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Timing & Performance

Nikon's compact cameras have - with the odd notable exception - often been let down by their speed of operation and general responsiveness. In an age where image quality improvements have almost ground to to a standstill, usability factors such as this are important differentiators between very similar competing models, so it's an area Nikon should be working hard on improving. I say 'should' because the bad news is that the P5000's performance is severely lacking in several key areas, most noticeably in the two most important of all: focus and shutter lag.

Of these it is the former that causes most concern; it's not unusual for the P5000 to take well over a second to focus even in good light, and not only does this rule out any kind of action shot (unless you pre-focus), it tries your patience even when you're shooting totally static subjects. The shutter lag, by comparison, is merely average. Other areas of concern include long shot to shot times and unimpressive continuous shooting capabilities. This is certainly not a camera for snapping active children. Or in fact anything that moves.

Timing Notes

All times calculated as an average of three operations. Unless otherwise stated all timings were made on a 3648 x 2736 FINE JPEG image (approx. 2,975 KB per image). The media used for these tests was a 1.0GB SanDisk Extreme III SD card.

Action Details
Time, secs
Power: Off to Record   2.1 
Power: Off to Play Image displayed 2.8 *1
Power: Record to Off Lens retracted and all activity ceased 3.2
Power: Play to Off When buffer is empty, lens already retracted 0.8
Power: Play to Off When buffer is empty, lens extended ~3.2
Record Review Image displayed ~0.9
Mode: Record to Play   ~1.2
Mode: Play to Record Lens already extended 0.6
Play: Magnify To full magnification (10x) 2.1
Play: Image to Image Time to display each saved image (low res) ~0.2
Play: Image to Image Time to display full res image (allows zooming) 1.2
Play: Thumbnail view 2 x 2 thumbnails ~0.4 *2

Action Details
Time, seconds
Zoom from Wide to Tele 36 to 126 mm (3.5 x) 1.1
Half-press Lag (0->S1) Wide angle, Multi or Center AF ~0.9 -1.5
Half-press Lag (0->S1) Telephoto, Multi or Center AF ~1.0 -1.7
Half-press Lag (0->S1) Wide angle, Focus limit mode, Multi AF *3 ~0.8 -1.2
Half-press Lag (0->S1) Wide angle, Focus limit mode, Multi AF *3 ~0.9 -1.5
Half to Full-press Lag (S1->S2) LCD live view ~ 0.12
Half to Full-press Lag (S1->S2) Viewfinder ~ 0.09
Full-press Lag (0->S2) LCD live view, wide angle ~1.2
Off to Shot Taken LCD live view 3.0
Shot to Shot Flash off 3.2
Shot to Shot Flash on 3.4 *4
Shot to Shot Flash on (red-eye mode) 7.0
*1 The P5000 can be powered up directly into playback mode by holding the play button for around a second. This figure includes the delay before the camera turns on (designed to avoid accidental activation).
*2 You can also view 3x3 or 4x4 thumbnails by pressing the zoom button a second or third time. This adds around 0.4 / 0.9 seconds to the time taken.
*3 The Focusing limit option increases the minimum focus distance to 2.0m (6.6ft) but as you can see the effect on the focus speed is minimal. In all cases focus time is quoted as a range.
*4 Shot to shot time with flash depends on subject distance, scene brightness and condition of battery. This is the best you can expect with a short subject distance.

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. Media used for these tests was a 1.0GB SanDisk Extreme III SD card. Shutter speed was kept above 1/100 sec during these tests.

There is a single continuous shooting mode that offers a rather unimpressive 0.7 frames per second at the best quality setting (rising fractionally as you reduce the image size/quality), and there is a limit to how many shots you can take before the buffer is full and the rate slows down to an even more painful crawl. That said, 6 frames in a burst is better than some competitors, and to be honest no one is going to buy this camera for sports action, are they?

Continuous drive mode

In burst mode the Coolpix 7900 shows a brief review image for each frame taken. Focus and exposure are fixed with the first frame.

Image Type
Mode
Avg. frames
per sec
Frames in a burst *1
After
burst
*2
3648 x 2736 JPEG Fine Continuous 0.7 fps 6-8 0.3 fps
3648 x 2736 JPEG Normal Continuous 0.8 fps 11 0.3 fps
2592 x 1944 JPEG Fine Continuous 0.8 fps 9 0.3 fps
1600 x 1200 JPEG Fine Continuous 0.9 fps 30 0.3 fps
1280 x 960 JPEG Fine Continuous 0.9 fps No limit n/a *3

*1 In a single "burst" (finger held down on shutter release) until the buffer is full.
*2 With the shutter release held down it is possible to continue shooting after the initial burst at around one frame every 3.3 seconds, though the camera re-focuses between each frame. The buffer takes around 5 seconds to completely clear if you want to shoot another full burst.
*3 With a fast card it is impossible to fill the buffer at the 1MP/Fine setting and below, meaning to all intents and purposes you can keep shooting until the card is full.

When you consider that competitors such as the Canon G7 offer 2.0 frames per second with no practical limit to the number of shots per burst you can see that the P5000 isn't the best 'action camera' on the market.

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 1.0GB SanDisk Extreme III SD card.

Image Type
Time to store
(secs)

Time to display
(secs)
*3

File size *1
(approx.)
Images on a *2
1.0 GB Card
3648 x 2736 JPEG Fine 2.7 ~1.2 2,795 KB 201
3648 x 2736 JPEG Normal 2.6 ~1.1 1,750 KB 399
2592 x 1944 JPEG Fine 2.6 ~0.6 850 KB 394
1600 x 1200 JPEG Fine 2.4 ~0.5 635 KB 1,015
1280 x 960 JPEG Fine 2.3 ~0.4 400 KB 1,549

*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.
*3 The P5000 uses low res thumbnails to speed up playback of images. Scrolling through images is therefore almost instantaneous (less than 0.2 seconds per frame). If you want to do anything to a displayed image (crop, zoom etc), you need to wait for the time indicated in this column.

Although the buffer is large enough for you to rarely experience any delay, the Coolpix P5000 is more pedestrian when it comes to writing the data to the SD memory card. 2.7 secs for a 2,795 KB file equates to around 1,030 KB/s - hardly taxing the capabilities of our fast card

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