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Old Jan 22, 2004, 6:52 PM   #1
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Default digital camera reliability at low temps?

I am considering buying my first digital camera (likely a Canon Powershot S50) but have a concern. Most of the cameras I have looked at suggest that the temperature range at which they will reliably function is only from 32 F to 104F (0 to 40 Celcius). One of the main times I use a camera is while hunting. Temperatures are often well below 32F. Sometimes as low as 0 degrees F. What happens to digital cameras at these lower temps? Are they really out of comission at temps lower than 32F? Thanks, Rufous.
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Old Jan 22, 2004, 8:49 PM   #2
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I just spent a day out in -10c with a nikon 5400 and it ate a lot of batteries but worked OK. I kept it inside my snow suite when not actually shooting.


By contrast my Canon EOS film camera was out on my shoulder strap all day and it did not even show drain on its battery.
But it just has to advance film and focus, no LCD and other power hungry electronics.

I think so long as you don't let the LCD freeze the camera will be OK.
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Old Jan 22, 2004, 8:52 PM   #3
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Had a nice warm day today: it got up to 0F (-18C). Gonna be warm tonight, predicting -13F.

The 0-40C temperature range spcification seems to be common for pretty much all digicams. I have not had any problems with my old Casio 3000 in temperatures down to -20F (-29C) other than battery life. YMMV

The major issue to watch out for is condensation: put your camera into a plastic bag *BEFORE* going into a warm area. Don't even think of breathing near your lens.

I think you should let your camera get cold and stay cold - trying to keep it warm by ducking it under your coat will subject it to repeated chances of condensation and thermal shocks.
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Old Jan 22, 2004, 10:38 PM   #4
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ahh so it would be better for it to be cold all the time than cold SOME of the time?! i went out (around 10 degrees) and the battery died.....i (at first) thought that it was my stupidity.....but is it possible that the battery died cuz of the cold?
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Old Jan 22, 2004, 11:11 PM   #5
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Default Re: digital camera reliability at low temps?

Quote:
Originally Posted by rufous
What happens to digital cameras at these lower temps?
The performance of the *camera* may be fine if you avoid condensation, but the battery chemistry won't necessarily like the cold. However, you can keep spare batteries warm inside your clothing quite easily.

If you search in the "Batteries & power packs" forum here you'll find info on the low temp performance of the various systems.
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Old Jan 23, 2004, 7:50 AM   #6
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If I'm out birdwatching in winter I keep my CP4500 and a spare battery in the inside pockets of my jacket. Wandering around birdwatching doesn't produce too much condensation.

If I'm hill walking in winter the camera goes in my zipped fleecy pocket, and as that has a mesh inner I wrap the camera up in a thin plastic bag to avoid any condensation.

It hasn't stopped working in either of these scenarios, but serious -ve temparatures in Scotland are rare.

Regards,
Graham.
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Old Jan 23, 2004, 9:15 AM   #7
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I'd treat my camera like myself. I wouldn't survive naked (is that in the prof filter?) at these low temperatures, so I'd keep my camera close to my person under my clothes. Might even try one of these microwave or chemical handwarmers.

The batteries which are heavily loaded in most cams are tricky, although whilst in use they are both discharging and generating heat. Lithium fares better than NiMh.

The worst scenario temperature and condensation wise is to leave your camera in the trunk overnight, then take it out and expect it to work on the first shot. If you can avoid the condensation problem, just leaving the lcd powered on the first set of batts should warm it up quickly (6 watts). Some users recommend storing their camera in a ziplock bag, sealed indoors when the air was dry. I've just looked at my padded Lowe Pro compact camera case and reckon it's possible to cut holes in it to shoot through the case and see tha lcd on the back, although I've seen somebody modify a ziplock bag by fitting a filter ring and glass for 'hostile environments'. VOX
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Old Jan 23, 2004, 1:24 PM   #8
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I found this article on using cameras in the cold
http://www.naturescapes.net/122003/ej1203.htm

It basically says cold will quickly kill your power source, but the cameras themselves should keep on working fine.
With the exception of the lcd displays that may go clear and become usless in the cold. But return to normal when they warm up again.
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Old Jan 23, 2004, 1:39 PM   #9
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The major issue to watch out for is condensation: put your camera into a plastic bag *BEFORE* going into a warm area. Don't even think of breathing near your lens.

I think you should let your camera get cold and stay cold - trying to keep it warm by ducking it under your coat will subject it to repeated chances of condensation and thermal shocks.[/quote]

The above confirms my experience with the D1x. Condensation used to be a big problem but I now let the camera stay cold. Battery life is rediculously short, but I keep spares under my vest.

Indeed once the "empty battery" warms up I can use it again.

Dave
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Old Jan 23, 2004, 5:23 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by voxmagna
I'd treat my camera like myself.
Entirely the wrong analogy: you need a great deal of water to survive, but you wouldn't think of adding water to your camrea.

Just listening to materials move as they get cold and warm up has convinced me that it is a very bad idea to subject things to rapid and repeated thermal shock. When there is a temperature difference, diffent parts of your camera will be expanding/contracting at different rates so the move against each other. This cannot be a good thing.

It is not possible to keep a camera warm when part of it is exposed to the cold - your lens has to be out in the cold in order to take a picture. If you try to keep just the front part in the cold, there will be a large temperature difference between the front element and the rest - again, this cannot be a good thing.

In warm temperatures (anything above about 32F/0C), it probably isn't really important if you duck your camera under your coat or not. I also suspect that is the root of the temperature limits stated by the manufacturer - you really cannot do much wrong when it is that warm. Much colder than that and you have to think about what you are doing. More thinking than the manufacturer can reasonably assume their users do.

Could be wrong, but I have been letting my camera get cold and stay cold for the past 10 years with two different digicams,and many years before that using film with no problems. I have been *VERY* carefull about condensation at all times.

That still means the camera goes under my coat at times to protect it from being bumped or getting covered with falling snow. If you are dressed properly for the cold, you have several layers under your coat so it really isn't warm there.

From some folks who spend time in the cold:
www.wildsnow.com/tips/photo.htm
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