Shutter lag on digital cameras - normal?
July 21, 2004 6:41 AM   Subscribe

Digital Cameras, again: So I got me a cute little camera, based on the recommendations here. But there's a serious lag time between when I press the button and the picture is taken, a half-second or so. That's not bad for portraits and landscape shots, but it's not OK for action shots. Is this typical for digital cameras, or should I take this one back and get another?
posted by MrMoonPie to Technology (17 answers total)
 
It's typical. Some cameras are quite a bit better than others in this regard, but most of them have this delay. I believe DPReview tracks this in the specifications of each camera reviewed.
posted by majick at 6:46 AM on July 21, 2004


Yep, it's typical for a non-SLR digital. Even the fastest ones (like the Nikon Coolpix 5700, which was my first digital camera) have way too much shutter lag for some kinds of photography. However, unless you're prepared to spend substantially more money than you spent on your current camera for a digital SLR, there's no point in taking it back, since you won't see a truly significant decrease in shutter lag with a non-SLR, no matter how good it is.
posted by biscotti at 7:07 AM on July 21, 2004


I don't know the specifics of this camera, or if you've tried this, but many cameras have a "half-press" position on the shutter that locks the focus and exposure. If you're taking an action shot and can afford to do this, half-press before you need to take the shot, and then press all the way at the right moment. The response will be about what you'd expect.
posted by adamrice at 7:12 AM on July 21, 2004


adamrice is right, in many cameras the exposure/focus lock position ("half press") pre-charges the CCD (which is how you get the shorter lag time, since normally most of the lag time is caused by the CCD (the "film") charging), which means your battery will die much faster if you do it regularly, since you're charging and holding the CCD's charge for much longer than it would otherwise. Given that most digital cameras eat batteries like candy, this is something to keep in mind if you're going to need the camera to work for any length of time and don't have spare batteries.
posted by biscotti at 7:23 AM on July 21, 2004


Thanks! Geez I love AxMe.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:40 AM on July 21, 2004


To go along with biscotti, I'd rather have some good shots and dead batteries than a whole bunch of crappy shots and batteries that are only have dead.
As has been said, almost all digital cameras do it, but it can be mainly overcome with the half press. Be sure that when you do the halfpress, you have the camera pointed at whatever you are going to take the of, so it gets the right focus and exposure settings. It takes a whlie to master it so you aren't accidentally taking pictures with a touchy shutter button, but you get it after a while. With my last camera, I was unconsciously doing this on every single picture I took, even if the subject wasn't moving.
posted by sinical at 8:07 AM on July 21, 2004


Definitely do the "half-press" thing, which helps a lot, but you might also want to look into the "drive" settings on your camera.

Almost all digital cameras now have an option to take multiple shots, as quickly as possible, for as long as you hold the shutter down.

Back in the days of film, this required a motor and throwing away a lot of film stock, so it was something only pros used, but we've found it makes a _huge_ difference when you're trying to capture action (and especially when you're trying to take a nice, posed picture of wiggly kids.) You take a bunch of shots within a few seconds, toss the bad ones, and usually have at least one or two keepers when you're done.
posted by LairBob at 8:10 AM on July 21, 2004


Oh, and on the battery front, a couple of things (assuming yours takes standard size batteries, like AAs):

1) Definitely get multiple sets of rechargeable batteries and a charger for when you're using the camera close to home. That way, you've always got a fresh set in the charger when the current set is running low.
(Remember to always let rechargeables run down as much as possible before you recharge them, especially NiCad/NiMH. You're not supposed to have to for LiIon, but I've still found it makes a difference.)

2) Keep a spare set of good, alkaline batteries in your camera case, for when you're on the road and your rechargeables run low.

3) We started with those "special" camera batteries that are meant replace two AAs each, and hold a longer charge--they definitely last longer, but they're a lot more expensive, especially if you go the rechargeable route. (The special ones aren't rechargeable.)
posted by LairBob at 8:20 AM on July 21, 2004


Yep, it's typical for a non-SLR digital. Even the fastest ones (like the Nikon Coolpix 5700, which was my first digital camera) have way too much shutter lag for some kinds of photography. However, unless you're prepared to spend substantially more money than you spent on your current camera for a digital SLR, there's no point in taking it back, since you won't see a truly significant decrease in shutter lag with a non-SLR, no matter how good it is.

Just wanted to add that this isn't always the case. There are some non-SLR digital cameras out there designed to have quick shutter release timing--for example, the (mediocre) Ricoh Caplio GX and the (expensive and unavailable) Epson R-D1. These are the exceptions that prove the rule though--in general, half-pressing (i.e. "pre-focusing") and drive modes are the name of the game for the non-SLR digital cameras.
posted by DaShiv at 8:32 AM on July 21, 2004


The nearly non-existent shutter lag was one of the main reasons I bought my non-SLR Panasonic Lumix FZ10. I've been very happy with it, and they just today announced its replacement.
posted by planetkyoto at 8:42 AM on July 21, 2004


Also, make sure that you have the red eye reduction turned off when you are taking action shots. That slows things down a lot. And for action shots you generally don't need it.
posted by trbrts at 9:10 AM on July 21, 2004


For that matter, if I can be a bit pedantic, use the flash as little as possible. It's a last resort for when there's no light, but most cameras use it quite a bit. The idea being, it's easy to take a picture that will be within a proper exposure range if you use the flash, because the camera is providing the light and knows how much to give. However, most pictures with on-camera flash look, well, bad. This little piece of advice will improve most people's pictures immensely. Obviously, this doesn't apply to situations where there is very low light.

If your camera has flash exposure compensation (I would say most consumer cameras probably do not), it's often good to use that. It's basically like, "Use the flash, but only use, say, 1/4 of what you normall would". This results in a picture that is mostly natural light, but with a little help from the flash. This works especially well with bright scenes where much of the light is coming from behind, or dark scenese where the subject is not well lit, but the background is.

Just for measure, a few other things that will up your game considerably

* use a tripod any time you can justitfy lugging it around and setting it up. Seriously, tripods rule. They greatly expand the range of shots you can take because now you can take pictures at a slower exposure time than 1/60 of a second with no blurring

* use time priority mode for action-y time stuff and handheld picture taking. When hand-holding, don't allow exposure times less than 1/60 if possible. For sports stuff aim more for 1/125-1/250 s. For landscape-y, tripod-y stuff, use your judgement. Higher (smaller) apertures means more of the picture will be sharp and in focus. Lower aperatures mean the subject will be in focus but objects in the foreground and background will not. This is nice for portraits, etc.

Anyway, off my soapbox.
posted by RustyBrooks at 10:05 AM on July 21, 2004


You can also use the flash on your expensive camera to blind your enemies, who will then run away in terror. It's a very useful defensive feature shallow in the dungeon, but it grows less useful as you explore deeper.
posted by kaibutsu at 11:34 AM on July 21, 2004


A while back I added a "shutter lag" rating point to the Digital Cameras section here, so at least you can get some input on various models, albeit subjective. Each camera that's been reviewed should have 1-5 subjective rating on how bad the shutter lag is. 5 means no lag at all. 1 means horrible lag. You can see the attibute if you use the side-by-side comparison feature, or click on any camera and then select the "Read Reviews"
posted by scarabic at 11:42 AM on July 21, 2004


On the basis of the thread with MrMoonPie's original question I bought one of these things. Pleased with it so far.
posted by biffa at 2:22 PM on July 21, 2004


Just bought this at best buy. I needed it to document landscaping work. excellent 5X7s and good controls. Good balance of quality and price. $245, add $70 for more memory and rechargable bats.
posted by JohnR at 3:18 PM on July 21, 2004


I really doubt that bit about charging the CCD, especially since the image on the display is constantly coming from the CCD.

But yes, the half press establishes exposure and focus, leaving the image capture ready to go.
posted by NortonDC at 6:54 PM on July 21, 2004


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