do mirrorless cameras have a shutter 9613

Do Mirrorless Cameras Have a Shutter?

Mirrorless cameras have revolutionized photography with their compact size, advanced features, and versatile capabilities. Yet, despite their innovative design, many photographers still wonder about one fundamental aspect: do these modern marvels possess a shutter mechanism?

This comprehensive guide will delve into the intricate world of mirrorless cameras’ shutters, exploring their unique characteristics and how they compare to their DSLR counterparts.

The Evolution of Camera Shutters

Before diving deeper into mirrorless technology, let us briefly review the evolution of camera shutters. Traditional film cameras utilized focal plane shutters, which were composed of two curtains (the first and second) that opened and closed simultaneously across the image plane.

These shutters allowed photographers to adjust exposure settings by varying the length of time between when the first curtain opens and the second closes.

During the transition to digital imagery, single-lens reflex (SLR) cameras emerged as an alternative solution. SLRs employ a secondary mirror to reflect the incoming light onto the optical viewfinder while keeping the primary mirror out of sight.

To capture images, the secondary mirror would flip upwards, revealing the primary mirror, which then redirected the light to the image sensor. As a result, SLR cameras required a faster shutter speed than their predecessors due to the need to synchronize flash units with the movement of the secondary mirror.

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Enter the Mirrorless Era

In contrast to SLRs, mirrorless cameras eliminated the secondary mirror, replacing it with an electronic viewfinder (EVF). By doing so, manufacturers could create smaller, lighter devices with improved autofocus performance and lower power consumption.

Despite their differences, however, mirrorless cameras retained the essential function of capturing light via a shutter mechanism.

Types of Shutters in Mirrorless Cameras

Electronic Shutter

Electronic shutters utilize the camera’s internal circuitry to manage exposure time instead of relying on physical components such as curtains. They allow for near-silent operation, making them ideal for events like concerts, weddings, and wildlife photography.

Additionally, electronic shutters enable high-speed continuous shooting, often exceeding the limits imposed by mechanical shutters.

However, there are some drawbacks associated with electronic shutters. For instance, they cannot be used with external flashes during bright daylight conditions because the flash pulse occurs before the entire sensor has been exposed.

Furthermore, electronic shutters introduce rolling shutter distortion, causing vertical lines to appear skewed when shooting rapidly moving subjects.

Mechanical Shutter

Mechanical shutters operate much like their counterparts in SLR cameras, employing curtains to open and close over the image sensor. While they produce audible noise during operation, mechanical shutters provide consistent results regardless of ambient light levels and eliminate rolling shutter artifacts.

Moreover, they remain compatible with external flashes, enabling photographers to take advantage of studio lighting setups.

Despite their benefits, mechanical shutters impose limitations on maximum frame rate and continuous shooting capacity compared to electronic shutters.

Additionally, each actuation contributes to the total number of shutter cycles, potentially reducing the camera’s longevity.

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Hybrid Shutters in Some Advanced Models

Some advanced mirrorless cameras incorporate hybrid shutters, combining elements of both mechanical and electronic designs.

By doing so, manufacturers aim to address the limitations associated with either technology while still taking advantage of their respective strengths. For instance, Fujifilm’s GFX 100 utilizes a focal plane shutter alongside an electronic front curtain shutter, providing the best of both worlds.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Each Type

Here are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Electronics and Mechanical Shutters.

Advantages of Mechanical Shutters

  • Compatibility with external flashes and other accessories
  • Reliable performance even in extreme conditions
  • Proven track record of durability

Disadvantages of Mechanical Shutters

  • Produce noise during operation
  • Limited maximum frame rate due to mechanical limitations
  • Potential for vibrations affecting sharpness

Advantages of Electronic Shutters

  • Silent operation is ideal for wildlife photography and video recording
  • Higher maximum frame rates than mechanical shutters
  • Reduced wear and tear on the camera body

Disadvantages of Electronic Shutters

  • Not compatible with all types of flash units
  • May introduce rolling shutter distortion in fast-moving subjects
  • Sensor readout may cause a slight delay between shots
FeatureElectronic ShutterMechanical Shutter
High Frame RateYesLimited
Compatibility with FlashLimitedYes
Rolling Shutter DistortionPresentAbsent
LongevityNot AffectedReduced

Real-Life Examples

To better understand the differences between mechanical and electronic shutters, let’s consider some popular mirrorless models:

ModelPrimary Shutter TypeMax Frame Rate (fps)
Sony A7 IIIHybrid (mech + elec.)10
Fujifilm X-H1Electronic18
Olympus OM-D E-M1 IIHybrid (mech + elec.)60 (elec.), 15 (mech.)

As shown in the table, hybrid systems allow users to choose between mechanical and electronic shutters based on specific needs.

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For instance, the Sony A7 III offers a balance between high-speed shooting and compatibility with external flashes, while the Fujifilm X-H1 prioritizes higher frame rates for sports and action photography.

Balancing Act: Choosing Between Shutter Modes

Photographers must consider various factors when deciding whether to prioritize the benefits of electronic or mechanical shutters. Here are several scenarios where one type might prove more beneficial than the other:

  • Silent Operation: Events requiring minimal disruption, such as concerts, conferences, and wildlife photography, favor electronic shutters.
  • High Speed Continuous Shooting: Sports and action photography demand rapid bursts of frames, making electronic shutters indispensable.
  • External Flash Synchronization: Studio shoots necessitate compatibility with external flashes, calling for mechanical shutters.
  • Rolling Shutter Artifact Avoidance: Photography involving static scenes or slow-moving objects benefits from mechanical shutters.
  • Camera Durability: Longer-term usage requires considering the impact of shutter cycles on the camera’s longevity.

By understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each shutter mode, photographers can make informed decisions based on their specific requirements.


As we continue to explore the realm of mirrorless cameras, it becomes increasingly evident that these devices embody the spirit of innovation while retaining core functionalities from their forebears.

With the availability of both electronic and mechanical shutters, photographers enjoy greater flexibility and adaptability in their workflows. Whether seeking silence, speed, or stability, mirrorless cameras cater to diverse preferences and demands within the industry.

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