The number of failed shutters being reported on the Sony a7 III and a7R III Facebook groups has raised a few eyebrows over the last couple of months. Are the latest Sony cameras more susceptible to mechanical failures or is it simply the case that lots of people are suddenly reporting it?
At some point, every camera shutter will fail as parts give way. With a burst rate of ten frames per second using its mechanical shutter, the a7 III/a7R III offers a lot of speed, and critics will no doubt question if the aggressive pricing means that corners have been cut, compromising the build quality.
The frequency with which new instances have appeared in one Sony Facebook group over the last couple of months has led to the creation of a group dedicated to discussing the phenomenon and trying to find out whether users have reason to be concerned. It may be that a statistically normal number of users have reported shutter failures but they stand out thanks to a fear of it happening that is then exacerbated by Facebook algorithms. It’s not clear whether research will establish a higher failure rate across all Sony cameras compared to other manufacturers and the results will almost certainly remain unclear. Some have speculated that it might only be a batch of cameras with specific serial numbers that are affected.
For some users, the failure is quite dramatic with the shutter suddenly failing to clear, hanging in front of the sensor and partly obscuring all images.
For others, the failure is more subtle, with users realizing that their images have strange banding that appears only when using the mechanical shutter. This is a result of the rear curtain failing to clear properly. If you see this stripe appearing in your images, my advice is to shoot entirely in silent mode until you can get your camera repaired. At least this way you can use your gear and avoid the shutter failing completely, obscuring the sensor, and rending the camera useless.
If you've experienced problems with the shutter on a Sony a7 III or a7R III, you can join this Facebook group set up by photographer Ivan Buštor. If you need to check your camera, the rear curtain banding is more pronounced when shooting at a faster shutter speed. Unfortunately for Buštor, he noticed the problem just before his warranty expired but wasn't able to diagnose and report it to Sony in time. He's hoping that Sony will acknowledge from the raw files that the failure happened before the camera was no longer covered. His a7 III has performed just over 20,000 actuations.
Users are hoping that Sony will issue a statement, either to confirm the existence of a problem or to allay fears. Nikon users may recall problems affecting the D750 a few years ago, leading to the manufacturer issuing a recall for a range of serial numbers and offering a free repair. Of the Sony users reporting problems so far, many have found that their cameras are a few months out of warranty, leading to repair bills of around $400. Anyone wishing to have a go at repairing their camera themselves can pick up a replacement shutter on eBay for a mere $87.
If you've any experience of a failed shutter or any knowledge on whether this is a genuine problem with Sony cameras, please leave a comment below.