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Thread: Cold Weather Performance

  1. #1
    kdoc856's Avatar
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    Cold Weather Performance

    I have a Sony a77 and this is my first winter with it. The owner's manual references a minimum of 32 degrees F (0 cent). I have used it without any problem at temps as low as 10 F (-12C), exposed for about 3 hours.

    Today it was 6 F, (-14C) and it was fine for about 45 minutes, then total freeze up- just a white blank on the viewfinder. Fine once more it warmed up.

    Just wondering if others have had similar experiences with any cameras, and offer up any other cold weather experience or advice. Thanks

  2. #2
    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Cold Weather Performance

    Hi Kevin,

    Minus double digits centigrade/Celsius is very rare here (southern England) and I'm not sure I'd be out in it

    I can see that a camera may last longer in the cold if being handheld, rather than stuck on a tripod unshielded from any chilling wind. It must also make a difference what ambient it came from; e.g. a warm house or the unheated trunk of a car that's been driving for several hours.

    Did you try swapping the battery? (for a warm one kept in your pocket)

  3. #3
    tbob's Avatar
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    Re: Cold Weather Performance

    Something is lurking in my memory about the display. Check and see if the viewfinder is temperature dependent; if memory serves some LCD screens fail to work at cold temperature. But the suggestion about the battery is good. Cold batteries will often fail to produce power or drain quickly in use.

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    Administrator Manfred M's Avatar
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    Re: Cold Weather Performance

    I get to do a lot of cold weather shooting. There are three main issues that cold weather shooting will do to your camera.

    1. Short battery life - batteries rely on chemical reactions to produce electricity, and the colder it gets, the slower the chemical reactions. Battery life can be quite short. The trick is to carry spare battery or batteries that you keep under your winter outer wear and close to the skin (i.e. your warm body). Swap out the batteries as the life drops; the battery will regain some of its power as it warms up again. Certain electronic components (your screen and viewfinder) won't work particularly well (or at all) when they get cold.

    2. Increased viscosity in the lubricants - Moving parts of your camera are lubricated with grease. As the grease gets colder it gets more viscous and acts more like a glue than a lubricant. This can affect any moving parts of your camera; lens zoom or focus, shutter, mirror mechanism (not in your A77m but regular DSLRs) and even your shutter release. I know one cold weather photographer who went up to the arctic in the winter and his camera had all lubricants removed so that it would function in the winter conditions. My camera bag is fairly thing and has a lot of foam in it, so it does insulate the camera and lenses better than keeping it out in the open. I will usually try to keep my camera under my well-insulated winter coat, which helps keep it warm, but has the downside being a fairly humid environment.

    3. Condensation - when you bring your camera out into a cold environment and it cools down any moisture in the camera and lens can condense and cause fogging or even ice formation. Fogging, especially on lens elements can happen. More issues can result when you bring a cold camera back into a moist indoor environment, and fogging / condensation will occur. Wrapping it tightly in a large plastic bag helps here. The condensation forms on the outside of the bag, which the camera stays dry inside. Once the camera hits ambient temperature, it is safe to take it back out.

    They are calling for temperatures of -28C / -15F tomorrow here in Ottawa, so I think my camera will get to stay someplace nice and warm...

  5. #5
    kdoc856's Avatar
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    Re: Cold Weather Performance

    Thanks, Manfred, Trevor and Dave

    I have certainly experienced a dramatic reduction in battery charge in cold weather- and I carry 2 of them in inside pockets when I am trying seriously to shoot. On this occasion I was just running the dogs and didnt have an extra to try, but I would think that the EVF would go blank rather than white if it were a power issure (the a77 has an electronic viewfinder). Nonethe less, that is a very valid suggestion and I will certainly try it next time. Thanks for the consideration.

    Manfred,
    Today I had to use the Liveview which I rarely do because what little bit of body heat I radiated condensed on the EVF to the point of opacifying it. I like cold weather, but -15 F would defintely keep me inside.

  6. #6
    Administrator Manfred M's Avatar
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    Re: Cold Weather Performance

    Quote Originally Posted by kdoc856 View Post
    Manfred,
    Today I had to use the Liveview which I rarely do because what little bit of body heat I radiated condensed on the EVF to the point of opacifying it. I like cold weather, but -15 F would defintely keep me inside.
    I think we should do like the bears and hibernate during the cold winter months; humans seem to be the only animals that seem to think we should continue like normal, regardless of the temperature outside.

    I've certainly had to fight condensation issues on a standard (D)SLR; a fogged up focusing screen makes life difficult too.

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    Melkus's Avatar
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    Re: Cold Weather Performance

    How about keeping cover next to your body until your ready to take a shot

  8. #8
    pnodrog's Avatar
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    Re: Cold Weather Performance

    LCD spec. from one supplier

    The contrast adjustment voltage is specified for a given temperature. This is done because the LCD fluid is sensitive to temperature. In a Standard temperature range module the variation of contrast over the temperature range is small enough so that no temperature compensation is required. In the Extended temperature models however a temperature compensation circuit is often used to retain optimal contrast at the extremes of temperature.

    Standard temperature range module 0-50deg C Extended temperature models -20 to 70deg C

    Other manufactures may have slightly different specifications but it is probably indicative of LCD's performance in general.

  9. #9
    RustBeltRaw's Avatar
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    Re: Cold Weather Performance

    Quote Originally Posted by GrumpyDiver View Post
    1. Short battery life -...
    Seconded. My battery life is cut roughly in half (or worse) when filming my cousin's park skiing escapades. Keeping the batteries reasonably warm is a good trick. I stuff a tiny hand warmer into a small gap between the packs in my battery grip. It doesn't bring them back to full capacity, but it does help. I keep backup AAs for the grip inside my coat, but rarely need them.

    I try to leave my lenses exposed to ambient temperature long before shooting to prevent condensation. I can't say I've felt the greased moving parts freezing up, but the coldest I've ever shot at is around -10F (-23C).

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