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When photographers take pictures at events, like at the latest British open golf tournament, you can hear a lot of loud shutter(?) noises? Is that really necessary for a digital camera? Especially when photographing wildlife, it is important to be as silent as possible. What kind of camera can be used for this?

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The shutter noise of the DSLR (and SLRs for that matter) is what I love about them and what made me use one in the first place :) –  Shaihi Jul 22 '10 at 10:14

7 Answers 7

up vote 9 down vote accepted

True DSLRs will always make noise by moving the mirror. This can be reduced by using mirror lock-up or in some modes of live view, but if you need to be really quiet you have to use either something mirrorless (like Panasonic GF1) or a Sound Blimp, which is basically a soundproof box around a DSLR (see video from John Harrington).

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A Sound Blimp sort of defeats the purpose of an SLR, doesn't it? –  Dave Van den Eynde Jul 27 '10 at 17:05
    
You can still dampen the sound. K-7 vs A900 for reference youtube.com/watch?v=6SzFL1FoheM –  Eruditass Jul 27 '10 at 17:49
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That Sound Blimp looks hilarious! :) –  Marc Jul 28 '10 at 9:23

I believe the most silent DSLR is the Pentax K-7. It is quiet due to both dampening and weathersealing.

K-7 vs A900 for reference http://youtube.com/watch?v=6SzFL1FoheM

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The same quiet shutter is used in the newer Pentax K-5 as well. theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2010/… –  mattdm Mar 23 '11 at 3:19

See this question: http://photo.stackexchange.com/questions/593/why-dont-they-make-all-dslrs-with-an-electronic-shutter - there are significant costs, in terms of camera performance, to using electronic instead of mechanical shutters.

You can usually make DSLRs a bit quieter by using the mirror lock-up and/or "live view" feature, if that helps...

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+1 For the lock up suggestion. –  ChrisFletcher Mar 30 '11 at 10:54

Ken Rockwell claims, and I agree, that the D5000 in quiet mode is pretty darn quiet. I haven't measured mine, but it is pretty hard to hear from across the room in quiet mode. That being said, I don't like the delay, and only turn it on when I really have to.

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Answering the original question, yes there are. At the moment here are your options:

A) Timing the loud shutter to make its obnoxious sound before snapping the shot silently in the golden silent moment. This is possible with many of the current DSLRs supporting Live View.

B) Using the latest mechanical mirror-flip technology which slows down the flip up to reduce noise (the mirror flip up is pretty much the loudest contributor to the noise you hear upon shutter release). Both Canon and Nikon are pretty much committed to using this new technology in newer DSLRs, as other answer entries have mentioned D5000 is well known for having this feature.

C) There are enclosures that completely wraps around the entire DSLR + lens and muffles the sound. It's added cost but may just allow you to use a camera in places where it's taboo, like concert halls.

D) Use an camera that uses alternative shutter mechanisms. Cloth and leaf shutter comes to mind.

E) Use compacts. Compacts tend to have a very small sensors--even premium compacts have tiny sensors. And as a result the shutter is either completely substituted with an electronic shutter or the shutter makes very little sound. And these compacts have no mirrors to flip either--which pretty much contributes the most noise in high performance DSLRs.

F) A special mention can be made for premium compacts and mirror less cameras with electronic viewfinders like that of the Olympus/Panasonic micro four-thirds system or the Samsung NX system and last but not least the Sony NEX platform. As you know the lack of mirror flipping means a great deal of noise can be dampened.

Keep in mind other sources of noise, if you are wary of noisy cameras because you need to record sound, forget about it. You almost always need to have someone carry a dedicated boom with the mic attached because other things on your camera will make a ton of noise. Here's a short list: 1) working with the tripod and ballhead; 2) the rustling of sound made by your fingers operating the camera; 3) the image stablization mechanism inside the camera body or inside the lens will also contribute noise; 4) working with the focus and zoom rings will also make some grinding noise with lense not in the best condition; 5) the auto-focus motor, even the silent type, can make an audible noise that will be recorded by any sensitive on-camera mic. This is just a short list--there's more. But it's kinda drifting off topic.

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The expensive solution : Leica M9 is very silent.

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To answer just the final part of the question, I'll second the Pentax K-7 - it's probably the quietest SLR I've used (and it's not a mode, the shutter is just generally quiet). There are videos on YouTube which demonstrate how quiet.

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The better way to second an answer is to vote it up, and add a comment if you think it warranted. –  mattdm Mar 23 '11 at 3:18
    
I don't think I could vote up when I answered this question originally. –  Adrian Burgess May 19 '11 at 15:20
    
Now you can. :) –  mattdm May 19 '11 at 15:35

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