September 14, 2013

Daniel Foster

How to Check Canon Shutter Count & Why it Matters

Photo: Kārlis Dambrāns

The shutter count is to DSLRs what mileage is to cars. Circuit boards and other non-mechanical components have a virtually infinite lifespan, but a shutter can take quite a bit of wear and tear over its life. Canon DSLRs are generally rated to sustain anywhere from 50,000 to 300,000 shutter actuation before a shutter replacement is necessary (at a cost of several hundred dollars).Just as you should know a car's mileage before buying or selling, learning how to verify Canon shutter count is a no-brainer if you're in the market for a used DSLR. The lower a camera's shutter count, the more life it has remaining (barring unforeseen defects). Buy a camera with too high of a shutter count and your investment might not last as long as you planned.

Determining Canon Shutter Count

Here is a list of applications that can help you with the task. When buying a Canon DSLR in person, always check the shutter count on your computer before taking it home. Walk or ask for a discount if the shutter count is exceeding high (see below for more info). When shopping online, ask the seller to verify the shutter count before buying.

What if My Camera Isn't Supported?

Older DSLRs such as the Canon 5D aren't supported due to firmware limitations. Only Canon repair centers can provide accurate shutter readings for these models. Buyers of older models, in particular, have a need to verify shutter count-- so how do you know if a body has plenty of life left at 30,000 shutters or if it is creaking along at 198,000?

Just as you would check a car for wear and tear, check the body for signs of heavy use. Check the handgrips for fading or recent replacement. The hot shoe is another area of heavy use. Cameras with very worn hot shoes are very likely to have high shutter counts. The same is true for the tripod mount on the bottom. Check the serial number to determine the manufacturing date. And of course, ask the seller! Perhaps they already had the shutter replaced and has the paperwork to verify the repair.

What is the Maximum Shutter Count Rating for My Camera?

The Canon Shutter Life Expectancy Database is a handy source for real-life numbers. It contains hundreds of reports from users about how many shutter actuations their cameras have while still alive and how many shots they took if their shutter has already died. Compare the shutter count of a DSLR with this database as numbers vary widely by model. Here are some stats:

  • Canon 30D: 128,908 actuations on average before death.
  • Canon 5D: 48.1% survive 557,000- 876,000 actuations. The average camera died after 389,187 actuations.
  • Canon 450D (Rebel XSi): Only 38,995actuations on average before shutter failure. Canon rates this model at 100,000, which clearly isn't the case.
  • Canon 1Ds Mark III: 730,7645 actuations (note: only 42 data points)

As you'd expect, Canon's professional lines last much longer than entry-level DSLRs.

Canon Shutter Count FAQ

Can't I just look at the number (ie IMG-1029) on my memory card to determine shutter count?

If you've only ever used one memory card with the DSLR, yes. However, changing out memory cards or resetting the camera could change the numbering. You can't stick a new card in a camera, shoot a picture and get an accurate shutter reading.

What effect does Live View have on the shutter count? Videos?

Turning on Live View increases the shutter count by one, as do videos of any length.

The camera I bought online has a high shutter count. Should I return it?

It's not always possible to verify shutter count prior to purchase. In these situations, always purchase from a merchant with a no-hassle return policy and check pictures of the item for wear.A high shutter count isn't necessarily a deal-breaker. If you're keeping the body for a few vacations or as a backup, it's unlikely to die. Shooting weddings every weekend for the next three years? That's a different story. Always factor the cost of shutter replacement into a heavily used camera. This should also be reflected in the price to an extent. If peace of mind is your thing, consider a third-party warranty.

Protect Your Images!

Once you've checked to make sure you're getting the best deal on your camera, don't forget to protect your work. The lost revenue Pixsy recovers from the unauthorized use of your images could be used to cover shutter replacement or buy you a brand new camera!

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Daniel Foster

As the entrepreneur and professional photographer who founded Pixsy in 2014. Daniel is an expert on topics relating to intellectual property and copyright law. Daniel is proud to have helped so many creatives in the fight against image theft.

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