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Camera-breaking Sony A7 III shutters result in class action lawsuit against Sony

Camera-breaking Sony A7 III shutters result in class action lawsuit against Sony
(Image credit: United States District Court for the Southern District of New York)

Sony is being sued on behalf "all citizens of New York who purchased the A7 III" due to a consistent shutter failure issue that breaks the camera, according to a class action lawsuit.

The suit claims that the shutter on the Sony A7 III often fails between 10,000 and 50,000 actuations, falling far below the stated life expectancy of 200,000 actuations. The suit further alleges that the failure often occurs outside the 1-year warranty period, forcing consumers to pay $500-$650 for repairs. 

 Read more: Best Sony cameras

Plaintiff John Guerriero filed the suit against Sony Electronics Inc. with the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, on 26 March 2021, with the class consisting of all New Yorkers who purchased the Sony A7 III (hat tip to DIY Photography, by way of Photo Rumors).

The suit "seeks class-wide injunctive relief based on Rule 23(b) in addition to a monetary relief class."

The specifics of the complaint can be found below, but in short the shutter blades are described as coming detached – apparently because they catch on the camera chassis during the picture-taking process, because they are positioned too far forward. The limited strength and durability of the shutter has also been highlighted.

The suit alleges that Sony has been aware of the issue since 2017, and cites the Change.org petition We want Sony A7III to be recalled for Shutter replacement with over 1,200 signatures as evidence of the widespread nature of the problem. 

These kinds of court proceedings tend to move slowly, but it will be interesting to see how this one progresses… 

Photos from Sony A7 III users who have suffered the shutter failure, as cited by the lawsuit (Image credit: United States District Court for the Southern District of New York)

"Guerriero v. Sony Electronics Inc., 7:21-cv-02618, No. 1 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 26, 2021)

II. The a7iii’s Shutter Problem

16. The shutter life expectancy on the a7iii is 200,000 actuations.

17. However, numerous users report shutter failures far below 200,000 but between 10,000 and 50,000 for most of the users who experienced this.5

18. While the a7iii is generally sold with a one-year warranty, shutter failure occurs randomly, often outside of the warranty period.

19. The result is that purchasers must pay approximately $500-$650 for repair and replacement of the shutter mechanism.

20. The shutter failure manifests in a consistent way.

21. Prior to shutter failure, users report hearing an atypical shutter sound, followed by the screen turning black and displaying the following message: “Camera Error. Turn off then on.”

22. However, following these instructions often will not solve the problem.

23. Users who experience the shutter failure have resorted to removing and reinserting the camera’s battery, but this is also ineffective.

24. When a user removes the lens, the shutter is closed and stuck.

25. In most instances, the shutter has become detached, as shown through the numerous a7iii users who shared pictures of their broken shutters on the internet.

26. Several explanations have been advanced for why the a7iii shutters fail relatively frequently and before the expected number of actuations.

27. These include the observation that the shutter blade catches on the front edge as it moves down in taking a picture.

28. This is because the blades are positioned farther forward, so they “catch” and fail to fully clear.

29. Moreover, the front curtain shutter material is of limited strength, causing it to break.

30. Additionally, the shutter is unusually susceptible to disruption by small particles, even dust, which can cause the blades out of alignment. from

31. Many users, out of caution, have resorted to using the camera with the electronic front curtain shutter (“EFCS”) off, which may decrease the chance of a shutter malfunction.

32. When the EFCS is on, it “shortens the time lag between shutter releases and helps reduce shutter noise when taking pictures.”6

33. However, the EFCS is one of the main reasons for purchasing the a7iii and having to refrain from using it diminishes the camera’s utility and value.

34. For users whose shutters do not fail completely, they nonetheless experience abnormal banding that is evident only when using the mechanical shutter.

35. The cause is the failure of the rear curtain to clear properly.

36. Though users and do-it-yourself repair enthusiasts have offered ways to unbind the shutter, these can cause damage to the shutter.

37. Additionally, the problem is likely to reoccur, and the user will have any warranty claim denied for having caused “physical damage” in attempting to fix the shutter failure.

38. In fact, Sony has denied warranty coverage to numerous a7iii users on these grounds. 39. Sony has also denied coverage to those who experienced shutter failure when their claims were submitted outside of the limited warranty period.

40. Sony has been aware of the shutter failure on the a7iii since shortly after its release

41. Sony is aware of the percentage of this model which experience premature shutter failure but has declined to act such as issuing a recall or covering the faulty shutters."

Read more: 

Sony A7 III review
Best mirrorless cameras
Best full-frame mirrorless cameras
Getting the best out of your Sony camera

James Artaius

The editor of Digital Camera World, James has 21 years experience as a magazine and web journalist and started working in the photographic industry in 2014 (as an assistant to Damian McGillicuddy, who succeeded David Bailey as Principal Photographer for Olympus). In this time he shot for clients as diverse as Aston Martin Racing, Elinchrom and L'Oréal, in addition to shooting campaigns and product testing for Olympus, and providing training for professionals. This has led him to being a go-to expert for camera and lens reviews, photographic and lighting tutorials, as well as industry analysis, news and rumors for publications such as Digital Camera MagazinePhotoPlus: The Canon MagazineN-PhotoDigital Photographer and Professional Imagemaker, as well as hosting workshops and demonstrations at The Photography Show. An Olympus (Micro Four Thirds) and Canon (full frame) shooter, he has a wealth of knowledge on cameras of all makes – and a particular fondness for vintage lenses and film cameras.