What is shutter latency? The camera I'm using (medium format from Phase One) has the option to set the shutter latency to short or long — what's the difference between the two and when would I use which setting?


2 Answers 2


Phase One says the sensor is put to sleep to save battery, and is given a wake-up signal when you press the shutter release button. This wake-up process they call Shutter Latency and recommend to keep it set to "Normal".

The other setting is called "Zero" latency, and suggested to use it only when working with technical large format cameras, or certain manual cameras in special situations. No further explanation about "special situations" but it appears as consuming battery and looks like having the sensor powered up for long times. That would cause the sensor warming up with normal DSLR cameras, but Phase One is different.

I did not read the entire manual, so did not find reference to shutter latency settings Long and Short, but only the settings Normal and Zero.

  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ The reason for going to Zero (and it could have been marked as "short" on older backs) on a view camera is because the back is triggered by the PC X-sync signal from the lens's shutter, which in turn is (usually) a simple mechanical contact that closes when the shutter is completely open. Since the only communication between camera and back is "NOW!!!", there is no time for a wake-up cycle. The same applies with all-mechanical medium format cameras; the only trigger available for the back is the X-sync (M-sync might allow enough time, but we're talking antiques at that point). \$\endgroup\$
    – user2719
    Mar 21, 2013 at 18:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @StanRogers thanks for clarifying zero/normal vs short/long I guess I have an 'older' camera 645AF/P25+ \$\endgroup\$
    – Pastel
    Mar 21, 2013 at 18:14

I don't know medium format cameras, but in general shutter latency is the time that it takes from when you push the shutter to the time the shutter actually activates. The lower the latency, the more responsive the shutter, but the less time the camera has to make last minute adjustments or changes in hardware state. A higher shutter latency will allow the camera to make finer tuned adjustments and turn on hardware that was sleeping, but will not go as close to when you push the shutter.

Some other cameras express this as shutter priority vs focus priority. Lower latency should be used when you need the shot at the exact moment you push the shutter where as longer latency will generally let the camera do more work for you or leave stuff powered down and may generate a better quality image or increase battery life.

It may also do things like mirror lockup to reduce the latency so that the shutter can fire faster or keep hardware turned on.

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    \$\begingroup\$ While ultimately related to shutter latency, focus vs. release priority is mainly an option to disable the actual picture taking (only while autofocus is enabled, generally) if the camera doesn't detect perfect focus on the selected point: the former is usually the default in single action focus, while the latter is most useful with continuous drive and auto-refocusing. Some cameras even have a balanced, intermediate setting. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ryccardo
    Mar 21, 2013 at 17:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ And while this answer is correct for the general case (where "shutter latency" and "shutter lag" are synonyms) it does not answer the question that was actually asked, which deals specifically with the shooting modes of medium format backs (in this case, Phase One, but the same settings exist for Leaf and Hasselblad backs as well). \$\endgroup\$
    – user2719
    Mar 21, 2013 at 23:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ Might be good to edit the question "What is shutter latency?" to also mention shutter settings in camera menu. I will not do the edit, as with my language skills I'd end up asking something like "what is shuttter latency doing in the kitchen?" \$\endgroup\$ Mar 22, 2013 at 1:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @EsaPaulasto Your English skills are fine. If you have an improvement to make, go ahead and edit the question and we can clear up any ambiguities after. No problem! \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Mar 22, 2013 at 11:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Pastel if you are considering which one to give the answer to, I personally would go with Esa's. I agree with MattDM and StanRoders that it is a more detailed answer to the particular question being asked. I think my answer will be useful to people as well, but they will also see both answers when they come here. \$\endgroup\$
    – AJ Henderson
    Mar 22, 2013 at 14:01

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