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I know that general shopping recommendations are off-topic, and I will try to be as specific as possible, so please comment/edit if this question is not specific enough for this site, or if I can clarify anything in this question.

TL;DR: Quiet mode on my Nikon D7200 is not quiet enough. How can I make it quieter, or what should I buy to make it quieter?

Background:
I am a Nikon shooter (D7200, 24-70 f/2.8, 70-200 f/2.8) and am not looking to change ecosystems. I shoot mostly for fun, but have recently been hired to do some events (plays and lectures, mostly). Generally, sound is not a problem, but a few days ago, an opera company asked me to shoot their show... during a live performance. I warned them that my equipment wasn't silent, but I put my camera on quiet mode and they told me to do the best I could. That didn't stop me from gritting my teeth every time I pressed the shutter button. As I make more and more connections, I foresee myself doing more events where my equipment needs to be silent, or as close to silent as possible. I love the manual control that my DSLR offers me - I always shoot full manual and am constantly using the dials to adjust shutter speed, aperture, and ISO on the fly.

Requirements:
I am looking for one of two things. Either,
1) A way to make my DSLR quieter without inhibiting my manual control too much (i.e.: not a sound blimp) - either DIY or a purchase recommendation, OR
2) A recommendation for the purchase of a new camera body that I can use my Nikon lenses on that will allow me to shoot quieter. Would something like a Sony A6500 and Nikon lens adapter be significantly quieter? How does the Nikon D850's silent shooting mode (electronic shutter) stack up (note that this is a bit more expensive than I would like, but if it is the best option, I would be willing to look into it)?

Note that because I am looking at purchasing this as an investment for paid work, money is a factor, but is less important than function.

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    Mirrorless if you want near absolute silence? With a Nikon adapter for the lenses? I'm not familiar enough with the 7200 to know if shooting in "Live Preview" mode (or whatever they call it!) prevents the mirror from flipping.- you'll still have the sensor shutter flipping. – wally Apr 30 '18 at 14:19
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    In fact - just noticed the useful advice on: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/15580/… – wally Apr 30 '18 at 14:30
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    @wally thanks for pointing out that thread! I must have missed it. Unfortunately that doesn't give the answer I need. I'm thinking mirrorless will be quieter because it doesn't have a mirror to flip (and don't some mirrorless cameras have electronic shutters for complete silence?). "Live Preview" on the 7200 does flip the mirror. Unfortunately, the only Nikon camera that appears to fit the bill is the D850, but I would prefer not to spend the $3300 if I can find something cheaper (my D7200 body is advanced enough for everything else I need to do). – NoahL Apr 30 '18 at 14:46
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    Completely with you. Even a mirrorless feels like a moderate expense to "just" remove a mirror noise in my book! (But I completely sympathise with where you're coming from. I shoot fairly regularly in church settings, even after several years - flashes and shutter noises feel so wrong...) – wally Apr 30 '18 at 14:48
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    @wally Can't talk about most/all mirrorless cameras, but the EOS M6's shutter is louder than that of the EOS 5D III in silent mode. So just buying a random MILC won't do much in terms of reducing noise. – flolilo Apr 30 '18 at 16:52
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Disclaimer: This answer does not offer any help with decreasing shutter volume - it is an anecdote and therefore just a viewpoint that is related to your status quo.

I think that there is not much you can do about it - if you are aware that your camera is non-silent and you try your best to avoid it being disturbing, you already did everything you could. There might be others who have great suggestions to further reducing the noise output of your camera - but to me, the question remains if this really is necessary.


First, a few things about me: I would call myself an audiophile - I keep my music as FLACs (self-ripped from freshly bought CDs, of course!) because I really hear a difference, and I have a fairly decent audio setup. I worked as a FOH technician for quite some time and I love to hear the small details in music. I also like to go to concerts/the opera.

Lately, I was hired for some congresses and also a few concerts (and a baptism). Of course I did not want to interrupt people, as I would not want to be interrupted by those nasty click-sounds myself when I sit in a concert. However, I 'only' own an EOS 5D Mark III, and that got me worried, as DSLRs are not the quietest things on the market.

Even in Silent Drive mode, I always feared that someone would stand up and punch me in the face as the infernal sound of the shutter went on without any empathy towards the acoustic importance of the moment. However, the shutter sound barely gets noticed at all - I have yet to encounter someone that even turns around and looks at me. My EOS M6, which has a very distinct, high-pitched shutter sound, got me one or two looks when I used it in the Largo of Dvořák's 9th Symphony, but all in all, no one seemed to care much about it.

Then, on one occasion, another photographer was there - also with a 5D Mark III. We had different tasks, so we barely made photos at the same time, and therefore, I had some time to watch (and listen) to his work. To my astonishment, I could barely hear the shutter, even when he was standing a few meters away. Of course, that is quite a logical thing to happen: As the inverse-square law applies to sound intensity, with twice the distance, you only get one fourth of the volume. Therefore, something that is very close to me (like the camera, which even has contact to my face) might seem loud to me, but may be nearly imperceptible to someone just a few meters away.

Lately, I was hired to shoot some photos during a pre-recorded (as in: non-live) radio interview in a very small (perhaps 12m³), silent room. As I was not able to get good shots of the interviewed persons in a "fake" interview setting, I decided to get the shots during the interview - just over 1m away from the mic. If you ever recorded an interview yourself (I earned a living with that for some time), you will know that there is nothing more destructive than random noise during or slightly before/after the interview (you need some headroom, as sounds/voice do not die instantly, but fade out). The trick to not destroying the recording was to recognize when a person ends a statement - and take the shot in the small pause that occurs there. This probably required years of interview experience, a steady hand (and open ears) - and quite a bit of chutzpah. Eventually, I got the best shots of the day out of these shots - and the interviewer later said that while the shutter sound was audible, it was far enough away from the important stuff to be cut away in the final mix effortlessly. Please note that this was an emergency solution: Intervening in other people's work (which has higher priority) is something I try to avoid as much as posssible.

Also, it is much harder to make out the shutter sound when you do not know it is coming. I.e. if I fear the loudness of the shutter and I press the shutter release button, it will seem really loud to me, because I already expect the shutter sound (and it being loud). Unrelated persons usually do not even notice it, and they cannot foresee when you press the shutter, so for them, it really is only half as bad.


So a simple solution - if that is possible - is to choose narrower lenses (i.e. greater focal length) and stay away from people as much as possible. You will barely need 24mm (FF-equivalent) photos of a speaker. If you need a wider composition, be decisive and quick. If possible, make photos in fast series and then stop for a while - one click every 5 seconds is far more annoying than 20 at a time and then a pause of 15 seconds. Except from that, it seems to be the best idea to stop worrying too much and concentrate on the task at hand, which you got hired for. In my (limited) experience, it is better to not worry about slight annoyances too much. When I started my 'career', I often hesitated to get shots, just so I do not annoy people. This, of course, is a bad strategy, as you often miss chances or get suboptimal shots, which could mean more unpaid postproduction work or even the end of your career.

I am not saying "be ignorant of your surroundings", but to see it this way: You are hired to take shots, not to be quiet. I would not think that the PR department would care much if you told them "I'm sorry, I could not take the shot because I would have annoyed somebody." In fact, I know that they don't care - I worked as an intern at a local TV station once, and they got very upset with me when I delivered non-optimal clips after my first job, because the only option for better ones would have meant to block the sight of some known VIPs.

These are my rules of thumb - your mileage may vary, and perhaps some / many people may call it rubbish and directly contradict it with their experience.

  • Thanks! I like this answer! I shot most of this opera from FOH (behind the audience), but the space has crazy acoustics, so I could hear the “quiet” shutter from over 10 feet away. Nobody looked at me, which was good, but I still felt guilty. I did stick to the “only press the button when you have to” idea you suggested. – NoahL Apr 30 '18 at 17:47
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    I’ve also been a light board op, A2, deckhand, etc, and if I had to, pitch in to mix a few shows, so I know exactly what you mean! It also helped that all the designers wanted pictures, so I had permission to do what I had to do – NoahL Apr 30 '18 at 17:54
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    @NoahL That's another point: If they want you and you tell them that at least a fair bit of noise will be made and they still say "yes", then IMHO, everything beyond some regular measures to reduce noise is a premium-service you offer. You are hired to make photographs, and cameras usually are not silent (they were even louder when film was still around). It is hard to do so, but the best strategy is to stop worrying too much about it. ;-) – flolilo Apr 30 '18 at 18:00
  • @flolilolilo Has helped me most of times. Thanks for sharing this tacit piece of info - very useful, and thanks for the time. – Rahul May 1 '18 at 13:59
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    @Rahul glad that it helped/helps you. :-) – flolilo May 1 '18 at 16:12
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There's really little you can do that's practical within your constraints. Your options:

  • Get a noise-reducing blimp or enclosure for your camera. This is what pro shooters use when they shoot at video productions. Expensive, but will work with what you have (you might need to be careful what model you buy given what lenses you want to use inside it).
  • Use a tripod, and use mirror-lockup mode if your camera has it. This will divide your mirror noise into two bursts, and the total noise should be lower.
  • Use a rangefinder camera or mirrorless digital camera. These are very quiet - but won't easily work with your existing lens collection without adapters and compatibility issues.
  • Adapters from Nikon to E-mount are pretty solid these days, just a bit on the expensive side. – chrylis Apr 30 '18 at 19:54
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    mirrorless digital camera. These are very quiet - my girlfriend's EOS M6 probably isn't louder than my EOS 5D Mk III in Silent Drive, but the shutter sound is far more pregnant: it is higher pitched and snappier. So not every MILC is quieter than a(ny) DSLR. – flolilo Apr 30 '18 at 20:31
  • @chryllis Do you get autofocus, metering and diaphragm control? – Jim MacKenzie Apr 30 '18 at 20:42
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    Well, my Sony A7RIII is totally silent in electornic shutter mode. Like ZERO sounds, and a NIkeon lens adapter is not that expensive. – TomTom May 2 '18 at 4:39
  • @TomTom And what functionality do you get with the Nikon adapter? Autofocus? Metering? Automatic diaphragm control? – Jim MacKenzie May 2 '18 at 13:13
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Regarding the D850:

The D850s Quiet mode isn't much more quiet than the normal mode.

But if you use Live View, it will not open and close the shutter, thus making it very, very quite.

  • @PeterTaylor Thanks, I rephrased it to put the emphasis on the D850 – Alexander von Wernherr May 2 '18 at 8:08
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Would shooting in liveview help? It should force the mirror-up, which is one of the source for the noise.

I didn't see an electronic shutter in the quick scan in the manual, but it could be under a different term.

If that's still not sufficient, a mirrorless setup with an electronic shutter should pretty much lower the amount of noise the setup generates.

flolilolilo already covered the perception of sound, so being further away from viewers would help.

  • Thanks for your answer! No, there’s no electronic shutter and no, in live view the mirror still clicks (see comments on question) – NoahL Apr 30 '18 at 18:16
  • The mirror should flip up once when you activate LiveView, and taking the picture in LiveView should not require a mirror flip, but that might vary between cameras. I played around with a Canon Rebel with LiveView, and that mirror stays up until I flip it back to the viewfinder. – Calyth Apr 30 '18 at 18:18
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    @Calyth I'm not up to speed on current Nikon models, but at one time many lower end Nikon models had designs, left over from the film days, that used the same actuator to move the mirror and stop down the aperture. If metering/focus is done wide open, this requires a mirror flip to stop down the lens before the shot. Most other systems went to electronic aperture control long ago, Nikon is finally coming around to it on some recent lenses and some recent bodies. – Michael C Apr 30 '18 at 22:21
  • @MichaelClark that is definitely something I didn’t know – Calyth Apr 30 '18 at 22:47
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If this is a large portion of your paid work and something you'll be doing in the future, I highly recommend biting the bullet and investing in a second system. Both Fujifilm and Sony offer high-end mirrorless cameras which can be totally silent with electronic shutter. And, crucially for your comfort, they have manual control comparable to that of your Nikon D7200. In fact, models like the Fujifilm X-T2 have more direct dials and buttons.

I would suggest investing in lenses for the new system which meet your needs for the job rather than an adapter. Adapted lenses can be fun, but are generally slower and more awkward to use than ideal.

You might even consider moving over entirely; your lenses have pretty good resale value, which could take some of the sting out of it. I know you explicitly said that you don't want to switch systems, but for this use case, I think you should reconsider that.

As an alternative, you might rent equipment for the job. LensRentals has the Fujifilm X-T2 for just $100 for seven days; pair with 50-140mm f/2.8 for another $93. Or for about $300 total (again for a week), Sony Alpha a7R III + 70-200mm f/2.8.

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The Nikon D4 has a silent mode in live view, it can take 1 shot in normal mode, 12 FPS in low speed and 24 FPS in continuous mode all with no noise.

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    Paul, while I didn’t know that that existed, and it’s good to know it does, it’s also not really an answer I’m looking for. For one, those images are essentially just unstitched video, so the quality and resolution are low ~2MP (I shoot 24MP RAW images, and need to be able to have a lot of play with color and lighting in post production). – NoahL May 26 '18 at 15:44
  • Perhaps a Sony A9 with a Nikon adapter, costly I know, I also have a Nikon D 610 that only has the Q setting that isn’t that quite. – Paul watts May 27 '18 at 10:26

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