Shutter Actuations

Shutter actuations, what are they? How accurate is the count? What is KEH’s policy in relation to shutter actuations?

One of the most common questions asked of the Customer Service Department of KEH is, what is the actuation count of a digital camera I want to purchase? Before a question like that can even remotely be answered, I will define what an actuation is, and why it may be important.

Simply put, a shutter actuation is how many times the shutter has been fired on a particular camera. If you look up shutter actuations on the internet, all kinds of information is available about this subject. In trying to decipher all of this information, the question is, what is relevant and accurate? The relevance of knowing how many times the shutter has been fired on a particular camera is so that you can get an idea how much it has been used. For example, when purchasing a used car, you look at the odometer reading to determine how many miles it has been driven. Sounds logical, but is it an accurate way of determining how much a digital SLR has been fired?

Before I answer this question, I’ll give a little background information… Shutter actuations predate DSLR’s, but was previously not much of an issue. Digital technology has allowed consumers to fire camera shutters more frequently. Because of the expense of developing film and making prints, the shutter was simply not fired as much on film cameras. Now that a consumer can fire a shot, look at the image immediately, and delete the image if they choose, shutters are fired 10 fold (or more) than their predecessors.

Shutter actuation count ratings are usually available on the internet for many DSLR’s. Just type in your camera model and search for the actuation count rating. An example is the Nikon D3. The shutter in this camera is rated for 300,000 shutter actuations. That doesn’t mean the shutter will fail within one or two shots past the rating. It’s just an average or guideline.

Accuracy is the one factor most people fail to take into account. If a consumer gets their shutter replaced by an independent repair shop, there is no reset button to start the shutter count all over again. The manufacturer may have the capability of resetting the shutter count, but, at this time, none of the manufacturer repair facilities have made that completely clear when questioned. For this reason, the shutter actuation count cannot be completely trusted. Fortunately, for you as a consumer, some of the most recent camera’s will have the capability of having a shutter count and a mirror actuation count. This will eliminate the inaccuracy of actuation counts when a shutter is replaced.

So, in light of these facts, KEH does not give out shutter actuations when selling used DSLR’s. All of our used equipment is tested before reselling it to a consumer. We give a 6 month, non-transferable warranty and a 14 day return period for the customer to return it if they are not happy with the camera. We also provide the availability of a 2 year MACK warranty for most of our DSLR’s.

There are logical conclusions that can be drawn from actuation counts even though they are inaccurate. For example, if the actuation count is five thousand, you know that the camera has not been used very much. If the count is 500,000, then the shutter has probably already been replaced. Again, for this reason, we always suggest that the 2 year warranty be purchased with the purchase of our DSLR’s.

Hopefully this will clear up some misinformation you may have previously read, and let you know what our policies here at KEH are in regards to shutter actuations.

– Dennis Rouse


  1. This is probably the best info you got on actuation count. Thanks for the great blog!

  2. While shutter actuations are not the final word on a camera body, they are indicative of usage. While the number may not tell you how many actuations is on the current shutter, it /will/ tell you how much the camera has been used. I’m willing to bet the vast majority of cameras never get the shutter replaced. Consider an extreme case: a LN camera with 100k actuations (used in a studio, remotely triggered, looks pristine) vs. a hobbyist’s camera with 5k actuations in EX condition. I can’t imagine anyone who would tell you the LN camera is worth more than the EX camera.

    So yes, shutter actuations don’t tell the full story, but they tell part of the story. Why not post the actuations with a disclaimer pointing to this blog post? Your 14 day return policy is great, but why not save you and the customer the hassle of shipping a product back and forth?

    1. Gotta say I agree, here. I just bought a 40D in EX+ condition and found out it’s got 16K actuations. This is info I would love to have had before I bought the camera and had it shipped to me. Now I have to consider what to do: keep it and hope I can get another 16K+ out of it or send it back and scour the net for one with a lower count but possibly no warranty.

      Please consider giving your buyers this information where available.

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