Cameras wear out eventually, but a quality lens is a lifetime investment. This is an important concept to remember, the next time you’re tempted to buy an expensive lens. Go for it, it’s an investment!

One of the things that wears out on your camera is the shutter. And each model of camera from the major manufacturers such as Nikon or Canon has a rating for the total number of “shutter activations” that it can handle. This is just an estimate, of course, and a given camera may fail before or after it reaches its official Maximum Shutter Activations.

Nikon’s FX cameras are rated for a high number of activations, as one would expect given their price. For example, the Nikon D700 I purchased in 2008 was rated for 150,000 activations, and it had 125,000 total when I lost it in 2012. My current Nikon D800 is rated for 200,000 activations, and it’s currently at about 80,000 total. The Nikon D4s (the camera I’d love to have if I could afford it) is their sturdiest model, rated for 400,000 activations.

But how do you know the number of shutter activations your camera has at any point in time? This information is not available in the on-camera menus for Nikon models (and Canon models as well?), but it is embedded into every photo you take as part of the EXIF data. So you can use EXIF viewer software to get the count, which is usually labeled image count or shutter count in these programs.

You can also view the current count in Photoshop. Open a recent photo you’ve taken, then click on File –> File Info, scroll to the right to the Advanced tab, expand the Schema section, and the second item you’ll see there is the ImageNumber:

ImageNumber metadata in Photoshop's File / Info display

My D800 is at 40% of its rated maximum after two years, so at this rate I should be able to get another three years out of it. Perhaps I can upgrade to a D4s in 2017 – which will probably be called the D5 or D6 by then.