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Like all machinery, the mechanics of our cameras have their limits. Upon crossing this threshold, maintenance may be required to get these beautiful pieces of equipment in tip-top shape for the next photography adventure. This is similar to your car needing some repair help after driving an incredible amount of miles, as predicted based on car model.
In cameras, this comes out in the form of your shutter life expectancy – or the approximate amount of times your shutter will function before it begins to hit the fan. Every camera brand and body have their own shutter life expectancy numbers. It may range from 30,000 releases to hundreds of thousands of releases. All moving parts will quit performing at some point, and the shutter is certainly no exception: Especially since the shutter does a lot of work, as, without it, photography would not be possible!
To figure out the shutter life expectancy of your camera, you can begin by going to the brand website of your camera company. By looking up the model of your camera, you should be able to find the company’s information on its shutter life expectancy. However, if that yields no results, punching your camera model into a search engine followed by “shutter life expectancy” should prove fruitful.
However, the machinery does not always follow suit with the promises laid before it. It is a great idea to peruse photography forums and read individual reviews on your camera brand to see if the shutter life expectancy rings true for your model, or if the actual expectancy is much lower than promised.
Once you know the expectancy, it is time to find out how your actual camera is doing. Although a camera will not “die” per say if you’ve reached the expectancy (much like a car won’t necessarily break down once you’ve hit a certain mileage), the camera will likely stop working properly and need maintenance. The best way to predict when this maintenance will be necessary is being aware of your current shutter actuations.
In laymen’s terms, the shutter actuation (or count) is the number of photographs your camera has taken. To avoid a mishap or malfunction during a photo shoot because you’ve reached or exceeded the shutter life expectancy, it’s important to know how to check your count. This is where our helpful article comes in to aid you in quenching your thirst for knowledge.
Note: if you are going to purchase a used camera also check the shutter actuations before making a decision. A camera that is near its maximum might not be a good choice.
What do Nikon and Pentax have in common? Both of these manufacturers store the shutter count details in the photograph EXIF data. This makes your life much easier if you own either of these brands, as there are plenty of fantastic online freeware to quickly let you know the shutter actuations of your camera without needing to plug the camera body into the computer. All you have to do is upload the last photograph you took with your camera, and all of the shutter count information is yours. Some great websites to do this through include:
If you’re not comfortable uploading an image to a third party, you can download a program to help access the full EXIF data and find the actuation number that way.
Unfortunately, most default image viewers only show you generic and basic EXIF data. What you will need is a program that shows you the entire expanse of the EXIF data. EXIFTool is one that’s available for both Mac and Windows users. Once the program is installed, you can open up the command prompt on your Windows computer or the shell terminal for your Mac computer. Then proceed to type:
exiftool source_jpeg_file.jpg | find “Shutter Count” (replace “source_jpeg_file.jpg” with the name of your actual JPEG file)
The number that pops up is your shutter actuation.
While Nikon and Pentax make your life simple by storing the shutter actuations in the photographs, Canon swoops in and makes life a little bit tougher (as a Canon user, I say this in the most endearing way possible). Unless you’re using a few select models such as the 1Dx, the aforementioned online resources will not be able to help you. However, there are several ways to easily get the shutter count for your photo-taking machine.
The first is downloading a freeware program that will pull this information for you. A company called AstroJargon has created two pieces of software for this very reason: Windows users will utilize EOSInfo and Mac users can rely on 40D Shutter Count. To use either of these programs, simply connect the camera to your computer using a cable and run the program. Another one you can use is EOS Inspector (Mac only).
Another way is to stop by any Canon-authorized repair shop and ask them to check for you. Their software can easily pull up this information for your knowledge.
The third way is a firmware program called Magic Lantern that installs directly on to your EOS camera. Magic Lantern is “a free software add-on that runs from the SD/CF card and adds a host of new features to Canon EOS cameras that weren’t included from the factory by Canon,” according to their website. One of its features includes access to the shutter actuation number. Installing third party software on your camera always has its inherent technical risks, so do keep that in mind.
Unlike the previous DSLR brands, Olympus and Panasonic cameras have built-in a way to tell the number of shutter actuations. To access this secret menu, you must input a series of button clicks (much like inputting a cheat code into a video game). The code may differ per camera model, so be sure to look up information for your specific camera.
Sony happens to be the trickiest of all the brands, as they have certainly not made it simple to get information on your shutter count. For those that rock with the Sony Alphas, you can try to use this nifty free website to find the shutter actuation of your camera: Sony Alpha Shutter Count.
The EXIF method mentioned in the Nikon and Pentax section above may also work, depending on your camera model.
For the shutter actuations for other brands, such as Leica’s DSLR series, the best bet is utilizing the EXIF reader method.
If you’ve found other ways or good apps to do this for the brands mentioned above or other types of cameras we’d love to hear them in comments below. Let’s make this a great resource for all dPS readers.
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