What Does Frames Per Second Mean?

Often abbreviated to just FPS, frames per second refers to the speed at which a camera can capture photos.  At the time of writing this definition, Canon’s top-of-the-line pro bodies are capable of capturing up to 14 photos in a single second (14 fps).  Technology is evolving rapidly though, and the chances are pretty good that by the time you read this glossary term, things will have reached an even higher level.

Lower end cameras like consumer point and shoots, tend to be much slower at around the 2-3 fps level.  Mid-range DSLRs shoot in the 3-5fps range.

The speed at which a camera can shoot, depends on several factors.  Thee include the speed at which the shutter/mirror mechanism can re-cock itself and the speed of the camera’s internal memory.  When you shoot a photo, the camera first writes that photo to internal memory called the buffer.  The buffer then pushes the photo file over to your memory card.  This is where we can get a bottleneck in the process.  Higher end cameras use faster internal memory, which allows more photos to be written to it in a shorter time.  FPS can also be effected by the speed of your memory card!  If you have a camera that shoots 14fps, but you put a slow memory card in it, the camera can’t clear the buffer fast enough to continue shooting at its maximum pace.  For pro bodies, always use fast, pro-grade memory cards!

Sports and wildlife photographer pay the most attention to FPS because it can really make the difference when trying to capture that perfectly timed shot!

 

Additional Reading

  • What Is A Buffer In A Camera?
  • What Is Write Speed?
  • What Does Burst Rate Mean?

 

what does frames per second mean?

 

This award winning photo of mine makes full use of the high FPS of Canon 1-Series cameras.  This was taken with a Canon 1D Mark IV