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Timing & Performance

It's neck and neck between the DiMAGE A2 and Olympus C-8080 Wide Zoom for the fastest eight megapixel digital camera (at this point in time). The C-8080 Wide Zoom with its ultra-fast sub-one-second startup time, the DiMAGE A2 faster in operation and Auto Focus speed.

Startup time is a respectable two seconds, although to my mind it could be even faster as the camera doesn't have an extending lens to deal with, just software power-up. Other functions are fairly fast, switching between modes (record / quick-view / play) is acceptably fast nothing taking much longer than one and a half seconds.

Most impressive however is the ability to 'pump' the shutter release with very short shot to shot times you can literally keep tapping away at the shutter release button and capturing each time (as long as you don't fill the camera's internal buffer). Auto focus was stated as and felt faster than the DiMAGE A1, especially when switched to Spot AF mode where the camera delivered very fast AF lock in anything above 'moderate' light levels. (However we did note that the AF system would sometimes confirm an AF lock which was not actually accurate).

Timing Notes

All times calculated as an average of three operations. Unless otherwise stated all timings were made on a 3264 x 2448 Fine JPEG image (approx. 3,600 KB per image). The media used for these tests was a 1 GB SanDisk Ultra II Type I Compact Flash card.

Action Details Time, seconds
Power: Off to Record Live view appears 2.2
Power: Off to Play Initial image displayed 2.8
Power: Record to Off Includes required one second button hold 2.8
Power: Play to Off 2.7
Record Review Image displayed 1.2
Mode: Record to QV Image displayed 1.6
Mode: Record to Play Image displayed 1.5
Mode: Play to Record Live view appears 1.5
Play: Magnify To first level, 2x magnification 5.2
Play: Thumbnail view 3 x 3 thumbnails 1.0

Action Details Time, seconds
Half-press Lag (0->S1) Wide angle (Auto AF Area) 0.3 - 0.8
Half-press Lag (0->S1) Telephoto (Auto AF Area) 0.5 - 1.5
Half-press Lag (0->S1) Wide angle (Spot AF Area) 0.3 - 0.8
Half-press Lag (0->S1) Telephoto (Spot AF Area) 0.3 - 1.2
Half to Full-press Lag (S1->S2) Wide angle (LCD / EVF) 0.1
Full-press Lag (0->S2) Wide angle (Auto / Spot AF Area) 0.3 / 0.2
Off to Shot Taken Wide angle (Auto / Spot AF Area) 2.5 / 2.5
Shot to Shot Instant Playback Enabled 1.2
Shot to Shot No Instant Playback 1.0

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. Note that continuous shooting modes are not available for RAW image format. Media used for these tests was a 1 GB SanDisk Ultra II card. Shutter speed was kept above 1/250 sec during these tests.

High / Low speed continuous drive modes

Image Type Continuous
mode
Avg. frames
per sec
Frames in one burst *1

Delay before
next shot
*2

3264 x 2448 RAW High 2.5 fps 3 20.0 sec
3264 x 2448 Extra Fine High 2.5 fps 3 8.6 sec
3264 x 2448 Fine High 2.5 fps 3 7.0 sec
3264 x 2448 Normal High 2.5 fps 3 3.9 sec
2560 x 1920 Fine High 2.5 fps 3 6.3 sec
1600 x 1200 Fine High 2.5 fps 3 5.2 sec
3264 x 2448 RAW Standard 1.8 fps 3 20.0 sec
3264 x 2448 Extra Fine Standard 1.8 fps 3 8.5 sec
3264 x 2448 Fine Standard 1.8 fps 3 6.8 sec
3264 x 2448 Normal Standard 1.8 fps 3 4.6 sec
2560 x 1920 Fine Standard 1.8 fps 3 5.8 sec
1600 x 1200 Fine Standard 1.8 fps 3 4.6 sec

*1 In a single "burst" (finger held down on shutter release). In Continuous High mode the maximum frames you can shoot is always five. In Continuous Low mode the maximum frames is a function of the camera processor, buffer size and the write speed of your Compact Flash card).
*2 You can take a frame as soon as there is space in the cameras internal buffer (writing continues "in the background").

Continuous shooting, but just three frames. Konica Minolta really shouldn't have bothered going for the high frame rates but instead concentrated on providing a larger number of frames in a single burst. It looks as though the camera is limited by its internal buffer as it doesn't begin writing images until it has completed the burst. We want, expect more...

Ultra High Speed continuous drive modes

Ultra High Speed mode shoots in VGA resolution (640 x 480) at seven frames per second and can continue for several hundred frames without pause.


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 beside the Compact Flash compartment door had gone out. This means the timings also include the cameras processing time and as such are more representative of the actual time to "complete the task". The media used for these tests was a 1 GB SanDisk Ultra II Type I Compact Flash card.

Image Type Time to write
(secs)
*1
Time to display
(secs)
*2
File size *3
(approx.)
Images on a *4
1 GB Card
3264 x 2448 TIFF 31.3 <0.1 23,520 KB 42
3264 x 2448 RAW & JPEG 20.6 <0.1 14,800 KB 62
3264 x 2448 RAW 16.7 <0.1 12,375 KB 84
3264 x 2448 JPEG Extra-Fine 7.1 <0.1 4,200 KB 125
3264 x 2448 JPEG Fine 5.3 <0.1 3,200 KB 247
2560 x 1920 JPEG Fine 4.4 <0.1 1,800 KB 395
1600 x 1200 JPEG Fine 3.5 <0.1 800 KB 919

*1 Subtract 1.1 seconds for the actual CF write time.
*2 Image to image browsing in play mode is about as near to instant as you could possibly get, very impressive and very very usable. The A2 manages this without accessing the CF card (after the first image), therefore I assume it is doing so by loading image thumbnails into its RAM buffer. This theory is supported by the amount of time it takes to magnify an image, up to six seconds for a full resolution Extra-Fine JPEG.
*3 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).
*4 Camera estimation.

You can take another image as soon as there is space in the camera's internal buffer, when shooting JPEG this would be nearly always the case however in RAW or TIFF modes or after shooting a burst of images you must wait for the available frames indicator on the LCD/EVF to turn back to white from its 'buffer full' yellow color before taking another shot.

Write times were longer than I had expected, if we subtract the 1.1 second 'processing delay' we get approximately 4.2 seconds for a 3,200 KB image, that's around 760 KB/sec which is pretty slow, indeed about half what we've seen from other prosumer level cameras.


Low Light Auto Focus

This test is designed to measure the minimum amount of light under which the camera can still focus. The focus target is our lens distortion test chart (shown here on the right), camera is positioned exactly 2 m (6.6 ft) away.

Light levels are gradually dropped until the camera can no longer focus. This is carried out at both wide angle and telephoto zoom positions (as more light reaches the focusing systems with a larger aperture).

Focal length Aperture
at focal len.
Lowest light focus Time to focus
from min.
Wide (28 mm equiv.) F2.8 -1.1 EV 1.6 sec
Tele (200 mm equiv.) F3.5 1.0 EV 2.2 sec

  Light intensity (Lux) = 2.5 x 2^EV (@ ISO 100), 10.76391 Lux = 1 foot-candle (fc)

Even without an AF assist lamp the DiMAGE A2 manages to focus relatively quickly even in very low light. This is probably due to the very high gain black and white mode the sensor is switched to for enhanced live view in low light, it seems also to improve AF ability.


Battery life

We ran the camera through our new battery life test. This test is designed to be fair and comparative to each camera and battery type:

  • Take 4 shots without flash
  • Wait 2 minutes (50% of the time powering the camera off)
  • Take 1 shot with flash
  • Wait 1 minute
  • Repeat

Batteries are fully discharged and recharged before the test and all cameras were reset to their factory default settings. Here are the results:

Camera
Prosumer / SLR-Like
Battery Power Battery life Number of shots
Minolta DiMAGE 7 4 x AA NiMH 1600 mAh (GP) 7.7 Wh 1 hr 14 mins 125
Minolta DiMAGE 5 4 x AA NiMH 1600 mAh (GP) 7.7 Wh 1 hr 56 mins 195
Nikon Coolpix 5700 EN-EL1 4.8 Wh 2 hr 08 mins 215
Canon PowerShot S40 NB-2L 3.9 Wh 2 hr 13 mins 225
Minolta DiMAGE S304 4 x AA NiMH 1600 mAh (GP) 7.7 Wh 2 hr 18 mins 235
Canon PowerShot S45 NB-2L 3.9 Wh 2 hr 28 mins 240
Nikon Coolpix 4500 EN-EL1 4.8 Wh 2 hr 27 mins 250
Fujifilm FinePix 6900Z NP-80 4.1 Wh 2 hr 29 mins 250
Nikon Coolpix 990 4 x AA NiMH 1600 mAh (GP) 7.7 Wh 2 hr 30 mins 255
Nikon Coolpix 995 EN-EL1 4.8 Wh 2 hr 30 mins 255
Nikon Coolpix 5000 EN-EL1 4.8 Wh 2 hr 32 mins 260
Minolta DiMAGE 7Hi 4 x AA NiMH 1600 mAh (GP) 7.7 Wh 2 hr 33 mins 260
Canon PowerShot Pro1 BP-511A 10.2 Wh 2 hr 36 mins 265
Canon PowerShot S50 NB-2L 3.9 Wh 2 hr 39 mins 270
Minolta DiMAGE S404 4 x AA NiMH 1600 mAh (GP) 7.7 Wh 2 hr 39 mins 270
Sony DSC-V1 NP-FC11 2.8 Wh 2 hr 39 mins 270
Olympus C-7000 Zoom LI-12B 4.5 Wh 2 hr 44 mins 280
Nikon Coolpix 8700 EN-EL1 5.0 Wh 2 hr 45 mins 280
Minolta DiMAGE 7i 4 x AA NiMH 1600 mAh (GP) 7.7 Wh 2 hr 46 mins 270
Olympus E-20 4 x AA NiMH 1600 mAh (GP) 7.7 Wh 2 hr 48 mins 285
Canon PowerShot G1 BP-511 8.1 Wh 3 hr 00 mins 300
Nikon Coolpix 5400 EN-EL1 4.8 Wh 3 hr 06 mins 315
HP Photosmart 850 4 x AA NiMH 1600 mAh (GP) 7.7 Wh 3 hr 12 mins 325
Sony DSC-S75 NP-FM50 8.6 Wh 3 hr 15 mins 330
Nikon Coolpix 8800 EN-EL7 8.1 Wh 3 hr 27 mins 350
Fujifilm FinePix S602Z 4 x AA NiMH 1600 mAh (GP) 7.7 Wh 3 hr 29 mins 350
Canon PowerShot G2 BP-511 8.1 Wh 3 hr 32 mins 355
Casio QV-4000 4 x AA NiMH 1600 mAh (GP) 7.7 Wh 3 hr 38 mins 365
Olympus C-5050 Zoom 4 x AA NiMH 1600 mAh (GP) 7.7 Wh 3 hr 48 mins 380
Casio EXILIM EX-P700 NP-40 4.5 Wh 3 hr 48 mins 385
Sony DSC-S85 NP-FM50 8.6 Wh 3 hr 50 mins 400
Sony DSC-F717 NP-FM50 8.6 Wh 4 hr 02 mins 405
Pentax Optio 750Z D-LI7 6.6 Wh 4 hr 03 mins 415
Sony DSC-V3 NP-FR1 4.4 Wh 4 hr 05 mins 415
Nikon Coolpix 8400 EN-EL7 8.1 Wh 4 hr 09 mins 420
Sony DSC-F707 NP-FM50 8.6 Wh 4 hr 20 mins 440
Fujifilm S7000 Zoom 4 x AA NiMH 1600 mAh (GP) 7.7 Wh 4 hr 23 mins 445
Konica Minolta DiMAGE A2 NP-400 11.1 Wh 4 hr 26 mins 450
Canon PowerShot G3 BP-511 8.1 Wh 4 hr 32 mins 455
Canon PowerShot G5 BP-511 8.1 Wh 4 hr 33 mins 460
Pentax Optio 550 D-LI7 6.6 Wh 4 hr 36 mins 465
Minolta DiMAGE A1 NP-400 11.1 Wh 5 hr 02 mins 515
Leica Digilux 2 BP-DC1-E 10.1 Wh 5 hr 05 mins 515
Sony DSC-F828 NP-FM50 8.6 Wh 5 hr 28 mins 540
Fujifilm FinePix S5000 4 x AA NiMH 1600 mAh (GP) 7.7 Wh 5 hr 31 mins 555
Canon PowerShot G6 BP-511A 10.3 Wh 5 hr 38 mins 570
Olympus C-8080 WZ BLM-1 10.8 Wh 5 hr 52 mins 595
Other test notes:
 • LCD monitor is left on during the battery test
 • The camera is powered off half of the time and left on half of the time (switch every 10 iterations)
 • There are now higher capacity AA NiMH batteries available, however in the interests of fair
    comparison we will continue to use our 1600 mAh test set

The DiMAGE A2 fell just 36 minutes short of its 'old brother' the DiMAGE A1 in our battery tests, and while it is less at four and a half hours it's still remarkably respectable and considerably better lasting than some of the competition, most notably the Canon PowerShot Pro1 which lasted just two and a half hours on a similar capacity battery.

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