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I would like some advice or suggestions for a camera to use at a wedding.

I normally use a Pentax K-5 (which is quiet enough) and a Pentax K-r (which is noisy) but I have a wedding to shoot with a vicar who is very anti-cameras, in particular during the ceremony.

The couple have asked me to take what I can and it occurred to me that if I have a camera which can be set up on a tripod near the vicar and couple and operated by wireless remote (not infrared) this might work. However, it must be silent (or almost silent) when operated. My K-5 is very quiet but I want a electronic rather than a mirror shutter and it must have good low light capability as flash will not be allowed.

So I'm looking for something with:

  • very very quiet operation
  • wide aperture
  • tripod mount
  • capability for wireless remote firing

Note I don't need a telephoto or very wide angle zoom.

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Any rangefinder would do. No mirror to flap up and down. –  dpollitt Sep 11 '11 at 5:06
1  
Thanks for all the advice I belatedly realised my wife's Canon G11 which produces cracking images and fits the bill 100%. It takes a remote, tripod mount, av mode f.28 decent usable ISO range and absolutely silent. Vicar had a demo and is happy to let me use this during the actual ceremony. In fact he is happy for me to get reasonaly close behind in the choir stalls and shoot from there. –  adwb Sep 15 '11 at 20:06
    
the vicar will have to bow to the will of the customer, being the couple. If they want pictures, he can dislike cameras all he wants but pictures there will be. Flash can be disruptive maybe, but the sound of a shutter is hardly going to disrupt the proceedings (people inevitably coughing or shuffling their feet in the audience make more noise for example). –  jwenting Sep 16 '11 at 6:51
    
Nikon D7000 has quiet mode function –  Kevin Hubilla Sep 17 '11 at 4:54
    
FWIW, the D7000 in quiet mode is about the same as @adwb's Pentax K-5 in no special mode. –  mattdm Sep 17 '11 at 5:11

5 Answers 5

Some options for near silent operation at similar quality that you currently have:

  • Sony SLT-A55
  • Sony SLT-A33
  • Any rangefinder old or new

The big difference here between your K5 or Kr and the above mentioned options is that your cameras have a big mirror that flips up and down to allow the viewfinder to show a picture - then to capture the image on the sensor. Sony has recently developed a mirror system that is "translucent" to the degree that both can occur at the same time. This can give you a very high frames per second value, as well as a very quiet camera. Rangefinder cameras do not have a mirror to flip, because the window that you are using as the viewfinder is not through the lens, it is separate. So it has no need to flip or move since it is not obstructing the film or sensor.

Other ideas might include point and shoot style cameras that have electronic shutters and no mirror systems, or using a video camera and pulling still frames(last resort).

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Have you tried the Live View feature on your K-r or K-5? In Live View the mirror stays up and the camera behaves much like a point & shoot camera: the LCD shows exactly what the lens is seeing. I've never used a Pentax I'm afraid but on the various Canons I've used firing the shutter in Live View is very quiet but not silent. (There's still a shutter moving, you just avoid the much louder noise of the mirror flapping up and down.)

The downsides of using Live View though would be that it drains the battery much faster than regular use, and it may not support autofocus, meaning you may not be able to refocus between shots.

Failing that, a mirrorless camera would provide most of the benefits of a DSLR without the noise of the mirror (as others have suggested). Have a look at the Pentax Q and see if that addresses your requirements. At a glance, I can't see a wireless remote feature but you should research it further.

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1  
@adwb's K-5 has a live view mode too, FWIW. The Pentax Q looks interesting for some things, but I don't think for this. It has a tiny sensor and uses its own lens system, so there's no particular advantage in staying within the brand. –  mattdm Sep 11 '11 at 12:53
    
Thanks Matt: I've updated the answer to include the K-5. –  Mark Whitaker Sep 11 '11 at 13:32

Right now the micro 4/3 cameras offer the most hope for this kind of unobtrusive photography. You can look at http://www.43rumors.com/ to see how lively this market is. The two cameras that have everyone excited right now are the Fujifilm X-100 and the Olympus EP-3. The image quality is quite nice (and I'm used to a 21 megapixel sensor) and the noise is usually acceptable. The X-100 has a better reputation for low-light performance (don't know, I haven't gotten my hands on one).

I'm carrying the EP-3 as my walkaround camera right now and it's performing well. Sony and Panasonic also have entries in this market. The lenses available vary by camera so if you are looking for something very fast, you need to make sure that a compatible mount lens that fits your needs exists for that body.

Among your many challenges in this effort will be:

  • Remote triggering. This is common enough, but you need to be sure you can reliably trigger the camera in a crowded environment.
  • Focus. Obtaining and maintaining focus with a camera you aren't near at a wide aperture can be a challenge.

Good luck with this.

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+1. Worth mentioning, though, that the X100 is a fixed-lens camera with an APS-C sensor, not an interchangeable lens micro 4/3rds camera. –  mattdm Sep 12 '11 at 3:32
    
Oh, and for completeness: Samsung also has a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera line, the NX series. Like Sony's NEX, this uses an APS-C sensor and a new, proprietary lens mount. –  mattdm Sep 12 '11 at 3:33

For completeness: you can buy a completely silent housing for a DSLR but it will cost you a few grand. Some models like the Canon 1D mkIV have a silent mode where you can shoot and then return the mirror at a more convenient moment by releasing the shutter. This is not a cost effective option either. There are cameras with naturally quiet shutters and there is the mirrorless option and there is live view.

However depending on you precise situation what I suggest is:

  • talk to the vicar and explain the situation: for example at a recent wedding I persuaded the vicar to allow me to take photos by assuring him I would be neither seen or heard, afterwards he confirmed to me that he had not noticed me taking photos.

  • shoot anyway! This depends entirely on the situation but again at a recent wedding where photography was banned during the entire ceremony I suck in two or three photos (exchange of rings, first kiss as husband and wife). This is a controversial option but if you time your shots well it's possible to shoot unnoticed. In the end I decided in this case the couple deserved at least some record of the ceremony. I have yet to be thrown out of a wedding (touch wood!)...

Some tips for shooting without being noticed:

  • time your shots to coincide with some other noise, the begining of a sentence, the cry of a child etc.
  • compose your shot and then look away when you fire the shutter - that way if anyone hears and looks round your eye won't be to the viewfinder so you are unlikely to be blamed.
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I never knew silent housings existed. Do you have an example of one just out of curiosity? –  dpollitt Sep 11 '11 at 19:30
    
that's crazy I obviously didn't mean to delete the last edit from Matt. Sorry for the mistake! –  Francesco Sep 11 '11 at 20:10
    
+1 for some great sneaky tactics. :) –  Mark Whitaker Sep 12 '11 at 16:19

All the technical solutions suggested so far are good and probably will help in someway. But I would suggest a social one: talk to the couple. They are paying for your services and (in some sense more importantly) they wish to have a record of their wedding! So they will be in the best position to talk to the vicar and assure him that the due respect to the ceremony will be mantained and that the mere fact of collecting memories of such an important moment will not interfere with the celebration.

For instance there could be some relatives which are unable to go to the wedding (elderly grandparents?) why should they be deprived of the chance to have a nice photo of their nephews?

In the end I hope that you will be able to shoot with your usual gear, the one which you are most comfortable with.

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