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Camera Buffers Explained: Why Your Camera Speed Slows Down

Have you ever wondered what a camera buffer is and why it slows down your camera? Any time you shoot a burst of photos, your camera places these shots in a buffer before writing them to the memory card. This image buffer exists for a reason – to give your camera time to write photos to the memory card without stopping or slowing down. In this article, we’ll answer all your questions about buffers and explain why they exist.

What Is Camera Buffer?

A camera buffer is a temporary storage area for image data. When you take a photo, the image sensor captures raw data and stores it in the buffer. The camera then processes this raw data and saves it as a JPEG or RAW file on the memory card.

The image buffer allows your camera to continue shooting without slowing down while it writes files to the memory card. If your camera didn’t have a buffer, it would have to pause after each photo to save the image data, which would make burst shooting impossible.

How Does Camera Buffer Work?

The size of a camera’s buffer is determined by the amount of RAM (random access memory) installed in the camera. The more RAM a camera has, the larger its buffer will be. Most entry-level DSLRs and mirrorless cameras have around 512MB of RAM, while high-end models can have up to 32GB.

The camera’s buffer size affects how many photos you can shoot in a burst before the camera slows down. For example, if your camera has a buffer size of 512MB, it can store approximately 50 JPEGs or 25 RAW files. Once the buffer is full, the camera will slow down until it has finished writing the image data to the memory card.

What Is Buffer Clearing Time?

Buffer clearing time is the amount of time it takes for your camera to write all the images in the buffer to the memory card. This process can take anywhere from a few seconds to a minute, depending on the camera and memory card.

The buffer clearing time can be frustrating if you’re trying to shoot a fast-moving subject, such as a bird in flight. By the time the buffer has cleared and you can start shooting again, your subject may have flown away.

Location Of The Camera Buffer

Image buffers are typically placed either pre-processing or post-processing.

In pre-processing, the RAW data from the sensor is directly input into the buffer. The information is then processed and saved to storage cards utilizing a container format such as NEF, CR2, or ARW in conjunction with other operations. In cameras with this type of buffer, reducing the file size cannot increase continuous shooting rate.

In post-processing, before being placed in the buffer, the photographs are altered and converted into their final form. As a result, decreasing the file size of images in continuous shooting mode allows for more shots to be taken.

Some DSLR cameras also use what is known as “Smart” buffering, which combines the best of both pre and post-processing buffers. The unprocessed files reside in the camera buffer to allow for a greater “frames per second” (fps) rate. They are subsequently converted into their final form and returned to the buffer. Later, when pictures are being processed, the files may be written to storage cards at the same time, avoiding a backlog.

Is Buffering Necessary In Cameras?

Yes, buffering is necessary in cameras. Without a buffer, your camera would have to pause after each photo to save the image data. This would make burst shooting impossible and severely limit the number of photos you could take in a given time period.

How Can I Reduce Buffer Clearing Time?

There are a few things you can do to reduce buffer clearing time and keep your camera shooting at full speed.

First, make sure you’re using a fast memory card. Memory cards have different speeds, measured in megabytes per second (MB/s). The faster the card, the faster it can write data to the card. For example, a SanDisk Extreme PRO SDHC UHS-I card has a write speed of 95 MB/s, while a SanDisk Ultra SDHC UHS-I card has a write speed of 60 MB/s.

If you’re using a slow memory card, it’s likely the bottleneck in your camera system and upgrading to a faster card will help.

Another way to reduce buffer clearing time is to shoot in a lower quality setting, such as JPEG instead of RAW. RAW files are larger and take longer to write to the memory card, so if you don’t need the extra quality, shooting JPEGs will help your camera clear its buffer faster.

You can also try shooting in a lower resolution setting. This will reduce the file size and make it easier for the camera to write the data to the memory card. Of course, you’ll want to make sure you’re still shooting in a resolution that’s high enough for your needs, or leverage the continuous shooting mode (burst mode) on your camera for better performance.

Finally, if your camera has a dual card slot, you can use two memory cards. The camera will write to both cards simultaneously, which will help clear the buffer faster.


Camera buffers are a necessary evil if you want to shoot at high speeds. By understanding how they work and taking steps to reduce buffer clearing time, you can make sure your camera is always ready to shoot.