The wear and tear on your vehicle can be determined (most of the time) based on the number of miles driven. Believe it or not digital cameras have something similar to mileage, it’s called actuations. The number of actuations is the number of times that the shutter inside your camera has opened and closed, simply put, the number of pictures taken. So why is this important, well it tells you how much wear a camera has sustained.
Let’s say that you find a great camera like a Nikon D200 or a Canon 30D for a really low price, aside from the overall condition of the camera, you might want to take a look at the number of actuations (miles) the camera has. Most semi-professional cameras like the one’s mentioned above are rated (you can expect to get) to perform about 50,000 actuations or 50,000 pictures, after which the camera will in most instances continue work, but it’s usable life has been diminished by 50,000 actuations. I’m not suggesting that this is the only thing you should look at when buying a used camera, but certainly something to note when doing your research.
So how and were is this information located? Camera manufacturers store a large amount of data (metadata) every time a picture is taken, this data is referred to as the EXIF specification. It contains information like the camera model, lens type, focal length, shutter speed, GPS coordinates, shutter actuations, and other useful information, more on EXIF can be found here.
This guide serves two purposes, the first is to inform my readers about a camera’s mileage (actuations) and how it can be used to make better purchasing decisions. Secondly, a short guide to help you obtain that number from your camera. I hope that this guide will be useful to those of you that didn’t know about this and that you are able to make better purchasing decisions. If you have any comments or questions, post them below.
Note: Your camera may not support the ability to store number of actuations in EXIF. I also want to make clear that the number of actuations does not entirely reflect the condition of a camera, so make sure to take other factors into consideration, conditions where camera has operated, camera handling (how it was treated), and price. Think of it as buying a car, you don’t look at only the miles do you?
1. Before we can determine the number of actuations your camera has performed, we need you to download a free version of PhotoME (this software allows you to view all of the EXIF data stored in your pictures).
2. Once you’ve installed PhotoME, find one of the latest photographs you’ve taken.
3. After launching the program click Open file… on the left pane
4. Locate the picture I asked you to find in step number 2 (ideally the last picture you took with your camera). Click Open.
5. When your picture is opened in PhotoME you will be presented with all of the data contained on the picture file (JPEG, RAW, etc formats).
6. The first thing you should try is scrolling down on the pane to the left until you locate a field named Shutter Count, Actuations, and others.
7. If you don’t find the field by looking around (it can be overwhelming with the number of fields available). You can use the built-in search function and enter one of the following keywords;
Shutter, count, actuations, or any other words that may describe the number of pictures taken. You can perform a search by typing your query in the Find: box located at the bottom of the program screen.
The example below is for a used camera on eBay, the seller states that the camera has about 1,500-2,000 actuations. In a case where the seller is guessing the number, I’d ask him to confirm it by following the steps above.