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|
|Model||Price USD||Estimated Actuations||Cost /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.
|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.
|Model||Price||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.