There may come a time when you need information about your Nikon camera’s shutter actuations. When that time comes, you may be surprised to learn that locating this information is not a simple matter of looking in the Nikon camera menu. The camera menu houses plenty of other details about your Nikon, but you have to look elsewhere to learn how to check shutter count on a Nikon.

Because there are many ways to get this information, including a comprehensive list of all of them would be impractical. Instead, this tutorial will take a look at the quickest and easiest methods to find shutter count, whether you use a Windows operating system or a Mac. This how-to guide is not designed for Canon users, however.  

What Is Image EXIF Metadata?

Before going over the actual methods, it’s essential to understand what EXIF (Exchangeable Image File) data is.

Why? Because EXIF is where Nikon cameras store shutter actuation info, and it’s located in the image file of the photos that your camera has taken (which is why you can’t check shutter count in your camera’s menu). You may also hear EXIF, or “metadata” as it’s known, referred to as file headers. (As a note, Canon also stores this data the same way.)

Aside from including information about shutter actuation, EXIF data also includes details about each image’s exposure, such as date, shutter speed, aperture, and ISO.

The data contained in the file headers is not data that we typically need to access, and for that reason, it’s hidden. The problem arises when you do need that data for some reason since you need software to reveal what the EXIF data says. Luckily, there are ways of getting the EXIF data to show its count check secrets.

nikon camera

Before Checking Nikon Shutter Count

As you may have guessed by now, you’ll need to take an image to check your Nikon’s shutter count. Here are some things to remember to make the process as smooth as possible.

The first and most critical thing is only to use an unedited image that comes straight from your Nikon. Don’t tinker with it in Lightroom, as using image-processing programs can strip the EXIF data that you need.

Next, make sure you are using either a JPG or NEF image file to check the shutter count. JPG is best for Windows, but NEF should work in either situation, too.

And lastly, the best way to go about this process is by reading the file directly from your camera’s memory card. You can do this by using a card reader or connecting your Nikon to your computer with a USB cord. Copying the image to your hard drive sometimes works, but the first two options are the most effective for pulling EXIF data.

How to Check Nikon Shutter Count

Now that you know how to make the process as smooth as possible, let’s jump into the easiest methods to find shutter count on both a Mac and Windows computer. Keep in mind that these methods are for EXIF data on a Nikon; they may look different for Canon DSLR cameras.

Mac

The process on a Mac is quite straightforward, as you can use the Preview app, which is built into the Mac operating system.

To do so, pull up Preview and open the image (either NEF or JPG). Press CMD+I and a General Info screen will appear. On this screen, you’ll see a small “i” button in a dark circle. Click on that button.

Next, you should see a “Nikon” tab. Opening that tab is where you’ll find the EXIF data you’re looking for. Among other data like flash setting, focus mode, and shooting mode, you will see “Shutter Count.” The number next to the shutter count is the number of shutter actuations.

Pretty easy, right?

Windows

Now let’s take a look at how to find shutter actuations in Windows. Unlike Mac, Windows doesn’t have any built-in apps that you can open to read EXIF data. Your remaining options are to download a program or use an online service.

Since many downloadable programs cost money (and have the added inconvenience of taking space on your hard drive), an online option is probably your best bet. There are plenty of free ones you can Google. All you have to do is upload the image to the service’s web browser, and voila—they read the EXIF data in the image and give you information about shutter count.

Keep in mind that not all of these programs are created equal. Some restrict the maximum file size, and some don’t work with NEF files, but for the most part, they get the job done.

Why You Can’t Find EXIF Data in Lightroom

You might be wondering why Lightroom hasn’t been mentioned as an option for checking camera shutter count. Lightroom is unable to read the maker notes section where shutter actuation information is stored, so trying to read EXIF data in Lightroom is pointless.  

camera and laptop on table

Checking Shutter Count with Apps

We mentioned that there are programs that can help you open shutter count data. Here are a few of the best options:

ExifTool: ExifTool is a free program with a lot of functionalities aside from reading EXIF data. It’s a bit much for most people, as you will most likely need to configure it and have some knowledge of command-line tools. But if you have the know-how, it’s a powerful tool.

Opanda IExif Viewer: Opanda IExif Viewer is a free EXIF viewer for Windows. It’s also available in a paid version that allows you to edit capabilities for EXIF.

PhotoMechanic: Purchasing PhotoMechanic for the sole purpose of finding shutter actuation is a bit overkill, as it’s quite expensive. But if you already have the program, this feature is one of many things it can do. When looking at an individual image, you can find shutter actuation information in the Info Panel under “Frame Number.”

Why Are the Number of Shutter Actuations Important?

In most cases, there is no need for Nikon users to think about EXIF data or know the number of shutter actuations on their cameras. But sometimes this information is essential, usually when buying or selling cameras.

Think of it this way: you wouldn’t buy a used car without looking at the mileage, right? And the car’s mileage significantly influences how much you pay for it. Well, we can compare the number of shutter actuations on a camera to car mileage. Shutter count gives you an idea of how much the camera has been used and how much more use you might expect from it.

DSLR cameras with a lower shutter count typically have higher resale value, as the overall condition of the camera is generally better.

What Is Considered “Good” Shutter Count?

When purchasing used cameras, a good rule of thumb is to buy one with the lowest number of shutter actuations possible. If the shutter count is over fifty percent of the rated shutter life, you can probably get a steep discount, but camera life will likely suffer.

nikon camera

Why Isn’t the Actuation Count of New Cameras Zero?

While it may seem like the number of images on new cameras should be zero, this often isn’t the case. EXIF data for new Nikon and Canon cameras typically reveals a low number—not zero—as they receive final quality checks requiring some shutter releases.

How Can I Get a Better Shutter Life?

Whether you have a Nikon or a Canon, you can take steps to extend your shutter life. Dust and dirt are the enemies to a properly functioning camera and your shutter life, so you should only change lenses in clean environments with little to no wind.

How Many Shutter Actuations Does the Average Camera Get?

It’s hard to give an exact number, but most digital DSLR cameras (including Canon and Nikon) will probably get you between 50,000 to 150,000 shutter actuations.

If you have a pro DSLR, expect a much higher number. Given how much you’re paying for this type of camera and probably using it daily, pro DSLRs should last for much longer than the average camera.