Reading EXIF data to find out the number of shutter activations on a Nikon DSLR

This content is 14 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

A few years ago, I wrote about some digital photography utilities that I use on my Mac.  These days most of my post-processing is handled by Adobe Lightroom (which includes Adobe Camera Raw), with a bit of Photoshop CS4 (using plugins like Noise Ninja) for the high-end stuff but these tools still come in useful from time to time.  Unfortunately, Simple EXIF Viewer doesn’t work with Nikon raw images (.NEF files) and so it’s less useful to me than it once was.

Recently, I bought my wife a DSLR and, as I’m a Nikon user (I have a D700), it made sense that her body should fit my lenses so I picked up a Nikon refurbished D40 kit from London Camera Exchange.  Whilst the body looked new, I wanted to know how many times the shutter had been activated (DSLR shutter mechanisms have a limited life – about 50,000 for the D40) and the D40’s firmware won’t display this information – although it is captured in the EXIF data for each image.

After some googling, I found a link to Phil Harvey’s ExifTool, a platform independent library with a command line interface for accessing EXIF data in a variety of image formats. A few seconds later and I had run the exiftool -nikon dsc_0001.nef command (exiftool --? gives help) on a test image and it told me a perfectly respectable shutter count of 67.  For reference, I tried a similar command on some images from my late Father’s Canon EOS 1000D but shutter count was not one of the available metrics – even so the ExifTool provides a wealth of information from a variety of image formats.

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