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Timing & Performance

In use the SD300 feels very fast, and very responsive, something our tests bore out. From powering up to zooming to using the menus, taking pictures and using the flash, the SD300 performs brilliantly, rarely - if ever - leaving you waiting. Unusually for a Canon the processing speed (thanks to the DIGIC II processor) is almost matched by focus speed, which is very respectable indeed, rarely hunting, and rarely taking less than around 0.7 seconds to find its mark even in low light at the long end of the zoom. Continuous shooting performance is stunning, as long as you use a fast SD card, and the shutter lag, especially when using the optical viewfinder, feels instantaneous. Excellent.

Timing Notes

All times calculated as an average of three operations. Unless otherwise stated all timings were made on a 2272 x 1704 SuperFine JPEG image (approx. 2,100 KB per image). The media used for these tests was a 512MB SanDisk Extreme (aka Ultra II) SD card.

Action Details
Time, secs
Power: Off to Record   1.4
Power: Off to Play Image displayed 2.1
Power: Record to Off All activity ceased 1.7
Power: Play to Off When buffer is empty ~0.15
Record Review Image displayed ~0.5
Mode: Record to Play   1.3
Mode: Play to Record Lens already extended ~1.3
Mode: Play to Record Lens not extended ~1.7
Play: Magnify To full magnification (10x) ~0.8
Play: Image to Image Time to display each saved image ~0.2
Play: Thumbnail view 3 x 3 thumbnails ~0.4

Action Details
Time, seconds
Zoom from Wide to Tele 35 to 420 mm (12 x) 1.3
Half-press Lag (0->S1) Wide angle ~0.6
Half-press Lag (0->S1) Telephoto ~0.85
Half to Full-press Lag (S1->S2) LCD live view ~0.09
Half to Full-press Lag (S1->S2) Viewfinder ~0.06
Full-press Lag (0->S2) LCD live view, wide angle ~0.55
Off to Shot Taken LCD live view ~1.9
Shot to Shot Flash off 1.3
Shot to Shot Flash on (red eye reduction off) 2.4
Shot to Shot Flash on (red eye reduction off) 2.7

Lag Timing Definitions

Half-press Lag (0->S1)
Many digital camera users prime the AF and AE systems on their camera by half-pressing the shutter release. This is the amount of time between a half-press of the shutter release and the camera indicating an auto focus & auto exposure lock on the LCD monitor / viewfinder (ready to shoot).
 

(Prime AF/AE)
Half to Full-press Lag (S1->S2)
The amount of time it takes from a full depression of the shutter release button (assuming you have already primed the camera with a half-press) to the image being taken.
 

(Take shot, AF/AE primed)
Full-press Lag (0->S2)
The amount of time it takes from a full depression of the shutter release button (without performing a half-press of the shutter release beforehand) to the image being taken. This is more representative of the use of the camera in a spur of the moment 'point and shoot' situation.
 

(Take shot, AF/AE not primed)

Continuous mode

The tables below show the results of our continuous shooting test, indicating the actual frame rate along with maximum number of frames and how long you would have to wait after taking the maximum number of frames before you could take another shot. The media used for these tests was a 512MB SanDisk Extreme (aka Ultra II) SD card. Shutter speed was kept above 1/200 sec during these tests.

Continuous drive mode

The SD300 has a single continuous shooting modes, and a brief review image is displayed for each frame captured. We found the 2.4fps quoted speed to be perfectly accurate (and in fact at 1024 x 768 pixels it actually does slightly better).

Image Type
Mode
Avg. frames
per sec
Frames in a burst *1
After
burst
*2
2272 x 1704 JPEG Super Fine Continuous 2.38 fps Unlimited n/a 
2272 x 1704 JPEG Fine Continuous 2.4 fps Unlimited n/a 
2272 x 1704 JPEG Normal Continuous 2.4 fps Unlimited n/a 
1600 x 1200 JPEG Fine Continuous 2.4 fps Unlimited n/a 
1024 x 768 JPEG Fine Continuous 2.6 fps Unlimited n/a 

*1 In a single "burst" (finger held down on shutter release).
*2 In our extensive tests we could not get to the point - even after 50 or 60 shots - where the buffer caused the frame rate to drop or the shooting to pause significantly.

Nothing to complain about here; not only does the SD300 manage to maintain a good 2.4 frames per second at all file sizes and quality settings, the buffering is so fast that you can shoot pretty much indefinitely, even at the top 4MP/Super Fine setting as long as you have a fast enough SD card. After a burst of 50 or so shots we did measure a slight fall-off in the frame rate from time to time, but to all intents and purposes it is impossible to fill the buffer, meaning you can keep shooting for as long as you have the battery power and card capacity to do so.

File Write / Display and Sizes

Timings shown below are the time taken for the camera to process and "flush" the image out to the storage card, the timer was started as soon as the shutter release was pressed and stopped when activity indicator went out. This means the timings also include the camera's processing time and as such are more representative of the actual time to "complete the task". The media used for these tests was a 512MB SanDisk Extreme (aka Ultra II) SD card.

Image Type
Time to store
(secs)

Time to display
(secs)

File size *1
(approx.)
Images on a *2
512MB Card
2272 x 1704 JPEG Super Fine ~0.8 ~0.55 2,100 KB 243
2272 x 1704 JPEG Fine ~0.6 ~0.5 940 KB 435
2272 x 1704 JPEG Normal ~0.5 ~0.4 590 KB 859
1600 x 1200 JPEG Fine ~0.5 ~0.4 480 KB 859
1024 x 768 JPEG Fine ~0.5 ~0.4 340 KB 1473

*1 All file sizes are an average of three files. As is the case with JPEG it's difficult to predict the size of an image because it will vary a fair amount depending on the content of the image (detail and noise).
*2 Camera estimation.

With write times averaging under a second for a 4MP Fine JPEG, the SD300 is very fast indeed. Note that if you shoot images in lower light (with longer exposures) the noise reduction system increases the processing time to around 1.2 seconds, during which time you will see the word 'busy' appear briefly on-screen. This is a camera that can make the most of a fast card, unlike most compact and ultra-compact models.

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