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Timing & Performance

Like its predecessor (which produces almost identical figures), the P200 feels very, very fast in use, and the test results bear this out. Startup time, shot to shot times and shutter lag are all outstanding, whilst focusing is not only incredibly fast, but also pretty reliable (especially at the wide end of the zoom). Zooming is slow (as it always is with Sony cameras), but this is more to do with Sony's desire to make the zoom both super-smooth and silent than a performance issue. Overall you cannot help but be impressed with the performance of the camera in everyday snapping. Burst mode (continuous shooting) is less impressive; how much of a problem this presents depends on how often you are likely to want to shoot extended action sequences.

Timing Notes

All times calculated as an average of three operations. Unless otherwise stated all timings were made on a 3072 x 2304 Fine JPEG image (approx. 2,600 KB per image). The media used for these tests was a 512MB Sony Memory Stick PRO.

Action Details
Time, secs
Power: Off to Record   1.4
Power: Off to Play Image displayed 2.3
Power: Record to Off All activity ceased 1.3
Power: Play to Off When buffer is empty, lens retracted ~0.0
Record Review Image displayed ~0.8
Mode: Record to Play   ~0.4
Mode: Play to Record Lens already extended ~0.4
Mode: Play to Record Lens not extended 1.3
Play: Magnify To full magnification (5x) 3.0
Play: Image to Image Time to display each saved image ~0.2
Play: Thumbnail view 3 x 3 thumbnails ~0.5

Action Details
Time, seconds
Zoom from Wide to Tele 38 to 114 mm (12 x) 1.9
Half-press Lag (0->S1) Wide angle ~0.3
Half-press Lag (0->S1) Telephoto ~0.5
Half to Full-press Lag (S1->S2) LCD live view 0.1
Half to Full-press Lag (S1->S2) Viewfinder ~0.06
Full-press Lag (0->S2) LCD live view, wide angle ~0.4
Off to Shot Taken LCD live view ~1.8
Shot to Shot Flash off 1.5
Shot to Shot Flash on (with red eye reduction on) 2.9
Shot to Shot Flash on (with red eye reduction off) 2.0

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 512MB Sony Memory Stick PRO card. Shutter speed was kept above 1/200 sec during these tests.

Continuous drive mode

The P200 has a single burst mode plus a 'multi burst' setting, which produces a single 1280x960 pixel image containing a grid of 16 consecutive exposures in around 0.5 seconds. The burst mode is nothing special - at best managing around 1.1 frames per second (7MP, standard JPEG). You can only take a limited number of shots in a single burst - 5 at the 7MP/fine setting, rising to 9 at 3MP/fine. Incidentally, if you drop the resolution all the way to 1MP you can shoot in burst mode indefinitely.

Image Type
Mode
Avg. frames
per sec
Frames in a burst *1
After
burst
*2
3072 x 2304 JPEG Fine Burst 1.0 fps 5 ~6s delay *3
3072 x 2304 JPEG Standard Burst 1.09 fps 8 ~6s delay  
2592 x 1944 JPEG Fine Burst 0.9 fps 6 ~6s delay  
2048 x 1536 JPEG Fine Burst 1.0 fps 9 ~6s delay  

*1 In a single "burst" (finger held down on shutter release).
*2 Once the buffer is full the P200 stops for around 6 seconds, displaying the word 'recording' as the images are saved to the Memory Stick.
*3 This figure falls to around 4 seconds with a faster Sandisk 512MB Ultra II (aka Extreme) Memory Stick PRO card. All other measurements were identical with the faster card.

Not a terrible performance, but disappointing given the lightning fast responses the P200 has in just about every other department. Clearing the buffer is obviously a bottleneck, and though there are cameras that will make you wait longer, it's still a shame. Note that the time to clear the buffer will depend on the speed of card you are using; expect a longer delay with a standard Memory Stick, and a shorter one if using a fast SanDisk card (see *3 above).

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 512MB Sony Memory Stick PRO card.

Image Type
Time to store
(secs)

Time to display
(secs)

File size *1
(approx.)
Images on a *2
512MB Card
3072 x 2304 JPEG Fine ~2.9 ~0.2 2,666 KB 141
3072 x 2304 JPEG Standard ~2.9 ~0.2 1,128 KB 277
2592 x 1944 JPEG Fine ~2.9 ~0.2 1,896 KB 194
2048 x 1536 JPEG Fine ~2.9 ~0.2 1,294 KB 311

*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.

Write times are fast for the big 7MP files, but strangely no quicker as you reduce file size, which would imply that the majority of the time is taken with processing, not the actual writing of the files to the card. Again, the speed of the card will have a direct impact on how long it takes to store each file; when we tried a faster SanDisk Ultra II card the time reduced to around 2 secs. Note also that the camera is ready to take another picture within around 0.9 seconds, as long as the buffer is not full.

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