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Many newer digital cameras offer an automatic sensor cleaning option in the menu that uses some sort of sensor vibration to shake off dirt. This strikes me as a source of potential long-term mechanical stress. Have there been any studies done that show a change in useful life, or other negative consequences, of frequent automatic sensor cleaning?

I'm interested in the Nikon D800 in particular, but would welcome information related to any camera or dSLRs in general.

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    Possible duplicate of How does automatic sensor cleaning work? – scottbb Jun 19 at 18:27
  • It is something that existed for a long time, if there was an issue with it we would know. – Max Jun 19 at 18:38
  • If it were an issue you would have complaints about it all over the net... – xenoid Jun 19 at 19:15
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    @Max "if there was an issue with it we would know" – Not necessarily. The sensor could have a significantly shorter life than one that doesn't self clean, but we'd never know as long as it still lasts significantly longer than the shutter and other components. – xiota Jun 19 at 22:37
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    @xiota, well, that means it's not an issue, by definition. – Zeus Jun 20 at 2:46
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I'm sure manufacturers have done internal tests, but I am not aware of any public data.

As long as the sensor lasts significantly longer than other components that might fail, any reduction in the life expectancy of the sensor as a result of self cleaning would be inconsequential. For cameras that have been well-cared for (eg, not dropped or dunked in liquid), the shutter appears to be among the first components to fail.

Self cleaning usually occurs when the camera is turned on or off. Suppose the sensor were rated for 100000 cleanings. If you average about 10 shots each time you turn the camera on, after 100000 shutter actuations, the sensor would have self cleaned only 20000 times. To reach 100000 sensor cleanings, you'd have to fire the shutter 500000 times. Long before reaching any self-cleaning limit, the shutter would have been replaced multiple times.

To frequently clean the sensor would require repeatedly turning the camera on and off. I'd expect problems with the power switch long before sensor-cleaning failure. Even if sensor cleaning fails, the sensor would still be able to capture images. To reach and replace the IR-cut filter, the self-cleaning function is disabled during some IR conversions.

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If is was leading to problems, you would at least have a notice from the manufacturer about its frequent usage; to my knowledge there is no such thing; furthermore, if a certain technology was leading to problems, it would not be used, alternatives would be designed and chosen. The only piece of engineering that has a lifetime is the mechanical shutter, which is warranted to work for at least a specified number of shots.

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    The only piece of engineering that has a lifetime is the mechanical shutter... and the mirror (for DSLRs), and also, the sensor itself (in the case of in-body image stabilization cameras). Also, and this is a question only, are shutters warranted for a specified number of shots? I know that they typically last for 70k-100k actuations, but are they actually warranted to last that long? I thought that warranty is typically for a period of time. A camera with little use for 15 years probably isn't covered if it fails at 50k shots, I'd think. – scottbb Jun 19 at 21:13
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    Manufacturer's tend to not disclose stuff they can get away with not disclosing. The fine print is there because of regulations, not because the manufacturer thought we should know about it in advance. – xiota Jun 20 at 3:56
  • Shutters are NOT usually warranted for a specific number of actuations. They're sometimes rated for a specific number of actuations. Warranties on camera equipment are almost always based on time from the date of purchase. – Michael C Jun 20 at 7:16

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