How Do I Find a Camera With Fast Shutter Speed?

Digital Camera FAQ: Basic Photography Questions

camera with a fast shutter speed
A DSLR camera, such as the Canon 80D pictured here, will provide the fastest shutter speeds available. Canon

Q: I have recently become interested in photography. I want to find a camera that works fast. I need something fairly simple, but I am not afraid to read the instruction manual. How do I find a camera with a fast shutter speed? ---W.M.

A: Finding a camera with fast shutter speed is actually fairly easy ... it's making that camera actually shoot at the fast shutter speed that can be difficult.

Most consumer-level digital cameras can shoot at shutter speeds up to 1/1000th of a second, which usually is plenty fast enough to stop the action of a moving subject.

Just look in the specifications listing for the camera to find its shutter speed range.

If you need a faster shutter speed, you can consider upgrading to a DSLR camera, which will offer much faster shutter speeds, where faster speeds than 1/1000th of a second are possible.Advanced speeds are perfect for shooting some special effect photos, such as capturing the splash of a drop of water.

However, the bigger problem is making the camera shoot at its fastest shutter speed.

With most point and shoot cameras, the camera automatically sets the shutter speed, based on the shooting conditions. You can "help" the camera select a fast shutter speed by selecting "shutter priority" in your camera's settings or by using the mode dial. Some basic cameras will not offer this type of setting. To see if your camera has a shutter priority option, look through the on-screen menus and see what types of settings are available.

If your camera has a mode dial a shutter priority mode (sometimes listed as "Tv") should be listed on dial.

Or you can set your camera's scene mode to "sports" to force the camera to use a fast shutter speed.

Finally, you might be able to overcome some missed photos because of shutter speed problems by selecting your camera's continuous shot mode, which tells the camera to shoot several photos in a row in a short amount of time.

More and more point and shoot cameras now give photographers the ability to shoot at a certain shutter speed. Older basic cameras may not provide this option.

With advanced DSLR cameras, you always can manually control settings, such as shutter speed. However, DSLR cameras are aimed at more advanced users and are far more expensive than point and shoot cameras. It will require some time studying the user manual to learn to use it correctly.

If you want a shutter speed beyond the standard of 1/1000th of a second, there are options available, but you're going to end up spending a lot more money than you would for a fixed lens camera or an entry level DSLR. Some such cameras can shoot at shutter speeds as fast as 1/4000th or 1/8000th of a second.

Such high end shutter speeds aren't really needed for everyday photography, but they can be used in specialty types of photography. For example, if you want to shoot with a wide open aperture in bright sunlight, where a lot of light enters the lens, using an extremely fast shutter speed allows you to limit the amount of light that strikes the image sensor, allowing you to end up with a properly exposed photograph. 

Another option for such a high shutter speed is for photographers who are photographing high speed action, such as motor sports, where 1/1000th of a second might not be fast enough to freeze the action properly.

DSLRs can handle this type of photo with ease.

If you need even faster speeds than 1/8000th of a second, you may have to turn to more of a specialty high speed camera to achieve this type of photography, rather than a digital camera that's made more for everyday photography.

Find more answers to common camera questions on the camera FAQ page.