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Digital Camera Shutter Lag & Startup Time

Shutter Lag - What is it?

One of the most frustrating problems some people run into with digital cameras is the characteristic known as shutter lag. How many times have you waited for the right moment to take a shot, only to spend the next second waiting for the camera to take the picture, if at all? Meanwhile, your perfect shot has vanished from view. This is shutter lag.

The time from when you press the shutter release button (ie. the trigger) until the camera actually takes the photo is known as total shutter lag. Total shutter lag is the combination of two processes at work: the autofocus lag and the shutter release lag.

  • Autofocus Lag - As soon you press the shutter button, the camera generally attempts to search for an appropriate focus point. This autofocus mechanism is often very slow, and contributes most to the overall lag. In point and shoot cameras, the physical lens is focused back and forth with a motor until the camera determines that the focus is correct. Obviously since we have to wait for a motor to move in both directions, the delay is going to be considerable. With digital SLR cameras, an advanced closed-loop control circuit allows a fast estimate of appropriate focus distance, without having to slowly move the lens back and forth. Note that all cameras will take longer to autofocus if the environment is dark or the photographed object exhibits poor contrast (which makes it harder for the camera to lock-on to).
  • Shutter Release Lag - Once the camera has determined the appropriate focus distance, the camera triggers the electronic or physical shutter mechanism. On some cheaper cameras this process can take a moderate amount of time, but it is usually not as significant as the autofocus lag. The shutter release lag is the time it takes to take the photo if one has "pre-focused" (ie. held down the shutter button half-way) or used manual focus mode.
  • Total Lag - The sum of Autofocus Lag and Shutter Release Lag. This is the delay most often seen when "pre-focusing" is not done, or in times when one is trying to take a picture quickly (ie. without setting it up).

Obviously, the larger the total lag time for a camera, the more noticeable and frustrating the delay becomes. In purchasing a new camera, one should carefully compare the differences in total lag between different models, as some cameras are much faster than others in this respect. Make sure that you are comparing the time it takes to shoot the same object (as different objects will lead to different autofocus lag delays).

Comparison of Shutter Lag & Startup Delay

Values in the following table are in seconds. The references column will contain links to the sources for each data point. Where multiple references are used for the data, the average is shown, along with the range (min-max) in parentheses. It is very important to note that differences in measurement approaches and result precision make direct comparisons difficult. Therefore, comparisons between models performed by the same source should theoretically be fair, while comparisons between different sources may be less accurate.

More cameras will be added over time. Note that it is often difficult to test for shutter lag, and that there is some degree of variability in the readings that various sources might indicate. This is especially the case with total lag, as it is highly dependent upon the lens setup. Therefore, where mutliple total lag tests have been performed for a camera by the same tester, the fastest measurement is included.

NOTE: All times in the table below are in seconds (S). Multiply by 1000 to convert to milliseconds (mS).

BrandModelShutter
Lag
Total
Lag
Startup
Delay
References
Canon10D0.091 (0.08-0.104)0.189 (0.146-0.24)2.355 (2.32-2.39)***
Canon1D0.051 (0.039-0.056)0.251 (0.201-0.3)0.91****
Canon1D mk II0.056 (0.054-0.059)0.215 (0.2-0.23)0.95***
Canon1D mk II N0.04 0.2*
Canon1Ds0.057 (0.055-0.059)0.197 (0.093-0.3)1.32***
Canon1Ds mk II0.055 0.3*
Canon20D0.076 (0.065-0.09)0.195 (0.16-0.23)0.22 (0.2-0.25)****
Canon300D Rebel0.107 (0.06-0.142)0.252.617 (2-3.09)***
Canon30D0.065 0.15*
Canon350D Rebel XT0.098 (0.09-0.105)0.219 (0.208-0.24)0.253 (0.2-0.31)****
Canon400D Rebel XTi0.1 0.2*
Canon40D0.059 0.15*
Canon5D0.075 0.2*
CanonPowerShot A750.0651.22.7*
CanonPowerShot A850.0750.962.6*
CanonPowerShot A950.090.872.6*
CanonPowerShot G60.0770.783.92*
CanonPowerShot Pro10.0780.743*
CanonPowerShot S600.082 (0.08-0.084)0.84 (0.69-0.99)3.59 (3.2-3.98)**
CanonPowerShot SD3000.077 (0.073-0.08)0.7 (0.62-0.78)1.67 (1.5-1.84)**
CanonPowerShot SD5000.070.461*
CasioQV-R510.050.272.58*
FujifilmFinePix A3300.190.593.27*
FujifilmFinePix E550 zoom0.090.381.94*
HPPhotosmart M3070.090.935.89*
KodakCX73300.20.796.09*
KodakDCS Pro 14n0.125  *
KodakDCS Pro SLR/n0.1250.2 *
KodakDX45300.070.816.02*
KodakDX75900.070.544.05*
Konica MinoltaDiMAGE Z20.09 (0.09-0.09)0.705 (0.59-0.82)4.24**
Konica MinoltaDiMAGE Z30.124 (0.11-0.137)0.51 (0.47-0.55)3.43 (3-3.86)**
NikonCoolpix 41000.090.554.02*
NikonCoolpix 52000.102 (0.08-0.124)0.995 (0.82-1.17)3.72 (3.34-4.1)**
NikonCoolpix 84000.075 (0.07-0.079)0.45 (0.41-0.49)3.905 (3.5-4.31)**
NikonCoolpix 87000.1130.3884.68*
NikonCoolpix 88000.0770.543.6*
NikonD1000.10.150.63*
NikonD1X0.0720.260.73*
NikonD2000.05 0.15*
NikonD2H0.041 (0.037-0.045)0.0490.16**
NikonD2Hs0.037  *
NikonD2X0.041 (0.037-0.044)0.1040.25**
NikonD400.0980.260.29 (0.18-0.4)**
NikonD500.114 (0.113-0.114)0.2650.2 (0.2-0.2)***
NikonD700.1240.3420.01*
NikonD70s0.106 0.2**
NikonD800.08 0.18*
OlympusC-500.050.735.7*
OlympusCamedia E-100.1  *
OlympusD-5400.191.57.17*
OlympusStyle Verve0.130.643.76*
PanasonicDMC-FZ500.0240.441.4*
PentaxOptio X0.090.923.37*
SamsungPro8150.05 1*
SonyCyber-Shot DSC-F8280.009 (0.008-0.009)0.475 (0.26-0.69)1.25 (1-1.5)**
SonyCyber-Shot DSC-F880.080.411.73*
SonyCyber-Shot DSC-L10.010.312.54*
SonyCyber-Shot DSC-P92 0.47 *
SonyCyber-Shot DSC-P930.0090.32.4*
SonyCyber-Shot DSC-T330.0090.231.3*
SonyCyber-Shot DSC-W10.0090.31.3*

Sony Point & Shoot 9ms shutter lag?

Yes, as surprising as it is, Sony apparently has shutter lag delays of as little as 9ms! This value has been published on the Sony site with several of their point and shoot models under Specifications. One should always take manufacturer's performance specs with a grain of salt, but there may be some truth to this as another tester (Imaging-Resource) came up with the same figure. It is important to note, however, that this is without any auto-focus. Bringing auto-focus into the picture drops the total lag time more in line with a typical P&S digicams.

Sources for Digital Camera Testing

The following websites offer detailed testing of digital cameras, including shutter lag. The quality of the tests vary, but the test setups used in each of the following sites are reasonable for a starting point:

 


Reader's Comments:

Please leave your comments or suggestions below!
2014-05-14Andy
 Good listing. Any details available on the Nikon D7000? Has anyone done any work on the lag associated with direct triggering of flash units?
2014-04-06Cristina Uruguay
 Hello! Thank you very much for this excellent information! Very useful and well written.
We are looking for a new camera. We hade two SONY Cybershot up to kwow (not that good regarding pre-focusing and shutter lag).
We are considering to buy a SONY HX 300 or a NIKON P520.
What about them regarding total lag?
Thanks in advance for any information or opinion you may have.
2012-04-09kenneth
 i am looking for the shutter lag of pentax k7
2011-03-22Linda
 Do you have lag time info on Nikon CoolpixS3000? Also, is there anything you can do to shorten shutter lag time? It is
vvveerry frustrating!
2011-01-19Ernie Hatt
 Thanks for the info, perhaps you would like to add, that the shutter lag for the Olympus E520 and the E30 with all manual settins ia 300ms. painfully slow.
2010-12-28Tim
 The chart has the info that I have been looking for but... I can't tell when the data was collected. Without a date, it looks as if the chart could be as old as 2005.
 The list is comprised of a number of older models along with a few more recent updates.
2010-10-14hjj
 THANK YOU for putting this chart together - it's exactly what I've been searching for on all sorts of websites and now I can confidently move forward with my Rebel XT purchase!
2010-09-13Liliken
 What about the lag between taking pictures; that's the frustrating one for me now. I take a pic and have to wait until the camera gets ready to take the next one. How is that lag called? Thank you.
2010-06-14margaret
 I always look for a line item under camera specs called shutter lag or "lag" but I can never find it. How do i look for this spec when looking for cameras? I am looking for a P&S that has the shorest lag - but can't seem to find a good answer! And i have been looking for a while now.

thanks in advance!
 Unfortunately, most manufacturers rarely ever publish these specs (particularly for point and shoot digicams). The best place to look are the major online review sites (such as dpreview.com).
2010-05-23gaggasea
 A light reading, a distance? Or does it really matter? Is there a time difference between shooting something 20 feet away and 100 ft away?
2009-02-02 Autumn
2010-03-25Edward Balikov
 Is there an updated list? I am interested in buying a new camera and I would like to compare models for shutter lag. I am interested in the Nikon CoolPix S3000 12MP and the S4000 12MP. I am also interested in the Cannon PowerShot SD1300 IS and the SD1400 IS 12MP.
 Hi Edward -- I have not had an opportunity to keep the list current with recent models. That said, I suggest having a look at the dpreview.com reviews for the newer models as most of them have lag stats associated with them.
2010-02-02Brian Wilkins
 A question about methodology. What if the camera is on manual both for aperture and exposure. With less to adjust for does this situation lead to more rapid shutter response?
many thanks.
 The time taken to determine exposure should be negligible, so for most cameras I suspect that you won't find an appreciable impact to the overall delay. It would be interesting to find out otherwise, of course.
2009-12-17Piero
 Hi,
thank you for the data.
I tested my canon 20D and 50D, measuring the lag between the pulse and the light of an external flash. In my case 40d and 20D are about 0.09 both, but with mirror lock up the 20D turns faster and achieve 0.036! It was faster than the 1D II of my friend in the same condition. Are there other tests of this kind
with other cameras?
Thanks
2009-03-10Steve
 Very good information!

I do have one question that i'm unsure anyone can answer, but in messuring the focus time, is there a standard for doing this? A light reading, a distance? Or does it really matter? Is there a time difference between shooting something 20 feet away and 100 ft away?
2009-02-02Autumn
 Do you have any info or input on the Cannon 880IS? It gets great reviews but seems a little slow compared to other similar cameras. I'm trying to decide between a Sony DCSW300 and the Cannon 880Is. I need a camera that can catch my child smiling!
2009-01-05tina
 I am looking for a point and shoot digital camera with a short total lag time for photographing toddlers in action. Consumer reports rated the following cameras as excellent next shot delay. Do you have the numbers so I can compare between cameras? These are the cameras: Sony DSC W300, Sony DSC W130, Sony DSC T70, Sony DSC T300, Sony DSC H10, Cannon SD1100 IS ELPH, Cannon SD870 IS ELPH, KODAK EASYSHARE V1073, KODAK EASYSHARE V1253. Thanks!
2009-01-01tina
 great chart! what about total lag for the sony dsc -w170
 The Sony DSC-W170 has been measured (reference: I-R) as having total lag of 0.360-0.400 s, which is pretty slow. With pre-focusing, it apparently drops down to a respectable 0.008 s.
2008-11-05Valerie
 (Thanks so much for the reply regarding the definition of Startup Time; I greatly appreciate it.)

Regarding the shutter lag: makes you wonder what the typical shutter lag was for non-digital cameras, and whether it was greater or lesser.

Thank you again.
2008-11-04Valerie
 What an excellent resource!

I'm a Nikon D70 user. I actually came here to research a concern of a friend of mine, which is that her Sony Cybershot has too much of a lag time.

Interestingly enough, your chart shows that the Sony Cybershots are quite fast. However, their startup time is substantial.

I don't see your definition of startup time on the page. Are you defining it as the time it takes to turn the camera on from completely off, or the time it takes for the camera to come back on if it's gone on standby? Could this be what my friend is actually referring to?

Thank you very much again for the excellent info!
 Thanks! Startup time is usually measured from the power-off state to the first shot. One would expect that "wake-up" performance from standby for most cameras to be typically quite a bit better.
2008-10-19andy ruina
 Hi:

I would like a camera that allows an electronic trigger with a shutter lag of .01s or less. I have a konica-minolta with .04s lag. Too long.
This is full manual I am interested in. I want it to catch insects in flight using a laser trigger.

I find it really hard to find this on the www. For example would the
Sony DSC-H50 work for me? (could I hijack the remote trigger to come from my laser box?) what is its shutter lag?

Any advice? (please email me as I might not check here).
2008-08-28Luk
 While designing a lightning trigger recently, I measured the shutter lag for the Canon 400D Rebel XTi by photographing a digital LED counter. I found a minimum of 66 ms with mirror lock-up enabled and around 120 ms in normal mode. I also varied the aperture setting to see if it has an influence on the shutter lag. It was not the case. The measurements are described at http://www.doc-diy.net/photo/shutter_lag

Congratulations for the great site!
Luk
 Thanks for the great info, Luk! Your SLR trigger how-to (SmaTrig) is a very useful project.
 
2008-07-31dilip sharma
 excellent article answered lot of my questions/
pl continue the good work.???
is "prefocus shutter time lag" and "release time lag " one and the same .
i plan to buy a sonyh3 or sony w110 both having release time lag of 0.008 seconds on their website . w110 fits more in my budget.
i doubt w110 is as fast

thanks a million
dilip
2008-06-06Elizabeth Crews
 Any chance you have shutter lag information on the Nikon D300?

Many thanks!
2007-12-25Mark Blum
 Calvin,

Your great source of info is much appreciated! I am particularly interested in the shutter response times as they affect the ability to synchronize the shutters of two cameras for stereo (3D) work with one flash. Is this topic something that you have any information on?
 That is certainly a very interesting application, but I do not have any background in the area. It is not clear to me how you intend to trigger the second camera (which is a slave to the first camera with the flash) -- I assume that you are probably going to rely on a corded remote trigger release mechanisms.

Given an external flash duration of approximately 1/10,000 S (0.1mS) - 1/1,000 S (1mS), most modern DSLR cameras have no problem achieving a flash sync speed of 1/250 S (4mS), which guarantees that there is no partial illumination of the frame (ie. mechanical shutter curtain exposes entire frame to flash). Considering that average shutter lag times are often in the 60-100mS range, one would have to presume that the flash is triggered by the actual start of the internal shutter release, not the depression of the shutter release button.

If you need a contact for details on how you may be able to achieve your setup, I suggest that you consider contacting Chris Breeze (the author of DSL Remote Pro, a multi-camera remote setup), as I would think that he'd be a great source of information in this area. If you do discover details that would work for your stereoscopic setup, I'd be interested in hearing about it.
2007-12-07Steve H
 This is a great table; and it is the info I'm looking for.

Unfortunately, camera makers just keep bringing out the new models, so it's a little tough to compare. When I searched for some of the cameras on this list, you can only find them used. New point and shoots that probably ought to appear on this list:

Canon Powershot SD800IS, SD850IS SD870IS

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W80, DSC-T200

Casio Exilim EX-Z1000 (which has fast shot, but is slow shot-to-shot)

CNET is doing a better job of highlighting comparitive speed in the charts at the bottom of their reviews now also.
 Thanks Steve -- I'll see if I can add these soon. Thx!
2007-10-27 
 What about the Canon EOS 40D
 Added!
2007-09-02Gramayr
 How about the Nikon D1x?

That aside, nice comprehensive list.
 Added
2007-07-28James
 How about Nikon D40?
 Added.
2007-07-05Mark
 Very useful and helpful... would you happen to have the same data for the Sealife ReefMaster DC600? Kind of concerned about the lag time on this one... couldn't find much on the web (not sure if you have more sources!). Thank you very much for your hard work.
2007-05-05tan ba
 Do you have total shutter lag comparison for Panasonic FX series, LX series and TX series?

If you have, appreciate if you can provide me.

Many thanks.
2006-12-24Thompson
 Thank you!! Your website is very helpful and I appreciate all the hard work. If anyone knows of a way to change the shutter button lag time on our Olympus SP510UZ - I would be forever grateful.

Happy Holidays!
Krista
2006-10-23Roger Krueger
 You might want to footnote the 1dsII--there's a personal function to change the shutter lag to 40ms (0.04), but Canon warns that not all lenses will be able to stop down to all apertures that quickly.
 Good point! The Canon 1d Mk2 includes a setting titled Shortened release time lag, found under Personal Function 26. Apparently, this mode is only usable when operating a lens at maximum aperture, while the 55ms quote is only really possible when the lens is used within 3 stops of wide-open. You mention the 1Ds II has this, but I have only seen this referenced on the 1d MkII -- does the 1Ds MkII have this capability as well?
2006-09-20sergio from Argentina
 Good idea, of great help. Congratulations and thank you !
2006-07-29Roger
 I have looked at your chart and the numbers do not agree with side by side real-world experience. For example, your chart indicates the Canon 10D, 20D and Rebel XT have faster total shutter lag than a ID Mark II. I have a Canon 10D, 20D and 1D Mark II and I can assure you there is a world of difference, with the 1D Mark II being impressively faster than any of these cameras.

I looked at your references on some cameras, and see that you used data from http://www.imaging-resource.com, and while looking at that data the description seems reasonable, the data in fact must be in error. One possibility is that the lens used in the tests (not an L lens) is a limiting factor, not the camera.

Example: the 1D Mark II is astoundingly fast compared to the 10D using the same lenses on the same subject, (comparing multiple lenses). Currently, I do wildlife photography with a 1D Mark II with a 10D as a backup, often switching lenses (e.g. 500 mm f/$ L IS on a tripod and 300 mm f/4 L IS hand held). To rate the 10D total lag at 0.189 second and the 1D Mark II at 0.235 second is just plain wrong, unless you put the fastest autofocusing lens on the 10D and the slowest possible lens on the 1D Mark II. I shoot a lot of wildlife action, and the response time on the 1D Mark II is well under 0.1 second (total lag time in my experience in multiple shooting conditions). The 10D feels like a slow point and shoot in comparison.

In real world action conditions, I would have two problems with the 10D: 1) erratic action (e.g. bird in flight) with a complex background (e.g. distant trees) has trouble locking onto the subject and not the background, and 2) while tracking a subject, if the focus point is moved off the subject (e.g. due to my inability to track erratic movement), the camera would never regain focus until the subject stopped.

On the 1D Mark II, I don't have these problems. Reports from people in the field say the 20D has the same problems as the 10D. But with the 1D Mark II, I can lose and reacquire the focus point on a moving subject in what seems like well under 0.1 second. The focus accuracy is much better on the 1DII also (having had more than 50% out of focus action shots on a 10D, almost all in good focus with the 1DII) with typical large birds in flight (e.g. eagles, cranes, egrets).

So, your table http://www.impulseadventure.com/photo/shutter-lag.html/ is highly suspect, regardless of the source of the data.

Roger (Photos at: http://www.clarkvision.com)
 Hi Roger -- Thank you for some excellent insight into performance outside of what the numbers would seem to imply. I think the only fair measurement for comparison purposes may be the shutter lag, not total lag as derived from an average of test results. This is the reason that I list the resulting lower and upper bounds along with the average to show the deviation. Including the autofocus in the total lag time is highly dependent upon AF mode, lens selection and scene contrast as you rightly point out!

You'll note that the review sites (3 of them, not just imaging-resource) all provided measurements in the range 230 to 240 ms for the Canon 1d Mk II. However, you can see that the results given for the 10D and 20D have a much wider spread, from 146 up to the 240 ms listed for the Canon 1D mk II. So, while the average might show as 189, the fair comparison value might be the 240 ms (identical with the Canon 1D mkII).

I don't necessarily agree that the numbers are incorrect. Taking the largest total lag times in the comparison would yield similar results, but they are likely captured in a very synthetic setting (high-contrast static target in a well-lit environment). Of course your real-world experience would highlight the weakness in the 10D and 20D autofocus times, where motion servo tracking and low contrast conditions may really degrade the 10D or 20D's best-case performance. That being said, the shutter lag is indeed reported as being significantly faster on the 1d Mark II when compared to the other prosumer cameras.

Ideally, we would have an objective, reproducable comparison of total shutter lags with the same setup and lens, but with typical real-world scenarios! But this is out of the scope of the setup for most camera reviewers. They would need a mechanized rig that could reproduce the motion, with some digital counter in the image scene (to assess the real delay accurately) and a remote release trigger. If someone set this up for most of the major dSLRs and with comparable lenses (e.g. L on Canon), this would be fantastic. Unfortunately, I think we'll have to settle for a sampling of results from different reviewers, all with slightly varying setups. The hope is that with enough reviews and results, the averages will be useful as a rough starting point of comparison.

Again, thank you very much for providing some real-world insight into the performance you've observed between the cameras. This feedback is often much more useful than another synthetic data point! Great gallery, BTW!
2006-07-24Ivanna Sukurdik
 its all in the name
2006-07-24nichole
 thanks heaps cool dudes.
2006-06-13Andreas Carlsson
 Doesn't the Canon EOS 30D have a startup delay of 0.15 sec? You wrote 0.015 sec.

Anyway, thanks for a great site.
 Thank you very much for the correction!
2006-06-12Robin Liao
 One man's professional hard work benefits millions of man and women. Thank you! Also could anyone kindly advise which one is the fast within a price range of U$300. I need one fast camera to film my two hyperactive toddlers. The chart could be perfect if it has another column showing prices.
 Thanks, Robin! Unfortunately, I can't add prices as I would never be able to keep the chart up-to-date with all the variances in the street prices over time...
2006-06-06dan
 This was just the info I needed. Thanks for putting in the time.
2006-04-09vioricoo
 Thanks a million!
2005-12-02Jill
 THANK YOU for putting this chart together - it's exactly what I've been searching for on all sorts of websites and now I can confidently move forward with my Rebel XT purchase!
2005-11-27Virginia Howard
 All the information I needed and in one spot! Thank you.
2005-11-09Josh
 Exactly the info I was looking for!! Thank you so much!
2005-09-08Ben Davidson
 

Many thanks!

2005-05-06Lisa
 

Hey Cal what a helpful chart next I buy a new camera I will definatly be checking your charts

 


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