Digital Cameras: Lag Time Explained

Digital cameras really are wonderful, but they will all suffer from something called lag time no matter which camera you buy. When you press the shutter button, the camera may seem to take a photo instantly, however, this isn't actually what happens. There is a delay between the time when you press the button and when the photo is actually taken.

What Is Lag Time?

Lag time is simply the time between when you press the shutter button and when the camera actually takes the photo. This isn't instant and the lag time is normally well under a second.

Lag time is a result of what your camera does when you press the shutter button. The camera will first need to focus the shot and then it will need to open the shutter to let the light in. Once the light comes in through the shutter, the CCD sensor will convert it into electrical signals which can then be stored. All of these processes will result in a lag time which could make you miss your shot.

Why Is Lag Time a Problem?

Digital camera lag time can be a nuisance because it means that what you see in your viewfinder at the time of pressing the shutter isn't necessarily what you will be taking a photo of. You've probably noticed this quite a few times, especially if you take photos of children or animals.

Lag time affects all cameras and isn't just isolated to digital cameras. It's a problem which has been around since the dawn of film. While a lag time of 0.2 seconds is acceptable in most situations, some cameras have a lag time as big as 2.1 seconds. A lag time of above a second is a major problem because the chance of something changing during this time is very high. When taking fast, multiple action photos, even a lag time of 0.2 seconds can be problematic.

Measuring Lag Time

Measuring lag time will be very difficult with most cameras because it will be under a second. It would technically be possible to use a stop watch to measure the lag time if you were really interested. Camera review websites make it possible to compare the lag times of various cameras, so that you can choose the best camera for you. Any camera with a lag time of around .2 seconds is reasonable and acceptable.

Reducing Lag Time

Lag time can be reduced in a number of different ways, but it's not possible to completely eliminate it. The majority of digital cameras allow you to pre-focus your camera by pressing the shutter button down half way; this will focus your camera on your shot. When you're ready to take the photo, simply press the button down all the way and it will take the photo. Since the camera has already focused, the lag should be shorter.

Increasing the ISO setting on the digital camera can also help reduce lag time in certain situations. The ISO is the cameras sensitivity to light; the more sensitive the camera is to light, the less time the shutter needs to open. This should improve lag times as long as the conditions suit the ISO settings.

If your camera supports manual focus, then it's possible to use this mode to speed up the lag time. This will only be possible if you know the distance and exposure settings, and these won't change.

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