I have the Sony A7R and I absolutely love the camera. Many photographers have raised the issue about the sound of the shutter. It’s pretty loud. Although I’ve not shot in any situation that would attract unwanted attention or be distracting, I can certainly see the potential is there.
I analyzed the shutter sounds created by the A7R, NEX-7 and Nikon D3 using software that displays a graphic waveform of the sound. Waveforms created by sound consist of time (horizontal), and amplitude (the height of the spikes) which is a measurement of the change in atmospheric pressure caused by the sound waves. In the tests below the waveform from the left edge to the right represents 1 second (1000 Milliseconds) and the spiked area is, of course, the shutter release.
I did this experiment to “see” the pattern of noise made by the Sony A7R when the shutter is released. I set each camera shutter for 1/60th second, I placed my Iphone one inch from the left side of the camera body. The experiment was done on a concrete floor in a quiet surrounding. To help eliminate human error I did the test three times for each camera. Keep in mind that I am not an acoustic expert.
This is the waveform for the A7R. It’s immediately apparent that there is lots going on when the shutter is released. There are prominent spikes and moments of relative “quietness” during the entire shutter release. From the start of the shutter release to the end, the time span is a whopping 417 milliseconds. Each of the three tests yielded a close range of measurements: 421 ms, 413 ms, 417 ms.
It takes the A7R a total of .4 seconds to complete a shutter cycle for a 1/60 sec exposure. The reason lies in the fact that the A7R has no electronic first curtain shutter (EFCS). This requires the shutter to close, then open and close for the exposure, then in order to return to it’s original resting position it has to open again. Keep in mind the A7 (NO R) does have EFCS so it’s shutter waveform will be quite different.
The time it takes for the shutter to begin then open is .16 second. That is the time you will need to hold steady and wait for the exposure to begin. It’s not an issue in practice, just concentrate on being steady for the entire shutter process.
The Sony NEX-7 has a waveform that shows a shutter time of 100 ms. This is much shorter in duration than the A7R, in fact the A7R shutter is 4x longer that the NEX-7. I can’t be sure if amplitude is comparable between cameras, there may be some unknown scaling by the software and without a vertical scale, it’s hard to draw a conclusion about the sound level.
The Nikon D3 shutter takes slightly longer than the NEX-7 at 113 ms. I am actually a little surprised the spacing and height is so uniform and the “noise” is a compact short event. I say this because mechanically, very different things are taking place, mirror up, mirror down, shutter opening, shutter closing.
I decided to try to gather more insights into the shutter release of the A7R. I slowed the shutter speed to .5 second hoping to break the entire sequence into smaller events. The actual .5 sec exposure is shown in gray above.
You can detect the first closing (first spike), then opening (cluster of 3 spikes), then a period where things are quiet for the exposure (greyed area), followed by the last two events of closing then opening of the shutter.
Here is the actual audio from each shutter release.
A7R shutter sound (above, click on left)
NEX-7 shutter sound (above)
D3 shutter sound (above)
It would be interesting to do some shutter tests that give the magnitude of the sound in decibels and compare the mirrorless with DSLR’s. I have a feeling the two will be close in sound, in spite of the mirror flopping in the DSLR.
It would also be neat to test the vibration pattern of a shutter release. My guess is, all that flipping back and forth of the shutter has got to add to the vibration. Could Sony add a Shutter-UP feature (like Mirror-UP)? I’ve played with an app called iseismology but not testing at this time.