Updated: Jun 10, 2019
Shutter count or actuations are to cameras as mileage are to cars. It's important that we keep tabs on each one and not lose sight of how much mileage each has gone through. We need to remember that each one is built of moving mechanical parts. At some point, it'll break. You just don't want it to break when you're on a long cross country drive or when you're at event with a thousand people!
In basic terms, Shutter count is nothing but the number of pictures clicked by the camera. Technically, it is the number of actuation made by the camera shutter.
Shutter count is important when buying used equipment. Be on the ready to either ask or test the camera's shutter count. I've bought a few used Canon cameras in the past and I always tend to bring a laptop so I can plug it in and determine the count. More likely than not, unless you're dealing with a professional photographer, a casual user won't even know how to check their camera's shutter count.
Ever heard of the Camera Shutter Life Expectancy Database? Yup! It exists and it's glorious! It's pretty much a huge collection of reported shutter counts from users all over the world. So for the sake of photo boothers all around, let's take a sampling of the most commonly used cameras in the booth market.
Canon 40D: 82,960 actuations on average before death
Canon T3i: 47,177 actuations on average before death
Canon T5i: 33,783.9 actuations on average before failure
Canon T6i: 67,870.9 actuations on average before failure
Canon 7D MkI: 166,771 actuations on average before failure 99,472 average number of actuations after which shutter was still alive
Canon 7D MkII: 99,693 actuations on average before failure 88,216 average number of actuations after which shutter was still alive
Nikon D3200: 88,216 actuations on average before failure
Sorry Nikon fans, I don't know much in terms of which bodies people use for their booths. You'll just have to look it up.
As one would expect, Canon's professional lines have outlasted entry level cameras. We use Canon 7D MkIs as our main cameras for our booths. When I entered into the booth market, it was a no brainer. My 7D MkI was my backup camera to my Canon 5D MkIII when I did wedding and event photography.
I'm surprised to realize that the 7D MkII is actually rated lower in shutter actuations than it's predecessor. Interesting but you have to ask… why is that the case Canon?
So is a camera with high actuations a real deal breaker? If I was in the market and the Canon 7D MkI is being sold with a shutter count of 120,000 is that going to hinder me from actually making the purchase? Probably not. If the camera is meant as a backup, then I think you'll be okay. However, it you start putting it to work, then that's a different story. Or perhaps, you can always get a 3rd party warranty from either Square Space or Mack. Either way, they both work and I've personally had both and they're great companies to work with.
So here's a shutter count I took of my Canon 7D MkI this evening using Canon EOS Digital Info. It's a freeware that I installed on my booth's Surface Pro. Here's a link where you can download the application along with some instructions on how to use it. It's pretty easy and self explanatory so you shouldn't have a problem running the program.
When was the last time you checked your camera's mileage records? Don't wait to get the dreaded Error 20 code on your Canon.
At some point in a DSLR camera’s lifetime, the mechanical shutter is likely to fail (GigaMacro)
Which begs the question, why not go mirrorless but that's another issue all on it's own. Can you get an Error 20 fixed? Of course you can but is it worth it? Repairs can run as much as $200 – $350 for a damaged shutter. At that point, might as well just get a refurb or a new body.
So, check your camera shutter count to ensure that you have not crossed the reliability limit. It's always good to be prepared than getting caught and not.
Ciao! Happy boothing!