The distinctive sound of an SLR’s shutter is because of the mechanical way it works. This sound has become so associated with the event of ‘taking a picture’ in people’s minds that camera makers add the sound to compact cameras - whose shutters would otherwise be silent – to let us know we’re definitely taking a picture and not just pressing a button that makes no noise. The sound has thus become an ‘event confirmation’ on compact cameras rather than an inevitable outcome of the way the camera works.
Moving beyond the SLR opens up the option of silent shutters. If there’s no moving mirror clunking about and slapping things, there doesn’t have to be a sound. At times this could be very useful. There are occasions where the shutter sound – even worse if it is on continuous shoot – is intrusive, and others where we might not want to alert everybody to the fact we are taking photos. If we want the ‘event confirmation’, it would be nice to turn that on and off as we need it.
None of the makers of SLT/Mirrorless/Live View cameras has yet offered a silent shutter. I understand it does take quite a bit of technical development to do and maybe nobody’s there yet. But this would be a great addition to a – dare I say this? – post-SLR camera and I’d expect either Sony or Panasonic to get there first. Probably the A77 is too soon – but for now we can dream.