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How to Combat Mirror Shock Using a Camera’s Mirror Delay


SLRs all suffer from the same problem: that mirror flapping up and down causes the camera to move at the time of exposure. “Mirror shock’ is what’s caused by the mirror itself and not the photographer’s ability to hold the camera still.

Some cameras allow you to program an extra delay on the mirror, and this goes a long way to getting rid of mirror shock.

Recently I was on a set and the photographer was using small HMI lamps with the Hasselblad H and IQ back. He was handholding the camera at 1/125 wide open and was getting what he referred to as ‘camera shake’. He tried upping the ISO, but on that particular back it started to introduce too much noise.

I suggested putting in some extra mirror delay, something it turns out he wasn’t aware of. I dialed in 50ms of delay, he took another shot and suddenly everything was sharp!

This tip is very useful when doing macro work, using long telephoto lenses, or just shooting at slow shutter speeds.

Above is the difference between two exposures (both at 1/125 sec) on a Hasselblad H6X. On the left there’s no mirror delay and on the right there’s a 200ms delay. You can clearly see the higher peaks on the left and the lower (less vibration) more spread-out graph on the right.

So how do you program extra mirror delay on cameras? Here’s what you do for a few popular models:

Hasselblad H4X, H5X, H6X

1. Go to the custom options menu.

2. Scroll through to number 30 (Extra mirror delay).

3. Select the delay you’d like to add (anything over 100ms and you will really start to notice the delay) so start at 25ms and gradually increase…

Canon 5DS, 5DS R, 5D Mark IV

1. Go to the mirror lock-up section of the menu.

2. Press Set.

3. If you choose the ‘Press twice to shoot’ option – the first time you press the shutter release it will lock up the mirror, the second time it will fire the shutter.

4. Or if you select shoot ⅛ sec after press, it will wait ⅛ sec (or 125 milliseconds) after the mirror has flipped up until firing the shutter (allowing vibration to die down).

Nikon D850

1. Navigate to the d Shooting/Display menu

2. Select d5 Exposure delay mode

3. In d5 menu you can select between 0.2sec and 3sec default is off (no delay)

Phase One XF

1. In Vibration reduction mode, the XF body uses data from its seismographic sensor to monitor the low vibration.

2. The maximum capture delay is set using a long press of the Vibration icon in Drive screen or by pressing the Rear Key on the XF top screen and from the menu: select Capture Setup > Vibration and then toggle the rear dial to the wanted delay.

3. The delay can be adjusted between 0.5-8 seconds.

If your camera isn’t listed here, look at your owners manual to see if it has the ability to do a mirror delay.

Many other cameras only give you the ability to lock the mirror up completely, which is fine for macro work but is of no use for things like fashion work. Alternatively, you could use live view and capture the still on some models.

About the author: Steve Moulsher is the Development and Training Manager at JJ Media Group in London. You can find more of their work and services on their website, blog, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. This article was also published here.