Tuesday, January 26, 2016

What A Silent Shutter Gives Me

As a lot of you know, along with portraits, events and weddings, I also shoot street photography. 
I wanted to talk today about a feature on some cameras that you might overlook.  That feature is the silent shutter.

Don't mistake this with the "Q" or quiet mode on some cameras.  It doesn't really make the camera any quieter, it just spreads the sound of the mirror box moving and the shutter over a longer period of time.

I'm referring more to the silent or electronic shutter mode or a camera with a leaf shutter.
Of these kinds of camera, I have my Olympus Micro Four Thirds and a Fuji X100T.

The Olympus shutter is by no means loud when compared to a DSLR camera, however, if you want to go dead silent, there is an option of doing so.  In the menu, pick the shutter option with the heart next to it.  This puts the camera into electronic shutter mode.  This disables the mechanical shutter and uses only the sensor readout.  You get bulb through 1/16000  of a second shutter speed.  So, why would you not use this all the time?  Sensor warping, a.k.a. the Jello effect.  The sensor scans each line individually and if you have a fast moving subject, then they might get distorted.
Another issue with electronic shutters are flash sync speed, or shall we say, a lack of ability to use flash in those modes.

The Fuji X100T is unique in that it has a leaf shutter as well as an all electronic shutter.  The leaf shutter is so quiet that you would hardly ever need to use the electronic, unless you are needing that 
extra bit of shutter speed in super bright light.

I was up on a balcony, quite a ways away, and even as quiet as the shutter on the EM5 Mk II is, the front desk staff at this museum was able to hear it.  As you can tell from the body language, they do not mind that I am taking their picture, but they are "working the camera".  Not exactly the candid, natural acting image I was looking for.
So, when would you want to use these kinds of camera/shutter devices?
I could see using then during a wedding ceremony that was small and intimate and discretion was wanted.  I've been to events where my Nikon D700 shutter sound actually made multiple tables of people turn around and look at me.  I've also used it on occasion to shoot street photography.  Now before anyone starts screaming, "perv" or creeper, let me explain my position on this.

I make no secret when I am out shooting street that I am there.  I don't hide in corners, I don't sneak up on people.  From my years of shooting, I've found that a lot of people act differently when they know they are being photographed.  When shooting street scenes, I want the people in that scene to be as honest and natural as they can be.  So there are times when I will shoot street with a long-ish telephoto or with a silent mode or leaf shutter camera.

Without that, I would not be able to get images like these.

There is no cropping to these and I was never more than 6 ft away.  The silent shutter made this possible without disrupting the subjects focus and without making a lot of noise within the museum itself.