Cheaper cameras' shutter lives are shorter than more expensive ones. As the shutter counts of premium cameras increase, so does the price. But I started to notice surprising discrepancies between brands. Here's what I found out.
Value Per Click
Like many photography educators, I tell beginner photographers to buy beginners cameras because there is little point in wearing out an expensive camera; beginners take lots of photos. But then I started to question whether this is good advice. Is a beginner better off investing in a camera that will last much longer? It would certainly be better for our planet's limited resources having one camera that lasts years than buying two or more that quickly wear out. Even replacing the shutter a couple of times can greatly increase the overall cost of a camera, waste material resources, and increase the carbon footprint.
Consequently, I put a table together to work out the approximate cost per 1000 clicks.
Some Manufacturers Are More Open Than Others
The estimated shutter lives are published by some camera companies, but not all. There are websites like Shuttercheck that collate these figures, and I heavily relied on them and Google searches for my calculations.
I looked at all the DSLRs and Mirrorless Cameras with Viewfinders and sensor sizes between Micro Four Thirds and 35mm from the six major brands. I then divided the price by the shutter life expectancy, and multiplied by 1000. That gave me an estimated cost of every 1000 shots.
The prices I used were mostly from B&H, but also other US-based websites where the model was not available from there. They were correct at the time of collating the data. Clearly, some of these cameras may be subject to future offers, and current price reductions may end. There may even be differences between me writing this and it being published and variations between countries.
In short, the table is a guide only, and it is worth checking and comparing current prices and offers. The table does give a good comparison of how the overall value of one brand compares with another.
Where possible, I selected camera bodies without lenses, although some beginners cameras are only supplied with a kit lens. These are marked with a *.
Sony, Fujifilm, and Panasonic don't publish their shutter life expectancies, so I applied an estimate that was at the generous end of cameras in their price bracket. Likewise, Olympus only publish figures for three of their models. However, I also applied some variations based on third party data, and historical figures for previous versions of the same camera. But, as a rule, where other data was unavailable, cameras costing under $600 I estimated a realistic 100,000 actuations, between $601 and $1000 I applied a generous 150,000 actuations, those over $1000, I estimated a life of 200,000.
It should be noted that real-world shutter counts can vary depending upon how and where they are used. Operated in challenging conditions, a weather-sealed camera is likely to last longer than one that isn't, because dust and humidity cannot get into the body.
These tables were compiled over time and are purely for guidance; they will soon become out of date. Moreover, you may find some cameras cheaper from other sources. If longevity is important to you, then use these figures as a starting point, and do check current prices and research of cameras that interest you.
|Model||Price USD||Actuations||Cost/1000 shots|
|2000D / T7 *||$449||100000||$4.49|
|4000D / T100 *||$399||100000||$3.99|
|250D / SL3 / Kiss X10||$599||100000||$5.99|
|6D Mark II||$1,399||150000||$9.33|
|7D Mark II *||$1,799||200000||$9.00|
|850D / 8Ti *||$749||100000||$7.49|
|5D Mark IV||$2,499||150000||$16.66|
|1D X mark III||$6,499||500000||$13.00|
ModelPrice USDEstimated ActuationsCost /1000 shots
NB: Sony don't release shutter test results for their cameras. These figures are estimates or gleaned from information available from Google Searches. There are unconfirmed suggestions that the α9 and the α7R III are good for 500,000 shots, so I have used these figures.
ModelPrice ActuationsCost/1000 shots
ModelPrice ActuationsCost/1000 shots
|OM-D E-M10 Mark IV||$699||150000||$4.66|
|OM-D E-M5 Mark III||$949||200000||$4.75|
|OM-D E-M1 Mark II||$949||200000||$4.75|
|OM-D E-M1 Mark III||$1,499||400000||$3.75|
|OM-D E-M1 X||$1,799||400000||$4.50|
NB: Olympus don't release shutter life data for just two of their cameras, the E-M10 Mark IV or the E-M5 Mark III. However, in line with their other cameras, I assume there is an increase in the performance from their previous marks of those models, and these are estimated accordingly.
|Model||Price||Estimated Actuations||Cost /1000 shots|
NB: Fujifilm do not publish their shutter life expectancy. I estimated shutter lives based upon other brands of camera performance within the price range. I also gleaned information from other websites which cohered with these estimates.
ModelPrice Estimated Actuation Cost/1000 shots USD
NB. Panasonic Lumix do not publish their shutter life expectancy, and so an estimate based upon other brands of camera performance within the price range has been applied.
And the Winner Is...
You can see from the table which cameras give the best value per click in each brand. It is also very evident that some cameras brands are more expensive to use than others.
Amazingly, the best performance at the time of compiling the table was the high-spec flagship Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III, even outstripping value for lowly specified beginners cameras for price per click. The 400,000 shutter life is four times that of most beginner cameras, and it's only just over three times the price of the cheapest Canon at the time of doing this research; it was reduced from its original retail price.
Furthermore, if you bought many of the cameras with a 100,000 shutter life, and replaced the shutter each time it failed, which is not a cheap repair, you would have replaced it four times by the time the E-M1's shutter would have worn out.
Notes on the Tables
Camera prices are rounded down to the nearest dollar. Prices shown are either from the manufacturers' websites or B&H. Prices change all the time and big discounts can be found on older models or previous versions of the same camera. Compare the market!
These tables are a snapshot solely estimating value per click. Nothing more than that. It is just one consideration to make when choosing a camera. More expensive cameras within any brand have more features and better build quality. However, cheaper cameras, and better value per click cameras from different brands may have better specifications.
Then, there are other reasons why you might choose one brand or model over another. Other factors that may sway your choice: if you already have a large selection of on Nikon lenses, then that may well influence your burying decision; if your partner owns a Fujifilm, then it might make sense for you to buy the same brand, etc. Also, cameras like the Olympus OM-D E-M1 are advanced, complex machines, and you may just want something to point and shoot, although it has to be said, E-M1 has an auto mode too. Finally, you might only have sufficient budget to buy a basic camera now.
I reiterate, that in some cases I used an educated estimate of shutter life because the manufacturers don't share the data with their customers. I mostly based these figures on the published shutter life of cameras in a similar price bracket. However, I also made more generous assumptions based on online databases and forums when the longevity of these cameras or their predecessors suggested as much. For example, while looking for the life of the OM-D E-M10 Mark IV, I found a record from 2017 of a Mark I having exceeded 310,000 shots, Olympus has estimated it was good for only 100,000. I have therefore assumed the current Mark IV version has a longer life than the Mark Is. Similarly, the Sony a7RIII and a9 are both recognized as having a 500,000 shutter life, so I have used those figures.
However, where the number of shutter actuations given by a manufacturer is shown, it must be understood that these are also just estimates. Some cameras may perform better or worse than the manufacturer's figures depending upon the conditions in which it is used and stored, and maybe whether or not it was assembled late on a Friday afternoon.
Of course, you may have your heart set on a particular brand. As I often repeat, they all make great cameras, so don't be put off if your dream camera is outshone by a competitor in this table.
Thanks For Reading
Thank you for reading. You may have one of these cameras that has surpassed the estimated shutter life. It will be great to hear your anecdotes.
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I kind of find all this irrelevant since most people are not going to use a camera until it dies. Any statics on how long a camera lasts doesn't account for how many owners that camera has had. End of life only really matters for the last person who owned it. I'm guessing most of us here are not buying used cameras? Once you account for price of lenses all those numbers get thrown out the window anyway.
The real question, how many have put 100k on their camera just by themselves? Honestly curious.
I agree with you, Jerome.
Shutter life just isn't an important factor to consider when deciding which camera to buy.
I have had many DSLRs over the past 15 years, and almost all of them have completely busted on me. But only once was it the shutter that went out.
Shutters are easy and (relatively) inexpensive to have replaced. Other problems like sand getting inside the body and seize up the controls, or having a circuit board glitch out due to water getting in - those are things that are expensive and difficult to have repaired, and that will end the life of a camera.
Shutter breaks? No problem - just take it to the repair guy and have it replaced for a few hundred bucks. Easy. Even when the manufacturer no longer offers service or parts, independent repairmen will still have access to shutters and be able to repair the camera within a day or two.
A few hundred bucks might be irrelevant for you, but there are a lot of folk who don't have that kind of disposable cash who want to enjoy photography.
Beginners especially do wear out their shutters, and the research does show that they may be better off financially in the long term buying something that has a much longer life and has additional features that they can grow into as opposed to having to upgrade.
The Olympus EM1 MKIII is IPX weather sealed and the last time I compared the cost of Olympus PRO IPX weather sealed lenses to most of the competitors PRO lenses the savings were in the thousands of US$ or £ Sterling, for a good set up.
Thanks Malcolm, it's a good point. The costs of lenses are also a big factor for those looking into investing in a system too. I have been thinking about doing comparisons of lenses from different systems. Watch this space!
If 'a few hundred bucks' is the make-or-break decision, there's no sense In even considering multi-thousand dollar cameras in the first place. Otherwise, the assumption that a camera is only good until the shutter wears out (once) is simply false.
Sure, spending $300-$500 to replace a shutter in a $500 camera is unlikely to make financial sense--replacing it with a newer model at that same price will almost certainly be a better choice--but doing so in a $2000-$5000 camera changes the cost-per-click dramatically.
It just seems like too many unsupported assumptions were made with regard to shutter life for the brands/models which don't publish them, too many assumptions were made regarding the costs of replacing a shutter, too many assumptions about how many shutter actuations a new photographer is likely to trigger, and too many other unspecified assumptions were made for this collection of numbers to actually mean anything.
One anecdote: FWIW, I bought my first DSLR in 2002, and have owned 3 others since then. One had a shutter fail early (around 125K shutter actuations on a Canon 1D Mark II) and it cost $380 to replace. Replacing the camera made no sense--it would have been 10 times that much. I used it for another 4 years before adding a different camera to the toolkit. None of the others had shutter failures.
Oh, and as for older cameras not being designed become obsolete like the modern ones do: Did you put 8300 rolls of 12 exposure through your Ikoflex? That's a mere 100K shutter actuations. Do you think it would have survived without some form of rebuild? Prior to Nikon's F4, 50,000 actuations was considered the max a shutter box would last, and that was in a pro-level body. Now, the entry-level DSLRs/Mirrorless are at least double that, if not 5-10 times as much.
Nevertheless, it's an amusing collection of numbers. Meaningless numbers, but amusing., nonetheless.
I nearly omitted the cameras over a $2000 threshold, for the reason you suggest. In reality, the sales of those are tiny compared with the cheaper models. For beginners, there is still a good financial and ecological case for buying an Olympus E-M1 Mark III instead of a bottom of the range model from another manufacturer.
As others have mentioned, the results may also be important for those who buy second hand cameras.
Jerome, If shutter life is irrelevant, why do manufacturers publish the figures?
Contrary to your assertion, my experience is that lots of people do use their cameras to destruction. I certainly do. Furthermore, I have had trainees whose beginners cameras have stopped working after an unacceptably low shutter usage.
Although, I admit, just like your suggestion that people don't use their cameras until they die, my experience is also anecdotal and not backed up by research and empirical evidence.
Given the environmental impact of manufacturing a camera, and the limited resources of this planet, perhaps using a camera until it dies would be a beneficial change in behavior that more people should adopt, and we should expect some manufacturers to do better in making the cameras last longer.
Making cameras that last longer would be great! But it is weather sealing against sand and water, along with impact resistance, that would make most cameras last longer, not shutter longevity ... although shutter longevity would help with a small percentage.
Ivor Racjham asked,
"Jerome, If shutter life is irrelevant, why do manufacturers publish the figures?"
They make those figures as a marketing tactic, as another way to separate one model form another in the pricing hierarchy. The figures have little to do with how long a shutter actually lasts. Manufacturers will make up all kinds of stuff to get you to buy a better, more expensive model.
I didn't' say shutter life is irrelevant. I'm talking about quantifying and comparing the length of use from camera to camera based on shutter. The information put together to form these results is what's irrelevant. There are just to many factors in play to use this hypothesis.
In your article you wrote "Sony don't release shutter test results for their cameras. These figures are estimates or gleaned from information available from Google Searches" and now you ask "why do manufacturers publish the figures"... that's a bit of a chicken/egg scenario, isn't it?
I agree with you. If eBay is anything to go by, the used camera market is massive. Someone is buying all of those used cameras and in virtually every single listing, shutter counts are listed. Often the shutter count (if low) is a main selling point and mentioned in the listing's title. I myself purchased a 5D mark ii a couple months ago, and did so because it only had 16k shutter count.
If my bucks went bang, I would be seriously worried.
This is an interesting comparative analysis, Mr. Rackham. Thanks for posting it.
Still, I don’t think I would present it as a primary choice reference to beginning photo enthusiasts. Engineering life cycle ratings for shutters may loom as useful for choosing used cameras but it’s highly unlikely that a learner will wear-out a shutter on their first (or second, or third) camera in today’s high-turnover consumer electronics digital camera world.
It is just one of many considerations one makes when buying into a system. Thanks for commenting.
The idea that these shutter counts can be reliably estimated is ABSURD.
Ever notice that they are pretty much all in multiples of 50,000?
Reality: there's probably an equal chance of your shutter dying at 50,000 than 200,000.
Until very recently, I still had and used this. And I still have a lot of vintage cameras that still work. Back then, they didn't design them to become obsolete in the way they do now.
This an especially poorly thought out article. First trying to calculate cost per shot by shutter count is bad logic in general. Even should the shutter wear out, it is replaceable for relatively low cost. So, shutter does not accurately reflect the useful life of a camera.
The elephant in the room however is in regards to high end mirrorless cameras. These shoot primarily in electronic shutter mode. So taking a shot almost never counts against the mechanical shutter count. Since electronics fail at a very much smaller rate than mechanics the cost per shot in electronic shutter is actually close to zero. This would end up functionally reversing the order of cost per shot in these comparisons.
I can't believe that poorly conceived articles such as this one actually see the light of day.
It depends upon what you call a relatively low cost. $200 spent three times on a $600 dollar camera makes that $600 camera a lot more expensive. The article is showing how cheap cameras are not necessarily good value.
If a replacement shutter costing $200 lasts as long as an original shutter, the cost per shot then drops by 2/3rds. You can't logically base your article on cost per shot, then quote accumulative camera costs when it it suits you.
You never even addressed the electronic shutters. These basically have a zero cost per shutter activation. This makes them the best value on you per shot basic, even if the cameras are the most expensive.
Think of video since most cameras today are hybrids. If you shoot 1 hour of 60p video that equates to over 200K shutter activations, The difference being that they are electronic shutter, so no wear on the camera's mechanical parts. The same holds true for single or burst mode stills shooting in electronic shutter. Did you even try to think that one through? It does make your conclusions and article fail.
Man, only $200 to replace the shutter at the US? Mine cost me about 450 USD to replace the shutter for D750 in New Zealand. :/
Ouch! I haven't actually researched the replacements costs here in the UK, just basing it on what people say in the comments. It will be interesting to find out.
I have the first Canon 5d and it is still working, it must have more than 200k shots and its useful life according to the manufacturer is only 100k. It seems to me important data since I usually shoot more than 3k photos at a wedding and this information can help me a lot when choosing. Thank you very much for the information
That's good news. There is a lot of variance from the published figures in both directions. Glad it was useful for you.
I have a question about the performance of the Nikon Z6 II where it says that its useful life is 500k shots, is it an official Nikon data? I would appreciate the confirmation of the data as this may affect my purchase decision at this time
Hi Carlos, sorry for the delay in replying; I only just spotted this comment. I have since found this https://www.apotelyt.com/camera-exif/nikon-z6-actuations which gives the Nikon Z6 II "only" 200,000 actuation, which isn't bad.
I'll update my database for future articles. Thanks for querying it.
Regarding Fuji, when the X-T4 came out one of the improvements was the shutter, to increase it's life expectancy.
I recall that the shutter life expectancy was double from 150.000 for the X-T3 to 300.000 for the X-T4.
So these figures are known.
For the X-H1 I don't know, but it has a very different shutter to other Fuji cameras so you can't make any estimates on its shutter life expectancy based on what's known for the X-T3 or X-T4.
Thanks for that. If you can supply an official source for the data, I'll add an update.
Well for the X-T4 there's this page on DPR which includes the text of the announcement of the X-T4:
For the X-T3 -- haven't yet found back the PR texts from Fuji from where I got that number but when I find it, I'll post that here too.
If that's good enough for you. ;)
A lot of estimates, guesstimates, and assumptions are included in the article. It makes rationalizing a GAS attack easier, since the real cost is just pennies per shot, right? Lol! Take my money and let’s have fun!
The second hand prices add even more of a twist.
Some camera brands might hold their value better so the cost of ownership for a beginner selling on a camera would be less.
Conversely if a brand of camera has lower second hand values, a low shutter count model makes the cost per shot very much smaller.
My second hand Olympus EM1 Mk2 cost around £600 with less than 1,000 on the shutter count, and any future resale value will drop my cost per thousand shots below £3.
Interesting article! Thanks! Some years ago, I discoverd this page: https://olegkikin.com/shutterlife/
Too bad, it was never updated beyond a Nikon D3, but it shows real life numbers and also until failure!
Thank you, Jan. Yes, that was one of the sites I referred to when doing the research behind the article. It's an interesting database but open to abuse from those wanting to show their brand being better than others, and, sadly, in some cases there were insufficient entries to make the overall results statistically relevant. Those were the main reasons why I didn't want to link to it. Nonetheless, you are right that it is a shame that they stopped updating it.
I’m not going to pile on here too much. I get the spirit of the article, but e-shutters are a not insignificant miss. I switched from the canon RP to the R6 (mostly for wildlife) but also b/c the RP didn’t have a usable e-shutter. I sold my RP to a family member that I knew would only take a few thousand shots a yr at most so it would last many years in their hands. Where as I put about 20000 actuations on the clock in 6 months.. and with a shutter costing at least half the used value of an RP, the switch made a lot of sense.
Thanks for reading and replying, James. As per my comment below, and I should have included it in the article, there is a correlation between build quality and shutter life. Also, electronic shutter doesn't come without its own problems and restrictions.
I think there is something I should have included in this article that its detractors are ignoring. There is correlation between shutter life and overall build quality. Those with the longer shutter lives are of far better construction than those with low shutter lives.
That correlation is obvious. My D4 has over 200k actuations in 8 years, it is rated for 400k. It will last for many more years. My D3200 has more than 20k in about the same time while being rated for 100k. It will last too. The former got a fully metal body, the latter is made out of plastic.
Yes, exactly. It was in reply to those who said the shutter life measure was irrelevant.
A couple of weeks ago, my camera on its tripod fell over in the middle of a river where I was shooting, and landed on a rock underwater. I picked it up, dried it off and continued shooting. I suspect a beginners plastic camera that wasn't weather sealed would not have survived that. A friend dropped her camera (similar to mine) and it bounced all the way down the stone steps of the castle she was visiting. It just suffered a tiny dent. These are cameras that have much better actuations per dollar (or pound where I live) than any of the cheap, beginners cameras.
The D4 of yours is a nice camera, btw. I did consider one a few years ago. It would be great to see some of your images in the gallery.
Thanks Ivor. I just recently dropped my D800E on a concrete floor. It bounced two or three times, nothing happened to it. It looks worn anyway (paint) but it works and works and works very well. I "love" that camera. It never ever failed me.
I've been for about two years on 500px. I left it frustrated and I never made it to another platform. I despise FB and all what belongs to it. I have troubles with MS, being in the open source environment since when it started. They want my data but the do not get it.
But why not publish some here? I'll choose some and upload them.
Brilliant. I look forward to seeing them. (I'm not a fan of FB either, but use it out of necessity.)
Glad your bouncing camera survived.
Before writing this article, I actually tried to work out the failure rate of cameras based upon the number of fault reports online. I spent over a week collating data, trying to apply statistical analysis based upon the percentage of the market each brand held over different times, excluding false positive results (which Olympus is particularly prone to because of the number of other things, places and movies with that word in its name) and applying standard deviation. To cut a long story short, the task was impossible!
I once had a shutter die on an old camera. Sadly, the repair quote was more than the value of the camera, which still took great photos. Then, when I said I would get it fixed anyway (I am a believer in not throwing stuff away if possible) they suddenly found they had no spare parts for that.
Has anyone else had that? I would be interested in hearing stories about problems with cameras and also issues when asking for repairs to be done.