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Sony Cyber-shot DSC-R1

Sony "breaks the mold" with a unique SLR/all-in-one hybrid design.

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Page 8:Timing

Review First Posted: 09/20/2005, Updated: 11/18/2005

Shutter Lag/Cycle Times

When you press the shutter release on a digital camera, there's usually a delay or lag time before the shutter actually fires. This time allows the autofocus and autoexposure mechanisms to do their work and can amount to a significant delay in some situations. Likewise, the delay from shot to shot can vary greatly, and is also important to the picture-taking experience. Since these numbers are rarely reported by manufacturers or reviewers (and even more rarely, reported accuracy), I routinely measure both shutter lag and cycle times using an electronic test setup I designed and built for the purpose. (Crystal-controlled timing, with a resolution of 0.001 second.) Here are the numbers I collected for the DSC-R1:

Sony DSC-R1 Timings
Power On -> First shot
Average for its class, slower than most d-SLRs.
0.1 - 16
First time is simple shutdown, second time is worst-case buffer-clearing time. Worst-case time is on the slow side, corresponds to clearing two RAW+JPEG images. Buffer clears in 6 seconds after forty large/fine JPEGs in single-shot mode.
Play to Record, first shot
Time until first shot is captured. Almost immediate.
Record to play
3.0 / 0.8
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.
Shutter lag, full autofocus
("Framing" viewfinder mode)
0.76 / 0.77
First time is at full wide-angle, second is full telephoto. These times measured with the LCD monitor in "Framing" mode, which gives a noticeably faster refresh, but doesn't allow previewing depth of field or flicker reduction for fluorescent lighting. Only average for "prosumer" cameras, quite a bit slower than most d-SLRs.
Shutter lag, full autofocus
("Preview" viewfinder mode)
0.48 / 0.74
First time is at full wide-angle, second is full telephoto. These times measured in "Preview" mode, which gives slower LCD/EVF refresh, but faster shutter lag and cycle times.

Shutter lag, continuous autofocus, wide angle zoom setting

0.71 / 0.33
These times are for "Monitor" autofocus mode. First time is for LCD/EVF in Framing mode, second is for Preview mode. First time is still fairly sluggish, second time is quite fast.
Shutter lag, flash enabled 0.53 Time is for Preview viewfinder mode, lens at wide angle focal length, single-shot autofocus. Very slightly slower than best times without the flash, nice that there appears to be very little shutter lag penalty for using the flash.
Shutter lag, manual focus
Very fast. (!) Only Preview viewfinder mode is available when manually focusing.
Shutter lag, prefocus
Time to capture, after half-pressing shutter button. Extremely fast.
Cycle Time, RAW + max jpg resolution

2.12 / 1.37

Times are averages. Shoots 2 frames this fast, then slows. First time is for Framing viewfinder mode, second is for Preview. Both are on the slow side, particularly relative to d-SLRs. After buffer is full, slows to about 8.7 seconds per shot with a Lexar 80x CF card, about 6.1 seconds with a Memory Stick Pro. Overall, not too bad, but not wonderful either, and two-shot buffer capacity is very limiting.
Cycle Time, max / min resolution, Framing viewfinder mode

1.66 / 1.91

First number is for large/fine files, second number is time for small/normal files. Times are averages. In both modes, shoots this fast seemingly indefinitely. In large/fine mode, the buffer takes 6 seconds to clear after 40 frames. In small/normal mode, the buffer clears after each shot. (Buffer clearing times measured with a Lexar 80x CF card. Slower cards are likely to take longer to clear.) Not bad, considering it can seemingly shoot at this rate all day, but the shot to shot time is again quite slow compared to the d-SLRs the R1 will be competing with.
Cycle Time, max JPEG resolution, Preview viewfinder mode 1.27 Here again, much faster in Preview viewfinder mode. Also, Preview mode avoids the "pre-press penalty" of Framing mode. (In this mode, if you release and press the shutter button immediately after the previous shot, the camera will snap the next picture as soon as it's able.) Shoots this fast for eleven shots, then slows to 1.76 seconds/shot with a Lexar 80x CF card. Slower cards may produce slower cycle times after buffer fill. (We didn't test this mode with a Memory Stick.) Buffer empties in just over a second after the last shot, regardless of how many shots captured.
Cycle Time, Flash exposures 6 Flash at maximum power output. About average. Would be unimpressive, but the R1's flash is pretty high power (has excellent range), so some allowance must be made for just how much energy is being loaded back onto the flash capacitor after a full-power pulse.
Cycle Time, continuous mode, max/min resolution 0.31 / 0.32
(3.23 / 3.17 fps)

First number is for large/fine files, second number is time for small/normal files. Times are averages. Shoots 3 frames this fast in large/fine mode, then shoots pairs of shots with about 3.5 second pauses between groups. In small/normal mode, shoots groups of three frames with about 3.7 second pauses between groups. (Buffer clearing times were measured with a Lexar 80x CF card, slower cards would result in correspondingly longer buffer clearing times.) Three frames/second isn't a bad rate, but a three-frame limit is surprising in a camera at the R1's price point. (Again, typical d-SLRs do much better.)

While the Sony DSC-R1's performance isn't bad when compared to most "prosumer" digital cameras, many people considering it for purchase will also be considering buying a d-SLR. When stacked up against almost any d-SLR, the Sony R1's timing performance leaves much to be desired. Its best-case shutter lag of 0.33 second compares favorably with the lower end of the digital SLR market, but in most operating modes, shutter lag is between 0.5 and 0.75 second, definitely slower than the d-SLR competition. At 1.27 seconds (best case) between frames, single-shot cycle times are reasonably fast compared to other all-in-one digital cameras but once again slow relative to d-SLRs. In continuous mode, it's fast enough at a bit over 3 frames/second, but is crippled by an inadequate 3-frame buffer capacity. It does offer a RAW+JPEG recording mode, but here again, its cycle time is a rather modest 2.12 seconds, and it can capture only two frames in this mode before slowing to nearly 9 seconds per frame with a fast CF card, or 6.5 seconds with a Memory Stick Pro. (CF card timing data collected with a Lexar 80x card, slower cards will empty the buffer more slowly, and show slower cycle times after the buffer is full.) The one bright spot is that the camera is blazingly fast when it's "prefocused" by half-pressing and holding down the shutter button before taking the shot. - Its shutter lag is an astonishing 0.007 second (7 milliseconds) in that mode.


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