A camera is a mechanical device, and just like any piece of mechanical equipment, it will eventually fail. The life of an SLR or Digital SLR camera is based on a number of factors, one of which is shutter actuation or shutter count. The shutter count is the number of times the shutter is activated – that is, the shutter button is pressed causing the shutter blades to open and close. Aside from the shutter, a DSLR camera has additional mechanical parts – the mirror system, the very heart of an SLR camera, that moves up and down with each shutter release, and sometimes focusing motors. Sooner or later, these components will wear out and eventually stop functioning. The part that usually gives up first is the shutter.
When the shutter fails, you may either need to have the shutter replaced or purchase a new camera. Replacing a shutter can cost anywhere between $100 to $300, depending on your camera model, which is cheaper than purchasing a brand new camera.
A typical DSLR camera shutter will last between 100,000 to 300,000 shutter actuations. Entry level DSLR cameras usually have low shutter count, but nothing below the 100,000 mark while professional-grade camera are robust enough to last 300,000 shutter actuations and beyond. Usually these figures are pessimistic and the actual model may last more than the rated lifetime. For instance, Nikon publishes shutter actuation of their DSLR line-ups using the words "tested to over 100,000 cycles", meaning that the shutter is expected to last some time past the 100,000 cycles mark.
It should be noted that shutter actuation is a statistical value, and there always be flukes in statistics. Your camera may last only half as long or twice as long as its rated lifetime.
Depending on your usage, a shutter count of say 100,000 or 150,000 can either be too high or too low. Photographer-writer Scott Kelby, who has authored some excellent books on photography and Adobe Photoshop, recently wrote that he shoots more than a thousand photos at any given football game in just three hours. A wedding photographer may shoot anywhere between 500 to 3000 photos or more per wedding. At that rate, a camera may last only about two years or one or even less. On the other hand, if you shoot less than 10,000 photos a year, your camera is good for at least a decade.
Shutter actuation is an important factor because it tells you the extent of wear the camera has undergone, and it’s particularly crucial when you are buying used cameras. It is easy to find out the current shutter count of the camera – that information is usually embedded in the EXIF data of the pictures. Simply ask the seller to take a picture with the camera he or she is selling and send it to you. Then read the EXIF data with an EXIF viewer. However, not all EXIF reader will show the shutter actuation count. I’ve found that the image viewer Irfan Viewer is good in this regard.
How to Find Shutter Actuation of a Camera
Open the last picture taken by the camera in Irfan Viewer and click the “i” icon in the toolbar.
Now click on the button “EXIF info”, and scroll to the bottom of the page. The shutter actuation is given by the parameter “Total pictures”. (Note: this is for Nikon camera only. Yours might be different.)
Alternatively, you can use an online shutter actuation counter that lets you upload an image from your computer and the website then shows you the count. Here are a few of them.
Olympus doesn’t store the shutter actuation details in the EXIF, but there’s a trick one can use on Olympus bodies. This is described on this page. For Sony DSLRs, there is simply no way to determine shutter actuations.
Do note that the shutter count figure might not be accurate if the camera received firmware updates or was sent for repairs before, as such operations can rest the shutter release count.
Estimated Shutter Life of Popular DSLR Cameras (Official Figures)
|Camera Model||Shutter Life/Durability|
|Nikon D3 – series||300,000 cycles|
|Nikon D4||400,000 cycles|
|Nikon D800||200,000 cycles|
|Nikon D700||150,000 cycles|
|Nikon D600||150,000 cycles|
|Nikon D300(s)||150,000 cycles|
|Nikon D7000||150,000 cycles|
|Nikon D90||over 100,000 cycles|
|Nikon D5100, D5000, D3000, D3100||over 100,000 cycles|
|Canon EOS Rebel T1i / 500D||100,000 cycles|
|Canon EOS Rebel XSi / 450D||100,000 cycles|
|Canon EOS Rebel XS / 1000D||100,000 cycles|
|Canon EOS Rebel XTi / 400D||50,000 cycles|
|Canon EOS Rebel XT / 350D||50,000 cycles|
|Canon EOS 60D, 50D, 40D, 30D||100,000 cycles|
|Canon EOS 20D||50,000 cycles|
|Canon EOS 7D||150,000 cycles|
|Canon EOS 6D||100,000 cycles|
|Canon EOS 5D Mark III||150,000 cycles|
|Canon EOS 5D Mark II||150,000 cycles|
|Canon EOS 5D||100,000 cycles|
|Canon EOS 1D X||400,000 cycles|
|Canon EOS 1D Mark IV||300,000 cycles|
|Canon EOS 1D Mark III||300,000 cycles|
|Canon EOS 1D Mark II N||200,000 cycles|
|Canon EOS 1DS Mark III||300,000 cycles|
|Canon EOS 1DS Mark II||200,000 cycles|
Estimated Shutter Life of Popular DSLR Cameras (Real World Figures)
These figures are provided by the website olegkikin.com that maintains a Camera Shutter Life Expectancy Database based on real world data submitted by Internet users. Figures are average and as on Dec 26, 2012.
|Camera Model||Shutter Still Alive After (cycles)||Shutter Dead After (cycles)|
|Canon EOS 400D||72,336.4||161,044.8|
|Canon EOS 450D||22,682.7||38,756.0|
|Canon EOS 30D||101,780.4||128,908.9|
|Canon EOS 5D||99,365.8||382,042.7|
|Canon EOS 5D Mark II||165,691.5||343,516.6|
|Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III||462,988.1||739,236.8|