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kaaryn Oct 1, 2010 10:09 AM

Cold weather shooting?
As in, really cold. It drops to -35C and below here on occasion and we get spectacular frozen scenery, hoar frost, etc. It's beautiful. But how do you capture it without destroying your camera? Even the so-called "freeze-proof" cameras are only rate to what, -10C? But yet there are pictures to be had, and people do get them.

Is it just a matter of being quick? Shooting out of your car window then rolling it up fast? Or are there ways to protect your camera from frigid weather?

Thanks :)

EDIT: I just found the thread from January so I've got a lot of my questions answered.... thanks... I'm understanding the "keep it cold" idea for if I'm doing a lot of pictures in the cold. If it's just a quick shot here and there can I assume it's safe to keep the camera warm in the car, take the shot and then get back in? And is there any difference between putting the camera into a plastic bag, or keeping it the camera bag while it warms up?

VTphotog Oct 2, 2010 11:00 AM

A plastic bag will help prevent condensation. Camera bag may not. It is probably also a good idea to keep some dessicant containers in the plastic bag to absorb any moisture which does enter. When bringing it inside, it's best to have the camera in the plastic bag, and in a well padded camera bag. Give it 3 hours or more to warm up.

If your camera gets very cold, expect the LCD operate sluggishly. Shutter and aperture could also get a bit slow, and you may need to apply some negative exposure compensation. On the plus side, noise will be reduced with the colder sensor.


BillDrew Oct 2, 2010 2:16 PM

In addition to Brian's comments you should be aware that batteries don't last as long when cold. If your camera uses AA batteries, get some of the disposable Lithiums - they work much better in the cold.

The LCD stopped working in my old Casio 3000 at forty below. Started working again just fine once it warmed up.

Condensation is the main issue with cold, or more precisely, when moving from cold to warm.

In the old days sometimes there were problems with lubricants becoming sticky instead of slippery in the cold. Haven't heard much about that in the last twenty or thirty years though.

VTphotog Oct 2, 2010 8:07 PM

My biggest problem has always been how to operate the camera in those temps. Below about ten degrees f, either my fingers are freezing to the buttons, or I wear gloves which are too clumsy to deal with the small dials. Usually, I preset ahead of time, but when conditions change, it gets tricky. I think I'll just stay inside where it's warm, this year.


TerryR Oct 9, 2010 9:23 PM

I keep my camera inside my jacket (DSLR) or if it's a compact, in an inner pocket of my jacket.

Of course, when I take it out, the lens will fog up. But if you wait about 60 seconds the fog will clear (cold days are usually quite dry).

The other thing is to wear gloves. Holding a camera in the winter with bare hands is tough. Even in 50 degree weather, with a wind, your fingers can feel like they are getting frost bitten after about 1/2 an hour.

When in doubt, always be near a log cabin with a cheery fire and a snifter of brandy.

TerryR Oct 9, 2010 9:24 PM

PS: I left an expensive P&S in my car all winter (in case an amazing shot appeared).

Nights as cold as -15 degrees farenheit.

The camera still works but when I take video it has a weird buzz.

I think the cold damaged the video capability but not stills.

So don't leave your camera in your car at night, take it in somewhere warm.

kaaryn Oct 9, 2010 11:10 PM

Don't worry, I won't... I know what cold can do to electronics. My cell phone's LCD screen was blown by being left outside in the car overnight - it ruptured inside or something and had a permanent big black blotch in the middle from then on :(

TerryR Oct 10, 2010 6:34 AM

My brother went out in -40 degrees (Calgary, Canada) and couldn't get his car started.

He banged his dashboard in disgust and shattered the dash (some sort of cryogenic experiment).

My biggest disappointment was buying some sort of carjack device that affixed to my steering wheel. I first time I used it I had trouble getting it off the wheel, and when it finally gave it bumped into my front windshield and shattered it (did I feel like an idiot).

Yah, I've seen some weird purple looking readouts on cell phones that have frozen.

I wonder if anyone else has any "look what happened to my camera" stories?

I once ran and fell onto of my camera (it was hanging from a strap on my neck) and when I looked down the lens was at a forty-five degree angle. I just straightened it with my hand and it worked fine for years after that (it was a retractable 5x zoom).

BillDrew Oct 10, 2010 12:24 PM


Originally Posted by TerryR (Post 1152505)
I keep my camera inside my jacket (DSLR) or if it's a compact, in an inner pocket of my jacket.

Of course, when I take it out, the lens will fog up. But if you wait about 60 seconds the fog will clear (cold days are usually quite dry).


The water on the outside of the lens will go away just fine, it is the water that condenses inside the lens or other places in your camera. That will not increase the longevity of your gear.

gsrunyan1 Mar 1, 2011 2:36 PM

Cold Weather Problems
Once,in Vienna, my camera went completely dead. I had visions of having to replace it at high European prices. However, all I had to do was take the extra battery out of my coat pocket, insert it, and every thing was OK again. After the original battery had time to warm up while we were in one of the art museums, it worked well also.

The best solution that I know of for keeping your hands warm is to use "shooting" gloves: there is an opening in the palm for your index finger when you need to shoot (preferably a camera and not a firearm) and then you return your index finger back into the glove to get/keep it warm. These gloves are available at most sporting goods stores.


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