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.

  • 3
    Possible duplicate of How does automatic sensor cleaning work?
    – scottbb
    Jun 19, 2019 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, 2019 at 18:38
  • If it were an issue you would have complaints about it all over the net...
    – xenoid
    Jun 19, 2019 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, 2019 at 22:37
  • 4
    @xiota, well, that means it's not an issue, by definition.
    – Zeus
    Jun 20, 2019 at 2:46

2 Answers 2


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.


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.

  • 3
    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, 2019 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, 2019 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, 2019 at 7:16
  • @scottbb what is the sensor lifetime rated as for IBIS cameras? Also, everybody saying that the shutter is generally the first thing to fail makes feel very unlucky now after my first E-PL2 had to be replaced after the mode dial failed haha.
    – wilkgr
    Jul 8, 2020 at 5:14
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    @wilkgr I have no idea about IBIS sensor lifetimes. My WAG is that the most common problem would be the flex ribbon and/or related connections. But that's a good question.
    – scottbb
    Jul 8, 2020 at 6:15

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