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Nikon Coolpix 8800

By: Shawn Barnett & Dave Etchells

Nikon improves on its flagship 8 megapixel prosumer camera with a longer zoom and vibration reduction to improve long handheld shots.

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Page 7:Shutter Lag & Cycle Time Tests

Review First Posted: 09/16/2004, Updated: 11/23/2004

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 8800:

Nikon Coolpix 8800 Timings
Power On -> First shot
LCD turns on and lens extends forward. Fairly fast for a big lens.
3.5 - 148
First time is time to retract lens, second time is worst-case buffer-clearing time. First number is fairly fast for a big lens. Second number is very long, but it corresponds to clearing a buffer full of 100 small/basic images, after an extended sequence in Continuous Low mode.
Play to Record, first shot
Time until first shot is captured. Average.
Record to play
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. First time is a little slow, second time is pretty good.
Shutter lag, full autofocus
(Camera not writing to the memory card)
First time is for full wide-angle, second time is for full telephoto in bright lighting. Telephoto slows significantly in less-bright light. Unlike the 8400, there seems to be no difference in shutter lag, whether using AF Area mode or not.
Shutter lag, full autofocus
(Camera writing to the memory card)
1.56 If the camera is still writing previous images to the memory card, the shutter lag time is much longer. The time at left is for the camera in wide angle mode, with the green "writing to the card" icon still displayed on the LCD screen.
Shutter lag, Manual focus 0.274 About average among prosumer digicams.
Shutter lag, prefocus
Time to capture, after half-pressing shutter button. Very fast.
Cycle Time, max/min resolution JPEGs

2.67 / 1.89

First number is for large/fine files, second number is time for "TV" mode (640x480) images. Times are averages. Shoots 4 images this fast in large/fine mode, then slows to an irregular pace of about one shot every 5.7 seconds. Buffer clears in 25 seconds. In TV mode, continues at this pace indefinitely, clearing the buffer after each shot. (Tested with a Lexar 80x CF card.)

Cycle Time, RAW mode 9.11 Shoots 5 RAW images this fast, then slows to about 23 seconds apart. Buffer clears in 71 seconds with a fast card. (Tested with a Lexar 80x CF.) Times are averages. Buffer clears in 97 seconds with a Lexar 4x CF card.
Cycle Time, HI (TIFF) mode 15.98 No buffering of TIFF images, all shots take this long. (Tested with a Lexar 80x CF.)
Cycle Time, Continuous High mode, RAW / max / min JPEGs 0.45 / 0.43 0.45
(2.25 / 2.34 / 2.25 fps)
First number is for RAW images, second is for large/fine images, third number is time for "TV" size images. Times are averages. Shoots five frames at about the same rate regardless of resolution. Buffer clears in 91 seconds for RAW, 41 seconds for large/fine images, 12 seconds for lowest resolution. Buffer clearing (Times are with Lexar 80x CF card, buffer-clearing time increases to 97 seconds for RAW with a Lexar 4x card.)
Cycle Time, continuous Low mode, max/min resolution 1.07 / 0.73
(0.93 / 1.37 fps)

First number is for large/fine files, second number is time for small/basic images. Times are averages. Shoots this fast for 5 images in large/fine mode and clears the buffer in 47 seconds. In TV mode, shoots over 100 at this rate, but takes 148 seconds to clear the buffer. (Times are with Lexar 80x CF card.)

We did encounter a glitch with this mode: When shooting Extra Fine JPEGs at ISO 200 or 400, the first shot of the series was almost always trashed. The problem never appeared at ISO 50 or 100, and never with lower-quality JPEGs.

Cycle Time, continuous Multi 16 mode 0.60
(1.67 fps)
Camera captures 816 x 612 pixel images, stores them in 4x4 arrays inside normal 3264x2448 files. Buffer clears in 6 seconds. (Times are with Lexar 80x CF card.)
Cycle Time, Ultra High Speed 0.03
(30.0 fps)
Camera captures up to 100 640 x 480 pixel images at 30 fps. Buffer clears in 4 seconds. (Times are with Lexar 80x CF card.)
Cycle Time, continuous 5-shot buffer mode 1.39
(0.72 fps)

Time is for large/extra fine images. Camera shoots continuously while shutter button is pressed, but only stores the last five shots. Buffer clears in 18 seconds with a Lexar 80x CF card. (22 seconds with a 12x card, 23 seconds with a 4x one.)


The Nikon 8800 is a bit of a mixed bag in the speed department. On the one hand, its shutter response is very good, faster than most digicams on the market, at both wide angle and telephoto focal lengths. On the other hand though, the shutter response slows dramatically when the camera is writing to the memory card. Shot to shot cycle time is respectable (if not exactly blazing), and continuous-mode speed is quite good, at roughly 2.3 frames/second in Continuous High mode. When it comes time to write the image data to the memory card though, things slow considerably, with very long buffer-clearing times.

Prior to writing this update, there'd been speculation around the Internet that the camera actually performed faster with slower memory cards, the theory being that these cards better matched the camera's internal operating speed. I'm not sure where this rumor got started, but it clearly wasn't the case with our production sample. We tested it with a wide range of memory cards, and found that, while cards faster than 4x produced only very slight improvements in buffer-clearing times, the faster cards were in all cases faster than slower ones. (The camera does take some advantage of modern, reasonably fast memory cards though. While we found only minor differences in write speeds between 4x and 80x cards (or SanDisk's Ultra and Extreme cards), old non-speed-rated cards were very slow. Bottom line, our advice would be to make sure you purchase name-brand cards known to be at least reasonably fast, but the Coolpix 8800's performance doesn't seem to justify the investment in the highest-speed cards currently available.)

Testing this camera alongside the Coolpix 8400 (which we received at the same time), we found the shutter lag to be markedly different between the two models. No doubt thanks to its hybrid IR/CCD autofocus system, the 8400 is capable of much faster shutter response, as long as its Autofocus Area Mode option is turned off. The 8800 focuses more slowly overall, but suffers no additional loss when AF Area Mode is engaged.

Overall, the Nikon Coolpix 8800 seems to be roughly in the middle of the pack among 8 megapixel models in terms of both focus speed/shutter lag and cycle times.


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