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Timing & Performance

Sigma claims the DP1 is a DSLR substitute in a compact package. While this might perhaps be true in the image quality department it's certainly not in terms of speed. To be frank, the DP1 feels mostly fairly sluggish and sometimes even painfully slow, most budget compacts will give it a run for its money.

The Sigma takes almost four seconds to get ready for shooting and it only gets worse form there. The autofocus is very slow and completely gives up in dim conditions. Typically a compact camera's AF will slow down in low light but most of them will lock the focus eventually. Unfortunately that's not true for the DP1. Once you've focused you will experience the rather unimpressive shutter lag and after you've pressed the shutter button you can decide how to entertain yourself while the camera is writing its data to the SD card. Should you be thinking about using the built-in flash, select your shots carefully, it takes ages to recycle (which means the DP1 certainly is not the ideal party snapshot camera). All in all a rather lengthy experience.

If things need to work quickly in your world the DP1 definitely is not for you. If you carefully set up every shot and aren't too much worried about some waiting time in between shots you might be able to live with the DP1's slow speed of operation.

Timing Notes

All times calculated as an average of three operations. Unless otherwise stated all timings were made on a 2640 x 2592 Fine JPEG image (approx. 2,230 KB per image). The media used for these tests was a 4.0 GB Sandisk Extreme III card.

Action Details
Time, secs
Power: Off to Record   3.6
Power: Off to Play Image displayed 4.2
Power: Record to Off All activity ceased 1.8
Power: Play to Off Lens extended 1.8
Power: Play to Off Lens already retracted 0.1
Record Review RAW Image displayed 2.8
Record Review JPEG Image displayed 2.4
Mode: Play to Record Lens already extended 1.4
Mode: Record to Play Lens already extended 0.4
Play: Magnify To full magnification (16x) 1.6
Play: Image to Image RAW Time to display each saved image 0.2
Play: Image to Image JPEG Time to display each saved image 0.2
Play: Thumbnail view 3 x 3 thumbnails 0.4
Half-press Lag (Focus time)   1.2*1
Pre-focus Lag (S1>S2) LCD live view ~0.2
Full-press Lag (0->S2) LCD live view 1.6
Off to Shot Taken LCD live view 5.6
Shot to Shot RAW Flash off ~4.5
Shot to Shot JPEG Flash off ~3.6
Shot to Shot RAW Flash on ( red eye reduction on / off) ~6.2 / ~5.5
Shot to Shot JPEG Flash on ( red eye reduction on / off) ~5.6 / ~3.9
*1 This is fairly independent of light levels. In low light the DP1 regularly fails to lock the focus completely.

The lab tests confirm what we experienced while out and about with the DP1. The camera can really test your patience, especially when shooting in RAW. If your photographic style requires speedy operation go away now and look somewhere else.

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. The media used for these tests was a 4GB Sandisk Extreme III SD Card. Shutter speed was kept above 1/200 sec during these tests.

Continuous drive mode

Image Type
Mode
Avg. frames
per sec
Frames in a burst *1
After
burst
*2
HI (2640 x 1760) JPEG Fine Continuous 3.3 3 ~9.3s delay
HI (2640 x 1760) JPEG Norm Continuous 3.5 3 ~9.3s delay
HI (2640 x 1760) JPEG Basic Continuous 3.4 3 ~9.3s delay
HI (2640 x 1760) RAW Continuous 3.4 3 ~13.5s delay
MED (1776 x 1184) JPEG Fine Continuous 3.5 3 ~9.0s delay
LOW (1776 x 1184) JPEG Fine Continuous 3.6 3 ~9.0s delay

*1 In a single "burst" (finger held down on shutter release).
*2 Once the buffer is full the DP1 stops for a few seconds as the images are saved to the memory card. Then you can shoot another burst by pressing the shutter again.

The DP1 only has one continuous shooting mode. At the highest image quality it gives you three frames per second which is not bad at all for a compact camera. However, most DSLRs are (significantly) quicker and the usefulness of the DP1's continuous mode is seriously flawed by the fact that you can only shoot three frames in one burst. After that the buffer is full and the camera takes its time (and a lot of it) to clear it and get ready for the next burst. Depending on your setting it can take between 9 and 13.5 sec to clear the buffer. This feels like an eternity if you're desperately waiting to take your next shot.

When shooting at lower image quality the frame rates and buffer clearance times get marginally faster but overall the settings you choose have hardly any impact on the DP1's continuous shooting performance. Only the buffer takes noticeably longer to clear when shooting RAW.

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 the 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 4GB Sandisk Extreme III SD card.

Image Type
Time to store
(secs)

Time to display
(secs)

File size *1
(approx.)
Images on a *2
4GB Card
HI (2640 x 1760) JPEG Fine ~4.4 ~2.8 2,230 KB 1225
HI (2640 x 1760) JPEG Norm ~4.4 ~2.8 1,340 KB 2113
HI (2640 x 1760) JPEG Basic ~4.4 ~2.8 1,070 KB 2786
HI (2640 x 1760) RAW ~7.2 ~3.2 12,930 KB 258
MED (1776 x 1184) JPEG Fine ~4.4 ~2.8 1,080 KB 2390
LOW (1776 x 1184) JPEG Fine ~4.2 ~2.8 682KB 4654

*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.

The DP1's write performance is unimpressive to say the least. When shooting RAW the rather large files are written on the card at a rate of approximately 1.75MB/sec. This is not exactly fast and so it takes over 7 seconds before you can take the next image. When shooting in JPEG this decreases to about 4.4 seconds. Considering that the DP1's JPEG files are considerably smaller than their RAW counterparts a large proportion of this time must be taken up by image processing rather than storing.

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