Cameras, Lenses and cold weather?

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by aloomens, Nov 1, 2007.

  1. aloomens

    aloomens Member

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    Are there any special precautions that need to be taken when using a 35mm SLR and lenses in cold weather? It seems like going from warm to cold (or cold to warm) could cause problems (condensation?).
     
  2. Pinholemaster

    Pinholemaster Member

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    Always allow your gear to transition from the two extremes gradually to avoid condensation.

    Extreme cold is also very low in humidity, so as your film moves through the camera, electric discharge can happen causing lighting bolts to expose on your film. Avoid motordrives and rewinding the film quickly. Advance film slowly. Rewind in stages.
     
  3. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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    How cold is cold? Artic cold is very differnt from just cold.
     
  4. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    When I was photographing up at my sister's in Spokane, WA in the winter -- daytime temps around 20F to perhaps freezing, I would leave my view camera (4x5/8x10) out in the unheated garage...and put my light meter in a baggie and bring it inside.

    While photographing, I wore heavy wool pants with cargo pockets -- the light meter stayed in a pocket to keep the battery a little warmer. And I tried not to breathe on the ground glass -- one's breath tends to form a layer of ice on it.

    Vaughn
     
  5. aloomens

    aloomens Member

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    When do you have to start worrying about temperature? It can get down to well below freezing around here (20 F below or more).
     
  6. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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    If you are going to shoot below zero you need to have your camera and lens winterized, replace the lubricant with a special winter graphite lubricant, if your 35mm or MFF has a metal body use a camera case, tape any exposed metal that might come in contact with your face when focusing, use a soft touch shutter release as it is easer to operate with gloves. Use a wooden or graphite tripod, if you camera has a built in motor winder you want to wait until you can defrost your camera and let it warm back up to room temaputer before rewinding so you need to watch your film count so you shoot to the end and auto rewind. Use a polorizer and if shooting in the snow use an incident meter as reflective meters are prone to under exposure in the snow.
     
  7. mgb74

    mgb74 Subscriber

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    I've never bothered with special lubricant for the winter here in Minnesota, but I try to keep the camera warm (such as inside my coat). What I am most concerned about is condensation from bring a cold camera into moist indoor air. I wrap the camera in a plastic bag (reasonably airtight) until it warms up. If too big for that, I try to use a foam lined case that shuts tight.
     
  8. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

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    In Greenland I used a new Leica M4 and slightly older Nikon F down to -60 degrees Fahrenheit with no problems except occasional film breakage and static electricity marks on the film. The 35-year-old lubricant in my Nikon F won't let me shoot in freezing temperatures.
     
  9. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Okay, another observation courtesy of my father.

    Some of you may be familiar with Farley Mowat, and his work in the arctic and sub-arctic. Particularly his book, Never Cry Wolf.

    The photographs that illustrate those works were taken by Mr. Mowat, predominantly with a Kodak Medalist.

    Each year Mr. Mowat would bring his Medalist into the Kodak lab my father worked at to have it serviced, because they had on staff technicians experienced in maintaining a wide variety of Kodak cameras (Medalist, Chevron, Retina, etc.).

    Mr. Mowat was sold on the Medalist - he found it to be the only camera that would perform reliably in arctic conditions.

    I would point out, however, that he made a point of having his camera serviced/checked regularly.

    On anther point, you probably are aware, but I'll mention it anyways that cameras may be more reliable in cold conditions than batteries. Cold batteries don't work well. A number of cameras offer accessory battery packs that are off camera, and therefore easier to keep warm. It may pay to investigate that option if your camera is battery dependent.

    Finally, it has been my experience that waist level finders are much less likely to fog up than eye level finders.

    Matt
     
  10. monochromatic51

    monochromatic51 Member

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    My experence useing Nikon em,Canon eos and mamiya 645 and the -30 degree centigrade temps we get never had any problems with the camera's but at that temp they eat batterys like they are going out of fashion.A days shooting and 2 rolls of 36exp film and the batterys are dead and I agree that the waist level finder on the 645 is a lot easer to work with

    Ian
     
  11. Paul.A

    Paul.A Member

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    I've shot at -40 C with an OM1. I used the TTL metering and the batteries would often die quickly. I changed them over with one I had in a pocket and after a bit of warming they would come back to life.

    Dry cold causes static so be careful advancing the film and rewinding otherwise you get static streaks on the film. The film can also become brittle because of the cold so again be careful handling it.

    When shooting I found that its best to wear 2 pairs of gloves. The outer pair can be really substantial affairs. The inner gloves should to be thin enough to allow you to operate the camera. This way you don't have to expose your flesh to the cold. Tape exposed metal parts of the camera so they don't come into contact with your skin. It will burn at best and at worst pull away great chunks of skin which is incredibly painful.

    Condensation is the main thing to avoid when you take the camera from cold to warm. I kept all my equipment in its normal bag and when entering a building I'd just put the whole lot in a large sealed plastic bag. After a couple of hours I'd take it out. Going from warm to cold will mist up your optics wait a while and it will clear.

    Look after yourself. Make sure you have adequate clothing in wicking layers on. Don't over dress either as sweat freezing can cause severe hypothermia. At temperatures below -30 C you can't afford to phaff around when taking pics keep on the move and keep warm. Look out for frost bite.
     
  12. johnnywalker

    johnnywalker Subscriber

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    Put the equipment in a waterproof container (ziploc bags are great) until they adjust to the ambient temperature.
     
  13. toadhall

    toadhall Subscriber

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    I've photographed with a range of equipment in winter (and our winter can be as cold as -35 C) and am only concerned (as others have stated) when taking cold camera equipment from the cold into the warm inside. I have Ziplock bags ready and put the lenses, camera bodies etc. into the bags, seal them, and let them come to room temperature.
    The only concern about taking warm gear into the cold is that you don't want to drop anything warm into the snow (including car keys).
    I've never felt the need to get a camera 'winterized' or tape any metal parts, but do advance or rewind slowly. Although this climate has extremely low relative humidity, I've never had a problem with streaking from electrostatic charges.
    As others have stated, batteries can be a problem. I used a Pentax 67 for a number of winters and invested in the their remote battery holder. With it tucked into an inside coat pocket until needed, I never had a problem. Now, all my camera gear is über-manual so I am only concerned about my handheld meters.
    Oh, if you inadvertently fog the viewfinder with your warm breath, just put your mouth near the viewfinder and strongly inhale. Sounds odd, but it works.
     
  14. BobbyR

    BobbyR Member

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    IF, IF-you are going to -regularly- use a camera in sub zero, F., weather, or simply near zero, it would be wise to have it prepared for such weather by a professional repairman.
    As was said before, either way, KEEP it UNDER your coat, and problems will be greatly reduced.
    IF you are using a motor-drive and need it, carry EXTRA batteries.
    The coat you normally wear in sub-zero weather may not be good enough to use to keep the camera warm, I use an Air Force parka good down to sixty below. Get something similar.
    Bobby
    PS--I shot snowmobile races in temps as low as -20 F, with a Topcon DM and keeping it under my coat worked quite well.
     
  15. walter23

    walter23 Subscriber

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    I've been out shooting digital, 35mm, and 4x5 in -25 degree celsius weather. Actually my first time out with my 4x5 was more like -30. Bitterly freezing cold. No problems (except lower battery life with my DSLR, and trying to develop 4x5 polaroids is probably a bad idea - definitely don't try to warm them up with your hands or you'll get blotches).

    I hear some of the lubricants in some lenses might freeze up at extremely low temperatures. I've never used any antiques or anything in this kind of weather.