Shutter Counts – Why They Matter and Why They Don’t

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Shutter Counts – Why They Matter and Why They Don’t

I was conducting my daily website scan when I saw an article on a new shutter count app that is now available for most Canon digital cameras [credit CanonRumors]. If you aren’t sure what a shutter count is, it is basically a numerical representation of how many times your camera’s shutter has actuated (opened and closed). So what’s the big deal about shutter counts? Well, if you aren’t planning on selling or buying a camera, probably nothing. Most SLR cameras have a shutter count estimate from the manufacturer for the number of reliable shutter actuations you can expect for your camera. Most cameras number somewhere around 100,000 with professional cameras like the Nikon D4 reaching as high as 400,000. As you can see, the higher quality materials and professional expectations drive higher shutter life in more professional camera systems. Of course these numbers are just estimations based on testing of shutters by the manufacturers. 

"Focal-plane shutter" by Hustvedt - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Focal-plane_shutter.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Focal-plane_shutter.jpg

“Focal-plane shutter” by Hustvedt – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Focal-plane_shutter.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Focal-plane_shutter.jpg

You can probably see how it might be important to know how many times the shutter has been fired if you are buying a used camera. If the body is rated for 100K actuations and the shutter count is at 90K, you might be nearing the useful life of the camera. Trust me when I say that when the shutter goes, you will be looking at a fairly hefty replacement bill (averaging between $100 and $350 or higher depending on the camera). Replacing the shutter is simply not economically feasible for lower cost cameras. Another good reason to know the shutter count would be if you are selling a used camera. The chances are pretty good that someone is going to want to know the shutter count. I have sold a lot of cameras over the years and I can’t think of a single time when someone didn’t ask.  

So is this information crucial for your everyday photography if you aren’t buying or selling, probably not. The number of shutter actuations has no effect on how your camera performs (unless it is reaching the end and is starting to fail). Where it might come in handy is if you have had your camera for a very long time and have shot a lot of images. It might be handy to know how high the count is so that you can start planning for that rainy day when it does finally fail. That being said, I know several photographers who have taken their cameras well past the estimated shutter life without problem. You’re also likely to buy a new camera before you ever run out of shutter clicks. As you can see, the shutter count can be important at times but usually never matters, at least as far as your day-to-day photography goes. 

As far as how you go about finding your shutter count, there are several different methods you can try. Unfortunately all cameras aren’t alike when it comes to reporting the number of shutter clicks. The easiest way to find a shutter count solution is to simply Google a solution. There are many different websites that allow you to upload your image file and get back your shutter count. I used nikonshuttercount.com to get the results below from one of my images. Be sure that you use a JPEG created in your camera, not one saved from a RAW file because it might have some of the metadata stripped out by your editing software.

Screen Shot 2014-08-31 at 4.27.26 PM

I should add that some cameras make finding the shutter counts very difficult. Canon is one of those brands that doesn’t allow for simple uploading of a file and getting a result. If you want your Canon shutter count you will most likely have to download a solution that will run on your computer. My advice to Canon users is to purchase an app from the App Store that will give you this and other information about your camera. Most of the third-party programs that you can find on the Internet can be kind of iffy so it’s worth it to spend a couple of bucks to get something trustworthy from the App store. The EOS Inspector cost $1.99 and requires that you connect your EOS camera to the Mac to get your data.

Screen Shot 2014-08-31 at 4.42.50 PM

ShutterCount from DIRE Studio is another app that let’s you gather shutter data by connecting the camera. This offering will set you back about $2.99 but is also offered in a Windows version for all you non-Mac photographers out there.

Screen Shot 2014-08-31 at 4.46.15 PM

The bottom line is that, while the shutter count can be useful for heavy shooters or buyers and sellers of photo gear, it’s probably not going to matter much to the average photographer. Now feel free to go forth and count those clicks.

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