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Shutter life and cycles

Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by GeoffR, Jul 3, 2018.

  1. GeoffR

    GeoffR Well-Known Member

    There is a thread on the Computer Related Help & Discussion forum on the subject of shutter count, the camera in question is a Canon but that is irrelevant since all true shutters are mechanical devices (electronic shutters aren't but electronically controlled shutters are). Given that mechanical devices wear it is important to have some measure of how far between new and worn out they might be. In aviation we measure life in terms of "number of operations" or Cycles, as it is easier to type cycles than shutter actuations that is what I will use.

    So why does a shutter's cycle count matter?
    Two reasons; A shutter that has a high cycle count, especially in a relatively young body may be less reliable than a newer one and this will also reflect the level of wear on other mechanical parts, mirror hinge, damper etc. This is of more use to the manufacturer when servicing the camera than to a prospective buyer.
    A high shutter count may also indicate the type of use to which a camera has been put, my D2Xs had around 90,000 cycles when I bought it and it was cosmetically a bit tatty. That didn't put me off because, the shutter was well below the level to which Nikon had tested, I wasn't going to use it particularly hard, the cosmetics were fixable (£25 or so I recall).
    Contrary to popular belief, many cameras have the shutter count in the metadata of each image so, with the right software, it is readily accessible.

    Manufacturers guarantee their shutters don't they?
    Well actually they don't. What they do is tell you, in their advertising, how many cycles they tested them to, that isn't a guarantee of how long they will last. Others have suggested that this is a measure of MTBF (Mean Time Between Failures). It isn't that either.

    When a manufacturer designs a new shutter a number of prototypes will be made and tested to iron out any bugs. Then a few hundred preproduction examples will be made and tested to, amongst other things, see how and where, they wear. Some may even be tested to failure but others will be dismantled at 10,000, 50,000, 100,000 and 200,000 cycles so that the wear can be measured. Only after much testing will production start. Some production examples will be extensively tested. Nikon tested the D2 shutter to 250,000* cycles (probably several of them) and then had the confidence to tell their prospective customers.

    All this means is that they know how the shutter wears over 250,000 cycles and are confident of being able to maintain it.

    At this stage they haven't sold a single camera so they can't possibly know the MTBF, even the data they have will be misleading because their test units won't have been, in most cases, production examples. The only way to gather useful MTBF data is to sell cameras and repair them. Manufacturers try to design for an acceptable MTBF (which is propitiatory data and they won't release it) and we will never know if their production examples meet that or not.

    The vast majority of cameras sold to amateurs won't get near their test cycle values or the design MTBF but some professional photographers may approach or even exceed those numbers.

    What does shutter count mean when I buy used
    In most cases it is irrelevant. However, if you are buying a "Professional" camera (Nikon D1, D2, D3, D4, D5, D700, D800, D810, D850 etc. Canon EOS1D or EOS1Ds, 5D etc. any mark) a heavily used camera may not be the bargain it looks. A low price may mean a well used example, here the shutter count will be useful. Not that a high cycle camera need always be avoided, see my D2Xs example above, but if you are completely ignorant of the cycles you are taking a greater risk. Also be aware that a cosmetically worn camera with low cycles may have had a replacement shutter.

    A disclaimer
    I know that there are members here who know a lot more than I do but this isn't a professional appraisal it is a note on shutter cycle count and why it might matter. If you think it is meaningless that's fine by me. If you feel more confident as to what an advertiser is offering that's fine too.

    *Why only 250,000 cycles? Good question but they probably expect a new model to be released before too many professionals reach that number. Nikon, and I suspect Canon, expect professionals will upgrade regularly. Consumers just don't use their cameras that hard.
    Craig20264 likes this.
  2. Roger_Provins

    Roger_Provins Well-Known Member

    Very interesting and it prompted me to investigate how long the shutter life on my oldest camera (Sony a900) might be. For what it's worth, being a Sony/Minolta site, I found this on the net…

    Sony A900 DSLR Shutter Life
    Average number of actuations after which shutter is still alive: 109,901.9
    Average number of actuations after which shutter died: 2,074,452.0
    75% expected to reach between 3 and 5 million actuations.

    Well I’ll never get anywhere near that! :)
  3. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    What was it that the other thread failed to convince on?

    There is no means to predict when something will fail. If you had a hundred cameras and ran all of them to failure you would see a distribution of shutter counts at failure but there is no way to say from the beginning which individual model will go first. By a camera new or s/h and you can have no idea how long it will last. A s/h camera is "likely" to have fewer activations to go before it fails than a new one but for that likelihood to become large the camera would have had to be very well used.

    You buy a used camera to save money and with that comes a risk and, in any case, a broken shutter isn't a financial calamity it's in the region of £250.

    https://www.canon.co.uk/images/UK RCC Service Costs_tcm14-1174182.pdf
    Andrew Flannigan likes this.
  4. nimbus

    nimbus Well-Known Member

    In my experience it is not necessarily shutters that fail and kill the camera. I have had a sensor that failed just outside the warranty period and I bought a used camera with less than 1k actuations that had problems with the mirror system (it went back whence it came). Shutters generally seem to be more reliable than other components in the camera. It's down to the same logic as a low mileage car I suppose.
  5. GeoffR

    GeoffR Well-Known Member

    Nothing! That thread was buried in a slow board and I wanted to provide some more information and get the subject more visibility.
  6. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    As many people use the Latest Threads function, it doesn't really matter what board anything is on.
    Andrew Flannigan likes this.
  7. Roger_Provins

    Roger_Provins Well-Known Member

    I've always used that as my point of entry to this and other forums. Most of the time I don't take notice of the actual "board" I'm on. ;) This can lead to a faux par such as posting criticisms on an image in the "Exhibition Lounge" :rolleyes:
    Andrew Flannigan likes this.
  8. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    ...... or giving advice on tbe Nikon forum when I've only ever held one once, when comparing with Canon and Minolta film cameras in the early days of AF.
  9. SqueamishOssifrage

    SqueamishOssifrage Well-Known Member

    That's pretty encouraging data. Both my Sony 850s are around 9,000 apiece (I rotate them to even out their use), over seven years. I have heard that the A850 shutter will last longer than to A900 because of the 3fps versus the 5fps on the A900.

    I have also just checked my old film log, which used to average around 72 films per annum, say 2,600 shots p.a. My total of 18,000 shots on the A850s works out to about... er… about 2,600 shots p.a.

    Weird! :D
  10. Andrew Flannigan

    Andrew Flannigan Well-Known Member

    The only shutter that ever failed on me was in a 50 year old Contax D. Given I've used a lot of cameras since 1965 I'm going to state that shutter failures are so very rare that's it's silly even to consider them.
  11. GeoffR

    GeoffR Well-Known Member

    Unless you have used several tens of thousands of cameras since 1965 your experience is probably statistically insignificant. Shutter failures do occur and sometimes take the sensor with them.
  12. Andrew Flannigan

    Andrew Flannigan Well-Known Member

    You forgot the link that points to a site providing the real life failure counts...
  13. GeoffR

    GeoffR Well-Known Member

    I would love to but the internet connection where I am at the moment won't let me on any of the sites. Later when I get a decent connection I'll go looking again.
  14. RogerMac

    RogerMac Well-Known Member

    My 6D had a count of 21,300 earlier this afternoon but one can add about another 50 now. It's looking a bit battle scarred after 5 years but I can not see it reaching anywhere near its limit - especially as I have a PEN-F to take some of the load. In fact the Canon feels as if it should go on for ever whereas the Oly seems to need TLC
  15. Bazarchie

    Bazarchie Well-Known Member

    Perhaps you can let Pixelpuffin know what software you used before he explodes.
  16. RogerMac

    RogerMac Well-Known Member

    It was EOScount and I paid a subscription when the camera was new and it seems to continue. I do not know what happens if I change cameras. I took out the subscription because I was used to Olys where the count is available
  17. EightBitTony

    EightBitTony Well-Known Member

  18. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

  19. EightBitTony

    EightBitTony Well-Known Member

  20. daft_biker

    daft_biker Action Man!

    9000 shots on a camera? I've done more than that in a day!

    Sitting waiting on some bats to aim my Canon 7D at. Had it since they came out and used it loads but never worried about shutter count on that.

    Aperture actuations on my favourite 65mm macro lens is more of a concern as it is on it's 4th body ( flashes still work too and are due their 3rd set of rechargeable batteries). Aperture actuations is also one of the excuses I used to justify a 70-200/2.8 as it saves wearing out my 100/2.8 macro shooting sports.... That's genius level mechanical sympathy that is. ;)

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