70-200mm AF-S VR II Lens Review by Thom Hogan: Which brings us to VR and tripods. Once again Nikon's manuals seem to be causing some confusion. The manual is explicit: "When the lens is mounted on a tripod, set the vibration reduction ON/OFF switch to OFF." Of course, the next sentence starts the confusion: "However, set the switch to ON when using a tripod without securing the tripod head, or when using a monopod." This one is tricky. If you're a tripod on something that has vibration in it (like the deck of a cruise ship), you'll need to be in Active VR, but otherwise you want to be in Normal VR.
Some other sections of the manual will have scratching your head. For example, the description of Normal versus Active VR says "In this mode [Active], the lens does not automatically distinguish panning from camera shake." Okay, so if you're panning on a tripod, you should be in Active mode, right? Probably not. You don't want the VR to fight your panning, only to correct the motion in the axis you're not moving.