what is camera shutter count

Written by
Kevin LJ, Professional Photographer

Reviewed by
Chris Johnson, TPG Editor

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The shutter count on a camera is similar to the odometer reading on a car. It matters most when you want to sell it. Or when it’s a cherished piece of equipment that you’ve used for years and years.

What is shutter count? It’s the number of times your camera’s shutter opens and closes. This is the same as the number of photos you take.

The more you use your camera, the higher the shutter count will be. It’s the number of times the shutter has opened and closed. So, with every picture you take, the count increases by one. This is significant because the shutter is a mechanical device in your camera that will wear out when it’s had a lot of use. 

Cameras have a life expectancy based on shutter count. The number of times a shutter will open before it no longer functions properly depends on the camera manufacturer and the level of camera. Professional-grade cameras are built to last longer. This quality is reflected in the price you pay.

The distance any particular car travels before it stops for good depends on the company that makes it and the build quality. Measuring the life expectancy of a camera is similar. A Nikon D6, with a shelf price of around $6,500 USD, has a shutter life expectancy of 400,000 exposures. The Sony a1 sells for about the same price, but the life expectancy of the shutter is half that of the D6. Cheaper models have lower shutter count expectancies, but they also cost less.

Why Shutter Count Matters

Some photographers love to change cameras frequently. They love to have the latest and greatest technology in their hands. For this type of photographer, shutter count is only relevant when the time comes to sell the camera.

Others of us prefer to buy a camera and get the most use out of it possible, with no regard for what price it may fetch in the used camera marketplace. Shutter count is still relevant, but for a different reason. The shutter in a camera will only last so long. We must be aware of how much we use our cameras if we want them to last for the longest time.

Camera shutters are precision engineered. They are delicate yet robust enough to last for tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of photos. A shutter will open and close in an 8000th of a second, with incredible precision. Or can remain open for hours. The better you treat your shutter, the longer you’ll enjoy using your camera.

What Factors Affect Shutter Lifespan?

The most relevant factor affecting your camera’s shutter life is the number of photos you take. With digital cameras, it’s easy to take a multitude of photos without thinking about the cost of being excessive. For any photographers who transitioned to digital from using film, you’ll know this was a huge cost saver. We were no longer spending a dollar or more every time we took a photo because there were no longer any film or processing costs.

When you consider the cost of replacing a camera because the shutter is worn out, it may encourage you not to be so excessive in the number of photos you take. Slowing down and making each exposure the best you can also help improve the quality of your photos overall. But that’s another photography topic altogether. 

The more often you press the shutter button on your camera or have it firing away on burst mode, the shorter lifespan your camera will have. This is especially significant for photographers who like to make a lot of time-lapse clips. This type of video is made up of so many individual photographs.

Camera care also factors into how long a shutter might last. Dust, humidity, mold, temperature, and other factors all have some amount of influence on the life of a shutter. Extreme hot or cold temperatures interfere with the way a camera functions over time. Dust in the shutter can cause damage to the shutter blades and mechanism. Humidity can adversely affect camera gear, particularly if it’s stored in moist conditions for long periods of time.

How To Find Your Camera’s Shutter Count

There are a number of ways you can discover how many times your camera’s shutter has opened and closed. The easiest way is to use a website like Camera Shutter Count. On this site, you can upload your most recently taken photo and learn how many photos your camera has taken. 

Alternatively, you can use an app or an in-camera technique explained in detail in this article.

Tips for Shutter Longevity

If you want to keep using your camera for years and years or be able to fetch a good price for it when you on-sell, it pays to give your shutter some TLC. Here are a few tips to help you do this.

Make Every Photo Count

Think about every photo you take. Make sure that you have your settings and composition just right before pressing the shutter button. It’s easy to take more photos than we need to, hoping that one will turn out well. But this approach will wear your shutter out over time more quickly than if you’re more frugal with your picture-taking.

Use Burst Mode Sparingly

Burst mode is a great function on any camera. But using it when it’s not necessary adds to your shutter count needlessly. Keeping the use of burst mode to a minimum will help expand the life expectancy of your shutter.

Avoid Extreme Temperatures

Using your camera a lot in very hot or very cold conditions will have a negative impact on its life expectancy. Extreme temperatures affect the way the electronics, mechanics, and battery in your camera perform. Avoiding temperature extremes will help your camera last longer.

Careful Storage

Storing your camera equipment in a cool, dry place is important. Especially if you’re not using it for extended periods, humidity and temperature can add to the deterioration of the shutter in a camera over time.

Keep Your Camera Clean

Dust and dirt have a negative impact on a camera’s shutter. Because the moving parts of a camera’s shutter are so delicate, they are sensitive to abrasion caused by dust and dirt. Even a tiny speck of dust can wear down a shutter over time.

Camera Shutter Count Conclusion

For the purposes of either longevity or maintaining the best resale value, it pays to be aware of your camera’s shutter count. The more frequently you use your camera, the greater the shutter count will be. 

This is not a reason to avoid taking photos! But one to be aware of so that you can get the most out of your camera, whether you want to sell it and upgrade or keep using it for as long as possible.


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