The Silent Shutter. Can You Do Street Photography Like A Ninja?

Bastian PeterOn The Streets 2 Comments

The silent shutter release – is it beneficial on the street? Does it make you stealth and silent like a Ninja? No more reveiling shutter sounds? Must be great, right?

When you ask me, yes and no. But most of the time no. Why I think so, I’ll tell you now.

When I got my camera a companion a few months ago, I noticed that this newer camera had a silent shutter release. By the way, if you want to know what camera I am talking about, I look forward to talking about that in the comment section down below. I updated my gear with a second camera, also pretty small – but this time a bit faster and it came with a viewfinder, which my older one didnt have.

Call me an amateur, but I couldn’t really imagine what that meant exactly. I grew up with analog cameras around me and then when I had my first cameras, the rough technology was explained to me by my parents. But of course that was many years ago.

Most of you know what a silent shutter release is and how it works. For those who don’t know, here’s a little insight.

50mm 1/500 Speed F 2.5 and ISO-200

The silent, so-called electronic trigger works completely different. So the shutter is held open and an electronic scan is made of the sensor via the lens. This means that from the top down, line by line, from one direction to the other is scanned downwards.

If the subject, the environment or the camera is moved or moves itself, this causes motion blur. But not only that. That part we all know about if you use a slower shutter speed in general. But in the case of the silent shutter, the whole image was distorted.

As an example: as soon as the upper part of the subject is “scanned”, the lower part is already somewhere else when the scan is done.

You can clearly see how this works on the example images.

On the image above (the woman with the gloves) I was a few meters next to the subject and had enough time. In this one, the subject is holding still while the background (outside the train window) is rushing by, with an obvious weird motion distortion.

50mm 1/1000 Speed F 1.8 and ISO-1000

Same effect here. I shot from the inside of a moving tram while the subject was waiting to cross the street.

35mm 1/400 Speed F 1.8 and ISO-640

One would think it would might be great to shoot not only close-ups. I thought so too, and of course tested it, as you can see below. The one with the hand, yes a close-up again, was totally outblown, which of course had nothing to do with the shutter. More because I sometimes shoot before thinking and correcting settings.

50mm 1/400 Speed F 2 and ISO-640
35mm 1/4000 Speed F 2.5 and ISO-1250
50mm 1/320 Speed F 2.2 and ISO-1250

My conclusion at the end, and that despite the fun it was and the experimentation, is the following:

Its a nice gimmick and I even think you can make a whole project out of it, and play with all the weird distortion caused by the electronical shutter. Of course there are a lot of better cameras out there than mine – almost every camera out there is probably better than mine.

Aside from more abstract photography, which by the way definitely appeals to me, it doesn’t help much with my kind of street photography. It may come in handy in very motionless moments, but these photos are mostly also achievable without the electronic shutter.
It would be one more setting to consider when moving from one scene to potentially the next.

Except you go for a wild close-up portrait series. Silent Ninja meets Bruce Gilden.

Thank you for reading and those of you who want to share their opinion on the subject matter – let’s hear from you.

EDIT: In the time between writing this article and the point in time when this was made public, I think I have to edit in my opinion after these few months. I watched the photographs posted here again after a long time. I must say, I like the effect quite a bit and I just wanted to stress the point more, that this silent shutter option, could be of great use to really create something weird, abstract and original. However that may be, its just a thought. I still believe art should be free and wild and doesnt need to follow any conventions. Thank you for reading.

Photos & text by Bastian Peter


  • Bastian Peter

    Street photographer based in Basel, Switzerland | Co-Founder swissstreetcollective Peter Bastian

Comments 2

    1. Post

      Thank you Jay 🙂 The first purchase was a Sony a5100 which is so very small. Since then I added a Sony a6100, which is faster and has a few features more. Btw, what camera do you use?

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