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Digital Camera Delay

The Deceptive Delay in Digital Photography on some Cameras and how to get around it

Digital cameras are often designed to make you feel they are a classic photographic camera and will make a satisfying special-effect sound like an old style shutter going SNAP! I think the Mustek DV5300 has an especially scrumptious sound when the button is pressed, and it's very tempting to believe that the sounding of it indicates the exact moment of image capture. Oddly, this is not so.

You can do an experiment with this, or any other kind of digital camera with a flash. Take a photo in the dark, and listen for when the shutter sound is heard and when the flash goes off. The photo is actually being taken at the moment of the flash (otherwise it would not see anything!). However, by the time the flash briefly lit the room up, the shutter sound had already occurred. So, which is real? When does the photo really happen? The flash is real, but the shutter sound-effect is decorative, so... believe the flash!

After you've taken a few photos with the flash you can calibrate when the photo is taken relative to the shutter sound effect, and after that you know when the photo is being taken even when there is no flash.

Why this matters:

* If you had assumed the photo was taken when your hear the sound, you might easily move on, leaving the camera taking the shot late, and capturing a blur as you whisk the camera away.

* If you are taking photos of shy people, they may hear the shutter sound and flinch at that moment, leaving you with pictures of people reacting to the sound of a photo apparently being taken. This gives the opposite of the natural unaware shot. Ethical issue: Take good quality pictures, and then give people the option to delete them if they feel uncomfortable about what they see.

* If the timing of taking your shot is important, for example when travelling along and taking a snap at an instant to capture something along the route, estimating the delay incorrectly may result in failing to get the subject at all.

So to sum it up, calibrate your picture taking timing to offset by the right amount relative to when the sound is, and you'll take better pictures.

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