About Time for Silenceable Cameras

I was sitting in a conference hall listening to the keynote speech by former White House Director of Digital Platforms when I heard a number of digital shutter sounds from mobile phone cameras. This wasn’t the first time it happened as the same thing happens at every conference and seminars where people are either snapping the speaker or taking a shot of the slides so that they do not have to copy by hand.

Digital cameras have long been a pain in Japan because of voyeurs who abuse the convenience of digital photography by snapping upskirt images of unsuspecting women. This warranted audible shutter sounds to prevent such acts.

I recall back in poly when I had my Panasonic clamshell phone (otherwise known as flip phones), it came with shutter sound that cannot be toggled to silent. This became inconvenient because it was impossible to snap pictures in quiet places without getting stares and incurring the wrath of irritable patrons.

After I arrived in Japan, my first feature phone was the same. Not only could you not turn the sound off, you couldn’t adjust the volume either. And when I finally got my smartphone here, my options opened up, thanks to apps.

With so many kinds of silent camera apps available, shutter sounds that cannot be muted become pointless as anyone can just download apps to take pictures in discrete. But many people in Japan don’t do that likely because they see no reason in taking however little trouble to do so for occasional use at quiet places. And it becomes such that only those who find it necessary to silence their cameras would download these apps, among whom includes voyeurs with ill-intentions. In this sense, shutter sounds end up being unnecessary noise for the public and only serve one purpose, that is to waive manufacturers of all responsibilities of behaviours that outrage the modesty of women, which in itself is an odd behaviour to blame something like that on the makers since knife makers don’t get blamed for stabbing incidents.

In a time when the issue with shutter sounds can easily be circumvented, it is necessary manufacturers see the futility in holding on to an old concept that might have served well in the past, and return peace to the museum visitors and conference speakers and audiences.

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