Leica M: The Standard for Silent Shutters in United States Courtrooms


If you’ve ever shot with a Leica M rangefinder, you probably know how effective the camera can be for stealthy shooting. After all, there’s no mirror that needs to swing out of the way like there is in a DSLR, so the main sound you’ll hear is the soft click of the shutter curtain flapping open to expose the film or sensor.

It’s not just Leica aficionados that appreciate the silent shutter: did you know that the Leica M is held as the standard for silent photography in courtrooms across the United States?

Here’s what the Vermont Supreme Court’s “Etiquette for Media” document says:

Not more than one still photographer, utilizing not more than two still cameras with not more than two lenses for each camera and related equipment for print purposes shall be permitted in any court proceeding. Such cameras shall produce no greater sound than a 35mm Leica “M” Series rangefinder camera.

The Minnesota court’s “General Rules of Practice” document has a nearly identical section:


Courts in New York, Rhode Island, and Louisiana have the same rule. We’re guessing other states do as well.

As technology changes, however, we may see the camera-specific rule get wiped from the guidelines. Updated versions of the document in some states — including Virginia and North Carolina — have already scratched any mention of the “Leica M” line from their rules. In its proposed rule change that eliminates Leica M from its document, Florida said it was trying to “eliminate references to outdated technology.”

So, don’t worry: if you’re aiming to shoot photographs in a courtroom (where photography is generally off-limits), you don’t need to go out and buy yourself a Leica M camera. But at least now you know how quiet the camera you do use should be in order to not tick off the judge!

(via The Online Photographer)

Image credit: Photo illustration based on historic Cochise County courtroom, Tombstone Courthouse by Crunchy Footsteps

  • dasfads

    courtroom snobberty!

  • Mark Sperry

    Well the Pentax K-5 is quieter than an M4, as is the 5D3 is quiet mode, and the X100/s is quieter than any of them.

  • Zágros Os

    CanonNikon must produce a “Courtroom” version.

  • Adam Cross

    all you need is a sound blimp (Jacobson, Fatboy, Aquatech, Pelican etc). or you can shoot in Live View mode if you don’t want to pay extra money for a blimp.

  • John Goldsmith

    Um, Sound Blimp? “Quiet” technology has existed for quite a long time in courts and in Hollywood movie sets and other venues that require photographers to be hush-hush.

  • Alan Dove

    That was very generous of them to use the Leica as the maximum noise standard. If they’d said a Yashica Electro 35, nobody would be able to shoot courtrooms with anything else.

  • Spiral

    Yeah all you need is a sound blimp…..for $1,200.

  • John Goldsmith

    … the Leica M9 goes for only a measly $6,599.99….

    Sounds blimps can be cheaper (or more expensive) but either way, $1,200 + a pro dSLR is going to be cheaper than an M series….

  • dannybuoy

    They have good taste

  • Yaris

    So I can use a Fujifilm at a fraction of the price then?

  • micksh

    “Not more than one still photographer, utilizing not more than two still cameras with not more than two lenses for each camera …”
    … with not more than two lens caps for each lens, with not more than one strap for each cap, with not more than two knots tied on each strap…

  • Charles Coleman

    X100S is much quieter. :-P

  • D.G. Brown

    So you’re saying I shouldn’t show up in court with my 1DX? :-P

  • Duke Shin

    Pinhole camera.

  • D.G. Brown

    Wow, I’m sad. Down-voted for making a joke about a loud camera. Must not be much Canon love in this room :-P

  • Charles

    Seems louder and harsher than my fujifilm XE-1

  • Sky

    still all of them loose to pinhole.

  • Eero Mäentie

    I would go to court with a Pentax 6×7, with it’s amazing image quality and the shuttersound characterized as a “thunderclap”. I would get only one picture, but it would be pretty.

  • Daniel Lin

    I spend a lot of time in courtrooms shooting photos for the paper… to be totally honest, a pinhole might actually work, considering how slow court proceedings can be.

  • VanessaDjones

    Who knew.

  • Neotype

    The court rule refers to the cloth shutter of the analogue M rangefinders. In those days the Leica M was much quieter than any SLR.

  • Luta

    Funny! My clients – I’m a documentary wedding photographer based in the Netherlands – always appreciate my silent M9’s during the ceremony. And I’ve even shot on filmsets a number of times. If you work in silent mode, it’s perfect. Fortunately, more cameras are becoming quiet!

  • Adam Knapp

    Jacobson blimps, or often, a pelican-style case with a lens hole cut in it (hey some of us can’t afford a jacobson!), are extremely unwieldy to use, and also quite prominent visually. On a movie set, they’re not a big deal since they blend in with all the other big equipment being used, but in a courtroom, holding up a nearly 1ft x 1ft box to your face is gonna be distracting!

  • Mr. Cooper

    I am shocked that the Rx1 hasn’t been mentioned. It’s the quietest of all cameras, it’s full frame, and it’s IQ is super.

  • Peter “Pots”

    I love the comments…talking about noise (not the lack of it) how about a ‘blad. I used to shoot weddings and would cough at the time I pressed the shutter release, hold the button and tuck it under my jacket to let the mirror come back up. Now that was noise!