These cameras whispered sweet sounds into your ear when you shot with them.
The past two decades of photography showed photographers constantly asking for quieter shutters. It went hand-in-hand with the requests of wedding photographers, street photographers, and photojournalists. And like those shutters, the voices of some echoed really loudly throughout the internet. Then manufacturers developed the silent shutter. Photographers who needed it used it, but some of us miss the romance of the beautiful shutter. Digital photography lacks the sensory stimulation of film. You can’t smell the sensor, and the sounds are that of a soulless machine. But these cameras had beautiful shutter sounds. Hopefully, camera manufacturers will bring that back.
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Olympus Pen EP1: Inspired by an Old Leica
Sweet Nothings: The Olympus Pen EP1 is arguably the camera that got folks interested in mirrorless to begin with. It boasted exquisite looks, but it also had a beautiful shutter sound. Back then, folks cared a lot about quiet shutters. This one has shutter sounds like an old Leica camera, according to reports I read. There’s something about a satisfying click muffled by the lens that’s just so right. It’s a pity Olympus never gave this camera a proper electronic viewfinder. That would’ve changed things so much.
Sony a7: The Loud Clank
Sweet Nothings: The Sony a7 was one of the first autofocusing full-frame mirrorless cameras. I still own one, and the shutter always does something for me. The Sony a7 has two modes. With the electronic front shutter curtain, the sound is a bit more muffled. But when you take it off, it sounds like the slap of a medium format film camera. It’s very satisfying, and unlike anything I’ve heard in modern digital.
Canon 5D Mk II: A Beautiful Shutter
Sweet Nothings: The Canon 5D Mk II is one of the most revolutionary cameras of the digital era. Known for bringing about cinematic video, it also had a distinctive shutter sound. Like a few other cameras on this list, it was a bit muffled. This helped make it better for photojournalism, weddings, events, etc. Make no mistake, you could surely hear the shutter sounds in a wedding hall. But for a photographer who cared, the sound was very pleasing. This camera helped me build my career, so there’s a special place in my heart for it.
Nikon D700: Shutter Sounds That Echoed
Sweet Nothings: The Nikon D700 can be likened to a cartoonish slapping sound amplified and made menacing. This camera was a big, formidable beast that photographers took into low-light weddings. At the time, when photographers shot with it, you knew exactly what it was. I always remember it being loud. During a concert, I found that I still could hear the shutter even over the loud sound of music.
Leica M9: Nice Shutter Sounds and a Mechanical Recock
Sweet Nothings: In retrospect, I realize the Leica M9 was misunderstood. But honestly, it also had a few problems. Some folks found the shutter sound to be thunderous. Even louder was the control mechanism that recocked the shutter. Imagine the sound of a cookie being loudly broken, followed up by the sound of a microwave. That’s what it was like shooting with the Leica M9.
Panasonic GF1: Like Closing a Plastic Lid
Sweet Nothings: The Panasonic GF1 was the first compact Panasonic mirrorless camera. Like the EP1, it had a distinctive and beautiful shutter sound. In fact, the whole experience was enjoyable. If you held it, you shot using the LCD screen. But if you used the optional electronic viewfinder, you heard the shutter more clearly. Back then, there was a huge emphasis on the rangefinder aesthetic, and this camera embodied it very well–even down to the shutter.
Olympus OMD EM5: To This Day, It Has Beautiful Shutter Sounds
Sweet Nothings: The Olympus OMD EM5 was the first earnest Olympus mirrorless camera. It boasted weather-sealing, fast autofocus, and it was small. Most importantly, it looked beautiful: I still admire it. I remember shooting with mine very often. It had a shutter that reminded me of a Voigtlander Bessa. It was tough to hate.