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What is the usual 'life' of a digital camera?

Debbie T , Jun 18, 2006; 01:48 a.m.

I know this sounds stupid, but probably a year ago a lady said, oh I took 10,000 pictures with my Canon (I THINK that was about the number), and it just died one day. I thought, well yeah, I would think it did!

Never did I imagine that I would be taking 6700 pictures so far with my Sony. So, what is the average number of pictures a camera takes before it says, please bury me, I can't do this anymore?



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Landrum Kelly , Jun 18, 2006; 02:04 a.m.

(Then again, who ever plans to drop a camera?)

The answer to that often depends on shutter life, although digital cameras can fail for other reasons.

I don't have the data on expected shutter life for various cameras, but I do know that, although I have a more modern DSLR, I am still shooting my old Olympus E-20 that I bought over four years ago. The lesson for me is that a lot of older cameras are not exactly obsolete, even if they are not performing like the newest creations--especially at high ISO, where Canon seems to be way ahead of Nikon. (I am not sure how good the new Sony is at high ISO.)

By the way, I dropped my E-20 about two years ago, and hard enough to bend the built-in lens barrel. The camera's internal "works" were not damaged, and I managed to get the barrel back in the round well enough to get the UV filter back on--although it is now stuck on. It can still be cleaned, however, and a polarizer that screws into the UV filter can still be added or removed as neeed.

I would look to general build and not only to shutter life. The E-20 had a good metal frame, and I just used it on June 11 at my grandson's birthday party. It shoots beautifully, and I have printed its TIFF files at 13x19 without the use of fractals--at crystal clarity.

Still, it is a noisy camera, and I mention it here only because of the durability question. If you don't go around dropping cameras, do get the data on expected shutter life for the specific cameras that you are considering.


Greg Chappell , Jun 18, 2006; 02:20 a.m.

The "Life" is probably much longer than most people's desire to keep it

Long before most digital cameras die I'd guess they are left behind for the next, better technology. If you keep yours and it lasts a long life (arbitrarily given here by me as 3-4 years) consider yourself in the minority.

George Masters , Jun 18, 2006; 03:22 a.m.

My D70 died before any new product came out. The retailer told me that these digital cameras are only designed to last as long as their marketability lasts - that is, as soon as another product comes out to replace it, expect it to begin its decline.

The D70's mirrorbox died horribly.

Back to film photography for me. Leaf shutters are much more trustworthy.

Peter Meade , Jun 18, 2006; 03:30 a.m.

Hello Debbie, I've taken over 20,000 frames with my DSLR in the last year and at that rate it may die in another 4 years. I also have an SLR-like digital camera that I bought in 2001 which is still going strong and is being used by my son.

I think digital cameras are probably quite durable and a failure at 10,000 shots would be quite rare, unless it's a very old (for digital) camera.

Bob Bernardo - LA area disabled , Jun 18, 2006; 03:51 a.m.

high end canon and nikon shutters are said to go for 250,000 frames.

Kevin Connery , Jun 18, 2006; 05:07 a.m.

    Never did I imagine that I would be taking 6700 pictures so far with my Sony. So, what is the average number of pictures a camera takes before it says, please bury me, I can't do this anymore? (Debbie T)
Overall camera life is variable. Shutter life is just one factor, but for the higher-end cameras, that's pretty substantial: Canon expects 100,000 for the 30D before the shutter will need to be replaced, and their 1D Mark II is 200,000 activations.

Other components are less easily quantified, alas.

Bruce Garrett , Jun 18, 2006; 06:47 a.m.

Hi Debbie

Over on Steve's Digicams one of the members has shot 29,000 frames on their Panasonic FZ5 and is still going strong. These cameras seem to be built to last so as long as they are treated with respect, they should last a reasonable time.

Obviously pro grade DSLRs are designed to take heavy punishment so 200,000 frames is expected of them along with faultless operation.

If any new camera can get through the first three months without a problem, then it will probably just keep on going. But if Quality Control at the factory was at fault then this will show itself early in the life of the camera, hence the warranty period.


Godfrey DiGiorgi , Jun 18, 2006; 09:51 a.m.

At least two folks on the DPReview.com Pentax SLR forum have recorded over 100,000 exposures with their Pentax *ist D bodies. I've made up to 40,000 exposures with various individual digital cameras ... I started using digital cameras in 2002.

I would say that barring abuse and unusual circumstances, most of the high quality digital cameras out there now will last for a decade or more in perfect operating condition. There are certainly some cameras not designed for long life, however.


Milo G , Jun 18, 2006; 11:47 a.m.

A decent camera will last as long as it takes you to realize you can get something twice as good at half the price.

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