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Timings & File Sizes

The D1x is very fast, there's no measurable start up delay, indeed it's hard to find a camera function that will leave you waiting any more than a second and a half.

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 3008 x 1960 FINE JPEG image (approx. 2,200 KB per image).

The media used for these tests were:

  • 96 MB Nikon (SanDisk) Type I CompactFlash card
  • 320 MB Lexar Pro 12x Type I CompactFlash card
  • 1 GB IBM Microdrive Type II CompactFlash card
Action Details Time, seconds
(Nikon CF)
Time, seconds
(Lexar 12x CF)
Time, seconds
(Microdrive)
Power: Off to On   < 0.5
Power: On to Off *1   < 0.5
Record: Review *2 6 mp RAW 1.7
Record: Review *2 6 mp JPEG 1.7
Record: Review *2 2.7 mp JPEG 1.5
Play: Image to Image *3 6 mp RAW < 0.5 < 0.5 1.1
Play: Image to Image *3 6 mp JPEG < 0.5 < 0.5 1.2
Play: Magnify to x3.0   < 0.5
Play: Thumbnail view 2 x 2 6 mp RAW 1.3 1.0 2.4
Play: Thumbnail view 2 x 2 6 mp JPEG 1.1 0.9 2.2
Play: Thumbnail view 3 x 3 6 mp RAW 1.2 0.8 2.5
Play: Thumbnail view 3 x 3 6 mp JPEG 1.2 1.2 2.2

Notable improvement: The D1 could take up to 7 seconds to fully display a RAW image, the D1x, probably utilizing a thumbnail image embedded in the file header manages this almost instantly on flash cards and only with slight delay on a Microdrive.

*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 Time taken after shutter release is pressed before review image is displayed on the LCD.
*3 This timing is the delay between pressing the up or down arrows and the image appearing. This has no affect on scrolling through images which operates as quickly as you can press the up and down arrows. NOTE: The additional 1 sec 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.


Continuous Drive mode

To test continuous mode the camera had the following settings: Manual Focus, Manual Exposure (1/125s, F2.8), ISO 800. Custom function 36 (zoom-pb) was disabled. Unlike the D1 the D1x doesn't have the 'Ch' continuous speed (which basically shot as fast as possible). Instead it has three selectable speeds of 3, 2 and 1 frame per second.

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

3008 x 1960 RAW 3008 x 1960 JPEG
Microdrive Flash Microdrive Flash
secs fps secs fps secs fps secs fps
1 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
2 0.36 2.78 0.35 2.86 0.36 2.78 0.36 2.78
3 0.70 2.94 0.70 2.86 0.72 2.78 0.72 2.78
4 1.06 2.78 1.06 2.78 1.06 2.94 1.08 2.78
5 1.42 2.78 1.42 2.78 1.42 2.78 1.44 2.78
6 1.76 2.94 1.81 2.78 1.78 2.78 1.78 2.94
7 6.55 < 1.00 5.50 < 1.00 2.13 2.86 2.13 2.86
8 2.49 2.78 2.49 2.78
9 2.85 2.78 2.83 2.94
10 6.86 < 1.00 3.38 1.82
(a) Average: 2.84 fps   2.81 fps   2.81 fps   2.83 fps
(b) Full Flush: 34 sec   30 sec   32 sec   29 sec
(c) Next shot: 4.8 sec   3.7 sec   0.6 sec   0.6 sec


Microdrive: MK2 1 GB IBM Microdrive, Flash: 320 MB Lexar Pro 12x

(a) Average frame rate (frames per second)
(b) Amount of time to flush full burst of frames to storage card (6 RAW, 9 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. The capacity of the D1x's buffer is 6 RAW images or 9 FINE JPEG's after which time the camera lets you fire one shot every time there's enough space in the buffer for it. Interesting to note that a single (uncompressed) RAW file is 7,899 KB, thus the camera would need nearly 50 MB to buffer six of these, yet a single JPEG file is approximately 2,450 KB, only 23 MB would be required to buffer nine of these. The only conclusion I can come to is that the buffer is somewhere between these two values (remember the camera starts writing images even as others are being taken) and that in JPEG mode some of the buffer space is required to perform the RAW -> JPEG conversion.

The graph below shows the results of our frame rate tests for JPEG FINE images at all three available speeds.

Considering that the camera is reading, converting, resizing and transferring six million pixels of data with each frame shot these results are pretty impressive. They may not set the average sports photojournalist on fire they are respectable and should be more than sufficient for most. Anyone looking for super high speed large buffered shooting should be considering the D1H.


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 D1x continues to process images in the buffer and write data out to the storage media in parallel to you composing (and taking) the next shot. Average file size and approximate images values taken from the D1x manual.

Action Time taken
(seconds)
*1
Media Average
File size
*2
Approx. images on an
1 GB Microdrive
Save 3008 x 1960 RGB TIFF 14.9 Microdrive 16.9 MB 55
13.0 Flash
Save 3008 x 1960 YCbCr TIFF 8.9 Microdrive 11.2 MB 89
7.7 Flash
Save 3008 x 1960 RAW Uncomp. 6.0 Microdrive 7.6 MB 123
4.8 Flash
Save 3008 x 1960 RAW Comp. *3 15.0 Microdrive 4.1 MB 224
14.3 Flash
Save 3008 x 1960 FINE JPEG 2.6 Microdrive 2.8 MB 324
1.8 Flash
Save 3008 x 1960 NORM JPEG 1.6 Microdrive 1.4 MB 661
1.0 Flash
Save 2000 x 1312 NORM JPEG 1.2 Microdrive 640 KB 1478
0.7 Flash


Microdrive:
MK2 1 GB IBM Microdrive, Flash: 320 MB Lexar Pro 12x

*1 Timer was started as soon as the storage compartment light came on and stopped when this light went off. This was seen as the ACTUAL recording time. Add approximately 1.5 seconds to these times to get the amount of time from shutter release to image flushed away to the storage card.
*2 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.
*3 Interesting to note how much longer it takes to save compressed RAW files, this is probably down to the additional processing required to perform lossless (similar to ZIP / LZW) compression.

The timings above can not be compared to those made in my D1 review as they were based on the time from shutter release press to the storage compartment light going off. These new timings accurately represent the write speed of the media used. For comparison purposes new timings were also taken with a Canon EOS-D30 Digital SLR, these were also based on the amount of time the storage compartment light is illuminated. The results of these new timings were turned into write speed performance (file size / time taken) as shown in the table below.

Camera
 
Microdrive write speed Flash memory write speed
Nikon D1x ~1,137 KB/s ~1,645 KB/s
Canon EOS-D30 ~852 KB/s ~1,096 KB/s


Battery life

With that hugely powerful 7.2V 2000mAh (14.4Wh) NiMH battery pack the D1x 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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