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Old Oct 28 2008, 12:29 PM   #1
Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: Edinburgh
Gender: M
Default P&S batteries, LCDs and that pesky shutter lag

Normal batteries are useless in a digital camera. Alkalines are better, but will still fade after 50-70 shots. They were not designed to meet the very high power demands of today's electronic devices. Alkalines have a high rated capacity, but they can only deliver their full capacity if the power is used slowly, as in a radio or a torch. Electronic devices such as digital cameras place a high power drain on batteries, so the way to go is re-chargable Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) batteries.

This chart makes the point - the green line is an alkaline battery; the black is NiMH.

Yes, they are initially expensive, but after just two charges, they are already saving you money.


You'll know this feeling - your granddaughter has that rapt kiddie expression as she examines an earthworm. You whip the camera to your face and press the button to catch that fleeting moment - and nothing happens. Unconsciously, you press harder. Half a second later - an eternity - and the camera clicks. Darn! Missed the shot! Well, congratulations, you have just experienced shutter lag - the bane of just about every small P&S ever built.


It's that power and battery thing above. Think for a moment the demands made of your power cells:
that lovely big bright LCD screen
that blitz of light from your flash
the motor in your zoom as you frame the shot

Now you press the shutter release half-way and MORE current flows to adjust autofocus and exposure. And when you completely press the release, there's a delay as the batteries muster their strength.

Fear not - there is a solution.

First off - if you have a viewfinder, switch off that power-guzzling LCD display. That'll almost certainly cut a huge amount of the lag. Need an even faster response? If your camera is set to 'on-demand' flash, switch it off unless you know you're going to need it - there is almost no point in trying to take a picture while the flash is charging.

SuperTip - If you can foresee a shooting opportunity, you can do half the work in advance - point and frame in advance, pressing the shutter release half-way. That'll lock your exposure and focus, ready for you when the picture presents itself maybe three seconds later. Click! Gotcha!

Now, there is a trend among manufacturers to eliminate the viewfinder and rely entirely on the LCD display. Look at the shelves in any camera store - I bet half the cameras lack a viewfinder. It saves manufacturing costs.

Do not be seduced!

Here's why. Quite apart from the power-saving consideration mentioned above, there's the simple ergonomics of taking a picture.

When you frame through a viewfinder, the camera is bolted to a human 'tripod' - supported and steadied by a forehead and two arms clamped to the sides of your chest. The camera is locked to your bigger, steadier mass.

Now consider the camera with just a display. To see it and frame, you hold the camera out in front of your eyes, held in the hands of two unsupported arms.

It's not rocket science to know which is the steadier platform - especially when you're at the long, zoom end.

Yes, the LCD is seductive, but a proper viewfinder will get you better, more considered pictures. If you're already stuck with a non-viewfinder camera, keep a look-out for fence posts, walls and trees against which you can rest and steady your camera.
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