like that. I still want comments on whether I’m being unreasonable about what I categorize as “critically sharp”. I think I’m being somewhat lax, myself; if it looks good at 1:1 I’ll call it critically sharp, and not inquire further.

So, here’s a set of carefully-shot tests, at increasing shutter speeds. Each setting I shot 10 times; then I rested for at least 5 minutes before resuming (I don’t think my arms and hands are really that shaky, but I was trying to give the lens every chance). I was using aperture priority, and adjusting the ISO, so I didn’t really get 10 shots the same each time; apparently I was too close to a boundary, so I got some at one shutter speed and some at another. They’re named and categorized based on the shutter speed recorded in the EXIF data. All test shots are at 200mm and f/5.6. The camera is the Nikon D700. The lens is the Nikkor 70-200/2.8 VR AF-S G. Click through to see the 100% crop of the center of the frame for each test. See the tripod results (showing what really sharp results look like, and what the full frame looks like before cropping down to just the center) here.

At 1/15 VR off: Good 0, marginal 1 (#1), bad 0.

1/15 VR on: Good 1 (#2), marginal 2 (#3,4), bad 1 (#1).

1/20 VR off: Good 2 (#2,7), marginal 0, bad 6 (#1,3,4,5,6,8).

1/20 VR on: Good 1 (#6), marginal 3(#1,3,5), bad 2(#2,4).

1/30 VR on: Good 0, marginal 3(#1,2,3), bad 0.

1/40 VR off: Good 1 (#4), marginal 0, bad 9 (#1,2,3,5,6,7,8,9,10).

1/40 VR on: Good 0, marginal 5(#1,2,4,6,7), bad 2(#3,5).

1/60 VR off: Good 1(#2), marginal 3(#6,7,9), bad 5(#1,3,4,5,8).

1/60 VR on: Good 0, marginal 0, bad 3(#1,2,3).

1/80 VR off: Good 0, marginal 0, bad 1(#1).

1/80 VR on: Good 2(#2,5), marginal 1(#3), bad 3(#1,4,6,7).

1/125 VR off: Good 1(#1), marginal 0, bad 0.

1/160 VR off: Good 1(#6), marginal 4(#1,7,8,9), bad 4(#2,3,4,5).

1/160 VR on: Good 8(#2,4,5,6,7,8,9,10), marginal 1(#3), bad 1(#1).

Once again, I get a surprising proportion (i.e. greater than 0) of usable shots at 1/20 and 1/40 seconds without VR. I wasn’t leaning on anything, sitting, resting my arms on anything; I was standing up all by myself, and holding the camera in my own two hands. And I get very little improvement in sharp shots, few critically sharp shots, when VR is turned on.

Anybody else with this lens, do you get better VR results than this? Is mine broken?

Notes for future testing: Target is good.  Procedure (with rest) is good. Need to use manual exposure. Need to have more light, so I can try some higher shutter speeds.

TIFF of the test target.

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