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Tuesday, 23 April 2013


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Mike, another clip of the Lyre bird by David Attenborough. His comments of the felling of trees says much.


The BBC doesn't feel this to be a hoax


All camera nerds--not just wildlife nerds--should investigate Sir David Attenborough's wildlife documentaries. Aside from their obvious visual and educational merit, they are amazing technical achievements and you'll spend half the program wondering how on earth the camera crew did it.

Life in the Undergrowth is a personal favorite of mine, but then, I'm a bug guy.

Additionally, Sir David narrated a two-part documentary entitled Satoyama that is an amazing piece of visual artistry. Part one is not available completely on da tube, but part two is:


The two parts stand alone just fine, so please don't hesitate to follow my link.

Oh, please...I am betting that is why it is called a LIAR bird! If is is real, I want it to imitate the sound of an open piped 100cubic inch Harley Twin from 1000 to 5000 RPM. Now that would be a great vocal range ;-))

I used to have a Bronica RF 645, the shutter on that sounded more like a bronchial wheeze..

David Attenborough is a national treasure and has one of the best broadcasting voices ever heard though still no match for Alastair Cooke.

I have owned and used many noisy cameras, including the Pentax 6x7, the Mamiya RB67, and the Fuji GX680. The loud shutter sound award, however, goes to Bronica. I owned the S2A and, after I dropped it on a concrete floor, a pair of ECs. Otherwise fine cameras, they truly sounded like a pistol shot in the back of a quiet church during a wedding.

It's real. I believe it's a segment from David Attenborough's wonderful series "The Life of Birds"?

The loudest mirror/shutter sound in my collection comes from my 645 cameras, which resemble a sneeze in pattern (ka-CHOO) and loudness.

I'm often fascinated by folks who seem to find the synthetic film-camera (click-whirrr) shutter sound enjoyable on their otherwise silent phone or p&s camera. Watching a film of German artist Gerhard Richter I giggled a bit when his little p&s camera sounded like my Canon 1v.

I remember seeing that on TV back in the late 90s - it's from the BBC's 'The Life of Birds'. There was another episode with a rogue male Capercaillie - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_xSj5XcByuA . The Capercaillie in that bit of footage was, if I remember correctly, quite well known amongst wildlife photographers, as it was in an easily accessible place and would display at anything

Each 1 hour episode of these programmes had a 10 minute bit at the end where they explained the techniques used to get the footage used in each episode - it was mostly shot on 16mm film

Ed, I'm an ugly American in every meaning of the term, and Sir David is the only person I unfailingly call by his proper title.

I refused to buy the bastardized American version of Planet Earth with Sigourney Weaver's narration because I felt it was disrespectful to Sir David.

The man is a treasure to the world and a credit to the human race.

The video is at the time intriguing and utterly sad. A bird singing the sound of it's demise. Strangely I guess for most living animals, the sound of humans is one of destruction, imminent doom and death.

Yes, lyrebirds really do mimic that well. Here's Chook from the Adelaide Zoo doing (an imitation of) some renovations to the facilities:


He hasn't quite mastered the speech of the builders, but, for the sake of decency, that's probably a good thing.

That video ... can I "like" it?

BTW, I actually got and use quite frequently a Pentax 6x7 II. If you do the mirror up then shutter, it is not that bad. I think the Hassey 203fe is louder, at least from the people around me reaction. Using mirror up is no help.

But out of all the camera I used (> 50 in the last 10 years, from 8x10 to Canon S95, V1, ... etc.) the worst is M8. I actually thinking about getting a M9 and due to the sound (and the thickness of M8), I have to ask the Hong Kong dealer to click 4 different M9 about 4-10 feet away to check whether the sound is ok. It is not and I decided not to upgrade. It is just horrible sound.

I think the clip you've linked is indeed genuine - the same clip is available on a BBC website. There are however hacked YouTube pages around which are not genuine!

Heh, cool bird.

My favorite shutter remains the one on the Tank, my Canon T90. Not quiet but not obnoxious either; just right. That, a 50/1.4 SSC and a handful of Plus-X was the best shooting & learning experiance I have had as a photographer. Combined with a 35/2 "Chrome Nose", a 100/2.8 SSC & the special flash for it made it the one kit I repeatedly say - why did I sell that?

A few years ago, one of the Canon point and shoots had a number of built in "shutter sounds" that you could pick from. The T90 was one of them and it tempted me sorely but I wasn't ready to go digital then and, alas, I let it slip away too.

Dear Mike,

OMG, you don't know of David Attenborough? Best nature documentarian. Ever.

No hoax. Not unless DA promulgated one, which is about as imaginable as you inventing a fictional character, Zander, who you've been spinning yarns about for two decades.

Paula and I saw this event when it was broadcast on TV. We told Elmo not to get any notions ('cause that always works).

pax / Ctein

[That's so funny, because both you and I spend a lot of time, and pay close attention to, trying to be understood clearly, and also, we both tend to read carefully. And yet here we have a plain old misunderstanding...when I said "I'd never even heard of this fellow before yesterday," I meant the lyrebird, not David Attenborough...I'd never heard of the lyrebird before. --Mike]

I love this special narrated by Sir David Attenborough. The lyrebird featured in this video makes other amazing sounds, including chainsaw (how sad, as it only knows that sound due to encroachment of his habitat by human development) and car alarms (same). The wikipedia page on them has some other interesting tidbits. That very video clip from that special may be the only reason I regret shooting digital - it utterly romanticized for me the sound of a shutter plus film-winding-motor.

I hope he pulled after all that effort. He certainly deserved to!

I just bought a Bronica ETRS - it's got a hefty SLAP-click as the mirror clears out and the leaf shutter snaps. It could probably echo in the right setting, or trigger an avalanche.

Mike, you really, really have to watch this version of the Attenborough clip. Please.


Yeps, it's real....a lyre is an Greek instrument (sort of like the once angels like to play if they are of cherub variety). The little critter has the most elaborate vocal chords of all the songbirds....makes a parrot look like an amateur. BTW in Europe the common jay (in Dutch the Flemmish Jay) is also capable of imitating human sounds (like a referee whithl at a soccer pitch...and this Dutch blackbird sings in a way Paul hadden't intended.


but someone should pick up the phone.

Greets, Ed.

I watched the whole documentary a few years ago and was impressed with the sound imitation skills of the Lyrebird.
Anyway, I don't know why but I have always associated the shutter sound of a C Hasselblad with that of closing a Mercedes door.

Very impressive, but can it impersonate an espresso machine?

My Canon Rebel T2i gets the award for the worst sounding shutter. Every time I trip it, it sounds like I stepped on the dog's squeaker toy. Why can the Rebels not sound like the 6D?

David Attenborough's documentaries are world treasures waiting to stun many generations to come. Even when dealing with the topics farthest to my interests he always managed to leave me speechless.

By the way, I never cared for audiobooks until I heard his "Life on air", which he reads himself; an astonishing life, a real 'must-hear'.

The Lyrebird recording is certainly genuine, but it was a mixture of recordings of three different birds. The one that does the shutter noise is a captive one filmed by Attenborough's team at Healesville Sanctuary near Melbourne. So it has learnt to immitate human noises because it grew up in a non-natural environment. The one that immitates a chainsaw is in Adelaide zoo. While some people claim to have heard wild lyrebirds immitating human sounds, the general opinion amongst researchers is that they don't. Nevertheless the fact remains they are excellent mimics, and incorporate calls of many other birds into their song.

My Canon A-1 went "squee!" every second shot. This was a thing with that model when they got older, although it didn't signify any malfunction. My New F-1 with a motor was "chunkCRZZSMACK!" and it would almost torque out of your hands. The RB-67 was my favorite, especially on a slow speed, you could hear every part of the camera working sequentially. My current 1DsII is loud but purposeful, you get the feeling of great force applied with great precision. (You can also see where I lie on the "camera size" discussion.)

I forgot to ask the question, which camera is he imitating?

The lyre bird is real. We lived near some in forests near Melbourne. One of their special tricks was doing the very loud, shrill whistle of "Puffing Billy", a tourist steam train that winds through the hills. It was enough to scare motorists at railway crossings. the courtship dance of the lyre bird is just as sensational as their mimicry. Unfortunately lyre birds are being decimated by cats, dogs and foxes.

Seconding Bronicas as the loudest cameras. The mirror slap on the s2a is über loud. Only example I could find is http://youtu.be/WlHspkF671s but it doesn't do it justice.

I have until recently loved the loud noises you can get from medium format cameras, but I bought a Nex 7 a few weeks ago and am really enjoying the simple quick click from its shutter.

Love the bird. My wife and daughter enjoyed it too. A coincidence, today a "box of cameras" from ebay arrived on my porch, 4 Minolta slr bodies I'll sell or give away, but one neat little Canonette QL 1.7. Seems to work, and it has the quietest little snick of a shutter I have ever heard.

After hanging up my OM-F for a succession of point and shoots, and finally a DSLR, I care less about how the shutter sounds than the shutter actually releasing as I press the button.

All I can say is ditto about previous poster's comments on Richard Attenborough and his film crew and shows. It saddens me to be reminded that generations subsequent to mine are no longer being spoon fed such quality edutainment on the boob tube.

BTW - The bird vid links were a "hoot! (pun almost not intended) I have a deep respect for those motion picture camera operators who can take 16 work of art pics per second ....with sound.

Like Mike F above, I grew up near a lyrebird forest and my mum was part of a local lyrebird survey group. They could indeed mimic the local steam train whistle and also a flute from a nearby residence. After stricter controls on cats they are now doing ok in small forests surrounded by suburbia. Often when in the forest I just stand, grinning like a fool, listening to their wonderful mimicking song. Shy and darn hard to photograph in a dim forest though.

Seeing Attenborough at work, and BBC documentaries at all, let me feel that there's hope for Earth and its foolish human inhabitants.

All true. I've heard Lyre birds do very good motorbikes (not Harley though), cars and trains. There was an article in a local Melbourne paper recently about a bird who created his mound outside a little old lady's bedroom after her husband died, and performed his courtship dance for her.

The OM-1n very soft, "thaaaawipsh" cannot be matched. Sorry Leica fanboys. I love that camera. Working through a roll of film just now in that lovely jewel box. How quaint that anyone would want a digital copy of it's shutter. I'd opt for the bird myself.

There's one (or more, I'm sure) about a km from here, in the Blue Mountains, NSW. I've only glimpsed it once, lacking David Attenborough's stalking skills. I hope that it now has a Nikkor -W 210mm in its repertoire.

Thank heaven that I'm surrounded by World Heritage declared bushland, even if the damn coal trains run through.

Certainly the most stupid shutter sound is the one made by the GSW690 and GW690 III. "cloinckkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk". No with a wisper quit central shutter, what the F%^&. The sound is made by the image counter not the shutter.

Now the camera was not intended for quiet operation but for shooting group portrets the Japanees way. So at least the "cloink" is assuring....

Greets, Ed.

My first "proper" camera was an East German Praktica LB4. It was the cheapest SLR camera available in the UK at the time, which had metering - the metering was not through the lens, which was screwmount with full manual aperture.

My recollection of its shutter sound most closely resembles a metal toolbox thrown down a long flight of stairs, then bursting open at the bottom, and all the contents scattering and rolling around for a while, until just one toothed gear is left wobbling around a narrowing spiral, until finally expiring with a comedy twanging-wheezing noise (I think this was a spring clunking awkwardly back into place somewhere).

I think it unlikely a lyre bird ever heard that particular camera - or possibly, this was mistaken by listeners for a metal toolbox being... (etc).

Some of that lyrebird footage was filmed just outside Canberra, Australia, in Namadgi National Park. I've been bushwalking out there on many occasions and heard numerous lyrebirds (none imitating a camera, although I know that footage is indeed genuine). The Australian bush is full of beautiful sounds.


I used to work in a shop with an African Gray Parrot who would imitate the clanking of my tools perfectly, changing sounds as I went from bench to bench. He would also imitate the sound of my boss as he answered the phone in the other room; he reproduced the tone of his voice just right, even imitating the ring, his usual call opening and the way he ended his calls with, "...oookay, ok-, okay, ooookay bye."

In the UK, David Attenborough is actually more famous than his older brother actor/director Richard Attenborough. In the 1970's David resigned from his successful BBC management career, to allow him to return to programme-making.


family jaws still on floor

The loudest/worst shutter sound I've encountered would have to be attributable to a lowly Topcon Uni. I was surprised something that small could make that much noise. Even the medium format SLRs I've used couldn't compete with it.

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