Cold conditions

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    Lydia Bennett

    Hello everyone! With colder weather setting in, I was wondering what your thoughts are on exposing your camera to the cold.
    Is there a certain temperature that you say, “Nope, it’s just too cold out there, I’m not bringing my camera out today”?
    Or is there a time limit you would generally adhere to for certain temperatures, like “well, since it’s [#] degrees outside, I’ll only go out for 15 mins”?
    Things you would never do, like “Never (ever!) change your lens when it’s below freezing”?
    Or things you always do, like, “wrap your camera in a soft, fuzzy material to keep it warm.”
    Yep, things like that. What are all your opinions on the matter?

    Happy Winter to you all! 😀

    David Frazer

    I guess it depends what you mean by cold… I knew a guy here in Quebec who would go out on the lake in winter with his dad to take pictures of wildlife. He said that when it gets much below -30 the lenses’ autofocus starts to squeek after a while. (I don’t remember how long, but knowing him it was probably at least an hour.) He thought that was when it was time to stop.

    Anything that has liquid in it can theoretically have issues below freezing. Think LCDs, lubrication on moving parts, etc. The only real issue I have ever had with cold temperatures is one SD card that failed, and it was only -15, so I suspect that it was going to fail anyways.

    Do: I would recommend giving the camera time to acclimatise to the temperature, especially when bringing it in out of the cold and before taking the lens off.

    Never: Never open up the camera after bringing it in out of the cold (battery, card slot, lens, etc) until the camera it completely warmed up. Think about what happens to your glasses when you come on out of the cold – you could end up with condensation on the inside, and I don’t think water inside electronics is a good combination.

    Perhaps @austinvinar would have additional insights on shooting in the cold.

    • This reply was modified 50 years, 9 months ago by .
    James Staddon

    Yes, as far as I know, condensation is going to be your only true enemy. It forms when going from cold to hot. I have found that it’s usually good enough to just make sure all my equipment is in the camera bag before taking it into the house or car (vs putting it into plastic bags like I have in the past). I try to keep it in the bag for at least an hour.

    It’s kinda amazing that cameras function so well in the cold! The only problem I’ve experienced with cold was when I was biking with the camera around my neck. It couldn’t have been colder than 10 degrees F. The windchill evidently was enough to make the LCD screens work very slowly and eventually not work at all. I was a little scared at first, but it revived no problem after it got warmed up later.

    Austin Vinar

    In agreement as far as condensation goes. I have a heavy plastice sleeve that I can fit my 600mm lens in. Once inside, I place it over the furnace duct to speed up the warming process so my camera is not tied up forever. If I’m working in a vehicle, or out of one, I keep it cold inside as long as I’m shooting. Ive found that it I’m done shooting I can crank the heat on and it heats up slow enough that the camera won’t fog up.

    Also, you will find problems if you open the door of a warm building or vehicle and try to shoot out. The warm air rushing out will distorting the picture. I also try to shut a vehicle off to keep engine heat from distorting the pictures.

    Try not to breathe on your viewfinder as that will fog easily.

    Autofocus will slow down when it gets cold but I’ve never heard of anything getting ruined. I’ve worked out to about -30 without any problems.

    Keeping yourself warm is a lot bigger problem. If it is below zero you can hardly dress too warm, actually, you probably can’t. Learn to work your buttons with a heavy pair of mittens on. Taking them off will freeze them. I’ve found a handwarmer nice at times.

    Happy shooting, Austin

    David Frazer

    @austinvinar I like your idea of using the furnace heat to warm the camera up – it means that the heat is very dry heat! When doing real estate photography, I have to take pictures outside and then come inside and take pictures inside, so waiting around for an hour while the camera warms up is out of the question. I just make sure I put the lens cap on and turn the camera off before bringing it in. I place it on the tripod in the open while I look around the house and plan my shots.

    I haven’t heard of a camera lcd doing that before, especially at that temperature. I’m glad it came back to normal! I suppose that is one advantage of a dslr over mirrorless… 🙂 And incidentally, windchill does not affect inanimate objects.

    Lydia Bennett

    Thank you all for your responses!

    I guess it depends what you mean by cold…

    Haha, I was hoping someone from Quebec would chime in on this one, since you guys definitely have experience in this regard! My sister-in-law is Quebecois and she has been disappointed with winter in CT since moving down here when she married my brother, although, to our defense, we have been having mild winters even for us the past couple years. We get reasonably cold here, but usually don’t stay -0 too long. 🙂

    One reason this topic came to mind (other than winter coming in general) is that my aunt asked me to be camp photographer for a weekend in January at a camp she and my uncle will be running, and I wasn’t sure how well the camera would fare if I’m spending quite a bit of time in potentially cold weather (although I would think if it’s really cold, they wouldn’t make all the kids spend too much time outside anyways).

    When I did photography for them in the summer, I had my extra lens and batteries with me at all times so I could swap things out, but I didn’t know how safe it would be to swap lenses or pop in a new battery while I’m outside in January. @dfrazer, you mentioned not opening up the camera right after coming in from the cold; what about opening it up when you’re still out in the cold?

    Would you say it’s safe to potentially be going back and forth from inside to out, going from outdoor activities to indoor activities or chapel? In the summer, I didn’t think twice about going in and out from one activity to another. 🙂
    I don’t know their schedule at this point, but these are some things I’m thinking through as some of the factors to consider while deciding whether or not I can agree to do it for them.

    Austin Vinar

    I often open my camera up in the cold to swap a cold battery for a warm one. Never had any problems.

    Blessings Captured

    Batteries don’t run for as long in the cold so have extras. Also keep your extra battery in a pocket next to your body to keep it warm.

    Lydia Bennett

    Thanks! Good tips!

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