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The lifespan of a Digital Sensor

Harry Alberts , Dec 20, 2003; 05:38 p.m.

As a new member that has learned a lot from just reading through past posts I would like to ask my first question. What is the lifespan of the digital Sensor or CMOS in the case of the Canon 300D? Do these sensors ever wear out or rendered ineffective after so many shots. I have shot 1400 pictures in less than two months. I have printed only 50 or so. Most of my shooting has been geared to learning photography and its techniques.

Thank you in advance for all replies.


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Bob Atkins , Dec 20, 2003; 06:56 p.m.

The sensor won't wear out but the shutter will. Average life might be 30,000 - 50,000 cycles. Could be more, could be less.

Kelly Flanigan , Dec 20, 2003; 07:34 p.m.

My biased bet is that dead pixels and noisy pixels will surface abit more when a sensor ages; that will have to be masked; or "photoshopped" out. This "guess" is based on the eight scanners; and two digital cameras; that show increased noise in their sensors with time. Maybe my analogy to old color flatbeds and engineering scanners is all wet; maybe not. On 10 years old scanners; we have ones that have noisy lines in the shadow areas; that were not there when bought new. Also we have had flatbeds where one "bank" failed; and thus there is a bad area that doesnt scan. With my 3 year old 1.3 M pixel Olympus; there are some consistant pixels that are hotter than others; in the shadow areas; they are alot "hotter"; than when the camera was new. Maybe contamination in the sensor junction?

I really would not worry about it; because this is like predicting who will will an election in one decade.

In fabrication of wafers; sometimes a rare contaminate will cause the chip/die/wafer/sensor to die an early death. These rarely ever get into production; but when they do; they cause field failures that are like a time bomb; and fail after all 9XXX testing; in the consumers arena. This is awfull expensive failure mode. In sensors or chips; sometimes failures increase due to poor mounting; that causes mechanical stress that cracks the seal; and allows moisture to cause field failures. One one project; the cracked chips that ran hotter had less failures; because the heat drove off the moisture problems. The new design with a better heatr sink had more failures; the cooler chip was less robust when the chips die was cracked; and drove of less mositure. This drove some coworkers abit batty; the hotter units had higher MTBF's than the cooler running units.

I would NOT let a remote possible sensor failure steer you from getting a digtial camera or scanner. They hold great value; and are fun to use. No short term test predicts long term problems very well. Secondary effects creep into the lifetime of consumer products; and cause failure modes not planned for. A well sealed sensor; made to tight standards; may very well NOT have any long term problems. Only time will tell.

Kelly Flanigan , Dec 20, 2003; 07:37 p.m.

I really would not worry about it; because this is like predicting who will win an election in one decade.

Paul Rigas , Dec 20, 2003; 07:45 p.m.

Unlike traditional film cameras, most people move on to their next digital camera long before it reaches the end of it's lifespan.

Harry Alberts , Dec 20, 2003; 10:05 p.m.

I appreciate the answers. I asked because I have 35MM cameras that were made in the 50's, 60's and 70's...all of which work extremely well to this day. I would guess its too early to tell if the camera will outlive the sensor or the sensor will outlive the camera. In either event the point about the digital being replaced before its obsolesence is very true...at least in my case. H

Jose Galeano , Dec 20, 2003; 11:05 p.m.

it's funny that you mention it.... I bought a 10D last april (and got it replaced in may as it started "developing" hot pixels)..... the other camera was working perfectly until say about a month ago, it developed a red pixel near the center of the frame. I took it to Canon service center and thought that they were just going to map out the offending pixel. I gave them a call and found out that they were going to replace the CMOS (and were waiting on the part that is not here yet, but that is another story), anyways, they will call me as soon as they are ready to replace the CMOS so that I take the camera back to them.

I was curious, because I never thought that they were going to replace the CMOS (Which is, as I understand, a very expensive component) for just one pixel, well, I started looking a little closer and it turns out that the red pixel is more like a spot, it is indeed like 3 pixels in diameter. The good thing about it is that since the camera is under warranty I don't have to pay a dime for that. The bad thing about it is that I already spent 3 weeks without my camera, and I will have to do it again when the CMOS gets here (early january, I think).

I don't know if the sensors have an "expiration date" or not, but I think that I haven't been all that lucky with the ones I have had so far.

Thanks and good luck.

Mike Morgan , Dec 21, 2003; 01:15 a.m.

According to the article below, Kodak claims of their CMOS Sensors:

"We find that the sensors last for tens of thousands of hours in continuous usage without any degradation to their ability to capture photos," Titus says. "That adds up to many years of normal use. The CCD is not the component that will fail first."

Martin Reynolds, a digital imaging analyst at Gartner, agreed with Kodak's assessment. "Those sensors are pretty robust little devices with no long-term failure mechanisms." His only caveat? One I've written about before: "If you expose the CCD directly at the sun, you might cause some damage. But even then it would take an extraordinary amount of energy to cause deterioration."


Kelly Flanigan , Dec 21, 2003; 02:10 a.m.

Kodak also claimed that their 5 dollar gold CD's were archival; when we bought them to use with my 600 dollar 4x CD burner. Since then; some are now unreadable; and these wild claims of being "archival" are conveniently withdrawn from the marketing BS being spouted. 110; Disc; and APS cameras were also suppose to replace 35mm. Today the local grocery store doesnt sell disc film; but sells more 110 than APS film; but WAY less than 35mm. In the 1960's; we studied about global cooling; and the risks to the environment; due to another ice age. 400 years ago; tobacco was declared unheathly by the British rulers; in the 1950's; doctors endorsed cigarettes in advertising. In high school; the local doctors here told girls to smoke; to help keep their figure great. Today my doctor friends conveniently forget these events. Marketing is about making BS look good. Beware sometimes that it is not true; or they make wild claims; that cannot be proven. After 7 years; our copier repair guy always says they cannot get parts for our "obsolete" machine. I suppose todays digitals; after 7 years will be ancient history; like a TI-99A computer.

Larry Tudor , Dec 21, 2003; 04:25 p.m.

Hi! Like 25 years ago,was working in a T.V. studio and remember these (Viticon)it was the name we had for the sensor in the camera were real sensitive to strong light and you had to be very careful for not including a spot in the image if so,you will see a black trace left behind and everytime this was happening,the quality of the image was degrading.Maybe the sensor on those digital camera works differently?

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