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If you’ve been thinking about buying or selling a used or refurbished camera chances are you’ve heard the word “shutter count.” You may have seen it in the descriptions of second hand camera websites. You may have also seen it listed in the specs of new cameras as well. So what does “shutter count” really mean and how much should the number influence which camera you buy? Does shutter count even matter?
When buying a used or refurbished camera, shutter count doesn’t matter as much as you’d think. Most cameras far outlive the minimum shutter release number set by their manufacturer. So unless the shutter count is extremely high, don’t worry about it. Additionally, if you’re planning to use the electronic shutter on a mirrorless camera, shutter count doesn’t matter at all.
What is shutter count?
In simple english, shutter count is the amount of times you have taken a photo on a specific camera using it’s mechanical shutter. There is also a minimum shutter count for each camera model. This is the amount of photos you can take before the manufacturer can no longer gaurantee that the camera will continue to function. Minimum shutter count can range from about 100,000 in entry level cameras to 400,000 in professional cameras. Because of this, when buying and selling used equipment, a high shutter count will devalue a camera since its more likely to break. Whether a cheaper price is worth the risk of a breaking camera is up to you.
Does it matter for DSLRs?
If you’re planning to simply take photos on a DSLR camera then shutter count matters some. This is not the case if your planning to use the camera for primarily videos or for mirrorless cameras, more on that later. Whether you should choose not to buy a camera because of its shutter count depends on the cameras minimum shutter count. Remember, as mentioned earlier, these are two different numbers. It also depends on how much you’ll use the camera. Let’s take for example an entry level camera with a minimum shutter count of 100,000. If a used camera your buying has a current shutter count of 50,000, that may seem like a high number, but you still have another 50,000 actuations to go. If you’re just a hobbyist and your only going to take 10 photos an average day, this is great. You get a good deal and the shutter should last you 5000 days, or just over 13 years. (Not to say that the camera as a whole will survive that long.) However, if photography is your job, you shouldn’t be buying used cameras at all.
Does it matter for mirrorless cameras?
As mentioned earlier, mirrorless cameras are a whole different story. Mirrorless cameras have electronic shutters which are so durable that they don’t even add to the shutter count number. But, mirrorless cameras also have mechanical shutters. It’s a common misconception that they don’t. Generally speaking, your mechanical shutter will preform better than the electronic one except for in certain areas. The electronic shutter makes far less noise and has a much faster shutter speed, this is ideal for wildlife photography. Weigh the pros and cons of using primarily the electronic or mechanical shutter in your mirrorless camera, if you plan to primarily use the electronic one, shutter count is almost meaningless. But do keep in mind, just because the electronic shutter doesn’t wear out, doesn’t mean other parts of the camera won’t.
Does it matter for taking videos?
No, shutter count does not matter for taking videos for the same reason that shutter count matters less in mirrorless cameras. Videos use the electronic shutter in a camera, not the mechanical one. But this time, theres no debate about it, because unlike mirrorless cameras videoing uses exclusively the electronic shutter, not either one. Can you imagine if it didn’t? The shutter would need to open and close sixty times a second. An entry level camera with a minimum shutter count of 100,000 would reach its capacity in less than 30 minutes. Fortunately, that’s not the case.
Does shutter count affect image quality?
No, shutter count does not directly affect image quality in any way, this another common misconception. Shutter count is simply the amount of times you’ve taken a picture so this can in no way reduce image quality. That is, if you’re using the term “image quality” to refer to image resolution, these are often used interchangably. If you’re using the term to mean how the overall photo looks generally, then your onto something. A worn out shutter can effect two factors of how your photo looks – shutter speed and noise. Old shutters are slower than new ones, and the very fast shutter speeds capable by new cameras are no longer possible. This can add some blur to your photo if photographing very fast movement but usually won’t be noticable for still shots. Finally, worse shutters come with worse noise, noise is the grainy look you can see in over or underexposed photos.
What happens when your shutter count is reached?
What will occur when your current shutter count reaches the minimum shutter count. Well most of the time, nothing at all. Remember, this is a minimum shutter count, not a maximum shutter count. So although the manufacturer can’t gaurantee that your camera will function beyond this point, its not a gaurantee that it won’t either. In fact, most people I’ve talked to have told me that their cameras lasted far longer than their minimum shutter counts. So after the number is reached, there is a chance that your shutter will break, that’s all. And even if this happens, your shutter can still be replaced for a couple hundred dollars.
How do you check a camera’s shutter count?
On a Nikon, you can check the camera’s shutter count by uploading a photo taken by the camera to http://www.myshuttercount.com/. For a canon camera its a bit more difficult. Preferably on a windows computer, you can install a program called EOS Info. Otherwise, you can upload a photo to https://www.camerashuttercount.com/ but it doesn’t work on all Canon cameras.