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Nikon D100

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Page 7:Shutter Lag & Cycle Time Tests

Review First Posted: 5/31/2002

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 rarely reported on, and can significantly affect the picture taking experience, I now routinely measure it, using a custom test system I built for the purpose, accurate to 0.001 seconds.


Nikon D100 Timings
Time (secs)
Normal Card
Time (secs)
SimpleTech 320
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
No more delay from play to record than minimum shutter lag in record mode. Very fast.
Record to play (max/min res)
Pretty fast review, even when shooting TIFF/NEF files.
Shutter lag, full autofocus
0.15 - ? 
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. (Seems ike a fairly fast AF system. although)
Shutter lag, manual focus
Very fast. (But about 28 msec slower than D1x.)
Shutter lag, prefocus
Blazingly fast. (But about 28 msec slower than D1x.)
Cycle time, large/fine files
Shorter time is for first 7-9 shots, then slows to. Note 30+% faster buffer clearing with faster card.
Cycle time, small/basic files
Quite fast. Buffer didn't fill after 20+ shots, so no advantage to faster 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. Faster 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
0.43/44.2 sec
0.48/23.8 sec
First time is for first 4 shots, then speed slows to second number shown. - In NEF mode, Faster card is almost twice as fast.
Continuous mode, large files
(2.88 fps)
(2.88 fps)
2.88 frames/second for first 4-6 frames at max res, until buffer fills. Then takes time indicated by second number for buffer to clear. (Faster card is 1.8x as fast on buffer overruns.) Small/basic files show nearly identical behavior, but run length is 9 shots before buffer fills.


The D100's performance is nearly identical to that of the D1x in most respects. (I'd guess that their internal electronics are very similar.) The shutter delay on the D100 is noticeably longer, although still very fast, at 100 milliseconds. (The D1x came in at 72 ms, while the original D1 tested at 58 ms.) Note though, that this is the shutter delay when the camera is prefocused or in manual focus mode: Autofocus delay will be longer, and heavily dependent on the particular lens used. The 24-85mm zoom lens I used in much of my testing increased shutter lag only to 0.15 seconds, which is still very fast, but that was in a situation where the lens was left in the same focus position from one test to the next.

Like the D1x, the D100 uses its buffer memory very well, even in single-shot mode. This is nice because no special gyrations are needed (as was the case in the original D1) to get the best cycle time performance from the D100. Buffer capacity on the D100 ranges from 7 to 9 frames, depending on the subject, and (slightly) on the speed of the card used. I measured the maximum continuous-mode speed at 2.88 frames/second, just slightly faster than the D1x, and a pretty good clip, considering the amount of data the D100 is dealing with.

Finally, the D1s starts up and shuts down very quickly, taking only 0.36 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 fairly quickly (about 3 seconds), but from play to record mode almost instantly (0.1 seconds).

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