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Nikon D1x

Nikon ups the ante with 5.33 million pixels (5.9 megapixel file size), improved color, and exceptional noise performance!

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Page 7:Shutter Lag & Cycle Time Tests

Review First Posted: 6/16/2001

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 allows 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, we now routinely measure it.

Almost a year ago when the D1 was first announced, we asked Richard LoPinto (VP of Nikon's Professional Division, and the "father" of the D1 in the US) what the D1's shutter lag was. He replied "58 milliseconds" (0.058 seconds). We have to confess we assumed there was some marketing hype involved in that spec, and that the actual camera couldn't possibly be *that* fast. Well, we were wrong: The D1 was phenomenally responsive to the shutter button, and very fast from shot to shot as well. We're happy to report that this same performance has carried over to the D1x. Maximum frame rate in continuous mode is a bit slower due to the larger file sizes, but cycle time in single-shot mode is actually considerably improved. The table below summarizes our test results:

Nikon D1x Timings
Time (secs)
Normal Card
Time (secs)
Lexar 12x
Power On -> First shot
Very fast.
"Shutdown" can be zero if card isn't writing, as no lens retraction to wait for. Longest time shown is when camera is clearing buffer with TIFF files, until card can be removed.
Play to Record, first shot
Shortest time is from quick review to first capture. Longer time is from normal playback mode to first capture. Both are very fast.
Record to play (max/min res)
Very fast to quick review, even when shooting TIFF or NEF files.
Shutter lag, full autofocus
0.26 - ? 
Will depend on lens being used, how far the focus has to traverse from prior shot. Time shown is minimum time with the 24-85 zoom we tested with. (Very fast AF system!)
Shutter lag, manual focus
Blazingly fast!
Shutter lag, prefocus
Blazingly fast!
Cycle time, large/fine files
Shorter time is for first 5-7 shots, then need to wait for the buffer to clear before taking next shots. Note 30+% faster buffer clearing with 12x card.
Cycle time, small/basic files
Quite fast. Buffer didn't fill after 20+ shots, so no advantage to 12x card in this mode.
Cycle time, TIFF files
Buff clear 116 sec
Buff clear 74 sec
TIFF mode files are huge, take a long time to write. 12x card cuts time by 30+%. (Couldn't measure post-buffer cycle time on "conventional card, because our card was too small to exhaust the buffer.)
Cycle time, NEF files
Buff clear 17.8 sec
Buff clear 34.74 sec
First time is for first 4 shots, then speed slows to second number shown. After exposure series, time to clear buffer is shown as third figure. - In NEF mode, 12x card is almost twice as fast.
Continuous mode, large files
2.86 frames/second for first 4-6 frames at max res, until buffer fills. Then speed drops to times shown by second numbers. (Lexar 12x card is 1.8x as fast on buffer overruns.)
Continuous mode, small files
Max series is still only ~6 frames even at medium/basic size/quality setting. After 6 frames, rate is highly variable as buffer fills/empties. 12x card does empty buffer quite a bit faster, but hard to quantify.

The D1x is indeed a very fast camera. Shutter lag is amazingly fast, measured at 72 milliseconds with our test apparatus. This is slightly slower than the 58 milliseconds we measured for the original D1, but still incredibly fast. This ultrafast shutter response only occurs when the camera is manually focused or prefocused by half-pressing the shutter button before the exposure itself. Autofocus performance will be dependent on the lens you're using with the camera: We clocked the 24-85mm zoom we tested at only 0.26 seconds in situations where the subject was nearly the same distance away as for the previous shot. Needless to say, these shutter delay times are enormously faster than anything we've encountered in the consumer digicam world. It's safe to say that the D1's reflexes are quite a bit quicker than yours!

Unlike the D1, the D1x seems to make good use of its buffer memory even in single-shot mode. Shot to shot cycle time is about a half second in single shot mode, or 0.35 seconds in continuous mode, not a great difference. This is nice, as it avoids the complication of special continuous-mode setup required to get the maximum cycle time performance out of the D1. The buffer on the D1x only holds 4-6 images at the highest resolution/quality setting though, a significant step down from the 21 frames of buffer in the original D1. Maximum continuous-mode shooting speed is 2.8 frames/second, a pretty good clip, and pretty amazing given the amount of data the D1x is dealing with..

Finally, the D1s starts up and shuts down quite quickly, taking only 0.73 seconds from power-on to the first image captured, and shutting down in effectively no time at all. (Not surprising, since there's no lens to retract, as in many consumer cameras.) It switches from record to play mode very quickly (0.76 seconds), and from play to record mode almost instantly (0.2 seconds).

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