Baby It’s Cold Outside – As we dip into below freezing temps remember to take special care of your camera your lens and your sensor

Baby It’s Cold Outside – As we dip into below freezing temps remember to take special care of your camera and lens and sensor

A long time ago when mechanical cameras were all we had and we knew we were going to be in a sub freezing condition on a shooting assignment we used to send our camera gear into the manufacturers and have them remove all of the heavy lubricants so they would not freeze up when we were out shooting.  The oils would freeze and cause the gear mechanisms to bind up and while the ideal solution was not metal against bare metal the heavy lubricants were a much poorer alternative.

Today’s cameras, being electronic for the most part with very light lubricants in lenses and bodies fair better and do not have to be modified.  But digital cameras and their electronic components and sensor bring along their own set of issues.

1-Keep extra batteries in your inside pockets.  Batteries lose a lot of power in the cold.  In sub zero temps I would have at least 3 battery backups for each camera.  REALLY!

2-Try and keep lenses and cameras in a camera bag or inside pockets in your coat.

3-If you use camera straps, use the kind that will not freeze up and hurt your neck or become difficult to slide if you wear your camera cross chest.  I use the PeakDesign straps for this purpose.  They are very adjustable and the material is very comfortable under all conditions.  When I wear the strap cross chest with the camera hanging at my side I can quickly adjust for the camera to be ready for the shot or shorter to go under my coat and keep warm.  If I am wearing a longer coat then I have another camera attached to a PeakDesign Clip.  I also use a PeakDesign Clip on my camera bag strap for very quick access.  In our Virginia area I get the PeakDesign products at PhotoCraft, Burke Va.(Click on PhotoCrafts “about menu” for directions.)

4-Beforwarned that the LCD screens on the back of your camera and maybe the ones in the viewfinders will gray down, lose contrast and quite possibly perform slower as when trying to refresh when going from picture to picture or menu item to menu item.

Not all the problems in cold weather shooting occur outside, but when you go from the frigid outside to a place of warmth. Cold air can be very dry and it would not be unusual for inside heated air to have moister in it. If you bring a very cold camera and lens into a room with warm, moist air, moisture will condense on your gear. That means glass, metal, electrical battery contacts, and the sensor.  And once moisture condenses on to the sensor the chances of dirt sticking to the sensor as the moisture dries is very high.  Your in camera cleaning won’t knock off the stuck on dirt but a much better procedure is not to let the moisture condense in the first place. If you do get condensation on a camera, remove the batteries so the battery chamber contacts and the battery can warm up and dry. 

Once the battery is dried out recharge it.  Cleaning a sensor

Fortunately digital cameras are not the only great 21st century advancements.  ZIPLOCK type bags are another marvel of science and technology.  Get a large one and it should be designated freezer bag. While you are still outside in the cold air and before you enter the area of warmth put your camera gear in the Ziploc. SEAL IT. If you do this BEFORE YOU GO INSIDE you will have trapped the camera, lens, etc. in the bag with the cold air. If you see some condensation on the outer surface of the bag don’t sweat it. (PARDON THE PUN, I could not help myself). The gear will slowly warm up in dry air inside the bag and will stay dry. This is about a 1.5 to 2 full hours.  I also throw a couple of Silica Gel packs into the Ziplock.

I should note that I do pull out the memory card and the battery before putting the gear in the SEALED Ziploc type bag.  After all 2 hours is a long time and well spent processing those great images and recharging the battery.



You can by hand warmers that will also help to defog your camera when going from warm inside to cold outside.

Just for the heck of it I have updated my sensor cleaning post.  It would not hurt to read it again and take the poll about free sensor cleaning classes.




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