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Do Digital Camera Hours Mean Much?


Max Field
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Maybe I don't shoot as much as everyone else, but every time I see $1000 off on a camera because it has 3,000 more hours than the others I immediately take it. Never had a problem as a result.
Do camera hours for solid state technology really mean anything for the first 20,000?

I hate when trying to buy an old camera and the guy is like "well this is low hours for a body this old so I can't lower price" and I'm just like "they're gonna stay low because no one's paying that much for it."

Some (most) owner/operators are idiots when it comes to sunk cost fallacy.

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I think they think of it as mileage in a car, when it can't quite compare. I've been watching the prices for Canon C200 and C300 Mark II cameras for years and strangely enough I see the C300 Mk II drop in price a lot with higher hours, yet the C200 remains only moderately discounted.

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Sensors do go bad, but they go bad whether they're being used or not, due to bombardment by cosmic rays. The same thing can happen to any small scale semiconductor. Usually it would not be anything you can't basically fix with dead pixel correction, which is intrinsic to black balance on some cameras.

For this reason, it is actually quite a bad idea to fly electronic cameras in high altitude aircraft.

Flash memory can wear out. It will also forget its contents in a decade or so of disuse, but that won't necessarily break it, just make it unreadable.

Batteries go bad. Lithium batteries go bad from the date of manufacture regardless of whether they're used or not.

Capacitors go bad in power supplies whether they're used or not, faster if they are.

But most of it? Metal corrosion will get it before much else does.

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29 minutes ago, Phil Rhodes said:

But most of it? Metal corrosion will get it before much else does.

Not sure if they're comparable, but I see tons of solid state consumer electronics from over 30 years ago still working like new with minimal maintenance. Digital cinema cameras are barely 20 years old, are we already seeing them dying due to "old age" as opposed to continued physical trauma?

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Ok I think the confusion is over solid state electronics vs imager. 

Think of an imager as a CPU rather than an integrated circuit. It's a very complex chip that heats up quite a bit and as a consequence, can die on its own due to the heat it creates. The first thing that happens is bad pixels. You'll find the automatic mapping software will stop working and you'll get A pixel that is locked at something that you don't want it to be. Then you'll get increased banding within the image, this is because the preamps get noisier. Finally, the worst thing that "can" happen, is an imager can actually shift colors. Where I haven't seen it personally, evidently it can happen. 

Canon rates their imagers (probably for warranty reasons) at X amount of exposures before the imager goes bad. I'm not sure cinema cameras are rated the same way. The Arri Alexa for instance, has plenty of cooling compared to a DLSR, so I'm not sure it would go bad nearly as quick. Where I personally haven't seen an Alexa's imager go bad, I have seen video footage of stuck pixels that can't be mapped out. So there are issues out there, but I don't know how much it coincides with the amount of hours. 

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1 hour ago, Tyler Purcell said:

Canon rates their imagers (probably for warranty reasons) at X amount of exposures before the imager goes bad. I'm not sure cinema cameras are rated the same way.

If you're talking about DSLRs this is relation to the mirror-assembly which is a mechanical part that wears out with use because it physically moves the mirror out of the way with every use - so in that case it makes sense to want a camera with less exposures as it will be quite literally less worn. I've not seen any rating of stills cameras that relate to the sensor/imager having a particular useful life span (but I could just be ignorant!).

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There are millions of pixels on a sensor .. APR can map them out till the cows come home.. the whole format is more likely to be redundant before the sensor fails ..   Ive had this happen with 4 expensive camera s so far ..   but a low hour camera implies it hasn't been used / knocked around and generally going to be in better condition all round..  and so will also sell at a premium .. bit like a car I guess.. modern engines can mostly do 200,000  + km if maintained .. but everything else will fall apart ..

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10 hours ago, Bertil Nilsson said:

If you're talking about DSLRs this is relation to the mirror-assembly which is a mechanical part that wears out with use because it physically moves the mirror out of the way with every use - so in that case it makes sense to want a camera with less exposures as it will be quite literally less worn. I've not seen any rating of stills cameras that relate to the sensor/imager having a particular useful life span (but I could just be ignorant!).

Na, its an imager issue. I have SLR's that use the same mirror assembly from the 60's that work fine. That has nothing to do with anything. 

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Bayer pattern sensors (or similar, basically any single chip) have color filter arrays made using dyes or pigments.  These dyes and pigments fade over time and with continued exposure to light, which is the purpose of the sensor in the first place.  

Exactly how much each color dye or pigment fades would depend on a lot of factors - the composition of the dye/pigment, what wavelengths pass through the filter stack, how much UV (studio vs outdoor environment), etc.  How quickly the CFA fades will almost surely vary from one sensor design to the next, and would seem to be very closely guarded information by sensor manufacturers. 

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9 minutes ago, Tyler Purcell said:

I have SLR's that use the same mirror assembly from the 60's that work fine. That has nothing to do with anything. 

You do have to consider that SLRs back then shoots film, so they generally have much less exposures on them due to the much higher per shot cost. I suppose most SLRs from back in the days don't have that many exposures on it, since even something like 5000 exposures would mean 140 rolls of 36 frame film, suppose very few shoots that many.

Whereas today digital means many DSLRs are going through way more, and they certainly do fail. There's even a website for people to check how many exposures a given model's shutter might last (shuttercheck.app). But I digress.

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I did read once that the mirror assemblies on some DLSR's was good for around 100,000 exposures. Which is loads if you use them for stills and for video the mirror stays open, so wear would be minimal

But I did read, it could be an issue on stop motion films - where 100 of thousands of stills are taken, wearing out the mirror assembly potentially could become possible on big animation projects/series. Aardman in the UK used EOS 1D's for a big chunk of time (Shaun the Sheep, Early Man, Wallace and Gromit), I wonder if they wore any out. 

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On 1/5/2020 at 7:12 PM, Tyler Purcell said:

Na, its an imager issue. I have SLR's that use the same mirror assembly from the 60's that work fine. That has nothing to do with anything. 

The fact that something dates back to the 60's does not mean it has been heavily used. Shooting 1 36 exp roll every week for 50 years adds up to around 100,000 shutter actuations, which is at the low end of what manufacturers rate their shutters for.

Canon’s shutter count ratings vary from model to model, as do most manufacturers. Their most expensive models have the highest ratings because they are built with higher quality mechanical components. It has nothing to do with the sensor.

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