The answer to today’s question is the same as it is for most things… It depends!
If you need super fast frame rates, modern cameras from companies like Olympus can shoot at up to 60 frames per second in electronic shutter mode, so in that case, electronic shutter is probably appropriate.
If you need to photograph super fast motion, like airplanes flying by or animals or birds on the move, then you may want to stick with mechanical shutter. Electronic shutter doesn’t always work well with moving objects because of a concept called “rolling shutter.”
Airplane props may appear to bend because of rolling shutter and fast motion video can be jerky because of rolling shutter. So in these cases, mechanical shutter is probably the best choice.
Let’s break down some of the differences between a mechanical shutter and an electronic shutter.
The mechanical shutter blocks light from reaching the camera sensor and moves aside when you open it by pressing the shutter button.
There are several kinds of mechanical shutter (leaf shutter, focal plane shutter, etc.) but they all have pretty much the same job. They rely on moving parts to block or expose the sensor. All shutters are one third of the exposure triangle (shutter speed, ISO and aperture) and their job is to let in light to make an exposure. How much light is determined by how long the mechanical shutter stays open. On many cameras, the mechanical shutter covers the sensor, then opens up again to start the exposure, before shutting it a short time later. This latter part is called “re-cocking” for the next shot.
The electronic shutter doesn’t have any moving parts. As with the Mechanical shutter, electronic shutters have a job that involves letting in light to make an exposure. But in this case, the shutter works by turning on and off the actual sensor. There are a couple of advantages to this because it allows for discreet photography. The KERPLUNK of a mechanical shutter may scare birds or animals or even humans. Electronic shutters make no sound (unless your camera is set up to mimic the shutter sound in order to satisfy that it really did open and close.)
Mechanical shutters allow modern tracking autofocus between each exposure. In other words, if you are using a mechanical shutter set to 10FPS, it will adjust focus between each of the 10 frames that are delivered in each second. Most electronic shutters simply set the focus point to the place where it was the first time the shutter worked. If you have set an electronic shutter to 30FPS, then only the first shot will be used to determine autofocus. If your object is moving out of that first plane of focus, then not all of the shots made during the 30FPS recording will be in focus.
Electronic shutters make it easy to hand-hold shots since there are no moving parts it reduces camera shake, which causes blurry images.
They can deliver crazy fast shutter speeds that mechanical shutters just cannot touch.
On the down side, some electronic shutters are susceptible to flickering in artificial light.
Mechanical shutters are noisy, vibrate causing image softness and have a maximum shutter speed of 1/8000.
The best way to decide which shutter is right for you is to start by reading and studying your camera manual. Become familiar with all the features it has using both types of shutters. Then decide what you want to photograph. In some cases, you’ll pick electronic and others mechanical. Practice with both in a variety of settings and then figure out which is best for you.
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