Flash and Camera Life Expectancy

Q. “I occasionally borrow my friend’s flash–I don’t have one yet.  Her Mom said she shouldn’t because I’ll ‘use up all her flashes’.  And we were dumbstruck because we honestly didn’t know if that was possible.  Is there a life expectancy of a flash?  Are there replacement bulbs?”

That’s a great question. And it also brings us to the topic of camera life which is an interesting subject for all you shutter bugs with a heavy finger.

If you’ve ever sold a camera on eBay, you’ll be familiar with this question: “How many actuations?” Actuations are the amount of photos a camera has taken. Now still you beating heart and try not to freak out as I did when I found this out: your camera has a life expectancy of around 100,000 actuations. Some have more, some have less, but this is a pretty good benchmark number for how long your shutter is expected to last.

A camera’s shutter is a very delicate piece of machinery and it won’t last forever.

There aren’t any easy ways to just see your shutter count in your camera’s menu. There are plugins you can download online. And to make things more annoying, when you’re researching a camera to buy, the specs on the manufacturer’s site don’t even tell you the life expectancy of the shutter. Although the Canon site did tell me that the 5D mkII has an actuation expectancy of 150k and the 1D, 200k. It’s all quite a mysterious topic. I suppose it’s no different than a car – when you’re looking at buying a Ford, they don’t use the mileage as a selling point because no one can promise you that your Fiesta will hit 200k miles, although it’s possible! The best way to know about the life of your camera is to get on photography forums and see what people are reporting.

So think about this: If your car was only expected to go 100k miles, would you drive it 1,000 miles a day? When I go into Lightroom, for the year 2010 (which is only 4 months old), I’ve taken 4,000+ photos. And those are only the keepers. That means I’ve taken at least 8k since Jan. At this rate, I’ll kill my 7d in 4 years. Makes me want to think twice about being flippant with my trigger finger.

Everything has a lifespan (even your camera – so make sure you’re not making payments on it for 40 years because it will literally not live that long if you’re an avid photographer!) So naturally, this can go for anything. But Leslie, your friend’s flash unit will last twice as long as the camera. A Canon Speedlite is said to live for 8 years or longer. And even when it dies, Canon can replace the tube just like with any lightbulb.

  • Thank you for answering this question because I don’t own one either and didn’t know much about it. Good stuff!

  • Simone

    Thanks to the reader for inquiring.
    I had no idea there was a life-expectancy on a camera, this is interesting.

    It will probably take me a couple of years, mine its dormant until the weekend and I average about 200 shots. I’ll probably buy a new one within that time span. I’m obsessed with gadgets

    but from reading the blogs, photography is a probably the #1 hobby and camera manufacturers are rolling new models off the assembly line before a user gets used to the one they already have. In my opinion, I think the average user buys a new camera every 2-3 years.

    I’m already the new models from Canon(even though I can’t afford it), I’m still like a kid in the candy store, I’ve only been using the Canon T1 for a year now.

    Great news to hear about the flash as well, I would hate it if that had a short expectancy, since a flash costs half as much as the camera!


  • kate

    Well that’s actually kind of terrifying. Is the shutter reparable after that?