How can I make my camera take pictures faster?
November 19, 2008 7:17 AM   Subscribe

How can I make my camera take pictures faster?

I have a Canon PowerShot A720 (8 megapixel). We've had the camera for about a year and love it.

The camera has a setting for pets/children, which is supposed to allow you to take pictures in rapid succession. But, there's a 6 or 7 second lag between when I take a picture and when I can take the next one.

I have the camera set to take photos at 800x600, so they aren't huge images to be saved. Plus, we download the pictures off the camera every few days, so it's not as if the card has a lot on it (15-20 pictures at a clip).

My Googling is inferior, so I'm wondering if it has to do with the memory card. We have a 1GB ScanDisk. Would a larger capacity card make a difference? Or a different brand?

Appreciate any info to help me get cuter shots of my son actually facing me instead of my rapidly growing collection of photos of the back of his head.
posted by Twicketface to Technology (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Is the flash on? Might be the batteries recharging the flash:
"Flash recycle times: Some other people have complained about how long it takes for the flash to recycle after use (it's about 4-6 secs)."
posted by Grither at 7:30 AM on November 19, 2008

The PowerShot A710 is supossed to shot at 1.3 frames/second in its continuous shot setting, so it's probably the memory card, as you already guessed. However, a 6-7 second lag is a lot.
It's not firing the flash, right?

If it's not, you'll need to get a high speed memory card.
posted by Memo at 7:31 AM on November 19, 2008

We have a Powershot A70 and I have found that if the batteries are the slightest bit low, there is a long lag. So, since changing the batteries out each and every use is out of the question, we have learned to live with it. Although when we do change the batteries it's quite refreshing!
posted by Sassyfras at 7:40 AM on November 19, 2008

Grither's comment bears repeating: I've talked to more than a few people who are disappointed in their cameras, even expensive SLRs, when they don't shoot at the promised speed. But those speed promises are totally useless when using flash. A 6 or 7 second lag is almost certainly flash recharging time.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 7:49 AM on November 19, 2008

I would recommend a newer flash memory card, whatever variety that it takes, that has a faster write speed. And a flash would certainly negate the speed claims. those are based on optimums that don't include the flash.

I hate shutter lag so very much. And I understand your frustration. It led me to a DSLR.
posted by Amby72 at 7:49 AM on November 19, 2008

Are you shooting in low-light? I remember my PowerShot A70 would take longer to shoot indoors, low-light compared to outdoors on a sunny day. Could it be the longer exposure, higher ISO, difficulty focusing (not to mention moving subjects) that low-light photography presents?
posted by spoons at 7:51 AM on November 19, 2008

Thanks for the quick responses - the 6-7 second lag is with the flash on. I just tried it with the flash off, and it was about a second lag. With so much of our photography done inside (with a 2 year old), would a high speed memory card change anything or is this just life with using a flash?
posted by Twicketface at 7:59 AM on November 19, 2008

The flashless time is just what it should be; since you've established that your bottleneck is the flash, a faster memory card's not going to help, unfortunately.

It's not so much life with a flash so much as your flash, or rather, your camera's flash. Recycle times on newer/fancier cameras are likely to be much better - heaven knows my SLR's can keep up with me taking frequent photos.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:01 AM on November 19, 2008

You might play around with the manual settings to see if you can get decent pictures without the flash indoors. Set your ISO as high as it will go (probably 400 on that camera), your f-stop as low as it will go (probably somewhere in the 2.4 range) and play around with the shutter speed to see if you can get acceptable photos. The manual mode should be a little quicker too since you in effect did some of the thinking for the camera. My son fences so I take a lot of photos of a high speed sport in poorly lit gyms without flash. I've had decent results with this method with my point and shoot digital camera.
posted by COD at 8:13 AM on November 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

That camera is particularly slow at recharging the flash, as noted in several online reviews. Changing the memory card will not help you at all, since in 6 seconds it could save the picture to a stone tablet. Unfortunately, there is nothing you can really do, except to change the lighting in locations where you take a lot of pictures. A natural daylight bulb like solex in a track light could provide enough light to take flash-less indoor pictures. Otherwise, I'm afraid it is something you will have to live with.
posted by Lame_username at 8:14 AM on November 19, 2008

Check you camera manual to see if you can use manual focus instead of AF.

The lag time between the press of the shutter button and the shutter firing can be reduced on virtually all point and shoot digital cameras by focusing manually prior to shooting, assuming your A720 will permit you to do this.

However, you'll still be a slave to the flash recycling time if you're using it.
posted by imjustsaying at 8:31 AM on November 19, 2008

Actually that camera will shoot up to a simulated ISO of 1600, although the quality may be pretty terrible. So you can definitely shoot without the flash in normal room light if you want to, at handheld shutter speeds -- it's up to you to decide whether the resulting noise is a worthwhile tradeoff for faster shot-to-shot times.

Also, get some good rechargeable batteries and swap them as frequently as you can with fresh ones from the charger; that will probably improve the flash recycle time. The charging time for the flash is mainly voltage-dependent; NiMH rechargeables hold a constant voltage for much longer than alkalines, and they're far less expensive than putting in fresh disposables for each use. Get some good high-capacity ones -- they typically have lower internal resistance, so the voltage won't drop quite so badly when you're draining them quickly. (Make sure you charge them in a NiMH charger, not an old NiCd one, or you'll damage them.)

You could also try getting a CR-V3 Rechargeable Li-ion pack and charger, although I've never tried this and there's a slight chance it could damage your camera since it produces more than 3V when fully charged. (However most alkalines do too, so it's a near certainty that the camera is designed for a reasonable overvoltage.)

If you decide to shop around for a new camera, look for one that either runs on at least 4AAs instead of 2, since that will probably mean faster recharges (the Minolta Z series used to use 4, and I have one and it's generally under 1s between shots for light fill-flash, unfortunately they aren't made anymore), or even better get one with a hot shoe for an off-camera strobe or Speedlite. Any halfway-decent strobe will be able to do a burst of flashes without any noticeable recharge, assuming they're not full-power, and even at full power the recharge will be faster than an in-camera flash (since it has its own batteries, typically 4 or 6 AAs).
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:46 AM on November 19, 2008

Have you tried using the Canon ACK800 AC adapter kit when shooting indoors? It should save batteries when using a flash and may provide a shorter flash recharging time.
posted by plokent at 10:43 AM on November 19, 2008

Make sure you are using continuous shooting mode. If you have good lighting turn off the flash and you should be-able to shoot picture every 1.4 seconds. Turn up the resolution to max because internally the camera still has to deal with 8 Mpixel pictures, shooting at 800by600 won't help. Changing the compression from super fine to fine will help however. It might also be you memory card, the A720 manual recommends a certain memory card. It also tells you to perform a low level format of the memory card if it is slow.

Here's a copy of the manual.
posted by robofunk at 12:48 AM on November 20, 2008

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