Olympus SP-310 Review
Timing & Performance
Although it rarely feels sluggish, the SP-310 is by no means the fastest camera in its class. That said, there are only one or two areas where this really shows itself; focusing and shutter lag aren't great, meaning the SP-310 isn't the best camera in the world for rapid shooting, and focusing in low light can be very slow indeed outside the 1.0m or so reach of the AF illuminator. Flash recycle is also on the long side, and if you shoot more than four SHQ images in a row you hit the buffer limit, which really slows things down. The slow xD picture card read / write speeds mean scrolling through images can feel slow in playback mode, and the time taken to empty the buffer after a burst of shots in continuous mode feels like an eternity. At the end of the day, however, this is a camera that offers a lot of features at a very keen price, so you can't expect miracles, and in most everyday shooting situations it won't let you down.
All times calculated as an average of three operations. Unless otherwise stated all timings were made on a 3072 x 2304 SHQ JPEG image (approx. 3,800 KB per image). The media used for these tests was a Fujifilm 512MB xD-Picture Card.
|Power: Off to Record||1.6 *1|
|Power: Off to Play||Image displayed||3.1|
|Power: Record to Off||All activity ceased||1.7|
|Power: Play to Off||When buffer is empty, lens extended||1.6|
|Power: Play to Off||When buffer is empty, lens already retracted||~ 0.2|
|Record Review||Image displayed||~ 0.6|
|Mode: Record to Play||2.5|
|Mode: Play to Record||1.3|
|Play: Magnify||To full magnification (10x)||~1.2|
|Play: Image to Image||Time to display each saved image||2.5|
|Play: Thumbnail view||2 x 2 thumbnails||~0.7|
|Play: Thumbnail view||3 x 3 thumbnails||~1.6|
|Play: Thumbnail view||4 x 4 thumbnails||~3.3|
|Zoom from Wide to Tele||38 to 114 mm (3 x)||1.2|
|Half-press Lag (0->S1)||Wide angle||~0.6 *2|
|Half-press Lag (0->S1)||Telephoto||~0.6 *2|
|Half to Full-press Lag (S1->S2)||LCD live view||~0.15|
|Half to Full-press Lag (S1->S2)||Viewfinder||~0.1|
|Full-press Lag (0->S2)||LCD live view, wide angle||~0.6|
|Off to Shot Taken||LCD live view||~3.5|
|Shot to Shot||Flash off||1.8 *3|
|Shot to Shot||Flash on (with red eye reduction on)||4.9|
|Shot to Shot||Flash on (with red eye reduction off)||6.9|
|*1||This is the time it takes for the preview image to appear - you cannot actually take a picture until around 3.2 seconds after you've pressed the 'on' button.|
|*2||In low light or when the subject lacks contrast the time to focus can stretch to as much as 1.6 seconds.|
|*3||Until the buffer is full (four shot in SHQ 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 Fujifilm 512MB xD-Picture Card. Shutter speed was kept above 1/200 sec during these tests.
Continuous drive mode
The SP-310 has three burst modes; standard, high speed and 'AF'. The standard burst mode manages a best performance of around 1.7 frames per second (though at some file size / quality settings this drops to as little as 1.2 fps). The number of shots in a burst depends on the image size/quality used, and appears to be limited only by the size of the card once you drop to 2MP or below. The High Speed burst mode allows you to take two shots in rapid succession (though i'm not sure what the value of a burst mode that only takes two shots is...), and the AF mode - which is much slower - refocuses between each shot (in the other modes focus and exposure are fixed at the first shot). You cannot use RAW mode in any continuous drive mode.
Frames in a burst *1
|3072 x 2304 JPEG SHQ||Burst||1.7 fps||3 or 4||~10.5s delay *2|
|3072 x 2304 JPEG SHQ||Burst-High||3.3 fps||2||~7.0s delay *2|
|3072 x 2304 JPEG SHQ||Burst-AF||0.7 fps *3||4||~10.5s delay *2|
|3072 x 2304 JPEG HQ||Burst||1.2 fps||15||~14.0s delay *2|
|3072 x 2304 JPEG HQ||Burst-High||2.5 fps||2||~7.0s delay *2|
|3072 x 2304 JPEG HQ||Burst-AF||0.7 fps *3||15||~14.0s delay *2|
|2048 x 1546 JPEG SQ||Burst||1.3 fps||31||~16.5s delay *2|
|2048 x 1546 JPEG SQ||Burst-High||2.5 fps||2||~7.0s delay *2|
|2048 x 1546 JPEG SQ||Burst-AF||0.7 fps *3||33||~16.5s delay *2|
|*1||In a single "burst" (finger held down on shutter release).|
|*2||Once the buffer is full no more pictures can be taken. The figure shown is the approximate time you have to wait before the next full burst can be started. You can actually take one picture after around 7.0 seconds|
|*3||Speed varies according to focusing speed.|
Obviously most buyers of the SP-310 are unlikely to be looking for class-leading continuous shooting performance, and if they are, they're looking in the wrong place. The main issue is the size of the buffer and the relatively slow write speed of xD-Picture Card (though I'm sure there are faster xD cards around). All that said, for a camera at this price point it's a perfectly acceptable level of performance.
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 Fujifilm 512MB xD-Picture Card.
Time to store
Time to display
File size *1
Images on a *2
|3072 x 2304 RAW||~9.8||~8.0 *3||10,470 KB *3||48|
|3072 x 2304 JPEG SHQ||~4.0||~2.3||3,791 KB||99|
|3072 x 2304 JPEG HQ||~2.5||~1.2||1,520 KB||293|
|2048 x 1546 JPEG SQ||~2.1||~0.6||600 KB||652|
|*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).|
|*3||The SP-310 offers the option to save a JPEG file with each RAW image. These figures are for RAW files only (i.e. with this option turned off). The save time increases slightly if you turn on the JPEG option.|
The slow read/write speed of xD-Picture card is obvious when you look at these figures - just over 1MB per second is hardly class-leading. That said, the only time this is an issue is when shooting in RAW mode, as the files are too big for the buffer, meaning they must be saved directly to the card, which locks up the camera for just under 10 seconds after every shot. If you do shoot raw - and there are some compelling reasons to do so for 'special' shots - you'd better not want to take them in rapid succession. The buffering works perfectly well for JPEGs, though it's only large enough to hold four SHQ files, after which there is a delay whilst some of the data is written to the card.
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