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Canon EOS 300D Digital Rebel

Canon knocks the bottom out of the Digital SLR market, with an amazingly affordable, full-featured model!

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Page 7:Shutter Lag & Cycle Time Tests

Review First Posted: 09/04/2003

Shutter Lag/Cycle Times
When you press the shutter release on a camera, there's usually a delay or 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, I now routinely measure it.

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.

EOS 300D Timings
Time (secs)
Power On -> First shot 3.09 Average to a bit slower than average for an SLR. (No lens to deploy.)
Shutdown 5.21 Time to write large/fine image to the card. (Time will vary greatly with card speed, this is for a pretty fast CF card.)
Play to Record, first shot 0.64 Time from playback mode to ready to shoot.
Record to play (max res) 5.34/1.22 Time to display large/fine file immediately after shot is captured.
Shutter lag, full autofocus 0.250/0.278 AF speed will vary greatly depending on lens used. These numbers are for EF-S 18-55mm. Quite fast. (Typical for an SLR, way faster than even high-end point & shoot models.)
Shutter lag, manual focus 0.248 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 0.142 Delay with shutter button half-pressed and held before the exposure. (This number won't vary between lenses.) Fast compared to point & shoots, but slower than average for SLRs.
Cycle Time, large/fine JPEG 0.46/2.30/4.53 First time is interval between first four shots, second time is for subsequent ~4 shots, then drops to third time for all following. Quite fast for first four shots, not bad for the following 4.
Cycle Time, small/basic JPEG 0.46/2.35 First time is interval between first four shots, second time is for all subsequent ones.
Cycle Time, RAW mode 0.65/2.27/7.27 As above, first time is interval between first four shots, second time is for subsequent ~4 shots, third time is for all subsequent. Interestingly, RAW-mode cycle time is slightly longer than that for JPEG files, even when writing to the buffer memories. Still plenty fast though.
Continuous Mode, large/fine JPEG 0.40/1.81/4.25 As above, first time is interval between first four shots, second is for second 4-5, third time is for all subsequent. Pretty fast. Buffer clears in about 17 seconds with a fast memory card.
Continuous Mode, small/basic JPEG 0.40/1.73 As above, first time is interval between first four shots, second time is for all subsequent ones.
Continuous Mode, RAW mode 0.40/2.18/7.63 As above, times are for first four shots, the following 4-5 shots, then all subsequent. Quite fast. Buffer clears in about 21 seconds with a fast memory card.

Overall, the EOS Digital Rebel 300D is a surprisingly nimble camera. Full-autofocus shutter lag is on a par with other low-end SLRs on the market, and shot to shot speed is very good. What surprised me the most about the camera was how responsive it felt in normal usage, even when I was shooting the wide range of bracketed exposures I use for some of my test shots. Despite the buffer being only 4 frames deep, I almost never found myself waiting for data to write to the card. I suspect that this is because of the 300D's dual-buffer design (see the note below), that lets the cycle time degrade a bit more gracefully once the primary buffer is filled, and that lets it clear the primary buffer memory very quickly, the moment you stop shooting. Whatever the case, the 300D certainly doesn't shoot like a cheap camera, at least in the speed department!

Two Buffer Memories?
As with the D60 and 10D before it, the Digital Rebel 300D seems to have two buffer memories. It will shoot very rapidly for the first four shots at any JPEG resolution setting, then slows somewhat for the following four or five, and finally drops to a much slower speed for all subsequent ones. (At the small/normal size/quality setting, I never hit the slowest time though, there were only two steps in its cycle time performance.) It seems that it has a primary buffer that can hold four shots regardless of image size (perhaps buffering the sensor data directly?), then a secondary one good for four or five shots at maximum resolution, after which it finally has to slow down all the way to wait on the memory card for each shot.

I'm not sure how to interpret these results (although I suspect I'm right that the camera initially buffers data directly from the sensor), but the bottom line is a bit more graceful degradation of cycle time as you eat into its buffer capacity. The net result is very efficient processing and a surprisingly responsive "feel" to the camera.


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