What is a Global Shutter Compared to a Rolling Shutter?

In the wake of the pre-order release of the new Sony A9 iii camera (November 2023, general release Spring 2024), which has the all-new, world’s first Global Shutter on a full-frame camera, we thought it might be helpful to explain, in simple terms what a Global Shutter actually is.

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Global Shutter vs. Rolling Shutter

A global shutter is a sensor that captures the entire image simultaneously, eliminating motion artifacts. In contrast, a rolling shutter exposes different parts sequentially, potentially causing distortions. The choice depends on application needs and considerations of motion handling and cost.

Example of a global shutter activating all of the pixels simultaneously. Blue photo with four red arrows pointing out from the centre.
Global Shutter Activates All of the Pixels at the Same Time – Image by Oscar J Harper
Example of a rolling shutter where rows of pixels are activated sequentially from the top down. Blue photo with a red arrow pointing down.
Rolling Shutter Activates the Pixels Sequentially in Rows From Top to Bottom – Image by Oscar J Harper

What You Will Find in This Guide (Click to Jump Ahead)

Introducing the First Full Frame Global Shutter Camera (Sony A9 iii)

The Sony A9 iii is a groundbreaking addition to the world of professional photography and videography. At the heart of its technological marvels lies the cutting-edge global shutter, revolutionizing how we capture moments in time. Sony’s relentless pursuit of imaging excellence has culminated in the A9 iii, where integrating a new global shutter system sets a new standard for precision and versatility.

The global shutter on the Sony A9 iii signifies a quantum leap in imaging technology. Say farewell to the artifacts of the past – the A9 iii’s global shutter allows for simultaneous exposure across the entire image sensor, eliminating the distortions associated with rolling shutters. Whether you’re freezing the split-second action of a high-speed race or capturing the fluid grace of a dancer in motion, the global shutter ensures unparalleled clarity and accuracy in every frame.

This innovative feature isn’t confined to still photography alone; the Sony A9 iii’s global shutter extends its benefits seamlessly into the realm of videography. With reduced motion artifacts and enhanced low-light performance, filmmakers can now confidently push the boundaries of cinematic storytelling. Versatile and reliable, the global shutter opens up new possibilities for creative expression in various shooting environments. 

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Global and rolling shutters are two ways to capture images that differ in how they expose the image sensor to light.

Global Shutter vs Rolling Shutter in More Detail

Global Shutter:

Simultaneous Exposure: In a global shutter, all the pixels on the image sensor are exposed to light simultaneously. This means the entire image is captured in a single moment in time.

Elimination of Motion Artifacts: Global shutters are particularly advantageous in scenarios with fast motion. They eliminate the “rolling shutter” effect, which can cause distortion and artifacts when capturing fast-moving subjects with a rolling shutter.

Rolling Shutter:

Sequential Exposure: A rolling shutter exposes different parts of the image sensor at slightly different times, usually from top to bottom or vice versa. This creates a scanning effect as the image is captured over a brief period.

Motion Artifacts: Rolling shutters can introduce artifacts in images and videos, especially when capturing fast motion. Common issues include skew, wobble, or distortions in the image due to the sequential exposure of different parts of the frame.


Motion Handling: Global shutters are superior when it comes to capturing fast-moving subjects or scenes because they avoid the distortions associated with rolling shutters: Sports, motorsports, dance, wildlife, etc.

In contrast, a rolling shutter will capture parts of a fast-moving subject in slightly different places using the scanning method, so the image may appear distorted or stretched.

Flash Photography: With a global shutter, the flash will sync at any shutter speed, whereas with the rolling shutter, the flash sync speeds are more limited.

Native sensitivity: So far, rolling shutters have a broader sensitivity range and, generally, a greater dynamic range than global shutter cameras.

Complexity and Cost: Implementing a global shutter can be more complex and expensive than a rolling shutter, so only some cameras use this technology to date.

Applications: Global shutters are often preferred in applications where precise timing and minimal distortion are critical, such as scientific imaging, industrial machine vision, and certain types of professional photography and videography.


The advent of the introduction of the Sony A9 iii may start a landslide of other manufacturers introducing global shutter cameras. This may help with competition and eventually decrease the price, as this camera is still costly at around $6000.

This type of global shutter camera may be most beneficial to photographers involved in capturing fast-moving action such as sports and wildlife. It may not yet be so important to those who photograph landscapes, still lives and portraits.

In summary, the choice between a global shutter and a rolling shutter depends on the application’s specific requirements. Global shutters are favored for scenarios where motion distortions must be minimized. In contrast, rolling shutters are more common in consumer cameras where the associated issues may be less critical.

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