The shutter is one of the priciest components on a camera to fix, so knowing where your shutter count is can be pretty important. Moving components like your shutter aren’t built to last indefinitely (even though it may seem like it). Like maintenance on a car, doing proper checks on your equipment mitigates the chance of something going wrong during an important photo shoot!
As much as we all wish it was streamlined, each camera has a different way of checking the shutter count. Some can be deduced from the image file number, and others require a third-party program to access this information. Let’s get started!
What Is Shutter Count On A Camera?
In the most layman’s terms possible, the shutter count on a camera is the number of times the camera has taken a photograph. This counts the amount of time the shutter has opened and closed its “door.” The shutter opening and closing are known as a shutter actuation, so shutter counts are listed in terms of shutter actuations.
The shutter is a moving component, and like most moving components, it can be prone to wear and tear over time. Whether you’re simply trying to maintain your own equipment or you’re purchasing used gear, being aware of the camera’s shutter count will provide a lot of useful information about its life expectancy.
Average Shutter Count Life Expectancy
Very similar to hitting a specific mileage on a car until the maintenance light turns on. After you’ve reached a certain number of photographs, it’s a good idea to do a wellness check on your camera. The shutter count life expectancy is, essentially, when your camera is due for an “oil change.” This helps remedy any potential issues you may encounter and keeps your gear in tip-top shape for future photo shoots.
As a very general statement, shutter count life expectancy on DSLR cameras can range from 50,000 to 350,000 shutter actuations. This is a big range difference, so we can break it down further.
Every camera has its own specific shutter life expectancy, but we can generalize it based on camera tier. Introductory or consumer cameras will have the lowest shutter count life expectancy (in the 50,000 range), mid-level will play around in the 150,000 range, and high-end professional equipment will have significantly more.
Mirrorless systems will last a bit longer than DSLRs with the shutter because it doesn’t always open and close, as these systems have both a mechanical shutter and an electronic shutter. As well as this, the design is far more upgraded and efficient. Mirrorless systems have ratings ranging from 200,000 to 500,000 shutter actuations on average.
What Is A “Good” Shutter Count?
On average, a “good” shutter count on mid-level to professional gear is around 30,000 to 50,000. Take this with a grain of salt because, generally speaking, the best shutter counts are the lowest numbers, and each camera has its own relative “good” count.
When it concerns one’s own personal camera, a good shutter count doesn’t really matter (all that matters is how close you are to the shutter count life expectancy). However, the shutter count becomes very important if you’re dipping your toes into the used camera marketplace (whether as a buyer or as a seller).
The mileage on a vehicle determines its resale value, and a camera’s shutter count is comparable to this. A good shutter count will yield the highest value on used gear for the seller and becomes the better option for a buyer.
Keep in mind that just like a car, just because the shutter count is “good” doesn’t mean that the camera has been well maintained. A car with a low mileage count may have other things wrong with it due to not having its other components well cared for. A camera can also, so the shutter count is only one factor in the camera’s value – make sure that the other components are well cared for too.
This being said, a low shutter count expresses that the camera hasn’t been used a lot (or may have been used casually), which is more likely to be in a better condition.
What Does A High Shutter Count Mean?
A high shutter count refers to the camera being close to its shutter count life expectancy. Cameras with 100,000+ shutter actuations express that the camera had been heavily used, so you can expect some wear on the gear.
How To Check Your Shutter Count For Free
Checking the shutter count is where things get a little bit tricky. Each brand and each camera has its own way of checking the shutter count, and not all of them are easy to access. If you happen to live near a repair center for Canon, Nikon, or Sony, you can just walk in and ask an employee to check the shutter count on your camera. But if you do not… Here are the ways to check the shutter count (for free) of the three top camera brands.
Canon Shutter Count
For Canon cameras (both the DSLR models and mirrorless models), you will need to use third-party software to figure out the shutter count if you aren’t able to access a repair shop in person. Canon is the hardest to find the shutter count for because it is not stored in readable EXIF data.
Once upon a time, a company called Astrojargon made two specific programs to check the shutter count of your camera, but unfortunately, the official downloads have been taken off of the website because the company owner no longer maintains the programs (and states that it doesn’t work on new Canon cameras anyways). However, you may still find the program downloadable on third-party websites but proceed with caution.
Today, you can try the website https://www.camerashuttercount.com/ to view the count. If this doesn’t work, the Mac-exclusive program ShutterCount and Windows-exclusive program Canon EOS Digital Info software are commonly recommended.
For these, you just upload the last image you took or plug your camera into the computer.
If you don’t mind doing a bit of hacking on your camera, the software Magic Lantern can help. This program completely reconfigures how your Canon camera works, and viewing the shutter actuations is just one of the many features Magic Lantern adds. Remember that adding Magic Lantern may void your warranty, so do so carefully.
Nikon Shutter Count
Nikon adds the shutter count information into a photograph’s EXIF data, so all you have to do is read the information.
For Mac users, open the last image you took using Preview. Once this screen is open, press CMD + I to open the info screen. In this screen, click the lowercase i. From here, select the Nikon tab, and you will see the EXIF data!
For Windows users, you may need third-party software to access the full EXIF data. Programs like ExifTool are good options for this.
Sony Shutter Count
Sony is similar to Canon regarding hiding the shutter count. However, most Sony Alpha mirrorless systems can have their shutter actuations viewed by uploading the last photograph you took to various free shutter check websites. Shuttertool and CameraShutterCount are the most commonly used options.
What Happens When Shutter Count Is Reached?
When the camera reaches its shutter count, your camera won’t immediately implode and stop working. Exactly like the maintenance light on a car, after a certain amount of miles, your car won’t suddenly stop turning on. The shutter life expectancy is simply a guide to be aware that your equipment needs to be looked at to be potentially repaired or maintained.
You don’t need to rush out immediately to get the camera looked at (life gets busy, and it’s not an emergency), but the sooner you do it, the better it is for you.
That being said, if you ignore the fact that your camera has reached its shutter count expectancy for too long, you’re opening yourself up to trouble. Although some photographers have gotten lucky and had cameras that last 500,000+ actuations, others can die right at the count limit.
The shutter has a higher likelihood of failing after the shutter count is reached, and the last thing you want is for this to happen during an important photo shoot!