I had a moment or two of amusement watching the first night of the Vancouver Winter Olympics  on TV last month. During the first round of luge competition, there was a guy trying to catch the lugers as they whizzed by at speeds up to 90 MPH with what looked like a Panasonic Lumix point & shoot. For a fleeting moment, you saw frustation on his face as he was just NOT getting the shot! Granted, it would have hard even for a professional to capture a sharp, stop action image in this situation but what was probably happening to this poor soul was he was capturing either the front or back end of the luger in his frame. The athletes were just too fast, and the camera's functions were too slow. Has that ever happened to you when taking an action shot with your point & shoot? May I introduce you to what is commonly called "shutter lag". Shutter lag is the #1 complaint that consumers have with point shoot cameras and for customers that need to shoot their kid's sport activities or any subject that involves fast motion, we have sucessfully upgraded them to entry level DSLR's, which has no shutter lag problems at all. But if you insist on trying to get these shots with a pocket camera, it would help knowing how point & shoots operate & learn to work with their limitations. First off, according to NY Times columnist Damon Darlin, "shutter lag is not really shutter lag at all, but processor lag". Read on...(Simulated shutter lag photo of Blu by Fred Bonilla) "When the photographer begins to push down the button to snap the picture, sensors in the camera begin to take a series of measurements. The processor calculates the distance to the object, determines the amount of light needed and even does some balancing for color and whiteness. The processor may also have special software to focus on faces, so those calculations are run. In effect, the processor is analyzing a series of images as the button descends.Then the image is captured on the processor and sent into memory." The whole process depending the camera (or processor) can take up to a second or longer. Taking the next shot starts the process again. So how can that time between shots be cut down? Well, one way you can cut down the time is by pre-focussing your camera on that special image you want to capture (your child blowing out his birthday candles or hitting the baseball,etc.) before taking the shot. The way to do this is by framing the scene, then pushing your shutter release down half way. Once you’ve done this, continue to hold down the shutter release 1/2  down until the precise moment you want to capture, then press the shutter all the way.
There are other things you can do: Make sure your batteries are fully charged for the weaker the batteries, the longer the lag time between shots . Also, turn off the flash if the situation is  lit well enough to take an existing light shot. Newer point & shoot cameras also have  a "burst" mode, which allow for a series of continuous photos (albeit in lower resolution) over a span of  a second, five or ten seconds. The camera will then pause to process the photos for a few seconds before you can shoot again. The great thing is that if you time your shot correctly, you'll get the shot!
So, there are ways to capture the winning goal with timing & a little luck. That's one topic we cover EVERY week in our Thursday night mini-classes. Tomorrow night, it's DSLR basics; right here at the store at 7PM.  It's a great time to brush up for your Passover & Easter shots, so we're looking forward to see you. By the way, Camera Wholesalers will be closing early today (Weds. 3/31) at 5:30. Tell you why soon!

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