Thursday, September 1, 2011

How to Verify the Shutter Count on a Digital SLR

If you were buying a used car, which would be more important to you—the number of years old or number of miles?  Miles, of course!  Just like miles is a much more important determining factor in wear and tear, so is shutter count when determining the life expectancy of a DSLR.  It’s not how many years old the camera is, it’s how many times a photo has been shot.  This is called the shutter count.  The average DSLR camera has a shutter life between 100,000 and 250,000 photos.  After that, the shutter can fail and will need to be replaced.  That typically costs around $200-300.  Any savings you might gain from buying used could quickly be eaten up if you have to replace the shutter.

So, how do you check the shutter count?  The actual count is found in EXIF data contained on the camera or in the photo data.  If you are purchasing online, you’ll have to ask the seller for that information and then double check it once you receive the camera.  Don’t accept an answer that isn’t specific.  Most casual photographers greatly underestimate the number of photos they have take over the course of their ownership.  If the shutter count the seller provided does not match the number you obtained from the camera and you are dissatisfied with the count, then make arrangements to return the camera (eBay and Amazon have protections built in for inaccurately advertised products). 

Here are some solutions for you to check your shutter count once you have the camera in hand (listed by manufacturer):

Canon: Canon is one of the most difficult of the manufacturers to get shutter count information from.  Astrojargon.net has a software utility that you can download to obtain information directly from the camera.  While this software does not work with all models of Canon, it is the most useful tool out there to date.  You can follow the instructions on the website to obtain the shutter count.

Konica Minolta: The EXIF data does not display a shutter count, so you’ll have to take the seller’s word for it.  Since they sold off their camera business to Sony in 2006, it is safe to assume many Minoltas will have higher counts.

Leica: These cameras take a bit more maneuvering to get an accurate shutter count.  First you have to extract the “Image Unique ID” from the EXIF file of an unaltered photo.  To do so, you can use a site like Jeffery's EXIF Viewer.  The “Image Unique ID” data is notated in hex code.  To get an accurate count, convert the hex code to decimal using a tool like http://www.easycalculation.com/hex-converter.php.  That decimal figure is your actual shutter count.

Nikon: Myshuttercount.com is an easy to use tool that provides EXIF data from photo files you uploaded.  It supports Nikon’s NEF and JPG files types.

Pentax: Again, myshuttercount.com is a great tool to check EXIF data.  By uploading unaltered Pentax DNG, PEF, or JPG formats you can gain access to your shutter count.

Olympus: You can check it directly on the camera by following these instructions.  Open the Card Reader door.  Hit “menu” and “okay” simultaneously (on some older cameras you might have to hit the “play” button instead of the “menu” button).  Then press the arrow buttons in this order: up, down, left, right.  Press the shutter release (the picture taking button) then push the up arrow.  On page 1 there are a bunch of numbers.  On page two you will see letters and numbers preceding each letter.  The letter R indicates the shutter count.

Sony: Because Sony purchased the Konica Minolta camera business, the same issue with shutter count applies to their line of cameras.  There is no definitive way to access the shutter count.  You can try extracting it using myshuttercount.com or Jeffery's EXIF Viewer, but there is no guarantee you’ll get any data.
 

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