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Photography in cold temperatures

Travel Forums Travel Photography Photography in cold temperatures

1. Posted by aharrold45 (Travel Guru 1281 posts) 8y

All the cameras I have looked at state that the minimum operating temperature is 0C which for you people in the US is 32F. Next year I am taking a trip to Antarctica which rarely gets above 0C even in summer so I am wondering how the camera is going to go in such cold temperatures. Maybe someone reading this may have been to Antarctica on a cruise or lives in Alaska, Canada, Spitsbergen region of Norway, Lapland region of Scandinavia, Iceland or Greenland in winter where it would rarely if ever get above 0C/32F can tell me what they do to keep the camera operational. Is their something you did/do to always keep your camera warmer than 0C/32F to make it keep working and not break on you? Do you keep it in the pockets of a down jacket, at the bottom of your baggage, or what do you do?

2. Posted by Sander (Moderator 4817 posts) 8y

Ken Rockwell did some tests with leaving a Nikon D70 in a freezer overnight. Ordinarily he's ignorable, but still, this makes for interesting reading, also for the notes from others who've had personal experience with the arctic or antarctic.
The big recommendation is to keep a spare battery warm, as that's the component most heavily affected. Also be really careful for condensation forming when you go back into a warm environment (the zip-lock bag trick sounds useful).

Of course, that's only for the Nikon D70. Similar or better Nikon cameras (D80, D100, D200, D300, D2, D3) can probably be assumed to behave the same (or better), but I don't know if I'd trust a D40 to behave as well. It's anyone's guess how a point 'n shoot would hold up, but at a complete guess, I'd say "not that well".

On the Canon side of things, this luminous landscape thread has a few Canon DSLR experiences which sound similar to the Nikon experiences (strange to see so many Nikon replies in that thread). A 30D and a 350D apparently did okay, but a 20D didn't.

Personally I've carried around a D70 for about four hours trekking at a temperature of about -5 Celsius. (Rough guess.) I never even considered that this could be problematic, and it indeed worked perfectly the few times I got it out of my backpack during that walk, and for the entire hour at the end of it that was sunset.

[ Edit: Edited on Dec 15, 2007, at 4:46 AM by Sander ]

3. Posted by marlis (Travel Guru 1167 posts) 8y

thanks Sander for the link,
very interesting to read about the batteries in the cold.
I will defently carry always some spare batteries with me.Both of my 2 Olympus cameras will or should operate between 0 cel.but I think the should work at a few grade lower temp.

I will find out soon how it works when I'm in Antarctica.Hopefully good,it wood make me angry to see something wonderful and not be able to take some photos.

Zip-lock bags are really great,I carry my cameras always in them,because the pevent from dust and humidity,specially if there is salt in the air.
look for the type who has a kind of zipper at the top,for storage,the are the good ones for this use,the other ones what you have to squize are not so handy,the open to easy.
I use mostly 2 depending where I go.A smaller one inside the bigger one.
here are 2 brand names:
Ziploc with Easy Zipper
Hefty one zip Jumbo

they are fantastic to keep all your stuff dry.


4. Posted by aharrold45 (Travel Guru 1281 posts) 8y

Thanks for that info Sander.

Marlis, can you let me know how you go with your camera when you go because I would assume you are going this Antarctic cruising season.


5. Posted by marlis (Travel Guru 1167 posts) 8y

will carry them in a shoulder bag used by the German military,it is a very solid bag with enough storage room for spare batteries and should be waterproofed.
Against the cold I will use some Neopren,make from an old dive suit a inside bag.this should help to keep the camera and the batteries at an "non freezing"temperatur ( I hope so)
Yes I'm in Antarctica in February 2008 it is suposed to be summer there,but it coud anyway have minus 0
for yourself you need also waterproofed clothings.I got snowboard trousers and also from the military Goretex trousers and a can get this items second hand,the are still in very good state and very cheap.I got everything at e-bay

will be back beginning of march and can give you detailed infos how everything worked.
if you go for a cruise keep in your mind it takes some weeks till every thing is done.

6. Posted by Q' (Travel Guru 1987 posts) 8y

I've hiked with my D70 in -10 to -15degC weather in the deep snow. I kept the camera slung around my neck or in my backpack (cheap walmart model nothing special). No problems. Battery, startup, photo taking worked as normal.

Kayakers often use waterproof neoprene bags. There are small ones that will fit a camera nicely. I have a large one for canoeing, but now that I think about it, it might not be a bad idea to get a little one for my camera.

One thing to remember is that DO NOT take your camera out of your camera bag for at least 15min after being in the cold. The change in temperature will cause condensation and moisture to accumulate inside the body and lens. This could lead to fungus. By keeping it inside the bag, the temperature will change more gradually and should decrease or eliminate the condensation.