Shutter lag

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In photography, shutter lag is the delay between triggering the shutter and when the photograph is actually recorded. This is a common problem in the photography of fast-moving objects or people in motion. The term narrowly refers only to shutter effects, but more broadly refers to all lag between when the shutter button is pressed and when the photo is taken, including metering and focus lag.

Film cameras[edit]

In film cameras, the delay is caused by the mechanism inside the camera that opens the shutter, exposing the film. Because the process is mechanical, however, and relatively brief, shutter lag in film cameras is often only noticeable (and of any concern) to professionals. SLRs have slightly longer shutter lag than rangefinders, because of the need to lift the mirror. Point-and-shoot film cameras often have significant shutter lag.

Digital cameras[edit]

Shutter lag is much more of a problem with digital cameras. Here, the delay results from the charging of the charge-coupled device (CCD) image sensor and relatively slow transmission of its capture data to the circuitry of the camera for processing and storage.

The comet-tail artifact that early CCD sensors suffered from was significantly reduced by the invention of the pinned photodiode (PPD).[1] It was invented by Nobukazu Teranishi, Hiromitsu Shiraki and Yasuo Ishihara at NEC in 1980.[1][2] The "pinned photodiode" is a photodetector structure used in almost all charge-coupled device (CCD) and CMOS image sensors (CIS) due to its low noise, high quantum efficiency and low dark current.[1] In 1987, the PPD began to be incorporated into most CCD devices, becoming a fixture in consumer electronic video cameras and then digital still cameras. The PPD has since been used in most CCD sensors and then CMOS sensors.[1]

Recent[timeframe?] improvements in technology, such as the speed, bandwidth and power consumption of processor chips and memory, as well as CCD technology and then CMOS sensors, have made shutter lag less of a problem. As of 2007, the greatest advancements have been limited mostly to professional, "prosumer", and high-end consumer-grade digital cameras. Even in inexpensive (most "point-and-shoot") digital cameras, the average shutter lag has been reduced to around a half second, and in higher-end "point-and-shoot" cameras the lag is down to a quarter second or less.

AE & AF lag[edit]

However, what many people consider shutter lag is in fact the time the camera takes to meter (set the exposure) and auto-focus, which is lag of a different cause but similar effect.

These causes of lag can be eliminated by pre-setting the exposure and focus, by either manually setting the exposure and focus, or by pre-exposing and pre-focusing. Pre-exposing and pre-focusing mean "using automatic exposure and autofocus, then fixing the settings so they do not change"; this can often be done by holding the shutter release halfway down, or by using a separate "AE / AF lock" button (useful if taking multiple photographs that are not in a burst), and means the subsequent photographs will be taken faster. These techniques can be combined – one can manually set the exposure and then use AF lock or conversely.

Examples of various shutter lag times[edit]

Camera Type Shutter lag [ms]
Samsung Nx-Mini DSLR 350
Nikon Coolpix L3 Digital point-and-shoot 1800
Nikon Coolpix S550 Digital point-and-shoot 590
Panasonic DMC Lumix FS20 Digital point-and-shoot 480
Canon PowerShot A590 IS Digital point-and-shoot 350
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W80 Advanced digital point-and-shoot 150
Pentax MZ-50 Amateur 35mm film SLR 120
Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D Advanced amateur APS-C digital SLR with built-in image stabilization 117[3]
Sony NEX-5 Amateur APS-C digital compact camera 115[4]
Minolta Maxxum 9 [de] Professional 35mm film SLR 90[5]
Leica M8 Professional digital rangefinder 80
Leica M9 Professional 35mm digital rangefinder 80
Sony Alpha DSLR-A850 Professional 35mm digital SLR with built-in image stabilization 74[6]
Sony Alpha DSLR-A900 Professional 35mm digital SLR with built-in image stabilization 72[7]
Minolta XD-7 Amateur 35mm film SLR 60
Nikon D300s Advanced amateur APS-C digital SLR 53
Sony Alpha SLT-A77 Advanced amateur APS-C digital SLR-alike with built-in image
stabilization and electronic 1st curtain
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV Professional APS-H digital SLR 49
Nikon D3s Professional 35mm digital SLR 43
Nikon D3x Professional 35mm digital SLR 40
Canon EOS-1D Mark II Professional APS-H digital SLR 40
Minolta XE-1 Amateur 35mm film SLR 38
Nikon F6 Professional 35mm film SLR 37
Nikon D2H/D2Hs Professional APS-C digital SLR 37[9]
Canon EOS-1D X Professional 35mm digital SLR 36[10]
Sony Alpha NEX-5N Amateur APS-C digital compact camera with electronic 1st curtain 22[11]
Contax RTS33 Professional 35mm film SLR 22
Leica M3 Professional 35mm film rangefinder 16
Leica M7 Professional 35mm film rangefinder 12
Canon EOS RT Advanced amateur 35mm film SLR 8
Canon EOS-1N RS Professional 35mm film SLR 6


  1. ^ a b c d Fossum, Eric R.; Hondongwa, D. B. (2014). "A Review of the Pinned Photodiode for CCD and CMOS Image Sensors". IEEE Journal of the Electron Devices Society. 2 (3): 33–43. doi:10.1109/JEDS.2014.2306412.
  2. ^ U.S. Patent 4,484,210: Solid-state imaging device having a reduced image lag
  3. ^ Imaging-Resource Preview Konica Minolta Dynax/Maxxum/Alpha 7D
  4. ^ Imaging-Resource Preview Sony Alpha NEX-5
  5. ^ Josef Scheibel, Robert Scheibel: Foto-Guide Minolta Dynax 9. vfv Verlag für Foto, Film und Video, Gilching 1999, ISBN 3-88955-116-5 (176 pages, [1], retrieved at 8 January 2011).
  6. ^ Imaging-Resource Preview Sony Alpha DSLR-A850 (Firmware 1)
  7. ^ Imaging-Resource Preview Sony Alpha DSLR-A900 (Firmware 1)
  8. ^ Imaging-Resource Preview Sony Alpha SLT-A77V
  9. ^ "Nikon D2hs Press Release". 2005-02-16. Retrieved 2014-06-04.
  10. ^ "Canon Professional Network - The EOS-1D X explained: inside Canon's flagship DSLR". Retrieved 2015-06-04.
  11. ^ Imaging-Resource Preview Sony Alpha NEX-5N

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