Digital Shutter lag is driving me crazy!
April 24, 2005 3:51 AM   Subscribe

Does anyone know which digital cameras either have the least (or no) shutter lag or some kind of audible feedback to let you know the picture's been taken?

I've been taking (film) pictures with SLR's (Canon, Minolta, Nikon, etc) and the lack of feedback when you click the shutter is driving me insane, to the point of giving up on the whole mess. My budget doesn't allow for a megabuck+ digital SLR at this time, but the digital cameras I've tried, frankly, suck when it comes to usability, at least for an old phart like me.

The whole issue comes down to timing, really. I can't tell a)when the photo was taken or b) whether it was taken at all. I really want to embrace digital photography, but the consumer-grade cameras I've used are worse than the box Brownie I had as a kid in 1959, and the results are no better. Do I really have to spent a grand to get a good camera?
posted by pjern to Technology (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
A few suggestions from an earlier AskMe thread.

What would be helpful to know is:

a) What's your budget, realistically speaking?
b) What's your target final output? (Web? If print, what print size?)
c) Which features are absolutely essential to you? A digital negative (RAW)? A 28mm wide zoom? A flash hotshoe? etc.

The superficial answer is that whether or not you need to spend a grand to get a "good" camera depends really on what you mean by "good." If you're looking for sheer response time and only response time (as opposed to frame rates, megapixels, etc) then yes, it's quite possible to find digital cameras of varying qualities to fit that criteria.

The shutter lag you've described is very common in low-end digital cameras, and you usually have to put in quite a bit more money to fix that (though not necessarily DSLR-level money). Based only on what you've said so far, I'm guessing that the Sony DSC-V3 will cover your needs at well under a grand. It's one of the fastest non-DSLR's out there (although it has a few metering quirks so its auto mode isn't as reliable as other cameras').
posted by DaShiv at 4:18 AM on April 24, 2005

I have this 5mp Canon S500, and it allows you to turn on sounds for when the shutter is tripped. Not only that, but you get your choice of sounds. I alternate between the sound of a mechanical shutter and what can only be described as "sproing", though the latter can be a bit startling. This camera can currently be had for less than $400. The other feature about this camera that I REALLY like is an optical viewfinder. As a fellow old phart, I can never really get used to trying to frame a shot using the LCD screen.

Oddly enough, their product pages on the web don't seem to note the audio feedback feature.
posted by SteveInMaine at 4:24 AM on April 24, 2005

The Nikon D70 has a shutter lag of something on the order of .1 ms. Canon's alternative is about the same, maybe just a tad longer. I don't know about the Canon, but the Nikon has a *beep* option if you so want. But really, who needs a beep when you've got the mirror slapping up and down?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:36 AM on April 24, 2005

On my Canon SD200, I just go into repetitive shooting mode and take a bunch when I'm doing anything that is motion sensitive, rather than trying to time it just right. I can always delete the extra dozen copies of the photo later.
posted by grouse at 6:06 AM on April 24, 2005

The whole issue comes down to timing, really. I can't tell a)when the photo was taken or b) whether it was taken at all.

I should just add that on most digital cameras, if you prefocus -- "half-press" the shutter button and hold it, wait for the sluggard autofocus to do its thing, then finish pressing it all the way at the right moment -- you should have no problems.

The reason why you don't know when the photo is taken is because it's difficult to anticipate exactly how long the camera takes to autofocus (it usually varies with different scenes), and the reason why you don't know whether it was taken at all is that if you lift your finger off the shutter early while it's still busy focusing, the camera stops completely and doesn't take the picture. Prefocusing ahead of time to let the autofocus do its thing first will solve the problem -- once you've prefocused, taking the picture should be near-instantenous and very consistent in timing and response (i.e. whether you've taken it or not).

A more expensive camera with minimal autofocus time would do the trick as well, of course.
posted by DaShiv at 6:17 AM on April 24, 2005

I've used, but don't own, a Canon Digital Rebel. There was no perceptable shutter lag and I shot 8 frames as fast as I could push the shutter release. It's not the cheapest, but it behaved just like a 35mm.
posted by kc0dxh at 6:26 AM on April 24, 2005

You could always go the other way, and buy an old manual focus film SLR. Those don't do anything when you press the button except the raise the mirror and open the diaphragm. As instant as it can be. And the big "kachunk" noise is a good sign the photo was taken.
posted by smackfu at 6:27 AM on April 24, 2005

The best response times are most certainly from DSLRs, they're all pretty much instantaneous, but there are others that perform pretty well. I've got a Canon A95 that, at least in use, seems pretty responsive. It also has the various sound options to play with and, for the price, a fairly comprehensive set of features. No RAW, however and the viewfinder is a disaster.

It would be useful to have a more precise idea of your budget and some idea of the kind of pictures you want to make. DSLRs are rapidly falling in price with each cycle of new models from the major brands. If you can possibly swing the budget, I'd recommend getting one, as much for their ease of use and better viewing as for better lag time.

Of the currently available models aimed at the 'affordable' end of the market, the Pentax *ist DS is hard to beat (about $800), because it's viewfinder is much better than its Canon and Nikon competition and there's a healthy selection of lenses available on the used market that will work well with it.
posted by normy at 6:33 AM on April 24, 2005

That bugs me, too. I'm waiting for someone to invent a digital cassette that pops into any old SLR, with a stick-on menu/LED screen. Not selling my old Nikons yet.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 7:17 AM on April 24, 2005

There was a company that claimed to be working on something like that, it was to be called Silicon Film. However, in reality, it's a significant engineering challenge, and they've never shipped anything. Here's the last I heard of them, two and a half years ago.

Even if someone does come up with something like this, the odds that it will be less expensive than an integrated solution (i.e. a fully digital SLR) are pretty slim. Assuming it has a full-frame sensor, I would expect it to cost at least $5,000.
posted by kindall at 7:43 AM on April 24, 2005

This article from the New York Times (reg. req.) discussed the shutter lag issue, and the cameras that don't have it. Reviews, costs, and even picture comparisons. Check it out!
posted by extrabox at 9:56 AM on April 24, 2005

I recently tested a Dimage Z5 for a weekend. It is a pretty nice little camera. It is the perfect camera to catch sports action, someplace where most digital cameras with their lag really underperform. It has anti-shake, a very long zoom and a progressive capture mode that keeps capturing images at 10fps (1024x768 only) as long as you hold down the shutter and then when you release the shutter it remembers only the last 10. You always get the shot of the action, and you can get it with a pretty long zoom handheld. I was a little underwhelmed with the images in low light, but that is common on cameras in this class.
posted by caddis at 10:03 AM on April 24, 2005

I went for the canon D10 for exactly this reason. I got sick of pictures of people turning away, eyelids at half mast. I just bought the new sony cybershot t33, as a second, carry around snappy, and I love it. A wee bit soft in the lensing, but great color, amazing screen, and the response time is excellent for a 400 dollar camera.
Even has a nifty, auto-winder sound effect when you press the button.
Cons are that it's not that great in low light, and no RAW.

But the first generation Digital Rebels from canon are probably hitting the $500 range (used) and those have a nearly instantaneous response time. What about those? I had one for a while, and I really liked the pix from it. Kind of an amazing camera, for the price point, and the feature set. I moved up to the D10 only because at a specific point in time, I was able to sell the Rebel for exactly what it cost to buy the D10.
Just now, a cursory look at craigslist (in the bay area) shows a few digital rebels, with a lens, for $550.00.
The standard SLR film camera has a shutter lag (after pushing the button) of, if I remember correctly, about 15 thousanths of a second. The digital Rebel's lag is about 30 or 40. Close enough that I didn't notice. I too, remember being surprised at how difficult it was to even find that data, I could'nt believe that it wasn't a bigger concern to more people.
posted by asavage at 10:04 AM on April 24, 2005

I have a Casio Exilim EX-Z4 that has near zero lag time. Also has sounds for 'ready' (shutter half-pressed) and another sound for when the photo has been taken.

This camera is great but takes horrible shots in low light situations (bars/ nightclubs). It does fit in your pocket and has optical zoom.
posted by vaportrail at 12:01 PM on April 24, 2005

Second asavage's Sony T33 recommendation - it also has a really fast (less than 1s) startup time.
posted by blag at 4:14 PM on April 24, 2005

Perhaps the Canon EOS 20D is a little pricey for your budget, but you get blistering performance for your money. Not only is there no perceptible shutter lag (unlike the unspeakably irritating ixus v3 I had before), but the start up time is ridiculously fast. You can leave it in sleep mode and just touching the shutter button will start it up, focus and snap the picture in about 0.2s. It's ace.
posted by grahamspankee at 5:54 AM on April 25, 2005

I made the transition into digital SLR photography once it started to become affordable. My foray was with the Canon 10d, which offered reasonable shutter lag performance (90ms), but rather poor power-on / startup delay (2.3 s). I never regretted buying the camera when I did, even though it was obvious that the next PMA would bring about something better & cheaper.

Now, many new digital point & shoot cameras have been boasting incredibly fast shutter lag delays and power-on performance.

I created a comparison table showing the performance of about 50 digital cameras on the basis of shutter lag (with and without prefocus) and startup delay. It might be worth having a look.

Comparison of Digital Camera Shutter Lag

Hope that helps!
posted by impulse at 11:34 PM on May 6, 2005

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