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Camera Muzzle keeps it quiet  
Tuesday, August 8, 2000 | by
The Camera Muzzle means never having to say you're sorry.

At least not for the clunk and whir sound that your SLR would otherwise make on hush-hush assignments. If your camera is disturbing the peace in court, on the golf course or any other venue where silence is golden, photojournalist Sam Cranston's US$125 Camera Muzzle sound blimp for pro film and digital SLR cameras may be for you.

Camera Muzzle

Made of duck cloth - a durable cotton with the texture of canvas only lighter and more flexible - and stuffed with 3 different types of sound deadening foam, the Camera Muzzle does as its name implies: it mutes the sounds emanating from an SLR body as the shutter opens and closes, the mirror slaps and, in film cameras, the motor drive advances.The velcro-closure version of the Camera Muzzle is installed around a D1 in the photo above.

Attaching the Camera Muzzle is a simple process that will get even simpler next month, as Cranston is in the process of revamping the two-step velcro closure system of current models. There is an opening for the viewfinder eyepiece, and another for the top LCD display (shown below). The latter opening is covered with clear plastic. A sleeve for the right hand to insert into extends from one side. There is no way to attach a strobe to the hot shoe of the flash once the Camera Muzzle is in place, but a remote cord can be snaked out through one of the openings if necessary.

Viewing panel for top LCD display

"Necessity was the Muzzle's mom," says Cranston, shooter and editor at the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Our staff provides blanket coverage of the London Symphony's bi-annual week-long visit/performance here in Daytona Beach. Symphonies do not lend themselves to shutters and motordrives.

Out of that, Camera Muzzle was born. I've used a cumbersome US$500 commercial blimp previously, and the Camera Muzzle does not eliminate sound in the way a higher-priced unit would. In fact, when I first attached the Camera Muzzle to a D1 last summer, then put it to my eye to shoot, I was disappointed that the sound of the camera firing was deadened but still clearly audible. Then I handed the camera to someone else and moved about 15 feet away. Wow. It was still possible to hear the camera, but only just. For courtroom work, and perhaps even long-lens golf photography, the Camera Muzzle should mute camera noise more than enough to keep the attention focused on the event and not you. Cranston echoes that:

Judges in our area have actually asked photographers without the Camera Muzzle to stop shooting while our staffer continued uninterrupted.

In fact, in certain jurisdictions, it may be the only way to gain permission to shoot courtroom photos. A case in point: The Supreme Court of Arizona's rule 122r:

Television or still cameras which produce distracting sound shall not be permitted. In this regard, the presiding judge may consider a still camera acceptable so long as it is contained in a "blimp" system or is the type of camera such as a Nikon F4 with a Nikon CS-13 camera blimp (otherwise known as a "corduroy sock") which effectively muffles camera sounds.

Though Cranston initially did the assembly and stitching, a local tailor now handles that task. It's available in four different models, each built for a specific group of Canon-body or Nikon-body cameras. They vary in height, and in the position of the viewfinder opening. The table below lists some of the cameras in each group:

Camera Muzzle model matrix
Canon-body cameras
Nikon body cameras
Tall enough for film SLRs and the D1
Tall enough for Kodak/Canon
pro digital SLRs
EOS D2000
DCS 520
NC 2000/E
DCS 620
DCS 620X

Customized versions are available as well. Cranston had one request for a camouflage version, and recently produced a weather-resistant model out of sunbelt material for the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle.

A revised Camera Muzzle, with a single zipper in place of the bottom and side flap velcro closures used in the current model, will begin shipping in September. The revised model will be the same price as the current model: US$125, including ground shipping in the US, direct from Sam Cranston. Faster shipping, or shipping outside of the US, is extra. Cranston is currently on assignment overseas and may be slow to answer email requests for information until later this month. Robert's Distributors also carries the Camera Muzzle: call Jody Grober at 317-636-5544 or 800-726-5544 for more information.

In response to the original posting of this story, photographer Carl Seibert sent some helpful observations and suggestions about the "Cranston Muzzle," as he calls it:

1. It really does work. It's way quieter than the old Nikon CS-13 soft blimp, and your hand doesn't turn into a prune inside it.

2. You really need an eyecup to keep the eyepiece centered in the small hole in the Muzzle. Just scrunch up the rubber eyecup and pass it through the hole. It will pop back into shape and secure the camera and blimp in alignment. Makes me nostalgic. I used to like eyecups back when the Nikon F was in vogue. But then swinging backs got in the way. With digis, they're practical again. :-)

3. The strap comes out the bottom and your camera hangs upside down off your shoulder. I found that a little strange, but it hasn't really presented a problem. I'm a little leery of the idea of replacing the bottom velcro with a zipper, because zipper tabs are noisy, the velcro seals pretty well, and where-the-heck-will-the-strap-go-NOW? But that all remains to be seen.

4. On a D-1, choose your file type and white balance before you shoot, 'cause it's pretty hard to get to those settings once the camera is in the blimp. Of course, if your choose .NEF for courtroom work, the white balance setting is no longer critical ;-)

I bought my D-1 Muzzle from Roberts and they sent along the correct DK-2 eyecup.

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