Electronic versus Mechanical Shutter


Today’s Question: I understand that using the electronic shutter on mirrorless cameras can extend the life of the mechanical shutter. But one of the problems with the electronic shutter is that for moving objects, they are likely to be distorted, which won’t happen when using the mechanical shutter. For static images where nothing is moving, is there any reason not to prefer the electronic shutter over the mechanical shutter?

Tim’s Quick Answer: In addition to using the mechanical shutter rather than the electronic shutter when photographing a moving subject, you may want to use the mechanical shutter when photographing under artificial light to avoid potential banding in the photo.

More Detail: Many mirrorless cameras include both an electronic and mechanical shutter, enabling you to choose which shutter is used at any time.

The electronic shutter provides the advantage of being completely silent, and in many cases also enables you to use faster shutter speeds than would be possible with the mechanical shutter. Favoring the electronic shutter can also help extend the life of the mechanical shutter mechanism.

However, because most cameras use a rolling sensor, where data is read line by line rather than all at once, using the electronic shutter when there is movement in the frame can lead to distortion. For example, you may have seen photos where the propeller blades of an airplane appear to be bent because of a rolling shutter. In addition, with some types of artificial lighting you can get a banded appearance in the photo due to flickering of the light that is not necessarily visible to the naked eye.

For situations where there is little or no motion in the frame, the electronic shutter will generally be best. Of course, at times you may need to use the electronic shutter to achieve a faster shutter speed than is possible with the mechanical shutter. In other cases you may choose to use the electronic shutter in order to allow for silent photography, even if there is a risk of some distortion.

If you’ll be photographing under artificial lighting you may want to opt for the mechanical shutter to ensure you don’t get banding in the photos or be sure to carefully check a test photo first to confirm that the lighting in question won’t result in this issue.