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You’ve likely heard the term “shutter count” at least once or twice. And if you are not sure what is shutter count and why it is such an important concept in digital photography, this article is for you.
Shutter Life Expectancy
The shutter in your camera is a mechanical door that opens and closes when you take a picture letting the light to reach the camera’s sensor.
Cameras have a limit to how many times a shutter can open and close before the camera needs a serious spa day (also known as, being taken apart and refreshed). This is known as the shutter life expectancy. Every camera brand and body have their own shutter life expectancy numbers. It may range from 30,000 releases to hundreds of thousands of releases. All moving parts will quit performing at some point, and the shutter is certainly no exception.
How do you know if your camera is close to, has hit, or far surpassed the shutter life expectancy? Well, my friends, this is calculated by something called shutter count (sometimes referred to as shutter actuations).
What Is a Shutter Count (Actuation)?
Photography is full of complex terminology, and ‘shutter actuation’ is one of them. This fancy word is just a complex way of saying “a number that represents the amount of times the shutter was clicked, or opened and closed to take a picture.” The shutter actuation will tell you the amount of photographs a camera has taken. It’s truly that simple. You’re welcome.
Shutter actuations are very important to know, however. Whether you’re looking to buy a used camera or just keeping up with ensuring your camera doesn’t die, the shutter count is something you should be very well familiar with.
Why Is It Important to Know the Shutter Count?
With the shutter being a mechanism that opens, closes, and is often pushed to its limits (sport photographers, I’m looking at you!) One can imagine that such a device will wear out, lapse in speed, and otherwise break down over time. Nothing lasts forever, sadly. As such, knowing the shutter count of your camera or a camera you are about to buy is very important.
With a camera you own, you don’t want it to stop working in the middle of a photo shoot. Although a camera will not “die” per say if you’ve reached the shutter expectancy (much like a car won’t necessarily break down once you’ve hit a certain mileage), the camera will likely stop working properly and need maintenance.
The best way to predict when this maintenance will be necessary is being aware of your current shutter actuations. This way you can budget enough money to get the camera looked at and not risk a dead camera in the middle of an important photo shoot!
Your shutter actuations are also very important if you want to sell your camera. Although a variety of variables come into play when pricing a camera (how old is the camera? Any physical damage?), the shutter count might be one of the most important ones. Because the shutter actuation tells you how many photographs were taken, a buyer can determine how heavily the camera has been used. This all factors into how you price your camera.
Likewise, if you’re buying a used camera, you need to ask for the shutter actuations. This gives you a valuable snapshot into the camera’s life and helps you determine if the price is justified or there is room to negotiate!
What is a high shutter count?
A high shutter count refers to a camera that has taken so many pictures it is nearing the shutter expectancy. Shutter expectancy differs between brands, models, and even camera levels.
For example, on average entry level cameras are rated for approximately 50,000 shots, mid-range cameras are rated for around 100,000 shots, and professional cameras are rated for around 200,000 shots. Any shutter count that is nearing these numbers is considered high.
What is a good shutter count?
Technically, there isn’t really a “good” shutter count as much as there is “the lower the shutter count, the higher the value of the camera”. This is something that rings true for buying or selling used equipment. The less shots the camera had taken, the better the camera is.
How To Check the Shutter Count
There are several ways you can check the shutter count. Some brands allow you to check via software, websites, or built-in information, while others require seeing a specialist. This all depends on the company camera that you use.
Mac users have a bit of an advantage in this regard however- for cameras that store the shutter count in their EXIF data. You don’t need third party applications or websites to view the data. Just open any of your photos in OSX’s bundled Preview app, proceed by selecting the Tools/Open Inspector button and you’ll see an EFIX data tab. Scroll down to see Image Count. However, for models that do not store the data in EXIF, this isn’t applicable.
How To Check the Shutter Count on Canon
Unless you’re using a few select models such as the 1Dx or the new Mirrorless R, unfortunately Canon makes viewing the shutter count a bit more complex than many of the other brands. Canon does not store the shutter count information in the file data, instead, it is stored deep within the camera. Only special programming is really able to dig this up, or taking the camera to a Canon authorized repair shop.
A few companies have created some freeware software to help Canon users find out how many pictures they have taken with their camera. A company called AstroJargon has created two pieces of software for this very reason: Windows users will utilize EOSInfo and Mac users can rely on 40D Shutter Count. To use either of these programs, simply connect the camera to your computer using a cable and run the program. Another one you can use is EOS Inspector (Mac only).
There is a program (known as firmware) that you can install into your camera to extend Canon’s default features. Magic Lantern is a free software add-on that runs from the SD/CF card and adds a host of new features to Canon cameras.
One of its features includes access to the shutter actuation number. Installing third party software on your camera has its risks and in some cases may void the warranty, so do keep that in mind.
How To Check the Shutter Count on Nikon
Nikon is a breath of fresh air in the shutter count department as this brand stores the shutter count details in the photograph EXIF data.
You can’t normally view the specific EXIF data you need via a computer, but thankfully, there are plenty of fantastic online freeware to quickly let you know the shutter count of your camera without needing to plug the camera body into the computer.
All you have to do is upload the last photograph you took with your camera, and all of the shutter count information is yours. Some great websites to do this through include:
How To Check the Shutter Count on Sony
Sony is a bit more akin to Canon in being tricky to view the shutter counts without taking the camera to an authorized repair shop or dealer. For those that rock with the Sony Alphas, you can try to use the free http://tools.science.si/ website to find the shutter actuation of your camera.
How To Check the Shutter Count on Pentax & Leica
Pentax & Leica follow in suit to Nikon with a similar system. The shutter actuations are stored in the EXIF data and can be accessed using the same free online resources.
How To Check the Shutter Count on Fujifilm
You can find the shutter count on your Fujifilm camera on www.apotelyt.com website.
How To Check the Shutter Count on Olympus & Panasonic
Olympus and Panasonic cameras have built-in a way to tell the number of shutter actuations. To access this secret menu, you must input a series of button clicks (much like inputting a cheat code into a video game). The code may differ per camera model, so be sure to look up information for your specific camera. You can usually find this code in the manual or on the manufacturer’s website.
All of the aforementioned being said, don’t be scared that your camera is going to break down tomorrow- shutters are hardy little tools that can take a lot of pictures before slowing down even a little bit. Most modern cameras are designed to allow you to photograph hundreds of thousands of images before a repair is even on the horizon! Just use the tools above to keep track of your count, and you’ll be just fine.