Why is there so much shutter noise with all 4/3s?

Started Sep 8, 2009 | Discussions
Karsten Meyer
Karsten Meyer Contributing Member • Posts: 768
Why is there so much shutter noise with all 4/3s?

Hello,

I'm using digital compact cameras for exactly 10 years, and for me one big advantage is the silent shutter of these. Even the shutter of my Sony R1 (sensor size is APS) is (almost) inaudible, so I never had a problem taking photos even in classical concerts.

I waited for years for a camera like the G1/GH1/EP1, but when I tried them in the store I was indefinitely disappointed - they sound almost like a DSLR.

I have little hope about the GF1, but not much.

Can somebody explain WHY these shutters are so loud? Or WHY these cameras need such a type of shutter?

Thanks a lot,
Karsten

BigBarney Senior Member • Posts: 2,722
MFT cameras shutter noise

Karsten Meyer wrote:

Can somebody explain WHY these shutters are so loud? Or WHY these cameras need such a type of shutter?

This is how I understand it. With the micro four thirds (MFT) camera systems, one of the key benefits is the ability to change lenses to accomplish different photographic tasks. It logically follows that the shutter must be sited in the camera body and not in the lens mechanism.

Typically the shutter in MFT cameras is still a mechanical one rather than an electronic one for two good reasons:

  • they cost much less to manufacture.

  • they are today's most reliable technology.

Electronic shutters, which would be completely silent, do exist but they tend to be very expensive. Fixed lens digital cameras mostly still use mechanical shutters, but they are not necessarily at the focal plane as they are in MFT cameras. Focal plane shutters usually have two metal 'curtains' that move to cover and uncover the sensor behind them, and it is the noise of these two curtains moving that you hear. Here is a link to a video of this shutter in action on a Panasonic G1:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-dK6Qa1Iy4Y

Although the MFT shutters are indeed much louder than those in most fixed lens cameras,in mitigation they are much quieter than the noise from digital SLR cameras where there is a very loud thump as the mirror moves up and down.

Not the most technical explanation but I think the principles are more or less correct. If not someone else will correct me.

kenw
kenw Veteran Member • Posts: 5,342
Re: Why is there so much shutter noise with all 4/3s?

With an integrated lens camera (like a compact or a super-zoom) the "shutter" is typically part of the lens itself, most often being the same iris that sets the aperture. Since it is typically placed near the node of the lens it can be very small and thus move quite fast with little noise. There are downsides to this approach, especially in large aperture long focal length lenses (you can't open and closes the iris fast enough), but in the compact formats it is less of a problem and is thus a pretty good solution.

With interchangeable lens cameras there is no desire to have to put a very fast moving iris mechanism in every lens - if we did this the fastest shutter speed available would depend on what lens you were using and the lens would cost more money because of the requirement for a fancy iris. In addition most interchangeable lens cameras have large imagers and thus longer focal lengths and the in lens solution starts to show some warts - namely it becomes difficult to achieve very fast shutter speeds. Instead the shutter, in this case called a "focal plane shutter" since it exists near the focus of the lens rather than in the center of the lens, is right in front of the imager and needs to be the same size as the imager. The upside is that you only buy the shutter once with the camera and not with every lens. The down side is that the shutter being bigger has to move faster and has more mass and thus a lot more noise. Another upside is that you can reach almost arbitrarily fast shutter speeds like 1/8000 by having the shutter actually only expose a small slit that drops across the imager while the shutter itself moves at a more reasonable speed.

There is a final though not often used option - electronic shutters. The idea here is to use the imager to define the exposure instead of an external shutter. This is rarely done as it requires more electronics on the sensor which will cause more noise and less sensitivity. Such an approach would give you perfect quiet though. Some imagers take a halfway approach and provide a electronic reset - this allows a live view camera to leave the shutter open and start the exposure with an electronic reset of the imager and then end the exposure by closing the shutter while the data is read out of the imager.

Probably more than you wanted to know - short answer is that small compact cameras use small imagers that allow them to effectively put a tiny shutter inside the lens which is very quiet. Larger cameras with interchangeable lenses are more likely to put a larger shutter right in front of the imager separate from the lens and this will be louder on account of its bigger size and mass...

At least with micro four thirds there isn't a loud mirror slap on top of it...
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nugat Contributing Member • Posts: 699
Re: Why is there so much shutter noise with all 4/3s?

Most of the noise of the mechanical shutter is the rewind. You can delay it in E-P1 with the "anti-shock" function. The camera shutter becomes really quiet then at least at the moment of taking pictures.

sacundim Senior Member • Posts: 1,111
"Logically follows"

BigBarney wrote:

This is how I understand it. With the micro four thirds (MFT) camera systems, one of the key benefits is the ability to change lenses to accomplish different photographic tasks. It logically follows that the shutter must be sited in the camera body and not in the lens mechanism.

While you have indeed hit on the reason why interchangeable-lens cameras normally have focal plane shutters, it doesn't "logically follow" that they must. There have been interchangeable lens camera systems where the shutter is on the lenses.

Currently, the Leica S2 is planned to allow both alternatives: the body has a focal plane shutter, but the lenses also come in versions with their own built-in leaf shutters. The advantage of the shuttered lens is higher flash sync speeds.

Mark B UK Senior Member • Posts: 1,456
Re: Why is there so much shutter noise with all 4/3s?

This may sound like a naive question, but why is a shutter needed at all, at least in the conventional sense of the word, on an EVF camera? All the time it's switched on, the sensor is generating signals that describe what the lens is seeing. Press the button and, for a brief fraction of a second, a reading is taken from the sensor and written to a memory card, surely that's all that's needed?

If makers went down this route, they might want to add a different kind of shutter to cover the sensor when the lens is removed, as Mamiya did with its interchangeable lens twin-lens reflexes between the 1960s and 1980s.

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Jogger
Jogger Veteran Member • Posts: 8,441
Re: Why is there so much shutter noise with all 4/3s?

The liveview is being read off at maybe 30fps.. not good enough for variable shutter speeds, ISO values.. it wouldnt work for 1/2 exposure for example. Its better to reset the imager (expose it to black) and manually expose it for the proper time with a shutter.

Mark B UK wrote:

This may sound like a naive question, but why is a shutter needed at all, at least in the conventional sense of the word, on an EVF camera? All the time it's switched on, the sensor is generating signals that describe what the lens is seeing. Press the button and, for a brief fraction of a second, a reading is taken from the sensor and written to a memory card, surely that's all that's needed?

If makers went down this route, they might want to add a different kind of shutter to cover the sensor when the lens is removed, as Mamiya did with its interchangeable lens twin-lens reflexes between the 1960s and 1980s.

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s_grins
s_grins Forum Pro • Posts: 11,777
Re: Why is there so much shutter noise with all 4/3s?

You have a very good question, I do not know what to say.

Once G1,GH1,E-P1 and other members of M43 standard do not have flipping mirror, the might use electronic shutter (similar to that of DSC-R1 or smaller P&S).

Why designers preferred mechanical shutter I do not know. I do not think there is something special with M43 cameras that makes mechanical shutter a must
--
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BJL Veteran Member • Posts: 8,900
all current DSLR sensors needs a mechanical shutter, in body for m4/3

s_grins wrote:

Once G1,GH1,E-P1 and other members of M43 standard do not have flipping mirror, the might use electronic shutter (similar to that of DSC-R1 or smaller P&S).
Why designers preferred mechanical shutter I do not know.

M4/3 still uses a mechanical focal plane shutter; apparently the DSLR style sensors still do not support good enough electronic shutter operation. Some earlier Sony interline CCD sensors supported electronic shutter, but not more recent models, so it seems that there is some performance gain got by omitting support for an electronic shutter. One reason might be that the good electronic shutters need some part of each photosite used to store the signal "away from the light" after the exposure has ended but while light is still hitting the sensor and before the photosite have been read out. That storage space is lost to the light detecting part of the photosite, reducing electron capacity and so reducing dynamic range and such.

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Franka T.L. Veteran Member • Posts: 8,143
get a DC

because if its utter silence you are after, then any camera with a physical shutter won;t help ...

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  • Franka -

s_grins
s_grins Forum Pro • Posts: 11,777
Re: all current DSLR sensors needs a mechanical shutter, in body for m4/3

I do understand that DSLR cameras (those cameras with mirror and pentaprism) can't leave without mechanical shutter. I do believe that lens interchangeability has no relevance to a shutter (or I'm wrong badly).

I do know that cameras without this mirror (P&S cameras with CCD and CMOS) use electronic shutter (at least cameras I know). Please note that DSC-R1 camera has large APS sized CMOS sensor and electronic shutter while many smaller cameras have CCD sensor with electronic shutter (heating problem can be the reason of CCD sensor size limits in combination with electronic shutter)

M43 standard is a hybrid that has changeable lenses but does not have mirror. I still can't get into it why do they need mechanical shutter. For me it looks like it is very feasible and may be even easy

BJL wrote:

s_grins wrote:

Once G1,GH1,E-P1 and other members of M43 standard do not have flipping mirror, the might use electronic shutter (similar to that of DSC-R1 or smaller P&S).
Why designers preferred mechanical shutter I do not know.

M4/3 still uses a mechanical focal plane shutter; apparently the DSLR style sensors still do not support good enough electronic shutter operation. Some earlier Sony interline CCD sensors supported electronic shutter, but not more recent models, so it seems that there is some performance gain got by omitting support for an electronic shutter. One reason might be that the good electronic shutters need some part of each photosite used to store the signal "away from the light" after the exposure has ended but while light is still hitting the sensor and before the photosite have been read out. That storage space is lost to the light detecting part of the photosite, reducing electron capacity and so reducing dynamic range and such.

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DSC-R1, DMC-G1(14-45)

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BJN
BJN Veteran Member • Posts: 5,073
Because they actually have mechanical shutters

Your Sony has only an electronic shutter (shuttering using the sensor). MFT cameras have a mechanical shutter which is important to deliver fast shutter speeds from a CMOS sensor that's not read all at once.

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BJ Nicholls
SLC, UT

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BJL Veteran Member • Posts: 8,900
leaf shutters in compacts?

s_grins wrote:

I do understand that DSLR cameras (those cameras with mirror and pentaprism) can't leave without mechanical shutter. I do believe that lens interchangeability has no relevance to a shutter (or I'm wrong badly).

I believe that compacts do also have mechanical shutters, but these are "leaf shutters" mounted in the lens mechanism rather than focal plane shutters, and since the lenses are of small apertures, these leaf shutters can be small and quiet.

For an interchangeable lens camera to use a leaf shutter, it needs one in each lens, and the larger lenses of larger formats require bigger shutters ... it makes the lenses far more expensive. Many medium format camera do use leaf shutter lenses (like Hasselblads), but it adds to the price. Also, maximum shutter speed is lower with leaf shutters.

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s_grins
s_grins Forum Pro • Posts: 11,777
Re: Because they actually have mechanical shutters

BJN, you have not explained anything.

1.) R1 shutter as fast as any mechanical shutter. Moreover, it doesn't have flash synch problems. Also I know it has the same CMOS sensor.

2.) I know that MFT have mechanical shutter. I do not know whether this is the only option and why?

3.) Your posts only confirm reality everybody knows, and does not carry any new idea. May be you know something and do not want to disclose?

BJN wrote:

Your Sony has only an electronic shutter (shuttering using the sensor). MFT cameras have a mechanical shutter which is important to deliver fast shutter speeds from a CMOS sensor that's not read all at once.

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BJ Nicholls
SLC, UT

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sacundim Senior Member • Posts: 1,111
Re: all current DSLR sensors needs a mechanical shutter, in body for m4/3

s_grins wrote:

I do understand that DSLR cameras (those cameras with mirror and pentaprism) can't leave without mechanical shutter.

I don't see why having a mirror would make things any different. That is, I believe that a DSLR could be implemented to use an electronic shutter as long as it can be implemented in the sensor.

I do believe that lens interchangeability has no relevance to a shutter (or I'm wrong badly).

I think that's right, too.

I do know that cameras without this mirror (P&S cameras with CCD and CMOS) use electronic shutter (at least cameras I know). Please note that DSC-R1 camera has large APS sized CMOS sensor and electronic shutter while many smaller cameras have CCD sensor with electronic shutter (heating problem can be the reason of CCD sensor size limits in combination with electronic shutter)

And I don't think the reason DSLRs use a mechanical shutter is because of the mirror. I don't know the details, but I'm willing to bet that it comes down to using a different type of sensor technology.

M43 standard is a hybrid that has changeable lenses but does not have mirror. I still can't get into it why do they need mechanical shutter. For me it looks like it is very feasible and may be even easy

The same comments as above apply: I really think it comes down to sensor design. Some types of sensor require a mechanical shutter. For some reason neither of us understands, nearly all large-sensor cameras made use such designs. The only exception that we are aware of is the R1

John Carson Veteran Member • Posts: 4,233
Asked and answered many times
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Godfrey Forum Pro • Posts: 29,305
Re: "Logically follows"

sacundim wrote:

... Currently, the Leica S2 is planned to allow both alternatives: the body has a focal plane shutter, but the lenses also come in versions with their own built-in leaf shutters. The advantage of the shuttered lens is higher flash sync speeds.

Should also cite the negatives:

The disadvantage of in-lens leaf shutters is that they make lenses even that much more costly and they tend to limit the maximum speed of the lens (because the types of shutters are only so large in diameter).
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http://godfreydigiorgi.posterous.com

Francis Sawyer Regular Member • Posts: 190
not the same question

This person asked about noise compared to non-electronic shutters.

MOD Tom Caldwell Forum Pro • Posts: 31,666
Thanks for the SP ...

Put me right off - I would consider 4/3 for its more compact size and silent operation.

Shutter noise means I might as well stay with my (albeit noiser) Canon dslr gear. Not compact not silent. I need both or nothing.

Will stick with my other compact digital gear - might not have the 'romance' of micro4/3 but at least it is silent (with artificial noises shut off).

How about the GF1 - rattling stones in a tin as well?

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Tom Caldwell

John Carson Veteran Member • Posts: 4,233
Silent shutters are electronic

Francis Sawyer wrote:

This person asked about noise compared to non-electronic shutters.

This person talked about "silent" shutters. The only silent shutters are electronic.

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john carson

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