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Benefits Of A Silent Shutter


Andrew L (gryphon1911)
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01-16-2016_EM5mk2_train_P1160446-Edit.jpg

 


Lets talk today about a feature on some cameras that many might overlook or not know when they would ever us it. The silent shutter.

 

Let's not mistake this feature with the quite mode on some cameras, most notably the DSLR. This quite feature does not make the camera any quieter, just spreads the sound of the mirror box and shutter over a longer period of time, giving the appearance of less sound.

 

I'm referring more to the electronic shutter mode on some cameras or a camera with leaf shutter.

 

Of these kinds of camera, I have my Olympus Micro Four Thirds EM1 and EM5 Mk II and a Fuji X100T.

 

The Olympus shutter is by no means loud when compared to a DSLR camera, but if you want to go dead silent, the option is there. In the Olympus cameras, pick the shutter option with the heart shape next to it. You are no in electronic shutter mode. The mechanical shutter is now disabled and uses only the sensor readout. Shutter speeds are Bulb through 1/16000 of a second.

 

Why would you not want to use this all the time? Image warping, a.k.a. the Jello effect is one reason. The sensor scans each line individually and if you have a fast moving subject, then they might get distorted as the sensor readout cannot move fast enough to get everything locked into the time slice.
Another issue with electronic shutters are flash sync speed, or shall we say, a lack of ability to use flash in those modes. Some cameras do not allow the use, while others are severely limited to slow sync speeds.

 

The Fuji X100T is unique in that it has a leaf shutter as well as an all electronic shutter. The leaf shutter is so quite that you would hardly ever need to use the electronic, unless you are needing that extra bit of shutter speed in super bright light. The leaf shutter also allows for an ability to use really fast shutter speeds with flash, if that is ever needed.

 

01-16-2016_EM5mk2_train_P1160458-Edit.jpg

 

I was up on a balcony, quite a ways away, and even as quiet as the shutter on the EM5 Mk II is, the front desk staff at this museum was able to hear it. As you can tell from the body language, they do not mind that I am taking their picture, but they are "working the camera". Not exactly the candid, natural acting image I was looking for.

 

So, when would you want to use these kinds of camera/shutter devices?

 

During a wedding ceremony that was small and intimate with discretion warranted. Events where my Nikon D700 shutter sound made multiple tables of people turn around and look. I've also used it on occasion to shoot street photography. Now before anyone starts screaming, "perv" or creeper, let me explain my position on this.

 

I make no secret when I am out shooting street that I am there. I don't hide in corners or sneak up on people. From years of shooting, I've noticed that people tend to act differently when they know they are being photographed. When shooting street scenes, people in the scene should be as honest and natural as they can be. There are times when I shoot street with a long telephoto or silent mode or leaf shutter camera.

 

Without that, I would not be able to get images like these.

 

01-16-2016_EM5mk2_train_P1160474-Edit.jpg

 

01-16-2016_EM5mk2_train_P1160465-Edit.jpg

 

No cropping to these and I was never more than 6 ft away. A silent shutter made this possible without disrupting the subjects and without making a lot of noise within the museum itself.

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During the period I was still doing weddings I was still using DSLR and always timed my shots for the slight pauses between sentences spoken during the ceremony, both to avoid annoying the celebrant, audience or distracting the nervous couple, and also giving the video guy an easier break in being able to edit out the sound of the camera. The D3 had already enabled me to shoot without flash since 2009 so that distraction was gone, but the sound was something that couldn't be helped unless shooting with this timing, whether it was at the time of the best shot itself or not.

 

The celebrants and video crew were always appreciative of my efforts - often deliberately thanking me - apparently a lot of photographers were still using their DSLR in machine-gun mode, and often with flash. They were not appreciated by anyone, from the comments I used to hear :) :) .

The mirrorless cameras have now given a complete circumvention through ES - one can take the shot any time to get the best photo, and the latest models shoot 6400 ISO just as well as the then-ground-breaking D3 did, so the inability to use flash with ES isn't a problem. Fast lenses with OIS (or cameras with IBIS) round off the low light capability. Although I no longer do weddings, the electronic shutter-capable mirrorless cameras like the X-T1 are simply a perfect fit for the job description.

 

For that and no longer having to lug all the weight around I think weddings could actually become an enjoyable job, not the apprehensive and wearying slog they were, particularly once people started expecting over one or two thousand shots with digital rather than the two or three hundred shots the economics of film dictated. A small, light, silent camera that produces great quality is the key. Unfortunately for me I made the decision to get out of the wedding game just months before I switched to mirrorless, which I still regret a bit because I can only imagine how much easier and more successful my day would be doing a wedding now with the X-T1 outfit.

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Interesting topic but very valid I think!

I go to the wildfowl and wetland trust centre near Gloucester in the UK occasionally to photograph 

the wild waterfowl that congregate on the surrounding wetlands, if the hides are full they can have perhaps a dozen or so photographers, the collective noise from their camera shutters is quite ridiculous especially as many of them seem to think spray and pray is the most effective method, I almost feel like a novice as I don't use that technique, actually I think my selective shooting method is more productive, that's another matter, lol.

One can sense the atmosphere of dissaproval from the other folks in the hides who are just observing birds, there are a few times I've actually felt slightly embarassed to be surrounded by photographers who's main objective seems to be to wear out their cameras shutters.

I can envisage all sorts of occasions where having a silent(literally silent) camera shutter could be an advantage.

I'm seriously warming to this mirrorless idea, perhaps it has legs after all  :D  :D  :D

Edited by wildoat
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Silent shutter an advantage?... Yup especially when shooting in prohibited sites (Cir de Sole)

 

Rags

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The thing to have the biggest impact in the media arena will be the day that press conferences have a caveat of no flash, no DSLRs placed on them together.

 

It's coming. Machine gun mode from 20 or more DSLRs can render the TV broadcast of some press conferences unintelligible, particularly with on-the-fly doorstops with no proper PA organised. While a properly set-up conference can grab the speaker OK, anything heard or recorded on the floor itself must be a nightmare to decipher for the journalists there.

 

All it will take is for three or four ES cameras at a few conferences to wake up to the fact, and the boom gate will come down, swift and hard. When news organisations are forced down that route, well - that'll be the beginning of the end unless DSLR manufacturers can integrate some form of ES that is as easy and quick to set up and use as it is with a mirrorless camera. I can't see anything other than bigger sports-oriented media organisations opting to run two separate still camera systems.

Other areas of restriction will likely also follow in wildlife situations (as Tony points out), at live music performances of solo, unamplified or orchestral nature, theatre performances, movie sets... anywhere obtrusive sound is a problem. A mirrorless camera is a far easier (and cheaper!) proposition than a blimped DSLR, anyway, so it might also become operator choice. The odd thing is that most of the amateur photographers using phones and P&S digital cameras are already there by default - the charge is effectively being led from the rear this time.

 

Although not a wildlife photographer myself, I have to admit that the most jarring and unexpected thing in the videos that Dallas has posted of the safaris has been the chatter of mirrors and shutters. I do appreciate that these are photographic safaris, but it must annoy the heck out of those trying to get video footage, who, being in the minority at present, would just have to grin and bear it.

 

With practical 4K-capable mirrorless still/video cameras just around the corner, that balance may shift with people wanting to do both. A few appropriate long lenses and a bit more development and that option will no doubt be seen as a preferable all-round result from an expensive overseas safari trip. Sound, not just the picture, would be important as well. Hearing the splash as the eagle plucks the fish from the water rather than a sudden barrage of shutter/mirror clatter would be a very sought after result indeed. Fast forward a couple of years and it's easy to see one Land Rover or one boat dedicated to mirrorless/video photographers, and one to DSLRs, travelling an appropriate distance apart.

 

This isn't much other than speculation, but it sure is easy to see it happening. People are tolerant when there is no other alternative, but when there is, the pressure becomes overwhelming very quickly for change. The novelty of fellow travellers sneering at the DSLR user in their silent, mirrorless presence will wear off very quickly indeed, I'd think. It'll be a bit like the reaction that farting on a crowded bus gets.

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If Sony would design and release global sensors specifically for shutterless cameras, that would be a dream.   But we seem to be a few years off before that happens.   I already moved my and my wife's camera bodies to have the MySets for landscape and macro/bracketed/stacked shooting to use electronic shutter.   But the two MySets for wildlife are back to using physical shutter after I saw some distortion from rolling shutter effect.

 

The times they are a changing.  

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I certainly agree about groups of photographers blazing away together.  The noise is a real distraction for those of us who prefer to be more selective when pressing the shutter button, let alone for non-photographers.  I do wonder what is the point of taking dozens of virtually identical photos of a stationary bird.

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I alwas use the V1 with the electronic shutter, perhaps I have tried the mechanical shuter a couple of times, I turned off alll sonds so it is dead silent, and if I turn off the rear display , it is really hard to tell by others if I'm shooting, other that I have to put the camera to my face and see through the EVF, usefull when using it in a dark theater, now ...  if it only had useful high ISO ...

I reallyreallyreallyreallyreallyreallyreally wish the D800 had a more silent shuter, a friend uses a d3300 and I like the discrete sound of his camera, except for the dumb Beep Beep of the AF confirmation that he seems to be oblivious to, even in live view the D800 does al this clak clunck noises, I do not understand  why on earth does it have move the mirror when shooting in LV

If you ask me THAT - silent shutter - can be a good reason for updrading from my DSLR

 

The shutter sound is useful when shooting a model , it is an indication they can relax or change positions

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The D800 also lacks an electronic first curtain (EFCS), so it will always clack in LV. I thought that the D800 didn't move the mirror up and down in LV, that Nikon had solved that with the D800. Anyway DSLRs are no good for tripod mounted tele photography. You need EFCS and no mirror to extract the maximum posdible quality from tele lenses. The focus magnifier in the EVF is much better for optimal focus than the OVF or the PDAF of a DSLR. Of course AF is faster, but not as accurate.

In my opinion manual focus tele lenses are a bit wasted on DSLRs compared to mirrorless.

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I certainly agree about groups of photographers blazing away together.  The noise is a real distraction for those of us who prefer to be more selective when pressing the shutter button, let alone for non-photographers.  I do wonder what is the point of taking dozens of virtually identical photos of a stationary bird.

 

I believe it's an excitement thing. Many of the people we have had on our safaris have never been on one before and the excitement of just being there and getting every photo possible adds to the experience. I often get caught up in this myself, but this past year I forced myself to make more videos than stills when things got really interesting. 

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At musical events and at mass silent shutter is better than anything DSLRs can do.

I'd love to have a X100Tt with roughly 85mm equiv.

then I would have 35 + 85 and could do a full silent shoot of silent musical events at church with two X100-Cams

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I certainly agree about groups of photographers blazing away together.  The noise is a real distraction for those of us who prefer to be more selective when pressing the shutter button, let alone for non-photographers.  I do wonder what is the point of taking dozens of virtually identical photos of a stationary bird.

 

When I had the D3S I often did a CH or CL auto exposure bracket because the lighting conditions in the forest-scape I work in are often extremely contrasty and the D3S struggled with DR in those situations, and HDR was often the only answer. Macine-gunning in that situation was easier, particularly as the camera only offered a max of 1 stop progression in auto bracket. Often I just needed 2 or three stops under, normal and 1-2 stops over so some of the in between shots were never used, but shooting them all in auto was faster than changing aperture manually and shooting S.

 

Also there was no real quick way to compare under or over exposure results so it was just easier to shoot a bracket to make sure the best exposures were caught.

 

With the EVF these days it's easy to see in the viewfinder the adjustments + or - are having on the initial exposure settings in real time displayed at the shooting aperture. With a bit of experience one can nail the exposure extremely accurately in almost any lighting condition, and equally in my case the Fuji's DR400  setting gives enough DR coverage for any situation I've encountered, all of which makes exposure bracketing rather redundant for any reason.

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I would not mind at all someone shooting for bracketing as you describe, it makes a lot of sense.

 

Likewise, when capturing motion shooting at CH can make a lot of sense.

 

I am thinking of a group of people firing at 8 or 10 fps until the buffer fills, with no thought of bracketing or even of capturing motion, because the animal is not actually doing anything.

 

Like you, I have not felt the need to bracket with the X-T1.

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Let alone the clickety clack of shutters I can never understand the pressmen needing to get so up close and in the face of their victims.  :huh:

Edited by Mike G

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Let alone the clickety clack of shutters I can never understand the pressmen needing to get so up close and in the face of their victims.  :huh:

 

Depends entirely on the situation, Mike - if the context/background of the situation is aided by, or even dependent on, the story being captured sometimes it is simply mandatory to get as much of that in while still keeping the subject person large and sharp in shot. The only way I know of to do that is to use an ultrawide lens, and to keep the subject large in that context you are going to be arm's length from their face.

 

The trick is to both work fast and keep a sharp eye on the subject's expression and bail out the moment they start to look uncomfortable, and well before they get annoyed, at the same time being mindful of the visual block you are causing between the audience behind you (if any) - they're there to see the speaker, not the back of your head.

Edited by Alan7140

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Depends entirely on the situation, Mike - if the context/background of the situation is aided by, or even dependent on, the story being captured sometimes it is simply mandatory to get as much of that in while still keeping the subject person large and sharp in shot. The only way I know of to do that is to use an ultrawide lens, and to keep the subject large in that context you are going to be arm's length from their face.

 

The trick is to both work fast and keep a sharp eye on the subject's expression and bail out the moment they start to look uncomfortable, and well before they get annoyed, at the same time being mindful of the visual block you are causing between the audience behind you (if any) - they're there to see the speaker, not the back of your head.

Hehe... reminds me of...

 

The time I shot bullriding championships in Las Vegas

 

A lot of guys wore cowboy hats INSIDE.

 

I was behind a guy ... must have been 6'4" and had this huge black Stetson on..(penal compensation?)

 

But he didn't bother me with my loud D700

 

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I suspect that a lot of it is also wanting to get in front (or at least not behind) other press photographers.

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How you approach it is also governed by how much you like getting hit by thrown missiles from behind or punched by clenched fist from the front.....

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And of course every body getting in each others way always helps dunnit. Have these people never heard of 85mm lenses?

 

By the way that geezer in the stetson always sits in front of me.  :(

Edited by Mike G

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Found another use for the silent shutter.

 

This past weekend, I was shooting an event where I was also recording video.  The press pit was cramped and there was no room to move.  I had to shoot stills over top the video.

 

Shutter sound would have really ruined the audio, so silent shutter to the rescue!.

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I'm not familiar with the term, Frank.

 

Big , soft contraption filled with sound deadening material zippered around a DSLR to kill the racket of stills being taken during live action shooting/recording on set. So named because they do impart the appearance of a blimp to the camera. Redundant with digital electronic shutters, of course.

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Big , soft contraption filled with sound deadening material zippered around a DSLR to kill the racket of stills being taken during live action shooting/recording on set. So named because they do impart the appearance of a blimp to the camera. Redundant with digital electronic shutters, of course.

 

Ah...I see thanks for that.

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Adding my own experience to this discussion on electronic shutter in use, this Saturday morning past I was hired to take some photos of a corporate workshop for a pharmaceuticals company and I used silent shutter on a job for the first time. 

 

I noticed as I was shooting this way in a very dimly lit room, in A mode with electronic shutter the Olympus E-M1 slowed the shutter speed by about 2.3 stops and made up for this by dropping the Auto-ISO by an equivalent amount. I found myself shooting at 1/13sec with IBIS active and ISO down to around 640 in cases where it would usually be at the limit of around 4000 or 6400 (depending on which camera I am using). That's really slow for handheld photography, even with IBIS active. I got some keepers at these slow speeds, but on many of the speaker shots I would get that weird rolling shutter effect if they were moving even slightly.  

 

It would be quite nice to be able to set a minimum shutter speed for this when in A mode. I think 1/30 second would be as slow as I would want to go on a speaker, so even though IBIS thinks it can combat camera shake and shutter shock at slow shutter speeds, it can't control subject movement. 

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