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Konica Minolta DiMAGE A2

Konica Minolta updates their top-end electronic SLR with a higher resolution sensor, much-improved electronic viewfinder, a faster 3D autofocusing system, and high-speed USB 2.0 connectivity, among other improvements.

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Page 7:Shutter Lag & Cycle Time Tests

Review First Posted: 07/13/2004

Shutter Lag/Cycle Times

When you press the shutter release on a digital camera, there's usually a delay or lag time before the shutter actually fires. This time allows the autofocus and autoexposure mechanisms to do their work and can amount to a significant delay in some situations. Likewise, the delay from shot to shot can vary greatly, and is also important to the picture-taking experience. Since these numbers are rarely reported by manufacturers or reviewers (and even more rarely, reported accuracy), I routinely measure both shutter lag and cycle times using an electronic test setup I designed and built for the purpose. (Crystal-controlled timing, with a resolution of 0.001 second.) Here are the numbers I collected for the DiMAGE A2:\

Konica Minolta DiMAGE A2 Timings
Time (secs)
Power On -> First shot
No wait for lens to extend, so fairly fast.
No lens to retract, so time shown is that required for camera to finish writing data to the memory card. First time is for small data file, second is for full buffer (184 frames) of small images from Ultra High Speed Continuous mode on a fast card. (Lexar 80x WA.) Buffer-empty times for slow cards could be quite a bit longer. Fairly fast for a single file. Worst-case is a long time, but a buffer capacity of 184 low-res frames is a load of data to deal with.
Play to Record, first shot
Time until first shot is captured, from playback mode. Fairly fast.
Record to play (max/min res)
First number is for camera having just captured an image, second number is for camera having completed processing last image, in resting state in capture mode. Reasonably fast, probably about average for its class.
Shutter lag,
full autofocus
First number is for lens at wide-angle setting, second is for telephoto. Very fast (!), interesting in that tele time is slightly shorter than wide-angle: Usually, the opposite is the case.
Shutter lag,
continuous autofocus
0.734 As is usually the case with cameras I test, continuous autofocus doesn't result in faster shutter response, at least with stationary subjects. To the contrary, in the case of the A2, it actually significantly slows it. Continuous AF may very well improve results with moving subjects, but if your subject isn't moving toward or away from you, use single autofocus for significantly better results.
Shutter lag,
manual focus
Quite fast compared to other prosumer cameras in its class.
Shutter lag,
Quite fast overall, faster than average relative to competing models.
Cycle Time,
Single Shot Mode
Large/Small JPEGs
First number is for large/fine files, second is for lowest resolution/quality. There seems to be a slight advantage to faster memory cards, even before the buffer fills, as I measured a 1.13 second cycle time for large/fine files with an 80x card, but 1.35 seconds with a 40x one. Small/basic files seemed to have the same cycle time, regardless of card speed. Buffer capacity in large/fine mode is 3 shots, after which the cycle time slows to 5.2 seconds with the fastest memory cards. (5.2 seconds with a Lexar 80x CF card, 7.8 seconds with a 40x one.) - Expect proportionately slower times with slower memory cards. (For the heck of it, I tried an old 1x CF card in the A2, and found that the post-buffer cycle time was an incredible 33.5 seconds/frame!) After capturing a long series of large/fine shots, the buffer clears in about 20 seconds with an 80x card, 24 seconds with a 40x one. (97 seconds with the 1x card mentioned above.) At the small/basic quality setting, there seems to be no limit to the number of shots that can be captured without slowing.
Cycle Time,
Single Shot Mode,
RAW files
First number is interval between shots for first 3 captured, then stretches to 10.9 seconds with a Lexar 40x card, 11.1 seconds with an 80x. (Yes, it's just a hair slower) . Buffer clears in 34 seconds with a fast card (same speed for 40x and 80x), likely longer with a slow one.
Cycle Time,
Single Shot Mode,
RAW+JPEG files
18.4 While the A2 will buffer either RAW or JPEG files, its RAW+JPEG mode is unbuffered, greatly reducing the usefulness. of this mode The time at right was recorded with a 80x Lexar card, a 40x card stretched the time per frame to 19.7 seconds.
Cycle Time,
Single Shot Mode,
TIFF files
25.3 On the A2, TIFF files aren't buffered at all, the camera must finish writing one image to the memory card before it can capture the next one. Time shown is with an 80x Lexar card, times with a 40x card were only slightly slower, at 26.9 second/frame. As with the large/fine buffer-clearing time mentioned above though, it's clear that the A2 does make good use of fast cards. For the heck of it, I stuck an old 1x CF card in the A2 and timed its TIFF cycle time at an astounding 155 seconds per frame. (!)
Cycle time,
Normal Continuous Mode, Large/Small JPEG
First number is for large/fine files, second is for smallest/basic setting. In large/fine mode, the camera captures three images at this speed, before slowing to about 6.4 seconds between frames for an 80x card, or 8.6 seconds with an 40x one. In small/basic quality, the camera captures bursts of three, with a pause to write data to the card between. The first three shots are about 0.53 seconds apart, subsequent groups of three are at about 1.5 seconds between shots. The pause between groups of shots is always about 3.4 seconds. The buffer clears in 20 seconds for large/fine files, 5 seconds for small/basic ones, with an 80x CF card.) Fairly fast overall, but the 3-shot buffer is a little limiting.
Cycle time,
Normal Continuous Mode,
RAW files
Grabs three shots, then slows to 11.8 seconds/frame with an 80x card, 12.5 seconds with a 40x one. Buffer clears in 33-34 seconds with either card.
Cycle time,
High Speed Continuous Mode, large JPEGs
Shoots at 0.37 seconds/frame for three shots, then slows to 6.23 seconds per shot with an 80x card. (Likely slower with slower cards, I didn't test though.) Buffer clears completely in 18 seconds with fast card, likely longer with slower one.
Cycle time,
High Speed Continuous Mode, small JPEGs
These are times for small/lowest-quality JPEG files. The camera shot the first three frames at intervals of 0.37 seconds, but after that the cycle time was very irregular, ranging from 0.36-4.49 second. Buffer cleared entirely in 4 seconds.
Cycle time,
High Speed Continuous Mode, RAW files
Captures three frames, then slows to 12.5 seconds/frame, very close to the same speed with either 40x or 80x cards. Buffer clears in 34 seconds.

The DiMAGE A2 is a very fast camera overall, and one of the only two 8 megapixel models currently on the market with usable speed when shooting in RAW mode. (The other being the Canon Pro1.) Its shot to shot cycle time in single-shot mode is the fastest of any of the 8-megapixel models currently on the market.) On the downside though, the A2's buffer capacity is a relatively modest (even paltry by current standards) 3 frames, and TIFF-mode files aren't buffered at all. Likewise, while RAW and JPEG files are both buffered, the RAW+JPEG mode isn't buffered, greatly reducing its usefulness. (Reduced buffer capacity and lack of buffering for TIFF images is an area in which functionality was unfortunately lost relative to the earlier A1 model, apparently a consequence of the increased size of the 8 megapixel images.)

I did most of my cycle time testing with fast 40x and 80x Lexar CF cards, and found relatively little difference in speed between the two, meaning that the A2's internal circuitry can't deliver the data much faster than a 40x rate. That said though, the A2 is very clearly able to take advantage of at least the 40x card speed, as I found astonishingly slow cycle times when I put an old 1x CF card into it. (Would you believe 155 seconds from shot to shot in TIFF mode?) I strongly recommend that you pay attention to card speed ratings when shopping for memory for the A2, look for something that's rated at least 40x to get the most out of the camera.

Autofocus speed and the resulting fast shutter response is an area of dramatic improvement over the A1 though, and one of the real strengths of the A2, making it an excellent camera for shooting sports and other fast-paced action. - With full-autofocus shutter lag of just 0.39 - 0.45 seconds, its one of the all-around fastest cameras on the market. (The Nikon 8700 is slightly faster across the board, if you wait for the camera to finish processing the previous image before you press the shutter button. (That is, if you don't make use of the 8700's buffer memory.) Shooting to the buffer, the A2 beats the 8700 handily. The Sony F828 is a fair bit faster when its lens is set to wide-angle, but is a fair bit slower at telephoto. The rest of the current crop of 8-megapixel cameras are all slower.) I'd like to see a deeper buffer memory, but apart from that, the A2 looks like an excellent choice for sports and other action photography.


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