Aaron Mizzi recently sent in a question asking how long the shutter on his DSLR will last before it bites the dust. It's actually a very good question and the answer will also teach you an easy way to find out how many total times you've pressed the shutter button on your DSLR, which is a handy thing to know for used camera buyers.
Here's Aaron's question… “I have a Nikon D3 camera and would really like to know what is the lifetime of its shutter, and i had never updated its firmware.”
First of all, let's cut out the fluff. It really makes no difference whether or not you have updated the firmware of the camera. The shutter is hardware in the camera and the firmware won't impact its durability (but seriously… it's time to update).
How many shutter actuations do the manufacturers claim?
There are a few things you'll want to know about the life of your shutter. First of all, the camera manufacturers publicize the shutter rating of the camera. Most entry-level DSLR cameras are only rated at 100,000 shutter actuations. Mid and high-end cameras have more durable shutters that are rated up to between 150,000 and 300,000 actuations.
How many shutter actuations to most photographers actually achieve?
In my experience and from what I have seen from other photographers online, most shutters make or surpass the 100,000 or 150,000 mark without any problem whatsoever, but it seems that few cameras actually make it to the 300,000 shutter actuations even on the cameras that are rated to that number. Fortunately for the manufacturers, most photographers don't press the shutter button that many times during the warranty period anyway, so they don't have to back up their claims of how many shutter actuations it can handle. (Perhaps I should add this point to my camera manufacturer whine list?)
How many pictures has my camera taken?
If you shoot Nikon, it is simple to find out how many pictures your camera has taken. Simply download this little program, tell it to analyze one of your recent photos, and it will look at the EXIF data to determine how many pictures you've taken. If you shoot Canon, there is no easy way to find out how many times your camera has taken a picture on many of their DSLR cameras. If you're a tech junkie and you shoot Canon, you might want to check out this post to see how to hack it with a hex editor.
If you shoot Nikon, your job will be much easier. Simply download an EXIF reader and check the number. If you don't already have a program that reads all the exif data, I recommend this free one for Windows and Mac.
How much does it cost to get a shutter replaced?
If your shutter goes out before the camera has exhausted its technological brains, then you can get the shutter replaced for around $400 by sending it in to the manufacturer. On higher-end DSLRs, it's probably worth the $400, but for most mid and low end DSLRs, it'll mean a trip over to Amazon to buy a new camera.
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