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I have come across that the SAMSUNG NX1 has an 8 minute limitation in bulb mode.

I understand that there could be reasons for this; reduce risk of damaging sensor, hardware limitations...

I'm not too fussed about the reasons why (at the moment) but I'm wondering about other brands/models.

Is there generally a limitation in bulb mode?

I know that with my OM-10 film camera, bulb mode has no limitations (probably because it's mechanical).

  • I wonder whether holding the mirror up / shutter open draws current from the battery - I have an old Praktica EE2 whose shutter won't stay open in B mode when the battery is low... A current flowing would mean a coil (electromagnet) heating up somewhere which might set limits on safe B mode. But I confess that is speculation - putting it here hoping it will ring a bell for somebody (or they refute it). – Floris Apr 3 '15 at 1:06
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In digital cameras, there are a few reasons for the limit:

  1. The sensor does not integrate light as well as silver halide photography does, unless the sensor is cooled (which also improves "film" time exposures). There is a buildup of electronic noise, so that the image becomes unusable; see Image noise and Digital Camera Image Noise. During long exposures, some cameras can be set to take repeated short exposures and use an algorithm to reduce the average noise, but this takes a lot of processing power and therefore battery charge, and is not all that effective, in my experience.

  2. As mentioned above, the battery drain and internal heating of the sensor can be excessive during a long exposure... and the hotter the sensor, the worse the noise.

Though film time exposures have their own limitations, such as reciprocity failure, I do have some nice 20-minute city-scape shots on Kodachrome, RIP, taken in very cold weather. There was danger of the emulsion cracking and static-discharge streaks, too, not to mention photographer frostbite.

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Generally? No, at least not what I've seen. I've only used Canon though.

I don't imagine Nikon having a restriction especially on any (d)SLR.

And with a MILC the sensor is always exposed so there goes the damaging sensor argument.

  • Thanks for your answer. Looks like Nikon has a 30min limit: nikonites.com/d3200/… I'm going to take your answer as "I don't know". – BBking Apr 1 '15 at 23:00
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    I'm pretty sure there is not a 30 minute limit on bulb mode on any lower-end Nikon DSLRs and that this is a limit imposed when using the IR remote. The D50 definitely does not have a 30 minute limit. – Dan Wolfgang Apr 1 '15 at 23:41
  • Most MILCs still have a mechanical shutter. That is what "protects" the sensor on both DSLRs and MILCs, not the mirror, which sits at a 45º angle to the sensor on DSLRs. – Michael C Apr 2 '15 at 8:32
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    I have a canon 60D and left the shutter open for over 8 hours once, until the battery died. – Nelson Apr 3 '15 at 6:51
  • Most of the Panasonic Lumix mirrorless cameras are limited to 2 minutes or 4 minutes it seems. Except for the GH3 or GH4, which can go up to 60 minutes. – vclaw Apr 3 '15 at 11:37
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No, they don't

DSLR's tend to assume the user knows what they're doing and gives them full control of the shutter. Other camera system types tend to have some kind of hard limit as you've observed.

EVIL cameras like the NX8 will tend to have limits imposed by the manufacturer and will vary by model.

There are edge cases like the Nikon IR remote (but I would put money on them being a limitation in the remote system and not the camera.) But you should reasonably expect any DSLR when used with the appropriate wired trigger to hold the shutter open at least until it hits limits from outside factors (thermal protection, power etc).

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