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A friend of mine, working on a company that sells clothing online, told me that the photographers there change their cameras quite often because their cameras wear out quickly due to the thousands of pictures they take weekly.

How long do DSLR cameras last before need to be replaced and why does that happen (considering nothing's got broken)?

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If your friend is truly referring to photographers that take thousands of images per week, yes they likely will wear out the shutter in about a year or so. Note that the shutter can be replaced for a reasonable cost.

Most amateurs don't take thousands of photos a week and even many working pros do not outside of some specific areas such as action and sports photography.

It's far more likely that most will upgrade after a few years simply because they want to take advantage of technological advances and new features. Not because their current model all of a sudden stopped working and failed.

  • It's also worth mentioning that manufacturers seem to be less concerned with durability/reliability of dSLRs than for the film SLRs the same companies used to make. For example it's common to find consumer Nikon & Canon film SLRs from the 1970s & 80s (all made in Japan) still in working condition, yet the same can't quite be said for their dSLRs from 5-10 years ago. Part of the reason for this is that dSLRs are more complex and environmentally susceptible than older film cameras, but the other factor is that manufacturers have accepted consumer perception that cameras are now consumables. – HamishKL Jan 23 '16 at 2:37
  • I have not (yet) seen very many "worn out" dDSLRs personally and certainly I've seen early model pro dSLRs that have performed way past their estimated lifespan and into the realm of legend, but I'm saying that there is more to go wrong with digicams than older cameras that filled the same role in past decades, and that manufacturers don't seem to put much emphasis on durability these days by comparison. – HamishKL Jan 23 '16 at 2:49
  • @HamishKL Sounds like you should add an answer of your own. The comment section of my answer is not a great place. – dpollitt Jan 23 '16 at 2:50
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Nothing gets broken, but the shutter will wear out. If you take a look at DSLR second hand sales (like eBay) you will notice either the seller specifying the shutter count, or someone interested asking about it.

As some tutorial websites are saying, shutter count is like the mileage at a car.

Digital Photography School

The inner workings of a camera are delicate and fragile and made to withstand around 100,000 shutter releases. Canon says that their 5D mkII is good for about 150k and the 1D, 200k. But life expectancy isn’t something you’ll find on the specs of a camera you’re looking at buying, much like mileage expectancy isn’t on the price sticker of a new Ford Focus. No manufacturer of items can assure how long an item will last and to do so would be a bad idea on their behalf incase your particular unit didn’t match those expectations.

At some point, the shutter of the camera will wear out and eventually get stacked or fails. But not everybody chooses to throw the camera away and buy a new one. As suggested on this answer, some actually would rather replace only the shutter, which is way cheaper than a new camera.

  • I don't get the quote, by Canon stating the expected shutter life, life expectancy is exactly what they are predicting. The comparison to no mileage on a car sticker isn't a good one either. – dpollitt Jan 17 '16 at 21:21
  • That comparison is the most used comparison on the photo tutorial pages. A google search for "why does the shutter count matter" would return at least 5 websites on the first page using this comparison. Is not one that I invented (and I already specified in my answer that's not invented by me) – Dragos Jan 17 '16 at 21:25
  • And the quote is there to emphasise the idea of the shutter being the element that would wear out in a DSLR. – Dragos Jan 17 '16 at 21:27
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    Comparing mileage on a car to a shutter count on a camera is roughly approximate and I agree with that. I don't agree that "you won't find it on the specs" because you do in fact find a stated life expectancy for professional DSLRs. The fact that some blogs have the same quote really doesn't mean anything and certainly doesn't prove any facts. – dpollitt Jan 17 '16 at 21:28
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Few professional photographers actually wear out their cameras. Those who do can easily afford the $300-$400 cost of a new shutter.

The real reason photographers replace their cameras so often is that new features and image quality improvements are constantly being implemented rendering older cameras obsolete almost as soon as they are released.

  • "Older" cameras are far from obsolete, it's called gear obsession! – dpollitt Jan 17 '16 at 21:29
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To give you a personal example, I've been using a Canon 30D for about 8 years and it now has an estimated shutter count well over 100 000 (I haven't been keeping perfect track, but I have somewhere around 250 000 images stored with a large number of them being from that camera body). I also have a Canon 5D Mk1 with around 100 000 shutter actuations. The 30D did need the mirror mechanism replaced around 80 000 shutter actuations and that cost about $200 to fix. Neither camera has ever "worn out" or "broken" per se, but they have needed minor repairs from serious use.

(I should point out that with a "point and shoot" camera, when something fails, they are more or less disposable and should probably be replaced rather than repaired)

I am in need of a new camera, but it's because I work with low lighting a lot and need a camera that works better in difficult lighting situations. Nothing to do with age, only with technology.

At this point, lenses also need repairs - sometimes a diaphragm will wear and need replacing too.

For average hobby photographers, the chances of taking hundreds of thousands of images with a DSLR are slim; anything over 8 megapixels will produce beautiful prints and should last as long as you want to keep it.

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