It’s time to demand reliability from DSLR manufacturers

Update: After sending the camera in for service to a Canon authorized repair facility, it turns out I took somewhere between 75,000 – 100,000 shots with my 5D when the shutter mechanism failed. Still, most of what I wrote below is appropriate commentary on the whole situation. 

When DSLRs (and now HDSLRs) cost thousands of dollars, and the manufacturer makes a promise that the shutter in said DSLR is rated for 100,000 shots or 150,000 shots, I think it should no longer be a promise, but a guarantee, and the manufacturer ought to be responsible for the repair to a DSLR whose shutter failed before its rated number of shots.

Look at cars. Some cars cost little more than a top of the line DSLR, but cars have serious warranties. These days, some cars have 10-year warranties on everything. Historically speaking, even if most cars haven’t had good warranties on everything, they’ve had good warranties on the power train — on the basic stuff that makes them go.

On a DSLR, the shutter is part of the camera’s “powertrain”. Without it, the camera can’t take photographs, and a full-frame DSLR that can’t take photographs is a very expensive paperweight.

It’s high time we demanded that DSLR manufacturers come up with warranties for the more expensive DSLRs, where they’ll guarantee that the shutter and the motherboard (pretty much every part that takes photos and writes those photos to a card) will work for a certain amount of time.

If we don’t, we’ll likely run into the situation I’m in right now, where my Canon EOS 5D’s shutter started to fail at under 50,000 shots. Initially, photos taken at 1/6000 sec or higher (1/8000 sec) would come out black or almost black. Now, months later and at around 52,500 shots, even photos taken at 1/1000 sec are severely underexposed.

Have a look at three photos taken with the 5D. The first two were taken at 1/8000 sec shutter speed a couple of months ago, and the third was taken at 1/1000 sec shutter speed a few days ago.

It’s not right that the shutter has started to fail at half its projected life span of 100,000 shots. And what’s even more improper is Canon USA Support’s reply to me. They told me the shutter’s rated life is not a warranty, not even a promise, but an expectancy (an anticipation if you will).

What that means is they can advertise long shutter lives all they want, but they’re not accountable for actual, real-world results from its customers. It’s irresponsible, and it shouldn’t be allowed. When we pay thousands of dollars for a fancy DSLR, we as customers pay that money with certain expectations in mind. Those expectations entail (among others) a need for durability and reliability.

I propose that a set of benchmarks be set for the entire photography industry, where shutter life is one of the differentiating criteria. Processor and camera motherboard life should be another. Manufacturers would then have to offer warranties on these benchmark criteria. I propose 4 or 5-year warranties on the circuits, and on shutter life, the warranty should go as far as its stated life span. If it’s 100,000 shots, then by Noah, it should be 100,000 shots, end of story.


7 thoughts on “It’s time to demand reliability from DSLR manufacturers

  1. That’s a pretty good point. Cars can come with 100,000 mile warranties. Why not a camera? Clicks rather than miles. Although I guess if the expectation is an average of 100,000 shots, then the warranty should perhaps be nearer the expectation of the minimum number of shots before failure.

    But I’ll play Devil’s Advocate. I’ll bet there’s a significant proportion of DSLR buyers who’ll take no more than a couple of thousand snaps a year. Even with an 80,000 shot warranty, that means a warranty lasting perhaps as long as 40 years. That’s not realistic!

    So a time limited warranty is, perhaps, fairer. How old is your camera? How long was the warranty?


    • My 5D is 3 years old, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at it. It’s in really good shape, I’ve taken care of it. That’s why it bothers me so much that it doesn’t work any more. The warranty was a piddly 1 year. 40 years is obviously too much. Cars may have 100,000 mile warranties, but they say 100,000 miles OR 10 years, whichever comes first. It should be the same for cameras. 5 years would be enough. Maybe 7 years for the top of the line DSLRs, the ones that cost $5000-$8,000.


      • I agree. At a minimum, you’d think 3 years. If the company had genuine confidence in its products, then 5 years should be an easy give away. Sorry your camera has let you down.

        Going to stick with Canon? I guess you get stuck with a brand once you’ve got a number of lenses with it, unless you’re willing to take a loss, sell them on eBay and start again.


        • The crappy thing is that I just bought a 7D and two more lenses, only to discover that it does terribly in low light. Somehow I didn’t catch that among the reviews I read before getting it. And I got it for two reasons: 1080p HD video and supposedly better low light performance than the 5D.

          I don’t know what I’m going to do at this point. I may just sell all my Canon equipment and start over with another brand, or I may pony up the $400 to repair the 5D, keep a couple of lenses, and sell the 7D and the rest of the lenses. I don’t know.

          I’m so disappointed with Canon.


        • I asked, because I do keep hearing some pretty negative things about Canon’s DSLRs. I know Thomas Hawk is pretty unimpressed with the dust removal system, amongst the many different complaints that seem to crop up.

          Reputation is everything. I have preferred brands, from experience, but I’m not the sort of person to stick by a name through thick and thin. I buy what I think is the best product within my budget that fits my needs that isn’t getting bad reviews from users. That would pretty much count Canon out if I were buying at the moment.

          I actually chose the Olympus Pen from reading reviews like yours, and feedback from users on flickr. Word of mouth is still the supreme marketing method in my opinion.


          • It’s one thing when you’re already a few thousand in the hole with lenses and other equipment that only work with a Canon. You’re kind of stuck, unless you’re willing and able to call it a loss and spend another few thousand (or more) on a different brand and the equipment for it.

            In my case, I spent a TON of time pricing out different brands before I got the 7D. I looked at Olympus (I love the PEN), at Panasonic’s new MFT cameras, at Sony, and Nikon and Fuji and Sigma and Pentax. Problem was, they all cost more to switch over than it would have cost me to just get the 7D and two more lenses.

            The PEN was first on my list to switch over to, until I had a questionable experience with Olympus PR (this was after I wrote my review of the E-P2). That experience soured me up so much I put the PEN all the way down my list. I’ll leave the details out, but let’s just say they didn’t handle things correctly.


Comments are closed.