What's silent got to do with it???
Please excuse my ignorance, but I am curious why the (relative) silence of the shutter is an important consideration when buying a rangefinder camera (or any other camera, for that matter)? If it is reliable, and the glass is excellent, and it handles well for you, and you think it's snazzy, and you just plain like it and it's your go-for camera when you go out, what big difference does the shutter volume make? If you want to hear a LOUD shutter, try out a Mamiya 645 Pro with motor wind...
Please pardon me while I don my Nomex fireproof suit...
With best regards to all.
Stephen S. Mack
For me, I use the rangefinder in situations where a loud shutter would cause distractions. Meetings are a good example of this type of location.If I am shooting crowds on the street, a loud shutter can be a problem. So it really boins down to what and where you are shooting. For me it is a consideration.
It hails from the days back when the dinosaurs roamed the earth.
In the olden days, photographers used large cameras, and taking pictures was a highly visible enterprise.
People like Erich Salomon started using small cameras (he famously used the Ermanox) and concealed it and what they were doing with it, thus inventing a new branch of photography: candid reportage.
Cameras needed to be silent too for that.
And the cameras also needed fast lenses. So they wouldn't need a quantity of magnesium powder exploding with a loud bang and a cloud of smoke.
A barely audible click alone is much better, is it not?
There also are reflex cameras that are not much louder, if louder at all (Olympus OM, for instance) than rangefinders
The silent bit however somehow stuck to Leicas in particular. Became part of the Leica Lore. And with Leicas being the Mother of all rangefinders, to all other rangefinders as well.
And of course noone can deny that rangefinders indeed are silent. But whether it matters much?
If you want to minimize the risk of getting caught taking pictures where you are supposed not to, perhaps.
If a situation calls for silence, then no amount of noise is too little. What you thought was barely noticeable can quickly become like firecrackers.
More often than the "sneak photography" situation is events to be photographed that you just don't want to disturb with extra noise. Back in April, I was at an avante gard theater performance where the performers had actually requested I shoot pictures. The show in question included music, spoken word and periods of dramatic silence. All I had was an SLR, and I shot with it, but I'd have been a lot less inhibited with a quieter camera. It wasn't a problem while there was music being played, but during silence my mirror slap and shutter snap would've echoed far in that little auditorium. I missed a terrific shot because I simply couldn't bring myself to generate that obnoxious noise during a silence when a rather daring performer was showing a great deal of skin. It felt uncouth, even with performer sanction.
That's just a sample from my amateur life. There's even more stringent situations like live film sets where sound is being recorded. If a noise is audible, then it's too loud. A plain Leica would likely not pass muster. Expensive and burly special soundproof enclosures are made for cameras so they can be used in situations like that.
If your photography never brings you into situations where how quiet your camera is matters, then I say enjoy yourselves. It's great to not have to think about this. But please, don't decide that because it doesn't matter to you that it can't possibly have valid importance to others.
If you have a camera that you are very comfortable with, use it forever, regardless of the shutter noise. I will say though that if what you want is a quiet shutter, get a Rolleiflex TLR.
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One of the big plusses of a rangefinder is that they can be very compact and quiet- not something that will announce your presence. A TLR can be quiet but it is far larger than a rangefinder- not something you can tuck into a pocket. If you need a quiet slr, you can blimp it... but that's not going to make a fairly large camera any smaller.
The quietest cameras I've had was actually an AF camera... a konica hexar AF with "stealth" mode. The mamiya 6/7/7ii cameras are also nice and quiet. The olympus XA is also fairly quiet and of course very small.
Having a quiet camera is not necessarily about "getting caught" - there are plenty of situations in which one simply doesn't want to announce to everyone that a photographer is in the room. I have recently worked around some acoustic guitar sessions with an SLR and it's not cutting it, everybody knows instantly that somebody is taking photos. Alas I sold my konica some time ago
Last edited by keithwms; 07-24-2009 at 09:51 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Tonight, I did a walk around the neighborhood photo shoot with my girlfriend. She saw a scene she wanted to shoot, so she grabbed my Canon P and took her time to get the shot. I couldn't believe how loud the shutter sounded from where I was, about 30 feet away. No doubt I'm attuned to the sound, but still . . .
It's rarely an issue, but a quiet shutter can be important, especially if you're taking photos on the sly. My Autocord has the quietest shutter of any camera I've owned, including an M6, and it isn't even close.
When cameras were first permitted in U.S. courtrooms, judges generally stipulated "Leica only," because they were quiet enough not to interfere with the proceedings. I think that's true for many journalistic situations, where the camera shouldn't interfere with a speaker, particularly if video is being recorded at the same event.
A big factor is a desire to be as unobtrusive as possible. A big SLR (film or digital) with a fat zoom lens and whirring motor drive announces yourself when you sometimes don't want that attention.
Another very quiet is the Kodak Retina IIIS rangefinder.