Regarding Canon's silent shooting mode: I have not experienced it personally but people say it is really great for certain situations like weddings, and places where the noise of your camera mirror slapping is required to be minimal.

My question is why is the silent shooting mode optional?

When you can shoot silently, why is there an option to make the shutter noisy? Why not apply this silent shooting permanently, rather than it being an option?


To bluntly answer the question: "Why not enable it by default?" The obvious answer is "because it has drawbacks". Otherwise it would be enabled by default :).

Looking at this article from Canon directly explaining the option for the 1DMkIII and 1DSMkIII, then at this one for the 7D, I think we can safely say that the effect will vary depending on the camera you have.

One thing that seems to remain constant between the 1D and 7D, though:

  • Only works in Live View. And everybody knows that at the moment, Canon's DSLRs really suck at LiveView AF. It just lags too much. Even the most recent generations (Hybrid AF, from the EOS-M onwards) are still noticeably slower to achieve focus than when using the optical viewfinder.

The different types of Silent Mode I've seen so far while researching the subject.

  1. Everything is slowed down. Mirror movement and everything. If that's the case, I suppose it increases the shutter lag, and maybe will limit your shutter speed?
  2. Mirror stays up all the time. So you don't get the "clack clack clack" of the mirror in between shots.
  3. Part of the noise is only delayed until you release the shutter button. Still called Silent because it allows you to put the camera away before releasing the shutter button, and muffle the sound if you need.

EDIT: Looks like the 5D Mk III's silent mode doesn't require live view, and provides modes 1. and 3. above. The 1D X also has silent modes in PDAF as well as Live View. The 1D mkIV, 1D mkIII, and 1Ds mkIII have a silent mode in PDAF but none using Live View.

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    The 5D mkIII also has silent mode single and silent mode continuous even when not using Live View. The frame rate is reduced from around 6fps to 3fps. – Michael C May 6 '13 at 6:50
  • @MichaelClark correct. Updated my answer to reflect it :) – matt.nguyen May 6 '13 at 8:11
  • The 1D X also has single: silent shooting when not using live view. The silent modes on the 1D mkIII and 1Ds mk III also have single frame non-live view modes available. The 5DII and 7D are the most recent xD series model I'm aware of that do not have a non-live view silent shooting mode. The 1D mkIV, 1D mkIII and 1Ds mkIII have a single shooting silent drive mode, but no silent modes in Live view. The article you linked to describes how to use Live View to keep the mirror locked up while shooting continuously. This, however, is the default LV behavior, not a silent mode as on later models. – Michael C May 6 '13 at 9:07
  • The 5D Mark III's silent modes are great, but definitely not an always feature. Some events I'm happy with the near-silent ~3fps, but definitely make use of the noisier 6fps for others. The noisier shutter is also good for group photos, as people are more aware you're taking photos and actually look at the camera by the 3rd or 4th shot! – drfrogsplat Mar 18 '14 at 2:17

In order to allow the camera to make less noise, the speed the mirror is moved out of the light box and/or the speed the shutter is reset for each shot is slowed down. This increases shutter lag and decreases the maximum number of frames per second.

Sometime the maximum frame rates is more important, regardless of the noise produced by a camera. I doubt anyone will notice in a professional sports stadium full of cheering fans. In situations such as that, why slow the maximum speed of the camera down when no one cares about the noise?

The various Canon models with Silent Shooting have different options:

The 5D mkII and the 7D have Live View only modes that include Mode 1, Mode 2, and Disable. Mode 1 allows for continuous shooting in Live View at a reduced frame rate. Mode 2 allows for only single shooting and doesn't reset the shutter curtain until the full press of the shutter button is released. Disable is for use with Canon Tilt-Shift lenses (and presumably any other lens with a manual aperture control on the lens that would mount on an EOS body).

The 1D mkIII, 1D mkIV, and 1Ds mkIII have no dedicated silent shooting modes in Live View, but do have a silent shooting single mode when shooting via the viewfinder. The only way to shoot continuously with the mirror locked up is to use the regular continuous shooting mode combined with Live View.

The 1D X has single: silent shooting but no continuous silent mode when shooting through the viewfinder. It also has the Mode 1, Mode 2, and Disable options in Live View.

The 5D mkIII includes the same Live View silent modes as the 1D X, and also has a silent mode single, and silent mode continuous setting when shooting via the viewfinder. In silent mode continuous, the max frame rate is reduced from 6 to 3 fps. In this mode the mirror still moves up and down between each shot as it would in normal continuous shooting mode. Depending on the settings selected, the camera will also re-meter and refocus between each shot.

  • you are saying the silent mode and the continous mode cannot be coupled??? when the shutter is pressed, then the mirror is flipped up unless you let go of the shutter. but when the mirror is up, the sensor screen can exposed as many times as you can and also at much faster frame rate than ever (in continous mode the mirror and the shutter is flipped together which is slower than just flipping the exposure screen) could you justify if am wrong Michael Clark – pradeep sekar May 6 '13 at 5:21
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    @pradeepsekar -- how, exactly, do you plan to follow the action with the viewfinder blacked out? – user2719 May 6 '13 at 5:43
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    @StanRogers Blacked out? - buy an SLT ... :-). Try it. You'll like it. My D700 is marvellous - noise performance vastly better than A77 SLT. But my A77 is vastly better at "making pictures that I want to make". Combination of EVF, fixed mirror, articulated screen and ...? In body antishake helps too - the world's only AF mirror lens with antishake/VR whatever :-). 12 frames per second is also sometimes useful. Not often, but ... . – Russell McMahon May 6 '13 at 15:01
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    @RussellMcMahon -- tried it and hated it. The Canon EOS RT pellicle experience wasn't bad (a bit dim, but not horrible). EVFs have a long way to go before they'd satisfy me. – user2719 May 6 '13 at 15:15
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    Never got the 100% thing, myself (especially with film cameras, where the frame edge was ragged and usually lost under the slide mount or negative carrier anyway). But live and (apparently) unmodified I do want. I can tolerate reversed (prismless reflex) and upside down (view cameras), but I can't make myself like "enhanced"; it interferes with a lifetime of previz habits. – user2719 May 6 '13 at 20:54

It's slower in terms of frame rate, and there's a noticeably longer shutter lag.

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