Under the right conditions, your camera lenses should last longer than the life of your camera body. However, this depends on storing your lenses correctly and avoiding damage. The initial build quality can also impact how long they last.
I’m Caleb, and I have more than five years of experience as a photographer. Most of my experience comes as a sports photographer, and I’ve covered a variety of teams and leagues from the college to semi-pro levels.
In this article, I’ll talk about how long you should expect a camera lens to last and what you can do to keep them in good condition. If you want to get the longest life out of your lenses, keep reading to find out the biggest pitfalls to avoid.
How Long Does a Camera Lens Last
Your camera lens should last longer than the life of the body. The latter is usually defined by a ‘shutter count,’ telling you how many uses you’re expected to get out of the shutter before it wears down.
The number is usually between 150,000 and 300,000 pictures. So, as you can tell from these numbers, a camera body doesn’t wear out too quickly. If you take care of your lenses properly, they’ll easily last longer than the body itself.
This depends on several factors, however. If you make certain mistakes, like storing your lenses wrong, you might encounter problems within a year or two.
There’s a significant incentive to take care of your lenses properly. Not only is a damaged lens an expensive mistake in the short term, but it also heavily cuts into the long-term resale value of your lens.
What Determines The Life of Your Lens
These are some of the top things you should keep in mind when considering the longevity of a lens.
Storing your lenses correctly is the most crucial aspect of protecting them. Humidity is the enemy of camera lenses, as it can lead to moisture developing inside them. This moisture turns to fungus, which damages internal components.
If you don’t live in an incredibly humid area, you probably don’t need special equipment to prevent this. Just make sure to store your camera in a dry place, preferably at an even temperature. Keeping your camera in an area that’s too hot is also damaging.
When humidity is more of a problem for your area, you can use tricks like storing your camera in a bag with moisture-absorbing packets. These will dry out the air in the bag, keeping moisture and fungus from forming in your camera.
If you want to go a step further and have peace of mind even in very humid conditions, you can invest in a dehumidifier or an electronic dry cabinet. The latter is a sealed container that, when plugged in, maintains dry conditions on the inside.
How you use a lens also impacts how long it will stay in good condition. Obviously, the main thing to avoid here is physical damage. It shouldn’t have to be said, but your lens will last longer if you avoid drops and collisions with other objects.
You should also consider the surrounding conditions. If you’re frequently shooting in extreme heat or cold, you may put more wear on the lens compared to shooting in temperate surroundings.
Also, take note of whether your lens is weather sealed. If it isn’t, you should avoid conditions like rain, dust, and excessive humidity, as these can affect the internal components.
The initial quality also affects how long your lens lasts in the long run. While build quality isn’t as much of an issue when dealing with the largest and most recognizable brands, such as Canon, Nikon, and Sony, it can play a more prominent role in the life of third-party manufacturers.
Not every lens manufacturer puts the same amount of care and testing into making a long-lasting product. While cheaper manufacturers can give you a great deal at times, you should research and ensure you’re getting a lens that will last.
Also, some companies produce lenses at different price points, targeted at different types of users. The cheaper line of lenses will often use more affordable parts to keep the price low and, therefore, won’t last as long as a more expensive but durable model.
How to Tell Your Lens is Worn Out?
These are some signs you should watch out for. If you experience any of these things, there’s a chance that your lens is getting worn out from use or improper storage and maintenance.
Damage to the casing or the glass is an obvious sign that your lens is getting worn out over use. Luckily, this one is the easiest to avoid, as careful use can keep you from getting this problem at all.
Scratches on the glass are bad for obvious reasons, as they can hurt your lens’ image quality. Damage to the casing can be less obvious but still create problems.
After all, the casing is home to all the mechanical components that control features like autofocus. If you’ve had a drop in performance, you may want to check if there’s damage here.
Dark spots in your photos can come from dust getting into the camera sensor, but it can also happen because of dust in the lens. This occurs more frequently with lenses not sealed against dust and the elements.
If you’re noticing dark spots in your pictures, and you’re sure it’s not from dust on the camera sensor, it might be time to take your lens in for professional cleaning and maintenance.
It’s also possible to do this yourself if you’re savvy enough with hardware. However, you’ll need special tools to take apart the lens and access the inside, and the process is very delicate. Unless you have full certainty in your ability, leaving it to the professionals is best.
For modern lenses that utilize autofocus, the electronic components are the most significant point of failure. Even if you keep the lens casing and glass in peak condition, the electronics may degrade in performance or fail on their own due to age.
The biggest sign of this is when your lens won’t focus where you want. If you do run into this problem, it’s not the end of the world. A repair shop can fix many potential problems with electronic parts, but the repair cost can vary depending on the circumstances.
Parts availability can play a significant role in the cost of the repair. With newer lenses, access to repair parts is fairly accessible. On the other hand, some older lenses have been discontinued, making it harder to get these parts.
Here are some of the frequently asked questions about the life of camera lenses.
Do Camera Lenses Go Bad?
Camera lenses don’t have a fixed expiration date. You can often keep using a lens for more than a decade without problems. However, lenses can wear out if stored or frequently used in harsh conditions, and electronic parts may fail over time.
Can a DSLR Last For 10 Years?
Yes, a DSLR camera can absolutely last for ten years. This depends, however, on storing the camera in ideal conditions, avoiding problems like dust and humidity.
How Do I Know If My Camera Lens Is Bad?
Your lens might have problems if you notice dark spots or other errors in your pictures or if mechanical functions like autofocus stop working properly.
In short, a camera lens should ideally last as long as a camera body or even longer. If you store your lenses properly and avoid using them in extreme conditions, you can easily keep using the same lens for more than a decade.
What’s the oldest lens in your collection? Let us know in the comments!