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Nikon Coolpix 8700

Nikon moves into 8 megapixel territory with a long zoom, and a new body, but the same legendary Nikon feature set!

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Page 7:Shutter Lag & Cycle Time Tests

Review First Posted: 03/22/2004

Digital Cameras - Nikon Coolpix 5700 Digital Camera Review Shutter Lag/Cycle Times
When you press the shutter release on a camera, there's usually a lag time before the shutter actually fires. This time is to allow the autofocus and autoexposure mechanisms time to do their work, and can amount to a fairly long delay in some situations. Since this number is almost never reported on, and can significantly affect the picture taking experience, I now routinely measure it with a custom test system I constructed for the purpose. (With crystal-controlled timing, accurate to 0.01% and with a timing resolution of 1 millisecond.) Here's the full set of timing numbers I measured for the Coolpix 8700:

Nikon Coolpix 8700 Timings
Time (secs)
Normal Card
Power On -> First shot
Time to capture first shot after powering-up. A little slower than average, takes a while for the lens to telescope out and the camera to get ready to shoot.
It takes 3.11 seconds for the lens to retract if the camera is otherwise unoccupied, but could take literally hundreds of seconds if you've just filled the buffer memory with a large batch of files. - The lens doesn't retract until the camera has finished saving data to the memory card.
Play to Record, first shot
Slightly slow for a high-end prosumer camera.
Record to play
A little on the slow side, no difference between "Quick Review" mode or actually switching to playback mode.
Shutter lag, full autofocus, waiting for camera to finish writing previous image
The 8700's shutter response showed very unusual behavior. If I waited for the camera to finish processing the previous image, the shutter response was extremely fast, about the best I've yet seen in a prosumer digicam.
Shutter lag, full autofocus, NOT waiting for camera to finish writing previous image, monitor option set to "normal" release. 0.85 - 0.99 On the other hand, if had the monitor on and mashed the shutter button down while the camera was still displaying the previous image, the shutter lag was pretty substantial, about average among digicams I've tested, and rather slow for current high-end models.
Shutter lag, full autofocus, NOT waiting for camera to finish writing previous image, monitor option set to "Quick Release" 0.53-0.55 On the other hand, if I immediately hit the shutter button again, but used the "Quick Release" option on the Monitor setup menu, I found the lag time to be fairly fast once again. - But not nearly as fast as when the camera was all done processing an image. - So, for the best shutter response from the 8700, be patient and wait for the buffer to flush before you grab the next shot.
Shutter lag, manual focus
Reasonably fast, about average for the current crop of high-end prosumer digicams.
Shutter lag, prefocus
Quite fast, on a par with other high-end models, albeit not quite up to the 0.009 second performance of the Sony DSC-F828.
Cycle time, large/fine files
Not terribly fast, but the degradation after the buffer fills is fairly slight too, with a fast memory card. Still, I'd like to see better performance for single-shot cycle times. The good news though, is that the 8700 doesn't penalize you for pressing the shutter button early, but rather just grabs the next shot as soon as it's able. With a fast card, you can snap 25-30 shots before the camera slows, and the buffer clears entirely in about 21 seconds.
Cycle time, small/basic files
Pretty quick. Basically no limit to the buffer capacity in this mode.
Cycle time, NEF files
(CCD raw format)
Shooting in Nikon's CCD raw mode (NEF file format), the 8700 showed a cycle time of 11.7 seconds, and a buffer capacity of 4 shots, after which the cycle time stretched to 13.9 seconds. Unfortunately, way too slow for much of anything other than landscape or still life photography. (Or portraits, with a patient model.)
Cycle time, TIFF files
TIFF files on the 8700 are enormous, and cycle times reflect that fact. There's no buffering at all with TIFFs, and cycle time will be very dependent on card speed. - These times were measured with a 40x memory card.
Continuous mode (High Speed), large files
1.86 frames per second for 5 frames, then a pause of 7.6 seconds, after which it will grab a shot every 3.76 seconds indefinitely. Buffer clears in about 11 seconds.
Continuous mode (Low Speed), large files
Snaps up to 12 frames at the roughly 0.9 frame/second rate, then slows dramatically, to 8.07 seconds between frames.
Multi-Shot 16
Divides full-sized frame into a 4x4 matrix of sub-pictures. 0.74 seconds between shots (1.36 frames/second) for 16 low-res images
Ultra High Speed
WOW, this is fast! Great for time/motion studies (golf/tennis swings?), and it looks like Nikon cured the timing "jitter" that the 5700 experienced in this mode. The sot to shot interval seems to be very consistent, at 1/30 second. Captures up to 100 images at 640x480 resolution, "normal" JPEG quality, after which it takes the camera ~40 seconds to recover, assuming a fast memory card. (The 640x480 resolution is also a significant upgrade from the capabilities of the 5700, which could only capture 320x240 images at this speed.) - You can actually capture longer action sequences this way than in the 8700's movie mode, but the action is in individual files.
Movie Mode
~5 - 30 frames/second, with sound.
Frame rate and recording time are a function of the particular movie mode selected. TV Movie mode records 640x480 movies at 30 fps for up to 35 seconds at a time, Small Movie mode records at 320x240 and 15 fps for up to 180 seconds, Sepia Movie mode records 320x240 sepia-tinted movies at 5 fps for up to 180 seconds.

Overall, the 8700 is a fast to very fast camera, with fair shot to shot cycle times, but excellent shutter response (in some modes), and superlative high-speed continuous modes. Its shutter response ranges from the slow side of average, if you're shooting rapidly in single-shot mode, but is *very* fast if you can wait for the camera to finish processing each image before snapping the next. Its various "high speed" modes provide a useful range of options, trading off various parameters against speed in different ways. Its Continuous (High Speed) mode captures bursts of up to five frames, at a rate of 1.86 frames per second, while the Continuous (Low Speed) mode captures up to 12 frames at 0.92 frames per second. (Note that these figures are based on my own measurements: Nikon claims 2.5 and 1.2 frames per second respectively for these modes.) Being the "measurement nut" that I am, I found the "Ultra High Speed" mode the most interesting. - It lets you capture up to 100 frames at full VGA (640x480) resolution, at an incredible 30 frames per second. - This would be great for things like analyzing golf or tennis swings, or possibly monitoring industrial processes, etc.


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