I'm using a Canon 5D MkIII and I've been exceptionally pleased with the results of the 'new' single/continuous silent shooting functionality.

I'd like to know what the difference between silent and non-silent shooting is. Does it affect image quality at all? As far as I can tell, the only difference is to do with the speed that I can shoot at. Is there anything else?

I'm also interested to know what the difference between Silent LV (Live View?) shooting Mode 1, Mode 2, and Disabled is.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Duplicate of photo.stackexchange.com/questions/38829/… ? \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 6, 2013 at 6:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @matt.nguyen i wouldn't say duplicate, related perhaps... \$\endgroup\$
    – NULLZ
    Commented May 6, 2013 at 11:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ You know, you could read the manual for a basic understanding of the silent modes... \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Commented May 6, 2013 at 14:56
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @D3C4FF - Searching Google for "Canon 5D mkIII manual" is pretty easy. You can download it right from Canon, or many many other resources. I'm not suggesting that this question should be closed, as now the answers have elaborated much more than the manual. But for a basic understanding(which isn't shown in the original question), the manual clearly provides that. \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Commented May 6, 2013 at 15:23
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @dpollitt fair enough, but i already had an idea what it does, i was just curious if there was anything additional that I was missing. Manuals don't often point out all the downsides of things Michael Clark's answer explains everything perfectly :) \$\endgroup\$
    – NULLZ
    Commented May 6, 2013 at 22:40

3 Answers 3


Silent shooting mode normally (*please see the end of the answer for a notable exception) does not affect Image Quality in any way. Rather, it affects the way your 5D mk III cycles the mirror and shutter curtain for each shot you take.

When shooting via the viewfinder:

The Silent mode single option uses a slower speed to move the mirror up out of the light box. The first curtain opens, and then the second curtain closes as normal. The mirror then drops back down and the shutter curtain reset, again at a slower speed than normal. [With some other Canon models after the second curtain closes nothing else will happen until you release the full press of the shutter button. When you do, the mirror will drop back down, again at a reduced rate, and the shutter curtains will reset. This is very useful when shooting tennis or golf. You can expose a frame virtually silently at the height of a competitor's back swing and hold the shutter down until they have struck the ball and then release the button and allow the mechanisms to reset.] The slower mirror movement also increases the "shutter lag', which is the time between the instant the shutter button is fully pressed and the shutter curtains begin to move, and increases "mirror blackout", which is the amount of time the viewfinder is dark while the mirror is not all the way down.

The silent mode continuous option is similar, but allows multi-shot bursts. The mirror swings up more slowly. After each exposure the mirror and shutter mechanisms will reset at a slower and quieter rate. This reduces maximum frame rate from 6 fps to 3 fps.

In Live View:

The options are similar, but the mirror stays up as long as you are in Live View and are using Contrast Detection Autofocus or Manual Focus:

Mode 1 begins with the first curtain open prior to the shot (so that the sensor is exposed to give a Live View image on the camera's LCD screen). When the shutter button is pressed the sensor is cleared and then electronically exposed from bottom to top (top to bottom of the inverted image) to begin capturing the image. The exposure is ended by the movement of the first curtain from the bottom of the light box back to the top of the light box. This is the same direction the first curtain is moved when it is reset following a still shot taken using the viewfinder. The second curtain never moves throughout the entire Live View - Silent Shooting cycle with mode 1. For each frame exposed, the only sound is the first curtain closing to end the exposure and then reopening for the next shot (if the shutter button is held down for a continuous burst) or to allow the sensor to send an image to the LCD screen for Live View (if the shutter button is released).

Mode 2 is a single shot mode. The shot begins just like Mode 1. But the second curtain closes from the top to the bottom of the light box (bottom to top of the inverted image) to end the exposure. Once the second curtain closes it doesn't reopen to expose the sensor for Live View until the full press of the shutter button is released. The first curtain never moves throughout the entire Live View - Silent Shooting cycle with mode 2. For each frame exposed, the only sound is the second curtain closing to end the exposure. Once the full press of the shutter button is ended the sound of the second curtain reopening to allow the sensor to send an image to the LCD screen for Live View will be heard.

Disable allows shooting with Canon's Tilt-Shift lenses or when using extension tubes (and presumably any third party lens that has an aperture manually set on the lens). When the shutter button is fully pressed using this setting the first curtain resets to the top of the light box, the sensor is cleared, and the first curtain reopens to begin the exposure. The exposure is ended by the conventional movement of the second curtain from the top to bottom of the light box, the sensor is read out, and the second curtain is reset to the top of the light box while the first curtain remains open in the bottom of the light box.

(*The exception would be when you are using shutter speeds subject to allowing the vibrations produced by the mirror and to a lesser extent the shutter curtains to affect the image. Although it varies based on camera design, most researches that have thoroughly tested such vibrations place shutter speeds between about 1/100 second and 1 second as the most vulnerable to mirror vibration affecting the image. Any shorter exposure time and the image has already been recorded by the time the vibrations reach the parts of the camera that affect the image. Any longer and the vibrations don't last long enough to have much effect in the same way that someone running rapidly across the field of view of a 30 second exposure won't show up in the image. Do note that you'll only ever be able to detect blur caused by mirror vibrations if the camera is mounted on solid footing such as a sturdy tripod, the shutter is released using a wired remote cable, an IR remote, or the self-timer and the subject is also perfectly static.)

  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ You try to be quiet when shooting a golf swing as the token spectator yells "ITS IN THE HOLE!"? :P \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Commented May 6, 2013 at 15:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ It might just be my imagination, but I think the silent shooting drive modes (ie not the Live View modes) also introduce a little more shutter lag. So you may want to stick to one or the other to get used to the shutter lag if you need to capture moments precisely. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 4:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ What you are calling 'shutter lag' is the time it takes the mirror to swing up out of the way (discussed in the lead sentence of the second paragraph). Since the mirror moves at a slower speed it will obviously take longer to go from fully down to fully up. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 7:29

The silent mode is wonderful for situations where you need to limit noise. It comes at the expense of a slower mirror movement and thus more shutter lag and slower continuous shooting.

I know the manual also talks about the difference between the Silent LV modes (yes, it is live view). Personally, those ones I didn't remember anything about because I literally never use LiveView for any photos.

Update: For LV modes 1 allows 6fps continuous while mode 2 only allows single shots. Not sure what if there are differences in what it does beyond that. That is apparently all the manual says.

From some more reading, it appears that Mode 2 doesn't reset the shutter until you let go of the button. Thus it spreads the shutter sounds out more.

  • \$\begingroup\$ A bit of playing with it when I had my hands on a 5d3 when they came out seemed to indicate mode 1 doesn't go back to live view until you've let off the shutter for a while, while mode 2 goes back to live view pretty much immediately. \$\endgroup\$
    – cabbey
    Commented May 6, 2013 at 5:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @cabbey - perhaps Mode 1 delays the shutter resetting by a set time while Mode 2 does it as soon as you let go of the shutter button. \$\endgroup\$
    – AJ Henderson
    Commented May 6, 2013 at 13:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ yeah @aj-henderson, that's what it felt like. If you fire off another shot during that delay, it just ripples the curtain and doesn't have to do the whole mirror and all. \$\endgroup\$
    – cabbey
    Commented May 6, 2013 at 16:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @cabbey Live view shooting shouldn't be moving the mirror at all since the mirror is already locked up. \$\endgroup\$
    – AJ Henderson
    Commented May 6, 2013 at 17:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ er, yeah. Brain fart there. Meant open the shutters and put the ccd back into live view mode. \$\endgroup\$
    – cabbey
    Commented May 7, 2013 at 14:25

Silent shooting has nothing to do with image quality. It is all about the quality of your personal impact on the event you are shooting. With quiet shooting, you can have a minimal impact on that wedding, allowing the Bride, Groom, and audience to watch that final kiss...without the loud, distruptive "CLAT CLAT CLATTER" of a slapping mirror. Same goes for concerts, school plays, or any other event you can think of where a quiet camera might be critical to the overall performance of whoever or whatever it is you are photographing.

Not about IQ, all about you. :)

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I'm curious — what does it do? How silent is it? \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented May 6, 2013 at 1:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Mattdm Well, lets put it this way, i've taken photos of security guards from a few meters away at the dead of night and they haven't noticed it... \$\endgroup\$
    – NULLZ
    Commented May 6, 2013 at 1:55
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I'd second that it is very quiet. I was showing off at my sister's wedding by using the silent mode. You can still tell a photo is being taken if you know what to listen for, but if people are talking, they probably won't hear it over conversation. \$\endgroup\$
    – AJ Henderson
    Commented May 6, 2013 at 3:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mattdm It flaps the mirror more slowly, so there's less noise when the mirror crashes to a stop. Here's a comparison: youtube.com/watch?v=Rup3T6j_r9s In silent LV mode, it doesn't flap the mirror at all, and uses an electronic shutter in place of the first shutter curtain, so shutter noise is reduced by half - the only noise is the second curtain closing and opening again. (From a 7D review, assuming the 5D version works the same.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 6, 2013 at 5:20
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ The mirror is moved up in quiet mode in a different way, and Canon designed some kind of buffering latch mechanism for the mirror that nearly eliminates the "slap", and makes a nearly silent (whisper-level) "thud". The shutter still makes noise, and I gather that in normal shooting (with the OVF, rather than live view), the full shutter with both curtains still does its thing...so 40-50dB sounds about right. Quiet mode does slow things down a bit, but the overall "aesthetic" of the sound is just less jarring, softer, more appealing...even if it is still 50dB, it doesn't "feel" that loud. \$\endgroup\$
    – jrista
    Commented May 6, 2013 at 6:17

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.