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Nikon D2X

By: Dave Etchells and Shawn Barnett

Nikon introduces a 12.2 megapixel hybrid pro SLR that can be either high resolution or high speed as the job requires.

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Page 7:Shutter Lag & Cycle Time Tests

Review First Posted: 04/14/2005, Updated: 06/10/2005

Shutter Lag / Cycle Times

When you press the shutter release on a camera, there's usually a lag time or delay before the shutter actually fires. This corresponds to the time required for 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 rarely reported on (and even more rarely reported accurately), and can significantly affect the picture taking experience, I routinely measure both shutter delay and shot to shot cycle times for all cameras I test, using a test system I designed and built for the purpose. (Crystal-controlled, with a resolution of 0.001 second.) Here are the numbers I collected for the Nikon D2X:

Nikon D2X Timings
Operation
Time
(secs)
Notes
Power On -> First shot
~0.25
Almost immediate. (Really fast.)
Shutdown
0 - 32
First time is simple shutdown, second time is worst-case buffer-clearing time. That's a long time to clear the buffer, but corresponds to clearing thirteen 12.2 megapixel RAW files and writing them to the card.
Play to Record, first shot
0.12
Time until first shot is captured. Barely noticeable. (Really fast.)
Record to play

(roughly) 0.25 / 0.1

First time is that required to display a large/fine file immediately after capture, second time is that needed to display a large/fine file that has already been processed and stored on the memory card. Both times are very fast.
Shutter lag, full autofocus
0.163
Time to capture with review turned on. Fast but not by comparison with many d-SLRs.
Shutter lag, full autofocus
0.044
Time to capture with review turned off. Very fast by any measure.

Shutter lag, continuous autofocus

0.044
Time to capture with review turned off. Very fast.
Shutter lag, manual focus
0.044
Time to capture with review turned off. Very fast.
Shutter lag, prefocus
0.044
Time to capture, after half-pressing shutter button. Very fast.
Cycle Time, max/min resolution JPEGs

0.23 / 0.22

First number is for large/fine files, second number is time for lowest resolution images. Times are averages. Shoots 20 frames this fast in large/fine mode, then slows to about .77 seconds per shot.

In lowest res, shoots about 40 frames before starting to stutter just a little. (Buffer capacity in low res is shown as 20 frames on the viewfinder display, but shots clear the buffer almost as fast as you can trip the shutter button.)

Buffer takes 12 seconds to clear in large/fine mode, 3 seconds in small/basic mode.

Turning on High ISO noise reduction reduces buffer depth to 18 frames, increases buffer clearing time to 19 seconds for large/fine JPEGs.

Buffer depth is halved if long exposure noise reduction is enabled, even if you're using fast shutter speeds. Very fast. Times measured with a Lexar 80x CF card. Generous buffer depth, good clearing time given the image size.

Cycle Time, continuous low mode, max/min resolution JPEGs 0.25
(3.98 fps)
Speed can be set from 1 to 7 frames/second in this mode, these results are for a setting of 4fps. Shoots at the same speed for large/fine images or lowest resolution images. Times are averages.

Shoots 20 frames regardless of image size/quality, or the shooting speed that's selected. When buffer is full, shooting stops until you release and re-press the shutter button.

Depending on how much of the buffer has emptied, you'll get anywhere from one to 20 new frames before pausing again. Worst case, repeatedly pressing the shutter button when the buffer is totally full is about 1.06 seconds per shot.

Buffer clears in 20 seconds for large/fine JPEGs. Setting noise reduction to High decreases buffer depth to 18 frames, increases clearing times to 22 seconds. Buffer depth is halved if long exposure noise reduction is enabled, even if you're using fast shutter speeds.

In lowest res, shoots 20 frames this fast, buffer clears in 1.3 seconds. Times measured with Lexar 80x CF card. Good buffer depth, good clearing time for the image size.

Cycle Time, continuous low mode, RAW / RAW+JPEG 0.25
(3.98 fps)
Speed can be set from 1 to 7 frames/second in this mode, these results are for a setting of 4fps. Shoots at the same speed for RAW files or RAW + large/fine JPEG files. Times are averages.

Buffer depth is 17 frames for RAW, 16 frames for RAW+JPEG. Buffer depth is halved if long exposure noise reduction is enabled, even if you're using fast shutter speeds.

When buffer is full, shooting stops until you release and re-press the shutter button. Depending on how much of the buffer has emptied, you'll get anywhere from one to 17 new frames before pausing again. Worst case, repeatedly pressing the shutter button when the buffer is totally full is about 1.8 seconds per shot for RAW files, or 6.8 seconds per shot for RAW+JPEG files.

Buffer clears in 43.5 seconds for RAW shots, in 63 seconds for RAW+JPEG images. Times measured with Lexar 80x CF card.

Buffer depth is OK, but not especially impressive for this level of camera. Buffer clearing time is quite good for the image size.

Cycle Time, continuous high mode, max/min resolution 0.19
(5.3 fps)
Shoots at the same speed for large/fine images or lowest resolution images. Times are averages. Shoots a burst of 20 images this fast in either mode.

Buffer clears in 25.5 seconds for large/fine images, 1.3 seconds for small/basic. Enabling high-ISO noise reduction cuts buffer depth to 20 frames, but buffer clearing for large/fine images also decreases slightly to 22 seconds. Buffer depth is halved if long exposure noise reduction is enabled, even if you're using fast shutter speeds. Times measured with Lexar 80x CF card.

Good speed, buffer depth is good, buffer clearing speed is good, considering the image size.

Cycle Time, continuous high mode, RAW / RAW+JPEG 0.19
(5.3 fps)
Shoots at the same speed for RAW files or RAW + large/fine JPEG files. Times are averages. Shoots this fast for 17 RAW images or 16 RAW+JPEG. Buffer clears in 47 seconds for RAW shots, in 65 seconds for RAW+JPEG images.

High ISO noise reduction cuts buffer depth to 16 frames in either mode, clearing time drops to 42 seconds for RAW+JPEG. Buffer depth is halved if long exposure noise reduction is enabled, even if you're using fast shutter speeds. Times measured with Lexar 80x CF card.

Decent speed, and buffer depth. Buffer clearing speed is good, at ~3.3 seconds/frame for RAW+JPEG, 2.8 sec/frame for RAW only.

Cycle Time, continuous low mode, max/min resolution, Speed Crop 0.14
(7.1 fps)
Speed can be set from 1 to 7 frames/second in this mode, these results are for a setting of 7fps. Shoots at the same speed for large/fine images or lowest resolution images. Times are averages.

Shoots 34 frames this fast in large/fine mode (6.8 megapixels in Speed Crop mode).

Buffer clears in 24 seconds for large/fine, less than 0.5 second for small/basic files. Buffer depth is halved if long exposure noise reduction is enabled, even if you're using fast shutter speeds. Times measured with Lexar 80x CF card.

Very good buffer depth in this mode, good buffer clearing speed.

Cycle Time, continuous low mode, RAW / RAW+JPEG, Speed Crop 0.14
(7.1 fps)
Speed can be set from 1 to 7 frames/second in this mode, these results are for a setting of 7fps. Shoots at the same speed for RAW files or RAW + large/fine JPEG files. Times are averages.

Shoots this fast for 29 RAW frames, 27 RAW+JPEG. Buffer depth is halved if long exposure noise reduction is enabled, even if you're using fast shutter speeds.

Buffer clears in 42 seconds for RAW shots, in 60 seconds for RAW+JPEG images. Times measured with Lexar 80x CF card.

Very good buffer depth in this mode, good buffer clearing speed.

Cycle Time, continuous high mode, max/min resolution, Speed Crop 0.12
(8.0 fps)
Shoots at the same speed for large/fine images or lowest resolution images. Times are averages.

Shoots a burst of 34 images this fast in either mode. Buffer depth is halved if long exposure noise reduction is enabled, even if you're using fast shutter speeds.

Buffer clears in 26 seconds for large/fine images, 3.7 for small/basic ones. High ISO noise reduction reduces buffer depth to 32 frames, clearing times goes to 21.6 seconds for large/fine. Times measured with Lexar 80x CF card.

Very good buffer depth in this mode, good buffer clearing speed.

Cycle Time, continuous high mode, RAW / RAW+JPEG, Speed Crop 0.13
(8.0 fps)
Shoots at the same speed for RAW files or RAW + large/fine JPEG files. Times are averages.

Shoots this fast for 29 RAW frames, 27 RAW+JPEG. Buffer depth is halved if long exposure noise reduction is enabled, even if you're using fast shutter speeds.

Buffer clears in 46 seconds for RAW shots, in 60 seconds for RAW+JPEG images. Times measured with Lexar 80x CF card.

Very good buffer depth in this mode, good buffer clearing speed.

Very fast shutter response, very good cycle times, good buffer capacity, very good buffer clearing speed. By any measure, the Nikon D2X is a fast camera. Provided you leave its Review function off, shutter lag is only 44 msec (0.044 sec) in most any operating mode. With Review enabled, the shutter delay increases to 0.163 sec. Shot to shot cycle times are very good as well, at 0.22 - 0.23 second in single-shot mode when the review function is disabled. In continuous-high mode, cycle time is 5.3 frames/second when shooting at the camera's full 12.2 megapixel resolution, or 8.0 frames/second in its "Speed Crop" mode, which yields 6.8 megapixel files. Buffer depth is quite good, at ~16 RAW or 20 JPEG frames in full resolution mode, or 29 RAW and 34 JPEG frames in "Speed Crop" mode. Buffer clearing times are also very good, at just over one second/frame for full-res JPEG files, and 2.8 second/frame for full-res RAW files. Clearing speeds increase to 0.7 sec/frame and 1.6 sec/frame respectively for Speed Crop images. At 3.3 second/frame, the clearing speed for full-resolution 12.2 megapixel RAW+JPEG images is particularly impressive given the high resolution of the files. (For comparison, the Canon EOS-1D Mark II clears its buffer at rate of about 4.1 seconds/frame, and its frames are only about 66% the size of the D2X's.)

There's a very important note to make about buffer capacity and noise reduction settings in the D2X though: Buffer depth is halved if long-exposure noise reduction is enabled, even if you're using fast shutter speeds. Apparently the D2X's processor reserves buffer space for dark frames if its long-exposure noise reduction option is enabled, regardless of the shutter speed actually in use. You should therefore leave the long-exposure noise reduction option off unless you're actually going to be needing it.

By any measure, the Nikon D2X is a very fast camera with excellent buffer depth. Compared to its most obvious competitor, the Canon EOS-1D Mark II, the D2X has a JPEG buffer capacity of roughly 20 full-resolution files vs 33 or so, but its RAW and RAW+JPEG capacity is close to the same. (17 full-resolution RAW frames vs 19 for the 1D Mark II.) Given the difference in resolution between the two cameras though, a more fair comparison might be between the 1D Mark II and the D2X's "Speed Crop" mode. With image dimensions of 3,126 x 2,136, the linear dimensions of the D2X's Speed Crop images are only about 8% smaller than those of the 1D Mark II, an almost insignificant difference in resolution. On that basis, the two cameras are in almost a dead heat for JPEG buffer capacity, and the D2X actually wins handily in the RAW category, with a capacity of 27 frames to the 1D Mark II's 19. The D2X also clears its buffer more quickly as well, writing its 27 RAW images to disk in about the same time as it takes the 1D Mark II to write its 19. All in all, a very solid performance from the D2X.

 

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