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by Phil Ball

Q. My kids are very active in sports and my photos often miss the action as they slide into home plate or whatever. The photos are usually taken too late. Is it me or do I need a new camera?

A. Compact digital cameras are wonderful but they do have a few limitations and you’ve run right into one of them. They suffer from shutter lag which means that there is a distinct time lag between your pushing of the shutter release and when they finally take the actual photo. This lag is caused by the time the camera spends while auto focusing and determining the correct exposure, among other things.

The newer cameras are much better at reducing this shutter lag time but they still have it. You can try using a technique where you shoot before the decisive moment but this often proves difficult to predict. My suggestion for taking action photos is to use a digital SLR (dSLR) camera. They use a different method of focusing and are therefore almost instantaneous when you click the button. Of course, they are much larger and will not fit in a pocket or purse but that is offset by their speediness when taking action photos. Like the compacts, newer dSLRs are faster than older dSLRs due to improvements in the technology. So my recommendation for your purposes is to buy a newer dSLR with a telephoto lens that reaches out to at least the equivalent of 200mm, preferably more.

Published: Courier 4/18/10 - Page 5C