One of our readers, who is a very busy professional wedding photographer, asked me if proactive maintenance with the manufacturer is worth the money or not. After a busy wedding season, she sent one of her Canon 5D Mark III cameras to Canon service center for cleaning. Shortly after the service center received the camera, she was told that her 5D Mark III had over 200,000 images, which was way above the shutter life of the camera, which is rated at 150,000. For a $600 fee, the Canon service center suggested to replace the shutter mechanism with a brand new one, promising that the camera would keep on clicking. Since $600 sounded better than paying $3K for a replacement camera, the reader asked advice from me, to see if it was indeed worth paying for the shutter replacement as proactive maintenance. I recommended not to do it for the following reason: shutter mechanism failures are completely random and it is best to replace the shutter when it actually fails.
A number of people have been trying to gather data to find out if there is actual correlation between the “rated shutter life” and actual shutter life. One of such individuals is Oleg Kikin, who created the Shutter Life Expectancy Database a while ago. Although the data is now quite old and has not seen large updates for a while (particularly on newer cameras), there is some very useful information there that one could look at. For example, take a look at the data for the Canon 5D Mark II and Nikon D300. Although both are rated at 150K shutter actuations by manufacturers, shutter failures range anywhere from 2000 to over a million! If you look at other stats, you will not see any correlation between the expected shutter life and real shutter life. This means that the shutter mechanism could fail any time, irrespective of the total number of actuations.
Hence, there is no point of trying to do proactive maintenance on your camera. Your camera is not like your car, requiring you to change oil every x number of miles. Anything could fail any time – whether it is the shutter mechanism, mirror or electronics. The best way to prolong the life of your gear is to properly use it and care for it. Do not drop your gear, do not use it in extreme weather conditions without understanding the effect and risks of condensation, fogging, fungus growth, dust, etc. Learn to properly clean your camera gear and make it a habit to do it after every shoot.
In the case of our reader, she was not concerned about not having a backup camera for photographing weddings, since she always takes at least 3 camera bodies. She just wanted to find out if replacing the shutter mechanism would help prolong the life of her camera, which, based on the above information and my experience, does not.
What is your experience with camera maintenance? Have you previously had shutter or mirror mechanism fail on you? If yes, how did you deal with the problem? We would love to find out, so please leave your feedback in the comments section below.
I’m new to DSLR camera. The problem is wen the lens in AF mode, the focusing sound is getting louder than before.
Is it dangerous to my lens? Should I send it to service center to fix?
I have the Canon 5D Mark III and have 239,388 clicks. So far….so good! (Knock on wood)
Mark I have a little under 400,000 acutations no joke!! My fingers are crossed as well as I have almost trippled my shutter acutation life cycle. I agree that with this article DON’T change it unless it actually breaks. Canon is a business and they’re in the business to make money so of course they will HIGHLY recommend you change it after 150,000 so they squeeze some extra cash out but truely these shutters can continue with longetiviy, farther than you would have expected! Just like an oil change at a dealership…they recommend xx miles but you can actually push past a few thousand more with synthetic etc.
Although I agree in part, at least as far as sending it off the manufacturer, I think it is still a very good practice to have your camera get a CLA from time to time. This was of course more important with purely mechanical cameras whose shutters could stand to be adjusted from time to time but even with today’s electronic ones, occasional maintenance is NEVER a bad thing. And that goes for lenses as well. There is a terrific Nikon certified repairman here in town and I take my stuff to him usually once a hear or so to get cleaned.
I have owned 7 Nikon DSLRs over the last decade and shot some 120,000 images with them, only one shutter failure on my d610 after 10 months (only 16,000 actuations). Luckily warranty covered the repair. I think the shutter is rated at 150,000 actuations so mine failed at 10% of the rated life. If the rating is a mean number, then statistically half will fail before the rated number and half will fail after that number, it does nothing to project how long any particular camera shutter will last. Similar to the mean time between failure rating for computer hard drives. Anyway you look at it is a crap shoot; so why fix it before it fails?
I am with you Nasim.
– Ned F.
Your 4th sentence should refer to median, not mean.;-)
The 150,000 is not the mean. Typically the mean is significantly larger than that. They typically look at the mean and standard deviation. If they are doing it right, they would do a mean – Xsigma as their definition for the advertised number (where X is typically 3 to cover 99% of the occurrence (that is how we do it at least). Obviously, Nikon wants their part manufacturer to be as tight as possible with the deviation since having a large deviation typically causes “warranty” issues.
I agree with Nasim though that the preventive replacement is unnecessary
As long as one has a backup body, I completely agree.
Swveral days ago I sent a Nikon body to Nikon representative service in my country, and I had the opportunity to talk about this issue (shutter life) with the service manager, his words were “shutter life is irrelevant” because shutter test were conducted in controlled enviroments and no data on shutter speed was given (1/8000 is worse than 1/4000), no frame rate is known, no one knows how many units were tested, how many failed, no gauss curve, just a sales gimmick. The only useful value of shutter life is when you compare cameras from the SAME manufacturer, in other words with same settings in a controlled enviroment if you reproduce same conditions you can EXPECT (only expect) that a D4s shutter will last longer than a 610 shutter.
As you rightly said shutter failure is nearly random.
Your advice is very rightly and useful for any uninformed reader.
Thanks and have happy holidays
I just sent a Oly EM-1 in for repair which was covered under the manufacturers warranty and therefore was cost free to me. The problem was an input wheel. I have had other cameras have problems because of input wheels or rocker inputs. I take very careful care of my cameras but things happen. Electronics can let loose at any time which is why most people don’t buy extended warranties which are rarely worth the money. Few people get to use the extended warranty for a repair.
I had my shutter fail on my 70d, luckily for me it was still under warranty and the only cost to me was the shipment to the factory. I always take care of my equipment, and I don’t know what the shutter count was but I don’t think it was over 150,000.
$600 for a shutter replacement through CPS seems inordinateely high. Is she a CPS a member?
Excellent focus on repair options, Nasim. As the old adage goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”! That accurately applies to DSLRs, as the data collected by Oleg bears out. The results from the two examples you mention, very high use bodies from Canon and Nikon, show an essential bell curve, centered around the 150,000 to 250,000 cycle point. And both show Kaplan-Meier probability of survival estimates that are over 50% until 500,000 clicks and in the case of the Canon 5DMKII, over 80% at 500,000 clicks. That’s simply outstanding and dramatic support for your premise.
As a personal experience, a number of years ago I tripped and fell, dropping my D300 and 17-35 f2.8 lens on concrete. It hit an an angle fortunately with the body L-plate taking the brunt of the impact, and the lens cap and filter as well. It shattered the lens filter, severely bending it’s ring, but that saved the lens itself from exterior damage. I was concerned enough after the trip to take it to a Nikon Service Center to check for damage, but was relieved when they gave it an all clear on both body and lens, including lens mount alignment and focus, with no charge. It’s been in use for many years since and functions like new, a real workhorse! That professional build really pays off.
Thanks again for this and your many other excellent articles!