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Olympus E1 SLR

The first "Four Thirds" system (almost) sees the light of day!

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Page 7:Shutter Lag & Cycle Time Tests

Review First Posted: 06/24/2003, Updated: 03/16/2004

Shutter Lag & Cycle Times

The results here are now based on a full production camera, and as expected, results were essentially identical to those I obtained earlier with an "all but final" prototype version. Here is the timing data I collected for the E-1:

NOTE: My qualitative characterizations of camera performance below (that is, "reasonably fast," "about average," etc.) are meant to be relative to other cameras of similar price and general capabilities. Thus, the same shutter lag that's "very fast" for a low-end consumer camera might be characterized as "quite slow" if I encountered it on a professional model. The comments are also intended as only a quick reference: If performance specs are critical for you, rely on the absolute numbers to compare cameras, rather than my purely qualitative comments.

Olympus E-1 Timings
Time (secs)
Power On -> First shot 1.72 Very fast.
Shutdown 3.46 Time to write a large/fine image to the card. Pretty fast. (Time will vary with card speed, this is for a pretty fast CF card. It could also take much longer to finish writing to the memory card if a large number of shots had been captured first.)
Play to Record, first shot 0.98 Time from playback mode to first shot captured. Pretty fast, although some SLRs are slightly faster.
Record to play (max res) 3.78/0.93 First time is to display large/fine file immediately after shot is captured, second time is that required after camera has finished processing the shot, is resting in capture mode. Both are about average for an SLR. Time until camera is finished writing will depend on number of shots in the buffer and the speed of the CF card. With fast cards, a full buffer empties in 50-60 seconds, but slow cards can take as long as 3 minutes to clear a full buffer.
Shutter lag, full autofocus 0.208/0.266 AF speed is likely to vary greatly depending on lens used. I found similar results with the 50mm macro lens and the 14-55mm zoom, though. The shortest time shown is for the 50mm and the zoom at its wide-angle setting. The longer time is for the zoom at telephoto.
Shutter lag, continuous autofocus 0.178 Tested with the 14-55mm zoom. Slight improvement from single-AF mode. The real strength of this mode should be with moving subjects, but I have no quantitative way of testing that.
Shutter lag, manual focus 0.173 Time with same lens as above, but set to manual focus mode. Average to a bit slower than average for an SLR.
Shutter lag, prefocus 0.0765 Delay with shutter button half-pressed and held before the exposure. (This number won't vary between lenses.) Blazingly fast, definitely in the top rank of D-SLRs.
Cycle Time, large/fine JPEG 0.57/2.06 Cycle time is 0.57 seconds for first 12 shots, then 2.06 seconds after that. Very good performance, nice large buffer.
Cycle Time, small/basic JPEG 0.58/1.11 Cycle time is 0.58 seconds for first 12 shots, then 1.11 seconds after that.
Cycle Time, RAW mode 0.56/2.57 Cycle time is 0.56 seconds for first 12 shots, then 2.57 seconds after that. (Pretty good for 5 megapixel RAW files. - This time was measured with a 24x Lexar card, slower cards will produce slower times after the buffer fills.)
Cycle Time, TIFF mode 0.57/4.90 Cycle time is 0.57 seconds for first 12 shots, then 4.9 seconds after that. (Pretty good for 5 megapixel TIFFs. - This time was measured with a 24x Lexar card, slower cards will produce slower times after the buffer fills.)
Continuous Mode, JPEG files 0.33
(3.0 fps)
Excellent continuous-mode operation. Full 12-frame buffer, regardless of shooting mode (JPEG, RAW, TIFF). After buffer is filled, times stretch to 2.55 seconds for L/F JPEGs, ~1.10 seconds for smallest JPEGs between shots.
Continuous Mode, RAW files 0.33
(3.0 fps)
As above, twelve shot buffer. After buffer is full, time stretches to 3.6 seconds between shots.
Continuous Mode, TIFF files 0.33
(3.0 fps)
As above, twelve shot buffer. After buffer is full, time stretches to 6.27 seconds between shots.

Overall, the E-1 is a pretty speedy camera. Shutter lag times are very good, and prefocus lag time is outstanding. Shot to shot cycle times are also very good, and the capacious 12-shot buffer delivers its full capacity, regardless of image size or file format. (That is, the full 12-shot capacity is available even for TIFF or RAW file formats.) Continuous Mode speed is also quite good, at a true 3.0 frames/second. (Some camera companies fudge slightly on these figures, but the E-1 delivers a true 3 frames/second in all resolution and file format settings.)

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