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Understanding Shutter Mechanisms: Electronic Shutter vs. Mechanical Shutter

Updated: Dec 28, 2023


Electronic Shutter vs. Mechanical Shutter

In the world of photography, the shutter mechanism plays a crucial role in capturing a perfect shot. A camera's shutter controls the duration of light exposure on the sensor, thereby influencing the final image. Modern cameras, especially mirrorless cameras, offer the choice between a mechanical shutter and an electronic shutter. Some even provide a third option called the "electronic front curtain shutter" (EFCS), a blend of the other two types.


In this article, I will delve into the intricate world of shutter mechanisms, distinguishing the electronic shutter vs. mechanical shutter, discussing their pros and cons, and helping you make an informed decision about which one to use.


I am RayCee the Artist, a professional portrait photographer, event photographer, and wedding photographer, and if you would like to schedule a photoshoot with me, please contact me at raycee@rayceeartist.com!


Also, be sure to follow me on Instagram and YouTube!


Shutter Mechanisms: An Overview

 

What Is a Mechanical Shutter?

 

Electronic Shutter vs. Mechanical Shutter

A mechanical shutter operates using traditional front and rear curtain mechanisms, located in front of the sensor. These shutter curtains open and close to control light exposure, making it ideal for accurately capturing moving objects. The mechanical shutter is usually the default shutter mechanism in most cameras, providing a precise exposure time as no physical components are involved in blocking or allowing light to reach the sensor.

 

Pros of Mechanical Shutter

 

Reduced Rolling Shutter Distortion

Mechanical shutters effectively reduce the rolling shutter distortion that can occur when using a CMOS sensor to record fast movements.


Faster Flash Synchronization:

Mechanical shutters generally offer a quicker flash sync speed than electronic shutters.

 

Cons of Mechanical Shutter

 

Lower Maximum Shutter Speed

Due to their mechanical nature, the maximum speed is often slower than most electronic shutters.


Limited Life Span

The moving parts of a mechanical shutter are prone to wear and tear and can potentially fail.


Shutter Shock and Mirror Slap

These issues can cause minor camera shake, impacting the sharpness of the image.


Slower Response Time

The response time of mechanical shutters may be slower due to delays between pressing the shutter release button and capturing the photo.

 

What Is an Electronic Shutter?


Electronic Shutter vs. Mechanical Shutter

In contrast, an electronic shutter mode operates by turning the camera's sensor on and off to control the exposure. This mechanism is completely silent, faster, and reduces camera shake, making it ideal for situations requiring discretion or shooting with long exposure times.

 

Pros of Electronic Shutter

 

Operates Silently

As no physical parts are moving to control the exposure, electronic shutters operate silently.


Faster Frame Rate

Electronic shutters can operate faster due to the absence of mechanical parts.


Reduced Shakiness and Blurriness

The absence of mechanical movements reduces vibrations which can cause blurry photos in high-resolution cameras.


Faster Shutter Speed

Electronic shutters can offer much faster shutter speeds, which is beneficial for freezing fast action or capturing fleeting moments.

 

Cons of Electronic Shutter

 

Rolling Shutter Mechanisms

Electronic shutters are not ideal for shooting moving objects as they can cause rolling shutter effects.


Banding Issues

Electronic shutters can struggle with flickering light sources, often causing banding which is a challenging issue to rectify.


Lower Flash Synchronization Speeds

Flash sync speeds are often much lower in electronic shutters.

 

In-Depth Analysis: Electronic Shutter vs. Mechanical Shutter

 

Both electronic and mechanical shutters have their strengths and weaknesses, making each more suited to different types of photography.

 

When to Use an Electronic Shutter?


Electronic Shutter vs. Mechanical Shutter

 

The electronic shutter is ideal when you need the fastest continuous shooting speed or the fastest shutter speed. It's also the logical choice when you need to be quiet, as it can operate completely silently. However, if you're shooting under artificial lighting or using flash, then the mechanical shutter might support higher shutter speeds and avoid banding issues.

 

When to Use a Mechanical Shutter?


Electronic Shutter vs. Mechanical Shutter

Mechanical shutters are generally more suitable for situations where there's artificial light in the scene or when using a flash, as they can avoid rolling shutter issues. They are also beneficial when shooting fast moving objects as they can reduce rolling shutter distortion.

 

Hybrid Option: Electronic Front Curtain Shutter (EFCS)

 

The Electronic Front Curtain Shutter (EFCS) is a blend of the electronic and mechanical shutters. With EFCS, the mechanical shutter is initially fully open, and the exposure is started electronically, but it's ended by the mechanical shutter closing. This hybrid mode reduces noise and eliminates shutter shock, offering the benefits of both electronic and mechanical shutters.

 

Other Factors to Consider

 

Several other factors can influence the choice between an electronic shutter and a mechanical shutter. These include the fastest shutter speed, maximum frame rate, flash use, silent shooting, and other differences like shutter vibration, rolling shutter, sunstar flare, flickering in artificial light, and bokeh at fast shutter speeds.

 

Conclusion

 

The choice between an electronic shutter and a mechanical shutter ultimately depends on the specific photography situation. While the electronic shutter offers silent operation and faster shutter speeds, the mechanical shutter provides better performance under artificial light and with moving subjects. Understanding the nuances of both shutter types can help photographers make the most of their camera's capabilities, improving their photographic results in various scenarios.

 

Remember, the electronic shutter vs. mechanical shutter debate isn't about which one is universally better. Rather, it's about understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each type and using the right one at the right time. As camera technology continues to advance, the differences between mechanical and electronic shutters will likely become less pronounced, making this knowledge even more essential for photographers.


I am RayCee the Artist, a professional portrait photographer, event photographer, and wedding photographer, and if you would like to schedule a photoshoot with me, please contact me at raycee@rayceeartist.com!


Also, be sure to follow me on Instagram and YouTube!


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