Should you really care if timelapse photography will destroy your shutter?

Aug 14, 2020

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

Aug 14, 2020

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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Most cameras are rated at somewhere between 100,000 and 300,000 shutter actuations. And no matter which DLSR or mirrorless camera you have, it will eventually die. Now, timelapse photography makes you press that shutter way more often than doing any other type of photography. Does this mean your camera will die faster? And should you care about it? In his latest video, Matthew Vandeputte addresses some of these concerns.

Matthew has had a few cameras so far, and all of them have exceeded the number of shutter actuations they’re rated at. And no, they’re not dead – all of them still work. My old Nikon D3000 has over 500,000 actuations and still works just fine (although I almost never use it anymore). My DIYP buddy John adds that he has a pair of Nikon D100 bodies he bought back in 2002 with over a million actuations on them. And yep, they still work, too!

As a timelapse photographer, Matthew has a theory of why this type of photography may not actually be that harmful to your camera. When you shoot timelapse, your camera clicks away, one photo at a time, in a controlled environment so to say. In many other situations, you drag your camera around buses, trains, planes, you may bump it or drop it – and things like this are more likely to kill it, Matthew suggests.

Another thing you can do, if you shoot timelapse, is to keep your old bodies even when you upgrade. That’s another trick I learned from John for this article. Even older cameras are still good enough and have high enough resolution for 4K timelapse.

© John Aldred

Still, no matter what you shoot, every camera you own will die eventually. However, what you need to ask yourself is: has it earned its keep before it died? Most cameras will earn its keep, and most of them are able to survive way more shutter actuations than they’re rated at. And after all, gear is meant to be used, so use it and make some awesome photos and timelapse videos.

[Should you worry about SHUTTER COUNT with timelapse photography? via ISO 1200]

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Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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6 responses to “Should you really care if timelapse photography will destroy your shutter?”

  1. Lars Stokholm Avatar
    Lars Stokholm

    I think all mirrorless cameras can use electronic shutter, that is ideal for timelapses.

    1. Robin Mascall Avatar
      Robin Mascall

      Even some DSLR cameras can. Pretty much a non-issue, really

    2. jimv Avatar
      jimv

      This comment should just be the article.

  2. Jason A. Avatar
    Jason A.

    I run a timelapse camera that shoots the aurora all night, every night. That’s a click every 10 seconds, any time the sun is down, 7 days a week. And I can tell you my cameras have all died within about 10,000 clicks of the rated lifetime. That’s in the most controlled possible environment, because these cameras are inside a heated/air conditioned plexiglass dome and running on mains power instead of batteries, mounted to brackets and literally never touched until they need a shutter replacement. They still die right when they reach the rated shutter count despite having everything in their favor. I used to have to send one in for a shutter repair every couple of months. Eventually I switched to a camera that lets me shoot without the shutter and that obviously solved the issue.

    Some people probably do get lucky with a camera that far outlasts the rated lifetime. But my experience with wearing out a double-digit number of shutters while shooting timelapses in a controlled environment suggests you really shouldn’t expect that. Your shutter is probably going to wear out when the manufacturer says it will.

  3. Camera operator Hong Kong Avatar
    Camera operator Hong Kong

    I run many time-lapse system using DSLR.
    And yes, the shutters fail at one point.
    Camera body are in an enclosure outdoor, no vibration, but cold, hot weather, wet and dry..
    Not sure what this article trying to explain, but there is a mechanical limit on each camera. It’s well referenced and should be monitored closely when you go for 2 years duration contract.

  4. Jared Ribic Avatar
    Jared Ribic

    I used a Canon 50D for timelapse images until the mirror eventually fell out.
    I’d love to find out how many shutter actuations it finally reached.