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We all know that shutters wear out and they have a limited number of actuation's.

The question I have is, do sensors wear out too? Do they suffer any kind of damage after each shot?

Should I be concerned about this or is the sensor lifespan way longer than the shutter lifespan?

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1  
As always, thanks for polishing my rusty english, @dpollitt! –  Andres Aug 23 '11 at 20:39

6 Answers 6

up vote 11 down vote accepted

I'm going to go with the premise that they do not wear out. I've long downloaded and stitched together videos of solar activity captured by SOHO, or the Solar Heliospheric Observatory satellite. That satellite was launched in 1995, went operational in 1996, and is still sending back images. Its CCDs get POUNDED by solar particles, high energy protons and other radical forces on a continual basis. Dozens of times a year it takes direct hits from CME's (Coronal Mass Ejections) and other explosive flare events.

There are periodic "CCD Bakeouts", where the sensor is heated for a period of time which reduces temporal effects of the particle storms it endures. After a decade and a half, the images from SOHO look as good as ever. And while, granted, this kind of sensor is scientific grade, it also takes a beating a thousand times worse than any camera sensor will (or probably could)...CCD or CMOS.

So yup, I'm gonna go with sensors don't wear out (not in the normal lifetime of a camera.)

Regarding shutters, they do have a specified lifetime, usually in the detailed specs. They can last anywhere from 15,000 actuations to several hundred thousand actuations, and sometimes its the luck of the draw. If they do wear out, they can be replaced, for a fee, but often a fee far cheaper than a replacement camera.

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incorrect. They do wear out, it just takes a long time. And the electronics in satellites and military hardware are specially hardened and designed to make them much more resillient than those in consumer electronics devices. –  jwenting Aug 30 '11 at 5:23
2  
@jwenting, sure, obviously. I was being a bit facetious. However the amount of energy and heat necessary to "wear out" a normal camera sensor is quite high such that, outside of direct purposeful abuse or accidental shock to FORCE the sensor to die, its unlikely they will...not before other parts wear out first, like shutter, or buttons and dials, LCD screens, etc. –  jrista Aug 30 '11 at 17:55

Yes, they do wear out. I would say that it would just take a VERY long time. Don't worry about it, and enjoy shooting!

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Yes, electronic components can "wear out" just like anything else. It won't be mechanical damage, as there are no moving parts, but they can get damaged. Applying and removing charge, current, etc. puts strain on the semiconductors and will eventually cause them to fail (chemical or physical changes in the material can happen randomly for example). Cosmic (or other) radiation can do the same (which of course is just the impacting on high energy particles on the substrate). Satellites and military hardware are specially hardened to avoid such things to the highest degree possible, commercial applications (and especially consumer grade ones) aren't because of the cost involved.
Now, this won't happen overnight. It takes many years to reach the state of degradation where the component finally fails and needs replacing (there is no repairing a component that fails in this way), but it can happen. I don't know if there's ever been publications as to the expected MTBF of sensors for DSLRs, but I'd not be surprised if it's around 10-15 years, maybe a bit longer, for your average DSLR, meaning that the first D100s and D1s should be getting close to hitting that point now (of course it's a bell curve, some fail much sooner while others seem to go on forever).

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Interesting, thanks! It would be awesome to see the expected MTBF of sensors, but manufacturers don't even release shutter life expectations... –  Andres Aug 30 '11 at 14:00
    
I expect that it's time of use that's more important than time on the shelf, so the observation on D100s and D1s would only apply to those which have been in constant use. –  mattdm Aug 30 '11 at 19:10

You can hurt the sensor if you aim your camera directly into the sun or any other very strong light source. Otherwise I think you really have to work hart to damage the sensor.

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Yeah, I was thinking if they wear out by normal usage, not by poiting them to the sun or a laser. –  Andres Aug 26 '11 at 16:47

The damage they suffer in day to day use is probably fairly minor. The same sensor in your camera is the technical basis as the one they use in the Hubble Space Telescope, just beefed up for coping with really, really harsh conditions.

If your sensor fails first I think even the manufacturer would be shocked.

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I have no proof, but I wouldn't worry about this unless you shoot many many long exposure shots, or in very hot conditions.

Sensors are basically just converting light to electrons. In today's digital cameras we are using CMOS sensors, which use very little power, so I would assume that equates to less damage over time as compared to a CCD.

I wouldn't be concerned about this. Just don't point your lens into the sun or a welding spark and you should never have an issue.

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… nor to a laser –  koiyu Aug 24 '11 at 9:15

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