How an “Err” Message on my Nikon DSLR Meant a Broken Shutter

Err message
Broken shutter blade after ignoring the “Err” message.

Did you get an “Err” message on your Nikon DSLR? It happened to my D7000, I’ll explain what it means and its cost to repair it at the Nikon Service Center.

Earlier this month I was taking pictures at the US Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach. On day six, after shooting several hundred photos by 1pm I took a short break. When I resumed a few minutes later and pressed the shutter to take a photo, my Nikon D7000 made what sounded like an odd noise.

DSLR cameras have a unique sound when the shutter is released. First it’s the mirror moving up, then it’s the shutter blades opening and closing, followed by the mirror coming down again. All this happens instantaneously.

This time however, I could tell that the only movement was the mirror moving up and locking.

The screen on the top of the camera read “Err” and kept blinking. I was puzzled, it was the first time this had ever happened.

My camera had a little over 30K actuation’s, so I didn’t think the shutter was the issue, it’s designed to last on average over 100K actuation’s (photos taken). (Read here how you can view your camera’s shutter count)

What NOT to do when you get the “Err” message

So what did I do? I proceeded to turn on and off the camera, that didn’t help. I then changed lenses and removed the batteries, still no change. The mirror lockup function to clean the sensor was not an option on the menu, it would not allow me to do it.

Finally, I headed back to my car. Back in the car I decided to turn on and off the camera again, this time I noticed that the “Err” message disappeared. “Yeah” I screamed in my head and thought to myself “I’ll try to take a picture and see if it’s all ok”. This was the worst decision I made that day.

When I pushed the trigger, I heard a terrible noise. It was a combination of the shutter sound along with paper crumbling, but VERY loud. I knew then what had happened.

As I removed the lens, (mirror was in the up position) one of the shutter blades was completely bent. See picture above.

The Nikon manuals state that when you get an “Err” message it needs to be sent in for repair. It seems that when the shutter gets misalinged or stuck in some way, the camera is programmed to stop working and give that “Err” message. It will lock the mirror up and “freeze” the shutter to prevent further damage.

I know that others have been able to remove the lens and clean the “contacts”, giving the impression that they are not communicating well with the camera. However, I don’t believe this is the issue and according to the Nikon repair person it’s tied to the shutter, not the lens.



In my case, the shutter got damaged because during my walk back to my car as the camera hung on my strap and bounced against my body, it “un-froze” the shutter and allowed me to take an additional picture. But due to the misaligned shutter blade that caused the “Err” message, by triggering it to move by taking a picture, it didn’t close properly. Thus hitting part of the internal mechanism and bending the blade, making the repair more costly.

Luckily I live within driving distance from the El Segundo Nikon Repair Center and took it in the following week. By the time I got home from dropping off the camera at Nikon, I had already been emailed an estimate for the repair. (My camera was past it’s warranty period.)

This was it.

Nikon Repair Cost

B2 Service Repair Rank B2   –  $224
Shutter Blades Broken
Replace Shutter Mechanism

I figured it would be around that amount, so I wasn’t too shocked. Nikon usually categorizes repairs in groups called B1, B2, etc. With general prices for each based on camera and degree of repair. After approving the estimate and paying for it online, I was notified about 5 days later that it was fixed and ready for pickup.

The service person said that if I had not clicked the shutter and bent the blade, the cost to fix the regular “Err” message would have been less than my “Rank B2” repair. They didn’t say how much, but I’m assuming at least $100 less.

Moral of the story? If you get an “Err” message on any DSLR camera, don’t mess around with it, take it to the service center, otherwise it may end up costing you a lot more money.

I was wrong earlier to assume it was not connected to the shutter simply because my camera had about 30K actuation’s. Shutter’s generally last more than that, but it is not guaranteed. Lots of factors can contribute to an early death of your shutter.

Finally, the cost issue. If your shutter is dead or you get the “Err” message, the cost will vary depending on your camera model. For lower end models, I’m assuming it will be less than what I paid. For higher end models I’m sure it will cost more. Best thing to do is send it in to Nikon for the free estimate. For repairs in NIKON USA go here.

Have you had the “Err” message? What happened? What was the outcome? I’m curious to hear other’s experience with this issue. Leave a comment below. Thanks!

5 thoughts on “How an “Err” Message on my Nikon DSLR Meant a Broken Shutter

  • avatar
    August 15, 2012 at 11:55 am
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    I had the same thing happen on my D90 a few months ago. But my blade didn’t bend like yours. It was just stuck in the half way point, exposing the sensor in the back. I never checked how old the shutter was, this was a used camera so I had to pay for the repairs myself. I paid $190, but it was at a local camera shop where I purchased it. Never thought about sending it in to Nikon. So far so good, hope I never go through it again.

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  • avatar
    August 15, 2012 at 12:00 pm
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    Camera shutter blades generally last a long time. Most people assume that they last at what they are rated, for example the mid level camera’s state the shutters are rated over 100K. But this is only an average and are not guaranteed by Nikon or any other manufacturer that I know. This is why the warranty is only for one year of purchase, whether you use it alot or hardly at all.

    It’s been my experience that most shutters have a long life span, but on occasion one may go a little earlier than expected and there’s nothing that can be done about it.Sucks.

    Reply
  • avatar
    August 23, 2012 at 12:47 pm
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    Strange enough, the shutter broke on my Nikon D800 too. Didn’t look as bad as yours, but still not good. My fault though, I dropped the camera earlier in the day. It worked fine for about an additional 20 photos or so, then clunk. Heard the noise and I knew what it was.

    I’ll be sending it in to Nikon, still under warranty so I’m sure they will fix it for free. I’ve only had the camera for about 2 months or so, although I’ve taken lots of pictures, I know it was the drop that did it. Glad it happened during my warranty period! 🙂

    Reply
  • avatar
    October 16, 2012 at 8:44 pm
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    Temporary crude solution: I had the same problem while on assignment in Kalimantan. The first shutter blade bent out exactly as your image shows and the screen gave the Err reading. Not shooting was not an option, so I was prepared to be … experimental.

    I simply pulled out the broken piece.

    The Err message disappeared and I was able to shoot at shutter speeds less than 800. At high speeds the mirror would catch and the shutter action would be suspended. Turning off and on the camera would complete the action. This patch-job lasted for 10 days before a black blur appeared in the top left corner of every second image. Again, this was manageable in the field. Now am back in a city and looking for a service centre! 🙂

    Reply
  • avatar
    January 21, 2013 at 3:38 am
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    I had the same experience with brand new Nikon D600. Broken shutter blades. I brought it to Nikon service center, luckily the camera still have a warranty. So they replace the new shutter for free. is this problem common in Nikon cameras?

    Reply

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