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.
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.
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 lag that early CCD sensors suffered from was significantly reduced by the invention of the pinned photodiode (PPD). It was invented by Nobukazu Teranishi, Hiromitsu Shiraki and Yasuo Ishihara at NEC in 1980. It was a photodetector structure with low lag, as a result of low noise, high quantum efficiency and low dark current. 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.
Recent 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. Inexpensive (most "point-and-shoot") digital cameras, however, have even reduced the average shutter lag to half seconds, and higher-end "point-and-shoot" cameras have reduced this down to a quarter second or less.
AE & AF lag
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
|Camera||Type||Shutter Lag [ms]|
|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|
|Sony NEX-5||Amateur APS-C digital compact camera||115|
|Minolta Maxxum 9||Professional 35mm film SLR||90|
|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|
|Sony Alpha DSLR-A900||Professional 35mm digital SLR with built-in image stabilization||72|
|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|
|Canon EOS-1D X||Professional 35mm digital SLR||36|
|Sony Alpha NEX-5N||Amateur APS-C digital compact camera with electronic 1st curtain||22|
|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|
- 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.
- U.S. Patent 4,484,210: Solid-state imaging device having a reduced image lag
- Imaging-Resource Preview Konica Minolta Dynax/Maxxum/Alpha 7D
- Imaging-Resource Preview Sony Alpha NEX-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, , retrieved at 8 January 2011).
- Imaging-Resource Preview Sony Alpha DSLR-A850 (Firmware 1)
- Imaging-Resource Preview Sony Alpha DSLR-A900 (Firmware 1)
- Imaging-Resource Preview Sony Alpha SLT-A77V
- "Nikon D2hs Press Release". 2005-02-16. Retrieved 2014-06-04.
- "Canon Professional Network - The EOS-1D X explained: inside Canon's flagship DSLR". Retrieved 2015-06-04.
- Imaging-Resource Preview Sony Alpha NEX-5N