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Sleep And Standby Mode In Digital Cameras

written by: •edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 9/22/2009

Most cameras have some sort of sleep or standby mode, but many users don't understand how to use this function to its fullest potential to save power. This article outlines some of the advantages of this mode, situations where it comes in handy, and some of the basics of using and setting it.

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    Sleep and Standby: Any Difference?

    What's the difference between sleep and standby mode? Well, for digital cameras, it's not very clearly defined. Indeed, the terms are used by many camera manufacturers (and camera users) interchangeably.

    In laptops, there is no formal difference as defined by the ACPI standard (Advanced Configuration and Power Interface.) They are both classified under G1, the first state beneath working (G0). This is in turn subcategorized to 4 more states. What is commonly referred to as “sleep", “standby" or “suspend" modes is S3. Turning a camera completely off is G3, “mechanical off". Digital cameras can also follow these designations, as they largely consist of a computer than makes the camera function.

    What formally defines this stage is that in addition to the CPU and non-essential functions being powered down, for a camera mostly just the LCD screen, and everything is suspended to RAM memory. This allows for the camera to almost instantaneously start back up again, as power is still running through the CPU, and the lens is still extended, yet still save power.

    On many cameras, the shutter will also close during sleep or standby mode. This is to prevent the lens from being damaged, as many people will forget that the camera is on while not immediately shooting, holding it at their sides or at their waist, etc. This will add a couple of milliseconds to the time it takes to get from sleep mode to ready to shoot, but for most users, it's worth it.

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    Power Saving

    Sleep and/or standby modes are principally good for saving on your camera. Other than the flash, the screen uses the very most energy out of all the camera's functions, so by shutting down the screen while not in immediate use there's a lot of power to be saved! There are a number of situations where sleep and standby modes come in handy:

    For instance, if you're just waiting for that perfect shot, but it's a longer wait than a few seconds, then just keeping your camera on standby is probably your bests bet so that you can have your picture instantly without having wasted your battery in the meantime. A sports match is a great example of this: you need your camera to be always at the ready to catch those fast shots!

    Another good place to utilize sleep mode is when you're downloading pictures from your camera onto your computer, if you're using a download cord. This will keep the camera from wasting any unnecessary energy while downloading. (An even more power-friendly method is to remove the card and insert it into a card reader, but that's a whole different story.)

    Of course, you might want to disable it from time to time, such as for those really long exposure shots or if you really just can't spare a few milliseconds for the camera to go from sleep to ready.

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    Setting The Mode

    Most cameras have some sort of default amount of time before the camera will automatically go into sleep mode, usually between 30 and 60 seconds. Most cameras, especially newer ones, will allow you to edit this amount of time in the on-camera menus, along with other power saving functions such as LCD brightness or automatically turning off after a certain amount of time.

    To force a camera into sleep mode, generally you press some sort of display button until it the LCD screen turns off.

    To get a camera out of sleep or standby mode, for most cameras you simply press the power button down once, as opposed to holding it down, which turns it off completely. The camera should now be out of sleep mode and ready to take a picture!

    Keep in mind that in some cameras, putting it into sleep or standby mode will make it lose any manual adjustments you made on the LCD screen, such as exposure, ISO and/or aperture. If you can adjust this on your camera, then adjust it; if not, simply keep in mind what options are available for your camera. Give your camera manual a good read!