Electronic or Mechanical – The Latest on Shutters

If you own a recent camera, particularly a mirrorless camera, one of the features you likely have access to is a choice of shutter modes.

In the good old days, the shutter, which is the mechanism in your camera that lets the light in your scene into the camera and onto the film plane or the sensor plane, was mechanical. Originally, it was something as simple as a rotating wheel with a hole cut into it. Mechanical means moving parts.

Shutters until recently were still all mechanical. But we recently were treated to the first professional camera with no mechanical shutter at all. In fact, today, you may not have any mechanical parts in your camera body at all. We’ve come a long way.

So if not mechanical, what? Electronic. Of course. Just as everything else in the world has moved from analogue/mechanical to electronic, so to have the mechanisms that control cameras. Virtually all controls in mid-to-higher-range mirrorless camera bodies are electronic. But the technology is not perfect and so most cameras also still include a mechanical shutter and give you the choice of selecting one or the other, or even a combination of both.

My latest camera, the Canon EOS R5 includes both. I’ve never tried the electronic shutter. Thought it was about time that I did. But first, in my usual geeky fashion, I had to learn when and why to use it. Here’s what I found out.

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