Ever since, cameras have gained more and more complex features that have taken work away from the photographer. Today we use what amounts to a optical computer that needs to boot up, uncover/deploy the lens, determine which orientation the camera is in, establish what light sensitivity to use, recognize the size and format the final picture should be in, if there is a face that can be recognized, where the main subject is, what proper exposure to set and what shutter/aperture combination should be used. All of this happens, in some cases, in well under a second.
Having done all this, the camera still needs to be told to focus on the subject, trip the shutter and write the image to the memory card. The space between pressing of the shutter and the final recording of the image is known as "shutter lag" and can be a frustratingly long period of time. Cameras.co.uk has a shuttle lag table that compares a number of cameras. The shuttler lag ranges from 0.18 to 1.68 seconds for a single image and 6.1 to 40.43 seconds for five images.
This type of delay, especially at the long end, can be the difference between having more that one photo of a grandchild blowing out birthday candles or a speeding Dall's Porpoise that can travel at 55 km/hr. Old film cameras really were point and shoot (once you had adjusted the necessary settings on the camera) with instantaneous "writing" of an image to film. Today's cameras need to make these settings on the fly and it can really slow down the act of taking a picture. Photographers who want to gain precious time will "preload" the camera by pointing to where the action is (or will be) and softly pressing and holding the shutter release halfway. The camera will focus, charge the image sensor and perform any and all other calculations necessary to get the shot. When the action is just right, or when the subject enters the frame - press the shutter release all the way .
The same technique can be used to prefocus on one part of the image and then recompose (move) the camera to get a better photo. This works well with portraits or landscapes where you may not want the subject in the centre. Point the camera directly at that large tree in the landscape (or at uncle Bill), gently press the shutter release part way, then continue to hold and recompose so that you subject is now in another part of the image.
In essence, today's cameras are really "point, press and shoot" and if you can use them this way, you will eliminate some of the lag you may be experiencing in your camera.
Has shutter lag ever "caught" you at a bad time? Feel free to share your pain in the comment box.