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.
Hmm Interesting. I have an A7r, and do quite a bit of street & candid photography. I’ve never felt that the shutter sound is a problem at all. The thing is, I actually like the sound it makes – it’s reassuringly mechanical and mellow, and not harsh like the dslr sound above. It reminds me of an old Minolta I used to have!
Thank you for stopping by my test on shutter vibration in the A7R. I enjoy street photography as well. Do you have any issues with the shutter sound when trying not to attract attention?
I like to shoot street in spots where it isn’t unusual for someone to be taking pics so the shutter sound isn’t attention getting. However there is that once-in-a-while occasion where I want to take a shot but not break the mood or draw attention. With the A7R I haven’t had to deal with that yet.
My first shot on the A7r had me saying what the heck is this, sounds like a old mercury ll 1/2 frame rotary shutter. Yes it noisy for a long duration! Still i shot travel photos worldwide, so it’s noisy bid deal, I want giant visas in 36 Meg with sharpness and contrast. For that task the Sony A7r really delivers. My Sony Nex 7 gave me the best photos ever and i am hoping the A7r does the same for me. Currently I shoot with a Leitz CL series Summicron F:2, because its very small rangefinder lens, beautiful build quality and super sharp on A7r focused at 7x manual. The Summicron CL looks like it was designed for the camera is Not nose heavy and covers the full frame chip. Try tell me what you think! I love that it is 40mm, for 90% work, thats a great focal length. Regards, [email protected]
Hi Ferrell, thank you very much for your time & effort in creating this post. I’m very interested in the A7R, and the shutter noise is a potential deal-breaker for me.
Several of my best photographs are candid shots taken in quiet or socially delicate circumstances. I used to shoot with the Canon 1Ds III, which has a custom setting to quiet the shutter.
As far as your understanding of the A7R, do you feel its mechanical design would even potentially allow for such a “quiet shutter” option? For example, can you imagine that a firmware revision or slight tweak in a hypothetical “model 2” could make a substantial difference? Or do you feel that shutter loudness is an unavoidable consequence of the design choices?
Any comments appreciated,