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DIY 'blimp' case makes Nikon D800 silent and waterproof for $80

By dpreview staff on Jul 9, 2013 at 22:14 GMT
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So-called 'blimp' cases are designed to greatly reduce the sound of a camera's shutter, making it safe to take record shots during filming for TV and movies. Typically, commercial blimp cases cost upwards of $1000, but pro photographer Dan Tabár made his own using a Pelican case, some ABS pipe fittings, a wireless shutter release, and other simple parts sourced at a hardware store, for around $80. 

The materials that Tabár used to create his homemade blimp case are pretty inexpensive, and mostly sourced from local photo and hardware stores. 

As well as soundproofing his Nikon D800, Tabar's case also renders the camera waterproof. By building space inside for a wireless trigger, Tabar trips the camera's shutter externally, removing the need to drill a hole in the case for a remote release, or shutter doubler. Images can be composed and reviewed through a window in the rear of the case made of Lexan - a tough polycarbonate resin. Operation is full-auto though - unlike some dedicated weaterproof casings (and lightweight fabric blimp cases) there's no way of adjusting exposure settings once the camera is sealed inside Tabár's DIY case. 

Tabár printed a life-size picture of his D800 to act as a guide when fitting out the inside of the Pelican case to accept the real camera.  Tabár modified his sound blimp with Lexan, rather than glass for greater durability.

You can read about Tabár's plan and execution building his waterproof sound blimp here and here. Here's a demonstration of how well it muffles the sound of his Nikon D800's shutter.

DIY sound blimp case demonstration

 
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Comments

Total comments: 62
HenriCartierShuffleBottom
By HenriCartierShuffleBottom (9 months ago)

Thebiggest shock here (to me) in the UK is getting a Pelican case for $30? That's around £20 in real money. Pelican appear in Amazon UK to be around £150 or $250 in toy town money?
Anyone care to expand on what Pelican case model this is and real prices?

0 upvotes
Stu 5
By Stu 5 (9 months ago)

http://www.waterproof-cases.co.uk/product/peli-1120-case/

I can't find it any cheaper than this although there are a couple more places that sell it for this price. It's about the price difference I would expect to see compared to US dollar for a Peli case. Amazon for some reason are a bit out on their price.

0 upvotes
Reactive
By Reactive (9 months ago)

With something like a Canon EOS 700D, he could have changed exposure settings using a smart phone app, I believe.

0 upvotes
Joseph S Wisniewski
By Joseph S Wisniewski (9 months ago)

I believe you're unfamiliar with the smartphone apps that do the same thing for a D800, like DSLR Dashboard or Helicon Remote.

Although the overall experience is a bit different from using such software on a Canon. For example, the D800 doesn't lose its OTG connections constantly, the way the 5D II does.

0 upvotes
audijam
By audijam (9 months ago)

thsi is amazing!

1 upvote
Lensahand
By Lensahand (9 months ago)

My Panasonic GF-1 makes a heck of a noise when it takes a picture, and as a MFT camera surely that's mirrorless? The shutter is very loud in that case..I wonder if any of the subsequent models or the Olympus ones are quieter?

0 upvotes
mickcivic
By mickcivic (9 months ago)

The noise you're hearing when you take a picture with your GF-1 is the shutter assembly clicking into place so that the physical shutter can open and close at the time of exposure, then clicking back out of place so that the sensor can provide a live view to the LCD. So, even though there's no mirror that "slaps" in a mirrorless camera, the physical shutter assembly is what makes the audible click.

Pretty much the same with the Oly MFTs as well. I've owned both Olympus and Panasonics, but I don't know about other systems like Sonys and Samsungs.

0 upvotes
micahmedia
By micahmedia (9 months ago)

I've tried this with the D700. It greatly reduces the mirror slap, but it's not silent. Not quiet enough for a quiet set or quiet performance. I think the issue is the soft cushioning. The Nikon bodies resonate at a low frequency. Perhaps stiffer foam would mitigate this. I never got around to more experimenting, but the basic idea is good. Not perfect, but useful.

1 upvote
Dan Tabar
By Dan Tabar (9 months ago)

You are correct that the foam is the weak link: I was surprised to find that removing the big piece that sits in the case's lid made the whole thing significantly quieter! i guess the extra pressure of that sheet when in place causes the foam to compress and transfer more sound. The camera is still held in place enough with friction without that back piece of foam, so it's a nice tweak.

Alternatively, there's specific sound-dampening foam to buy that might be worth trying out at some point. In the mean time, this rig is quiet enough for my purposes

3 upvotes
micahmedia
By micahmedia (9 months ago)

Yes! I found that too! Unfortunately, I need something a little quieter. I need to be able to shoot next to audience members in ninja fashion.

If I find a better foam in my future experiments, I'll be sure to share!

1 upvote
ciao_chao
By ciao_chao (9 months ago)

Using the standard foam may also not be ideal. There are special application foams, called acourstic or soundproofing foam for the exact purpose which may prove to offer better performance.

0 upvotes
mrmut
By mrmut (9 months ago)

Isn't this a bit nonsensical? If a cheap camera is used OK; but this Nikon, neither the lens are cheap. To expensive professinal equipment into a field-untested homemade box that should protect the camera from impact and water?

0 upvotes
Dan Tabar
By Dan Tabar (9 months ago)

Made sense to me, and I do my own field testing: http://www.dantabar.com/underwater-test-of-the-diy-sound-blimp/

4 upvotes
marike6
By marike6 (9 months ago)

Pelican cases are built like tanks. From their website:

"Unbreakable, watertight, airtight, dustproof, chemical resistant and corrosion proof case".

I checked my Hensel monolights in a Pelican case going abroad and I didn't give them a second thought as I knew that the case was virtually indestructible.

2 upvotes
LaFonte
By LaFonte (9 months ago)

I used x100 on a movie sets. Resolution was there and it is silent (only lack of zoom, but that may not be a problem in small sets)
But kudos to the pelican solution. I always enjoy a good DIY, definitely smart.

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
JDThomas
By JDThomas (9 months ago)

Just cross posted lower, but the X-Pro1 or the XE-1 is the ideal camera.

0 upvotes
micahmedia
By micahmedia (9 months ago)

Ideal for...? With low resolution and slow focusing of the X-Pro or XE...it's just too much time wasted on missed shots. No pro would stand for it. Amateurs, fine. Not pro.

When your paycheck and reputation rely on it, you need to get the shot the first time. That's what a good DSLR can do, that a MILC can't under all circumstances. At least that's the case for the current crop of cameras. I expect this will change over time. But in the mean time, on big budget productions, blimps and DSLRs are the way.

4 upvotes
JDThomas
By JDThomas (9 months ago)

Ideal for movie sets. have you ever shot stills for a big production? Have you ever even BEEN on a movie set? 16MP is low resolution? They were working with a lot less just a few years ago.

You don't need to get the shot the first time. Most stills are shot during rehearsal takes and even when they are doing actual takes they run through it about a dozen times PLENTY of time to get your shots.

0 upvotes
micahmedia
By micahmedia (9 months ago)

No, I get that--6mp is more than most customers actually need. 12 is really enough for a billboard--that was proved years ago.

The XTrans resolution is actually lower than rated. If you can sell it to your clients as enough, then cool.

What you say is all true. However it is also true that professionalism makes a big difference. Demonstrating competence is something you have to do 24/7, as your rep relies on it. You're not going to win any hearts when you end up taking more time to get the shot than the DP, because your camera can't nail focus. I do wonder if that will be an issue in the future as light levels drop to normal real world levels for the new digital gear. What if a DP wants to shoot by candle light? Will the Fuji AF or sensor keep up? If you have experience, please share? I know that the 51-point Nikon system is a beast and will continue to give good results under light that's far too dark for today's movie cameras.

0 upvotes
JDThomas
By JDThomas (9 months ago)

I've worked on sets with Tarantino and Rodriguez and and they love cool gear like that. Screw the DP. Rodriguez is a Leica owner and I sold him on buying a Noctilux. They don't care if you roll up with a DSLR or an XPro-1. I've worked on commercials for Verizon, TV shows such as Friday Night Lights, The Lying Game, and dozens of pilots. If I didn't think it was up to the task I wouldn't have said it.

The X-Pro-1 just got a firmware update that speeds up the AF as fast the the X100s and also picks up focus peaking so I can use a Noctilux if they wanna shoot Kubrick/ Barry Lyndon style candle shots. I can nail focus faster than AF shooting manually with EVF and focus peaking.

Sure the 51 point Nikon AF is great, but have you carried around a D700/800 in a blimp all day? It SUCKS. It's HEAVY. If I can use the tiny XPro-1 with a near silent leaf shutter I'd drop that blimp in a minute. You can bet on the next feature I work on I'm going Fuji.

Comment edited 21 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Kuivaamo
By Kuivaamo (9 months ago)

The X-Pro1 has a focal plane shutter, not a leaf shutter. Or are there lenses available for the XF-system that incorporate a leaf shutter? Haven't heard of those.

0 upvotes
Stu 5
By Stu 5 (9 months ago)

I have not heard of one film stills photographer yet who has said the XE-1 is up to the task. I sure would not take one on set. The camera is far from silent. No where near as good as a blimp and according to one film stills photographer his 5D MKIII in silent shutter mode is more quiet. The camera still has AF issues which the updates have not fixed and it gets very slow in low light.

JDThomas I found your music work but was curious to find your film stills work but I cannot seem to find you listed on IMDB at the moment. I was not sure what combination of initials or names you were using for your work on films stills? Being a Tarantino fan myself what film did you both work on?

0 upvotes
wootpile
By wootpile (9 months ago)

This is a nice build! Anyone who has worked on big movie sets knows that without a silent blimp you simply won't get any work.

A V1 won't cut it either - not enough resolution and high iso capability. try that once and you won't get any more work from the film studios :)

Thanks to op for offering a alternative to commercial variants!

1 upvote
JDThomas
By JDThomas (9 months ago)

Fuji X-Pro1 with the 18-55 and 55-200. Perfect kit for shooting on set. And cheap.

Quieter than some professional blimps I heard on set. It's great in low light, which is just a bonus because the scene is already lit well for the cine-camera.

0 upvotes
micahmedia
By micahmedia (9 months ago)

Ok, no really, with all these comments you're coming off like a Fuji evangelist. That appearance is actually the opposite of convincing--it's disconcerting.

1 upvote
JDThomas
By JDThomas (9 months ago)

All these comments? All TWO of them?

Fuji evangelist? I don't even OWN one yet. I was waiting for the XPro-2 because I had loaners a few times and I didn't think the AF was up to snuff. With the new XPro-1 firmware update and the next upcoming update I am buying one as soon as a job comes up where I need it.

Disconcerting? Do you even know what that word means? I'm somehow making you feel uneasy by recommending the Fuji for a job that you've never actually DONE?

Comment edited 33 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Jonathan F/2
By Jonathan F/2 (9 months ago)

Snooze. I've already used the Nikon V1 on jobs that required complete silence. Works perfectly.

1 upvote
Stu 5
By Stu 5 (9 months ago)

Not if you want decent quality. It is not good enough for movie sets.

2 upvotes
Jonathan F/2
By Jonathan F/2 (9 months ago)

In decent light, the V1 and FT-1 adapted lenses can easily blend into one's workflow side-by-side.

0 upvotes
wlad
By wlad (9 months ago)

spending $3000 on a camera and drowning it in a $80 DYI "water-proof" case.
Makes perfect sense.

2 upvotes
wootpile
By wootpile (9 months ago)

actually it makes perfect sense. it leaves 920 bucks to be spent on a nice lens. making one of these also means you know how to rig a makeshift solution if your "real stuff" breaks on a set.. "buy a new one.." um..right, so suppose you are shooting o a movie set in the desert

not everyone has unlimited funds these days - specially not if you are making a living as a photographer. I assume from your comment, that you are not ;)

2 upvotes
wlad
By wlad (9 months ago)

exactly - most people are not that wealthy, to afford drowning a $3k camera when that case starts leaking.
Seriously, what kind of pressure can that case withstand ?

It's most likely just "weather proof", not "water proof".

1 upvote
Dan Tabar
By Dan Tabar (9 months ago)

The pelican case is rated to IPX7, which is 30 mins in 1M of water.. I am confident my waterproofing of the modifications is good enough for that. But as I mention in my test video, i wouldn't take it scuba diving. (Although i'd love to test it without a camera first!)

2 upvotes
Johannes Zander
By Johannes Zander (9 months ago)

A Nikon V1/2 set to elektronic shutter would do the job and be much easier to operate. And you safe 80$.
Would like to see this cumbersome designe in action.

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Stu 5
By Stu 5 (9 months ago)

It is not good enough quality for a movie set plus electronic shutters have drawbacks.

0 upvotes
Dan Tabar
By Dan Tabar (9 months ago)

That mirrorless camera would have cost me a lot more than $80...? I already had my full frame DSLR kit, so this made more sense to me

2 upvotes
AbrasiveReducer
By AbrasiveReducer (9 months ago)

--And, when you take the D800 out of the case, you still have a professional camera.

1 upvote
SigmaChrome
By SigmaChrome (9 months ago)

If you really want a quiet DSLR, get a Sigma SD1M. The shutter sound and mirror slap noise is as soft as a baby sitting down. Nikon and Canon sound like the Crash of Doom by comparison.

0 upvotes
wootpile
By wootpile (9 months ago)

Yeah, but it can't handle the low light on a movie set

5 upvotes
SigmaChrome
By SigmaChrome (9 months ago)

Ah... Mr Yeahbut (there is always a Mr Yeahbut) and you know this how exactly? There is usually quite a lot of light on a movie set. And you have tried shooting an SD1M in this situation, of course.

0 upvotes
Preternatural Stuff
By Preternatural Stuff (9 months ago)

What is it with writers nowadays. Its not the shutter sound that needs muffling!

Its the mirror slap - a dinosaur legacy of hte film era!

Even during the film era, we used rangefinder cameras for theatre productions that demanded it.

Today, if you want silent, any of the gazillion mirrorless or Sony SLT cameras are already inherently so.

Duh...

2 upvotes
Michael Gunawan
By Michael Gunawan (9 months ago)

nahhh, shutters also make annoying sounds. Leica M are famous for their quiet shutters

Comment edited 28 seconds after posting
3 upvotes
Thanatham Piriyakarnjanakul
By Thanatham Piriyakarnjanakul (9 months ago)

Cost?

0 upvotes
Dan Tabar
By Dan Tabar (9 months ago)

Every source of noise is suppressed, whether mirror, shutter or focusing mechanism.
Mirrorless is a way to go, but between that option of buying a whole new system, glass and batteries etc OR to spend less than a benjamin and a day's work to make the full-blown, full-frame DSLR kit i've already invested in usable in quiet environments.. it made sense for me

Comment edited 17 seconds after posting
2 upvotes
bloodycape
By bloodycape (9 months ago)

The only mirrorless cameras I know that are silent are the models which offer an electric shutter(like the Nikon 1 Series and Panasonic G5/6). I have a Sony SLT & that isn't silent, nor is my Panasonic GF3 or G2 I had.

0 upvotes
Trollshavethebestcandy
By Trollshavethebestcandy (9 months ago)

Great for street photography ;)

2 upvotes
peteshap
By peteshap (9 months ago)

I take it mirrorless cameras still make shutter noise?

0 upvotes
Mike Griffin
By Mike Griffin (9 months ago)

While it likely depends on the RF frequency and the conductivity of the water I doubt that triggering the shutter will be very effective when the camera in case is actually submerged in water.

0 upvotes
Dan Tabar
By Dan Tabar (9 months ago)

You're correct; it's about a foot of range, but it's enough since i just hold the trigger against the case anyway, as demonstrated in the video here: http://www.dantabar.com/underwater-test-of-the-diy-sound-blimp/

1 upvote
QuarterToDoom
By QuarterToDoom (9 months ago)

Where's the heat from the camera dissipated too?

3 upvotes
Dan Tabar
By Dan Tabar (9 months ago)

This might be a legitimate issue if you're shooting video.. haven't tested that yet!

1 upvote
AndrewG NY
By AndrewG NY (9 months ago)

Seems this approach would work well with a camera with a reasonably full-featured wi-fi-connected smartphone remote control app.

0 upvotes
Dan Tabar
By Dan Tabar (9 months ago)

Yup, for more control remotely, perhaps as a statically mounted soundproof camera view of a classical/opera concert stage, I've thought about sticking a CamRanger into the box and controlling it while seated in the audience! Just make sure the venue management knows that mystery box is a camera and not a bomb or something :S

Comment edited 8 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Island Golfer
By Island Golfer (9 months ago)

Oh yeah...I'll be taking my $3,000 camera and $2,000 lens underwater in one of these homemade jobs.

6 upvotes
Dan Tabar
By Dan Tabar (9 months ago)

I did, check the video! http://www.dantabar.com/underwater-test-of-the-diy-sound-blimp/

2 upvotes
marike6
By marike6 (9 months ago)

The D800 shutter is not nearly as loud as it sounds on the video but you can tell from the loud hiss of his video camera's pre-amp that he has the gain turned way. So blam, blam, blam. It sounds like a car door slamming shut. It's much quieter in real life.

7 upvotes
Dan Tabar
By Dan Tabar (9 months ago)

Yeah I intentionally had the gain turned up and didn't filter out the noise/hiss in post in order to make the comparison clearer between with and without the sound supression. Either way, the naked d800 (and any SLR, really) in real life is undeniably WAY too loud for shooting while sound is rolling on a film set

3 upvotes
numberiv
By numberiv (9 months ago)

While the D800 shutter is not noticeably louder than many other camera's shutters at times it can be louder than appropriate depending on the situation. I recently ended up borrowing a 5D-III to document a contemporary music concert because I knew the D800 would disturb the audience - the quiet mode on the 5D is significantly quieter than the D800. Given the bulk of this blimp I'd really need the dynamic range and resolution of the D800 to choose it over a 5D.

On the waterproof front this solution seems useful, although with the air volume involved the case's buoyancy could make submersion a challenge, but somewhere the camera is just getting splashed this would certainly do the trick.

Comment edited 9 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
CameraLabTester
By CameraLabTester (9 months ago)

Ummm... how much is a Pelican case, please?

It's not everyday that someone wants to get rid of it for $20 on eBay...

.

3 upvotes
marike6
By marike6 (9 months ago)

A Pelican 1150, the water tight one, is $29 at B&H. The next larger size is $39. Not too expensive and extremely useful.

6 upvotes
hjaeger
By hjaeger (9 months ago)

He ordered one from B&H for $30. This is the link from the article http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/83166-REG/Pelican_1150_000_110_1150_Case_with_Foam.html

EDIT: I must have been typing too slowly :)

Comment edited 41 seconds after posting
3 upvotes
CameraLabTester
By CameraLabTester (9 months ago)

Cool thanks!

.

1 upvote
Total comments: 62