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Timings & File Sizes

Overall the timed performance of the *ist D was very good, no one operation taking typically longer than two seconds (power on, review, power off etc.) and power on times were almost half that of the Canon EOS 10D/300D. Compact Flash write performance was also in line with other similarly priced digital SLR's, so nothing of concern there. Perhaps the only niggle could be the continuous shooting rate (2.7 fps, 5 JPEG images) and the size of the camera's buffer, both of which lacked slightly compared to both the Canon EOS 10D (3.3 fps, 9 JPEG images) and Nikon D100 (3.3 fps, 7 JPEG images).

Timing Notes: All times calculated as an average of three operations. Unless otherwise stated all timings were made on a 3008 x 2008 Large/ JPEG image (approx. 2.6 MB per image).

The media used for these tests were:

  • 512 MB SimpleTech Type I Compact Flash card
  • 1 GB SanDisk Ultra II Type I Compact Flash card
  • 1 GB IBM Microdrive Type II Compact Flash card
Action Details Time, seconds
(SimpleTech CF)
Time, seconds
(SanDisk CF)
Time, seconds
(Microdrive)
Power: Off to On *1   1.4 1.1 2.6
Power: On to Off *2   0.7 0.7 1.3
Record: Review *3 JPEG or RAW 1.9 1.9 1.9
Play: Image to Image JPEG or RAW 0.1 0.1 1.5 *4
Play: Thumbnail view 3 x 3   1.3 1.3 3.2
Play: Magnify (first step)   0.1 0.1 0.1

*1 Off to first shot taken, this is timed by holding the shutter release while turning on the power switch. Focus is set to manual (to avoid AF delays).
*2 Assuming all buffered images have been written out to storage card, otherwise camera displays a the busy egg timer icon on the top status LCD and rear LCD monitor until all images have been written away.
*3 Time taken from the shutter release being pressed to the review image being displayed on the LCD monitor
*4 If the Microdrive is not already spinning it takes 1.5 seconds to browse to the next image, otherwise it takes just 0.5 seconds.


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. Before the shutter release is half pressed the lens is manually focused to the closest subject distance (typically 0.5 m) to "throw the focus out". This test target is the optimum type of subject for most AF systems (as it has a vertical line at its center).

AF assist via flash

The *ist D implements an AF assist function using the built-in flash (this is much the same as Canon's EOS 10D). To use the AF assist feature you must first pop-up the built-in flash unit, upon half-press of the shutter release the camera will strobe the flash in order to illuminate the subject. In our tests the *ist D required two attempts to get a good lock and the entire process (from half press to locked) could take up to three seconds. The other disadvantage is that there appears to be no way to stop the flash from firing once up so you can't for instance use the flash for AF assist and then take a normal long exposure (without pushing the flash back down again manually).

Results without AF assist

Lens Focal
len.
Aperture
at focal len.
Lowest light focus Time to focus
from min.
*1
FA J 18 - 35 mm F4.0 - F5.6 18 mm F4.0 2.3 EV 3.6 sec
FA J 18 - 35 mm F4.0 - F5.6 35 mm F5.6 2.3 EV 2.6 sec
FA 28 - 105 mm F3.2 - F4.5 28 mm F3.2 1.2 EV 2.5 sec
FA 28 - 105 mm F3.2 - F4.5 28 mm F4.5 1.2 EV 3.3 sec
FA 50 mm F1.4 50 mm F1.4 0.1 EV 2.1 sec

*1

Lens was manually focused to minimum subject distance before AF was started. This is the maximum amount of time you should expect the camera to take to get an AF lock at this light level, with the lens pre-focused to 1 m focus times were halved.

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

As expected faster lenses (those with larger maximum apertures) performed better (because more light is getting through to the AF sensor). In low light situations the *ist D's AF system did seem to take a few spins of the AF motor to get the lock just right, thus the 2.5 - 3.5 seconds to focus.


Continuous drive mode

To test continuous mode the camera had the following settings: Manual Focus, Manual Exposure (1/250 sec, F3.5), ISO 400. No matter what image output format the shooting rate is always 2.7 fps (+/- 0.1 fps). The following timings were performed:

  • Next shot - How soon after a burst of shots you can take the next single shot
  • Full write - How long a burst of five shots takes to be processed and written to the CF

The media used for these tests were:

  • 512 MB SimpleTech Type I Compact Flash card
  • 1 GB SanDisk Ultra II Type I Compact Flash card
  • 1 GB IBM Microdrive Type II Compact Flash card

Burst of five JPEG images

Timing 512 MB SimpleTech 1 GB SanDisk 1 GB Microdrive
Next shot 1.0 sec 0.9 sec 0.9 sec
Full write 14.4 sec 11.8 sec 14.2 sec

Burst of four RAW images

Timing 512 MB SimpleTech 1 GB SanDisk 1 GB Microdrive
Next shot 12.8 sec 7.27 sec 8.35 sec
Full write 61.8 sec 35.9 sec 36.37 sec

The *ist D manages five JPEG or four RAW images in a burst at 2.7 frames per second, this is both a slower rate and slightly less buffer than the competition. That said it will continue to take shots as soon as space is made available in the buffer, thus holding your finger down on the shutter release causes the camera to continue taking as quickly as it can.


File Write Timing

Timings shown below are the time taken for the camera to process and "flush" the image out to the storage media. The *ist D 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.

The media used for these tests were:

  • 512 MB SimpleTech Type I Compact Flash card
  • 1 GB SanDisk Ultra II Type I Compact Flash card
  • 1 GB IBM Microdrive Type II Compact Flash card
Store Time, secs
(SimpleTech)
Time, secs
(SanDisk)
Time, secs
(Microdrive)
Approx. *2
File size
Approx. *2 512 MB card
L 3008 x 2008 TIFF 24.7 17.3 18.8 17.3 MB 27
L 3008 x 2008 RAW 12.7 8.5 9.2 12.6 MB 34
L 3008 x 2008 3.7 2.7 4.0 1.6 MB 119
L 3008 x 2008 2.7 2.2 3.6 0.9 MB 232
M 2400 x 1600 3.7 3.5 4.7 1.1 MB 185
S 1536 x 1024 2.4 2.4 3.5 0.6 MB 452

*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 0.6 seconds to these times to get the amount of time from moment of shutter release to image flushed away to the storage card.
*2 Camera estimate value.

Write times are respectable enough if not groundbreaking. They are pretty much in line with performance seen from other mid-priced digital SLR's. There was obviously a performance hit on the Microdrive for smaller files, and a significant performance improvement using the SanDisk Ultra II card (this is supported by our tests of this card in other cameras).

Here are the approximate write throughput figures for each card:

  • 512 MB SimpleTech: 1.0 MB/sec
  • 1 GB SanDisk Ultra II: 1.5 MB/sec
  • 1 GB IBM Microdrive: 1.4 MB/sec


Battery life

The *ist D can be powered by either two CR-V3 (Lithium non-rechargeable) or four AA type batteries. During our test period we used the camera with the two supplied CR-V3 batteries and never needed to replace them (despite taking hundreds of shots over at long period of time). Thus I can thoroughly recommend using CR-V3 batteries in the *ist D, and I don't normally recommend any type of non-rechargeable battery.

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