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Timings & File Sizes

The D1 is fast. Very fast. Up there and indeed in many respects faster than Kodak's Professional DCS digital SLR's (try shooting JPEG with these cameras). Startup time is non-existent, the camera is on as soon as you've turned the power dial and in use there's hardly ever any hesitation or delay (as long as you avoid Single Shot mode).

This is a camera that was designed for professionals, to be fast and always ready.. It delivers.

One thing worth noting, and this is something we've seen on other digital cameras too, is the performance difference between using a Microdrive and Flash memory. In the timing charts below we've taken most of the timings (those affected by storage) twice to indicate the performance difference. Startup with a Microdrive takes a full 1.4 seconds longer than Flash.

Timing Notes: All times calculated as an average of three operations. Unless otherwise stated all timings were made on a 2000 x 1312 FINE JPEG image (approx. 1,000 KB per image).

Action Media Details Time taken
(seconds)
Notes
Power: Off to On Microdrive   <0.5 Virtually instant
Power: Off to On Flash   <0.5 Virtually instant
Power: On to Off     - Virtually instant *1
Rec: Review Microdrive 2000 x 1312 RAW 1.4 Time taken from pressing shutter release to preview image displayed (if enabled). *2
Rec: Review Microdrive 2000 x 1312 FINE JPEG 1.4
Rec: Review Flash 2000 x 1312 RAW 1.3
Rec: Review Flash 2000 x 1312 FINE JPEG 1.3
Play: Image to Image lag Microdrive 2000 x 1312 ANY 0.7 *3
Play: Image to Image lag Flash 2000 x 1312 ANY <0.2
Play: Display image Microdrive 2000 x 1312 RAW 7.5 *4
Play: Display image Microdrive 2000 x 1312 FINE JPEG 3.7
Play: Display image Flash 2000 x 1312 RAW 7.1
Play: Display image Flash 2000 x 1312 FINE JPEG 2.1
Play: Thumbnail view Microdrive 3 x 3 thumbnails 1.1  
Play: Thumbnail view Flash 3 x 3 thumbnails 1.0  
Auto Focus LAG     Depends on lens / subject *5
Shutter Release LAG     Virtually Instant

Microdrive:
MK2 1 GB IBM Microdrive, Flash: 128 MB Delkin Flash

*1 Assuming all buffered images have been written out to storage card, otherwise camera powers completely down once the current image being written has completed. This means you CAN lose images from a burst of frames by turning the camera off early. (bad)
*2 These timings taken in Single Servo mode (the only mode which allows image review), for a FINE JPEG it takes approx. 4.2 seconds after the review image appears to write the image to the storage card before you can take the next shot.
*3 This timing is the delay between pressing the up or down arrows and the initial "rough image" appearing, with a Flash card this appeared to be instant, with Microdrive there was a slight delay. This has no affect on scrolling through images which operates as quickly as you can press the up and down arrows. NOTE: The 0.7s lag time for the Microdrive is probably the amount of time it takes for the drive to "spin up", if you keep hitting the up and down arrows once the Microdrive is spinning there's almost no delay.
*4 Time taken to display an image after powering the camera Off and On again. Last shot taken appears to be buffered and appears instantly upon pressing PLAY.
*5 The auto focus system is very fast, easily as fast as any SLR I've used previously, obviously this depends on lenses, the Nikkor AF-S lenses are lightening fast and very very quiet.


Shot-to-shot in Single Shot Drive mode

In Continuous drive mode you can just keep firing off the shots either by holding the shutter release down or pumping it (until the internal buffer is full - see below), however in Single Shot drive mode the camera will not let you take another shut until the last image taken has been flushed to the storage card. Interesting to note the longer Microdrive write times.

Size / Resolution
 
Media Shot-to-shot time
(seconds)
2000 x 1312 JPEG FINE Microdrive 5.8
2000 x 1312 RAW Microdrive 13.1
2000 x 1312 JPEG FINE Flash 3.6
2000 x 1312 RAW Flash 8.0

Microdrive: MK2 1 G IBM Microdrive, Flash: 128 MB Delkin Flash

Note: Enabling / disabling image review has no effect on these timings.


Continuous Drive mode

To test continuous mode the camera had the following settings: Manual Focus, Manual Exposure (1/250s, F5.6), ISO 800, Continuous drive mode (CSM 25 - Ch; 4.5fps).

The camera was aimed at a high speed stopwatch, the watch was started and and a burst of frames were taken until the cameras buffer filled, then the shutter release was rapidly pumped to get a timing for the next shot after a burst.

These timings were then read back off the images recorded and normalised so that the first frame became "ground zero - 0 seconds". This test was run twice for each image mode / storage device (represented by a single column below) and then averaged. The storage devices were formatted between tests.

F
R
A
M
E

2000 x 1312 RAW 2000 x 1312 JPEG
Microdrive Flash Microdrive Flash
secs fps secs fps secs fps secs fps
1 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
2 0.25 4.00 0.19 5.26 0.23 4.35 0.25 4.00
3 0.46 4.76 0.41 4.55 0.55 3.13 0.48 4.35
4 0.69 4.35 0.61 5.00 0.87 3.13 0.70 4.55
5 1.03 2.94 0.85 4.17 1.11 4.17 0.92 4.55
6 1.23 5.00 1.11 3.85 1.41 3.33 1.15 4.35
7 1.51 3.57 1.36 4.00 1.64 4.35 1.40 4.00
8 1.79 3.57 1.61 4.00 1.87 4.35 1.72 3.13
9 2.03 4.17 1.85 4.17 2.17 3.33 2.03 3.23
10 2.32 3.45 2.10 4.00 2.42 4.00 2.28 4.00
11 11.82 < 1.00 7.28 < 1.00 2.72 3.33 2.54 3.85
12 2.97 4.00 2.78 4.17
13 3.28 3.23 2.98 5.00
14 3.53 4.00 3.23 4.00
15 3.75 4.55 3.50 3.70
16 4.00 4.00 3.73 4.35
17 4.23 4.35 4.00 3.70
18 4.48 4.00 4.26 3.85
19 4.84 2.78 4.47 4.76
20 5.09 4.00 4.72 4.00
21 5.33 4.17 5.00 3.57
22 6.86 < 1.00 5.53 1.89
(a) Average: 3.98 fps   4.33 fps   3.83 fps   4.05 fps
(b) Full Flush: 136 sec   52 sec   64 sec   30 sec
(c) Next shot: 9.5 sec   5.2 sec   1.5 sec   0.5 sec

Microdrive: MK2 1 GB IBM Microdrive, Flash: 128 MB Delkin Flash

(a) Average frame rate (frames per second)
(b) Amount of time to flush full burst of frames to storage card (10 RAW, 21 JPEG)
(c) Time after last shot in burst before you can take one more shot (you must release shutter release and can only start another burst once buffer space allows)

Frames per second (fps) was calculated as 1/(this frame time - last frame time), values less than one frame per second are not shown as they're not really very useful. It's obvious to see that the capacity of the D1's buffer is 10 RAW images or 21 FINE JPEG's (thus approximately 32 MBytes) after which time the camera lets you fire one shot every time there's enough space in the buffer for it. It appears that the D1's "Ch" mode doesn't guaranteed a steady frame rate, instead it shoots as quickly as it possibly can (you'll note that fps fluctuates up to as fast as 5 fps during our testing).

Below is a graphical representation of these results, vertical axis is frames per second, horizontal axis is frame count (starting at frame 2 as the first frame doesn't have a "fps").

The D1 is a mighty fast shooter, at the Ch speed it's not consistent but it does shoot as fast as it possibly can, the average 4.3 / 4.0 frames per second makes the D1 the fastest burst shooter we've reviewed here, and therefore takes the fastest shooting and longest single burst digital SLR awards of what's currently available.

Results at fixed frame rates

In the interests of thoroughness the above tests were repeated at the three other selectable frame rates of 3, 2 and 1 frame per second (Custom setting 25) to check the accuracy and consistency of these other frame rates. The results were as we'd expected and averaged out at 3, 2 and 1 frame per second. Results below were gathered from a flash card (though at these frame rates the use of Microdrive had no impact) using FINE JPEG image quality.


File Flush Timing

Timings shown below are the time taken for the camera to process and "flush" the image out to the storage media, the timer was started as soon as the shutter release was pressed (mirror noise was heard) and stopped when activity indicator LED on the compact flash door went 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 D1 continues to process images in the buffer and write data out to the storage media in parallel to you composing the next shot.

Action Time taken
(seconds)
Media Average
File size
Approx. images on an Microdrive
(340 MB)
Save 2000 x 1312 RGB TIFF 18.9 Microdrive 7,747 KB 44
Save 2000 x 1312 RGB TIFF 10.5 Flash
Save 2000 x 1312 YCBCR TIFF 13.7 Microdrive 5,184 KB 67
Save 2000 x 1312 YCBCR TIFF 6.9 Flash
Save 2000 x 1312 RAW 11.0 Microdrive 3,961 KB 87
Save 2000 x 1312 RAW 6.2 Flash
Save 2000 x 1312 FINE JPEG 4.8 Microdrive ~ 1,100 KB 316
Save 2000 x 1312 FINE JPEG 2.5 Flash
Save 2000 x 1312 NORM JPEG 3.3 Microdrive ~ 700 KB 497
Save 2000 x 1312 NORM JPEG 1.8 Flash

Microdrive:
MK2 1 GB IBM Microdrive, Flash: 128 MB Delkin Flash

Note: 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 (especially the amount of detail captured). For example, take a photograph of a fairly empty wall and you'll get a small JPEG, take a photograph of a bush with a lot of detail and you'll get a larger image. File sizes here are closer to the later, the larger size of file you should expect.

Interesting to note that the storage time for a single image to Flash memory storage is almost twice as fast as Microdrive, this surprised me, I did expect to see some difference but not 170 - 190%. It looks as though the D1 has the ability to write data out to CF at high speed but that approx. 420 KB/s is the Microdrive's limit, the flash memory card able to take higher speeds. Below are data write speeds compared to Canon's EOS-D30.

Camera
 
Microdrive write speed Flash memory write speed
Nikon D1 ~ 420 KB/s ~ 700 KB/s
Canon EOS-D30 ~ 428 KB/s ~ 500 KB/s


1GB Microdrive Trouble

Nikon's disclaimer: Nikon haven't ever stated compatibility with the Microdrive.

Having recently acquired a 1GB Microdrive I popped it into the D1 and went on a photo shoot, having shot JPEG's for about an hour I switched to RAW (NEF), the first RAW shot seemed to take a very long time to write so I decided to review the image, odd that was the last JPEG not the image I just took.

I switched back to JPEG and took a test shot, again writing took a long time and reviewing showed no image. I tried various things including power on/off, remove battery, remove Microdrive but nothing would make the D1 write to the Microdrive. No error messages were displayed by the D1. If I hadn't been paying attention I could easily have carried on shooting (I often shoot without reviewing) for an hour or so without realising nothing was being saved.

Later examination confirmed that everything from the instant I switched to RAW mode had not been saved, as it happened I hadn't had another card with me and had to junk the photo shoot.

This rang alarm bells with me, it sounded similar to some of the things I'd read in Rob Galbraith's 1GB Microdrive report, shivers run down my spine, but it would appear there's a serious compatibility problem between IBM's new 1 GB (and we may assume the new 340 and 512 MB when they show up) and Nikon's D1. Having previously shot with a MK I 340 MB filling it on several occasions I'm happy there's no problem there.

Camera firmware: v1.05


Battery life

With that hugely powerful 7.2V 2000mAh (14.4Wh) NiMH battery pack the D1 has enough life to last for several hundred frames. Of course several hundred frames may only be a few hours work for some photographers so we'd recommend a second EN-4 battery pack. For my style of still life shooting I never needed to change the battery pack during a days shooting. In a word, impressive.

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