Shutter Life Truths and Myths?

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by snegron, Jun 12, 2007.

  1. snegron

    snegron Member

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    I am curious to know about the shutter life of 35mm cameras and how people determine the amount of clicks it takes to get to shutter failure. There is always talk about how pro bodies are rated for over 100,000 shutter actuations and how cameras with less than this life expectancy are rated bellow pro standards.

    If you have been shooting for several years I'm sure you have encountered cameras that have either been deffective or have had other things broken on them. I have had brand new cameras lock up on me (including a Mamiya 645E) after the first 3 rolls of film (don't get me started on the 5 or so deffective DSLR's I have purchased within the past 3 years).

    My question then is, has anyone here purchased a brand new camera, shot the expected amount of shutter clicks, and experienced shutter failure after reaching that predetermined number? I'm not referring to other failures such as circuit boards frying, film advance levers breaking, film take up spools snapping, rubber peeling, etc.
     
  2. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    Remember those life numbers are more average min numbers not expected actual lives. It's not like you've got a little bomb in there counting down.

    Some shutters will go much longer. A few will fail much earlier. Hopefully fairly few. But on average most will exceed the designed life.
     
  3. snegron

    snegron Member

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    I wouldn't be too sure nowadays with the design abilities of top notch engineers. Planned obsolesence seems quite likely.
     
  4. David H. Bebbington

    David H. Bebbington Inactive

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    I would expect the answer that no-one has experienced this. As far as I am aware, the quoted numbers of exposures made are recommendations for servicing, rather like a car - if you don't change the oil after 10,000 miles, your car will go on running but will start to wear out faster - if you still don't change the oil by say 40,000 miles, the engine will be worn out. I have never experienced a shutter failure through overwork, failures have been random (spring on a new Copal #1), related to human stupidity (total failure on a Leica M3 right after servicing by Leica UK) or connected with lack of use (all those leaf shutters sent for CLA, old Leicas with "tapering" shutters).
     
  5. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    We should remember to standardize the results of this thread for humidity, heat, age of equipment, frequency of use and the phase of the moon. Remember that you must be counting every shutter release for this to be meaningful. :tongue: My bad.

    Steve
     
  6. Michal Kolosowski

    Michal Kolosowski Member

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    HI!

    I suppose the shutter life limits are more about statistics. They just show after how many shots is the biggest probability that the average shutter will die. Of course there are some shutters that may fail sooner or later so you newer know anyway.
     
  7. snegron

    snegron Member

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    I read somewhere that Nikon actually performed "stress tests" on their pro cameras to determine shutter reliability.
     
  8. Brac

    Brac Member

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    I suppose for professionals who still use film cameras heavily they will exceed 100,000 exposures at some point. But that means 2778 rolls of 36 exp film. I will have kicked the bucket long long before I get anywhere near that point and like most people on here I use several 35mm film cameras which reduces the number of shutter clicks each camera gets.

    So it's not something I'm going to be worrying over, especially as I use mainly colour these days and would have to take out a second mortgage to afford the processing costs on that number of films!
     
  9. Curt

    Curt Subscriber

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    A good case for barrel lenses?
     
  10. Mick Fagan

    Mick Fagan Subscriber

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    I have seen once, a shutter that literally fell apart. It was a Nikon FE2, just six months old it had just over 3,000 rolls of film through, the whole shutter mechanism dropped it's lunch over a roll of film.

    For what it's worth, 2,500 rolls of 36 exposure film is 100,000 shutter cycles. You load a film in then usually proceed to fire three shutter and wind cycles, once 36 frames have gone through you end up with a 1/2 cocked shutter when you feel the film end tugging. You then unload the camera and virtually everyone I know continues the winding cycle, then fires the shutter.

    You have to fire that last shutter cycle so you can load another roll of film. This makes every roll going through, needing 40 shutter cycles.

    My first F3 body has had about 5,500 rolls of film go through. I have never had it serviced, it has always worked flawlessly, but it looks very, very secondhand.

    My other newer F3 body has had about 1,000 rolls only and looks pristine by comparison.

    My FE2 has had about 3,000 rolls of film through and the shutter mechanism still works, but not perfectly. Cannot put a name to what isn't working 100%

    Mick.
     
  11. Tom Stanworth

    Tom Stanworth Member

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    This is much more an issue and poblem for di***** machinegunners, who routinely fire of as many frames as possible to 'get a good one'. I wonder how the Eos 350Ds/XTi and Nikkon D60s etc get on with this abuse? I suspect that the user grows weary of their new toy before shutter life bcomes a major issue. I suspect some crazed amateurs work their shutters as hard as pros as they blaze away to get as many thumbnails as possible to choose from!

    Thankfully, I have never had a shutter failure but then again I am very low volume.
     
  12. DBP

    DBP Member

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    Wow, that's 15 rolls a day. seven days a week. How and where was it being used?
     
  13. Daniel_OB

    Daniel_OB Member

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    Snegron
    the best to look at when shutter life is around is a digital SLR. People shoot really a lot with them, sometimes thosands of shots a day. I would go to find some digital forum and post a question. The mass of the blades on such cameras are smaller, but it does not change things a lot (or noticable).

    And that Nikon did stress analysis, is true. It is even not so complicated if one knows how to do it (it is called FEA - finite element analysis). Nikon F6 camera body is brought to the level of art in engineering, and most likely the most complicated machine ever made by human (far more complicated than a Spaceshattle design).

    www.Leica-R.com
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 13, 2007
  14. snegron

    snegron Member

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    I'm not really concerned with the shutter life of DSLR's because I'm sure that DSLR's have been designed with more emphasis on electronics than mechanics. I expect shutter life to be much shorter than that of 35mm cameras. As Tom mentioned above, DSLR users probably will grow tired of their new toys before they reach the point of shutter failure. I'm sure that engineers at Nikon, Canon, Panasonic, etc, have taken this into account and spent less time designing for durability and more so fo higher pixel counts.

    I was reading in Shutterbug Magazine today a letter written by someone who has a Leica IIIa screwmount camera with a shutter that is falling apart about to go bad. This camera is well over 50 years old and who knows how many shutter clicks it took to get to this point.


    Other than Mick's FE, has anyone ever worked a Nikon to death? Anyone here ever witnessed the end of an F or F3 (metering heads not included)?
     
  15. sjperry

    sjperry Member

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    I can't say for sure on 35mm cameras, but I have taken apart and oiled a number of vintage Rolleiflex (Compur) shutters from the late 20's- early 30's and all any of them needed was oil. Those were THE professional cameras of that era. How many shutter snaps in 75+ years is anyones guess. I think in general well designed leaf shutters have a life expectancy advantage over focal plane shutters. There is not nearly as much mechanical travel involved, nor abrupt acceleration/ deceleration. Hasselblads did not become really reliable until they came out with the 500c (1957). This deep sixed the focal plane shutter of the 1600 and 1000f in favor of a leaf shutter in the lens, analogous to what Rollei had been using for nearly 30 years. But Hasselblad added the advantage of removable backs and lenses and took over the pro market. Old 500 series Zeiss lenses with their Compur and then Prontor shutters are very reliable, and shutters usually just need oiling.

    Steve Perry
     
  16. Mick Fagan

    Mick Fagan Subscriber

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    Wow, that's 15 rolls a day. seven days a week. How and where was it being used?

    Photographing a complete school is rather taxing on equipment. First you have to photograph each class as a group, minimum 2 frames to ensure you get the best picture of the teacher, then you do each student with about 10% extra shots required because you know certain students are nervous as anything and the second picture will be the one that sells. Then there is the staff as a group and as individuals, then the executive staff, Principal, vice Principal etcetera. This is usually accomplished by mid morning, then it's onto the next school in the afternoon.

    Through contacts I then did some netball teams and one thing led to another and I was photographing some basketball teams as well.

    I tried a motordrive for the FE2, but it died as well, plus the cost of the batteries was enormous.

    I was running 4 bulk loaders of film, two loaded with FP4 and two loaded with FP5. These loaders travelled with me and we would bulk load either fast or medium speed film, just prior to shooting.

    More or less that is how the FE2 died.

    Other than Mick's FE, has anyone ever worked a Nikon to death? Anyone here ever witnessed the end of an F or F3 (metering heads not included)?

    I have seen about a dozen dead F3 bodies, to put it mildly, they had been flogged mercilessly day in and day out by two of the local newspapers. Between them they sold in bulk to a secondhand camera dealer, about 70 F3 bodies that were still working. All of the cameras fell into one of two types, working well but well worn. Just working, well worn and invariably with the shutter about to fall apart.

    About 10 - 15 of the total lot required new shutters, which by the way isn't that expensive to be done. Last year a friend bought a cheap F3 body for $50 AUD, took it to a camera mechanic and had a new shutter fitted and a CLA for $280 AUD. That body looks crappy, but the innards are pretty good for hobby work and the owner has a camera with probably the most extensive range of accessories available for any camera ever made.

    Mick.
     
  17. nyoung

    nyoung Member

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    Personally, I've killed one FM from - new (1982) till returned from NPS (and others) with the "unrepairable due to lack of service parts" memo. That life included 6 years of six day-a-week news work mounted on an MD-11 and three or four lighter year's work after I took up teaching. During the news paper stint, I also had a very short lived FM2 shutter on a company camera that didn't last a year. Nikon fixed it and I would not be suprized to find it still working.
     
  18. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    The key here is MTBF -- mean time before failure. It's a mean, and (I suspect) meaningless figure, and therefore a substantially meaningless question. Nikon reputedly used to cycle cameras 'to death' and I've seen similar tests to destruction performed on e.g. Manfrotto tripods. I doubt if anyone has ever tested a statistically significant number of cameras from any batch so I believe it's a substantially made-up number: "If this camera doesn't wear out in 250,000 exposures, we can claim 100,000 without worrying." Most will last a LOT longer than the mean; some will fail quite quickly (and be replaced under guarantee). Many more will be used so lightly that wear is not an issue, though dried-up lubricants may be.

    Cheers,

    Roger
     
  19. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    FWIW ...
    From textbook type examples of MTBF [Mean Time Between Failures] in reliability. If two light bulbs are lit at the same time and the first one fails after one unit of time, then the second one will be estimated to fail at 1.5 units of time.

    Steve
     
  20. copake_ham

    copake_ham Inactive

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    I don't know if it's still there - but years ago when I visited the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto - in the "mechanical/industrial" section they had a contraption that was apparently used by the shoe industry to determine the MTBF of leather "uppers" on men's dress shoes.

    This "wonder" litereally was a kind of mechanical leg with a men's shoe on one end. Employing a mechanical counter, the contraption's piston would drive the "leg" flexing the shoe on-and-on-and-on; presumably until the leather cracked.

    I was never sure if the thing was really used in the shoe industry - but it was hypnotic to watch it in "action"!
     
  21. Tom Hoskinson

    Tom Hoskinson Member

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    Only if you know or are assuming some additional information about the probability of light bulb failure.
     
  22. bjorke

    bjorke Member

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    FWiW, my first DSLR went through TWO shutters. Like the newer desgins or hate them, it was surprisingly straightforward for Canon to swap the old worn one out and drop a new one in. Turnaround was less than $200 and less than two weeks including phone calls, faxes, and shipping. I expect the shutters are near-identical with those in the late-model film EOSs... though it's hard to see up close without an opening film back. But my Elan looks like it's built around a shutter "unit."