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Sigma SD10

Sigma's digital SLR uses Foveon's latest "X3" sensor technology to boost ISO and reduce image noise.

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Page 7:Shutter Lag & Cycle Time Tests

Review First Posted: 10/26/2003

Shutter Lag and Cycle Times

When you press the shutter release on a camera, there's always a lag time or delay before the shutter actually fires. This corresponds to the time the autofocus and autoexposure mechanisms take to do their work, and can amount to a fairly long delay in some situations. Since this number is seldom reported on, and can significantly affect the picture taking experience, I routinely measure it, using a custom-built test system. (Crystal-controlled timing, with a resolution of 0.001 second.) Here are the times I collected for the SD10:

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.

Sigma SD10 Digital SLR Timings
Power On -> First shot
There's no lens to retract, the only shutdown-related delay is how long it takes the camera to finish writing files to the memory card. This could be anywhere from zero seconds (the camera had already processed all pending images) to 168 seconds (the camera having just started emptying a full buffer of low-resolution images).
Play to Record, first shot
Time until first shot is captured, lens set to manual focus. Very fast, time with autofocus setting is a few tenths of a second longer, depending on starting lens position.
Record to play
Time to display a large/fine file after capture. First time is delay until low-res "review" image appears on-screen. Second time is time required to finish writing to the memory card, and then to display high-res (that is, zoomable) image on the LCD. Very fast review display, very slow display of full playback-mode image.
Shutter lag, full autofocus
Time is for 20-40mm zoom. First time is wide-angle, second is telephoto position. Very fast.
Shutter lag, prefocus
Time to capture, after half-pressing Shutter button. Faster than most consumer cameras, about average for d-SLRs.
Cycle Time, max/min resolution
First numbers are for large files, second numbers are times for small images. In large mode, the SD10 captures about five files fairly quickly, but times slow down to about 9.8 seconds between shots after that, depending on the speed of the card you're using. In small mode, the camera can capture about 30 files before slowing. At all images sizes, the delay between the first and second shots is a good bit longer than between subsequent ones. (1.22 vs 0.60 seconds for full res, 0.65 vs 0.51 second for low res.)
Cycle Time, continuous mode, max/min resolution
First numbers are for large images, second number is time for small images. You get ~five shots before having to wait for the buffer to clear in large mode, then need to wait 47-50 seconds to clear the buffer before you can capture the next series. With the small image size setting though, you get about 30 images in a series, at the 0.41 interval, with buffer-clearing times of 160 to 170 seconds.

I measured the SD10's cycle time using three different memory cards: A Lexar 24x 256MB, a Lexar 24x "WA" (Write-Accelerated) card, and a SimpleTech 512MB. While the SD10 supposedly supports Lexar's Write Acceleration technology, there was little difference in buffer-clearing time in my tests between WA and non-WA cards. With a 0.15-0.23 second shutter delay using Sigma's 20-40mm f/2.8 zoom and a prefocus lag of 0.111 seconds, the SD10's shutter lag times were much faster than typical consumer cameras, and on a par with most other d-SLRs I've tested. (The prefocus lag is a bit slower than most pro SLRS though.). Overall, the performance was quite similar to that of the SD9, albeit just slightly slower in some areas - shot to shot speeds were quite good, but the buffer still took a long time to clear. Also, as noted above, in non-continuous mode, the interval between the first two shots is quite a bit longer than between subsequent ones, so you may want to use continuous mode for fast-breaking action, even if you don't plan on shooting more than a few frames.

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