Is There a Classic SLR That Will Function Correctly in Cold Weather?

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by FilmOnly, Feb 7, 2010.

  1. FilmOnly

    FilmOnly Member

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    This year, I have been able to get out and do a fair amount of cold-weather shooting. I have been getting some excellent opportunities for interesting shots...except that my *second* Canon F-1N just developed a slow mirror problem. I just sent an F-1N out for repair (quite costly and extensive) for the mirror staying up too long, and, today, a second F-1N is beginning to exhibit the same problem. I am very frustrated and disappointed (as you may imagine). I had some "once in a lifetime" shots today of the historic snowstorm, and the last several are sure to be overexposed.

    Anyway, what is going on here? I thought the F-1N was supposed to be a great camera for cold weather shooting? In most cases, I have been shooting for 45 minutes to an hour in temperatures in the 15-30-degree (F) range. I usually do not go out more than twice in a day. In my view, a better camera should be able to handle this. Again, this is very disappointing.

    PS: I have an Olympus OM-2N on the way. How do these cameras fare in colder weather? After what has happened with my F-1Ns, I will be sure to send this camera out for a CLA before I start using it.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 7, 2010
  2. Ektagraphic

    Ektagraphic Member

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    I have a Nikkormat FTn that has gone stock for me so far in the cold. It is a great camera.
     
  3. Jeff Kubach

    Jeff Kubach Member

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    My original Canon F-1 does great in the cold. I'm not sure what happen to yours.

    Jeff
     
  4. rhmimac

    rhmimac Member

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  5. Bob-D659

    Bob-D659 Member

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    Over the years, lubes dry up and become thicker, cold only makes that worse. It was pretty common to have cameras and lenses relubed for real cold weather, 0F and below. Ever ready cases help the camera body retain some heat, and a handwarmer helps too.
     
  6. FilmOnly

    FilmOnly Member

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    I agree, for 0F and below, a re-lube or CLA should be done. This type of weather is a more rigorous test. However, about 15F is the coldest either of my two F-1Ns have seen. I am even considering getting rid of my F-1N/Canon gear. I could see one camera perhaps having a problem, but not two. Also, my 55/1.2 (non-asph) is exhibiting some barrel distortion. This, too, is very disappointing.
     
  7. Ektagraphic

    Ektagraphic Member

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    Good luck getting a meter to work in very cold temperatures. I have only worked at probably 30 F or a little below. My little Sekonic was going strong.
     
  8. Leighgion

    Leighgion Member

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    I think you're focusing too much on the camera model's basic reputation and downplaying the condition of the actual camera in question.

    No matter how finely built and designed a mechanical camera may be, it's a machine subject to the encroachment of age and needs maintenance to remain in good fighting trim. There's nothing mild about 15F -- that's 17 degrees below freezing. More than cold enough thicken lubricants and bind up the function of mechanical parts that aren't up to the punishment.

    No Canon F-1N is young anymore. A CLA is pretty much assumed if you want to punish one, and even then, it's not going to guarantee that everything will work smoothly under harsh conditions.
     
  9. Pumal

    Pumal Member

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    Your camera needs a CLA. One every thirty years will do it
     
  10. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    I've had good luck shooting for hours at a time in -15 to 5 C with my Canon F-1s (old) and Nikon Fs. My AE-1Ps actually seemed to do OK too, though I used them on the 5 C day, not the -15 C day.

    Wear gloves...WITH the fingertips intact!
     
  11. nyoung

    nyoung Member

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    Maybe not so much. The mirror sticking in the up position most likely has nothing to do with the shutter opening and closing. The mirror is not the shutter so its entirely possible that your photos are fine
     
  12. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    This lens exhibits fairly extreme barrel distortion for a normal lens.

    I have it. It is my favorite 35mm lens.

    The 1/2 stop over my 1.4, and the barrel distortion are never at odds. No shot that I need 1.2 for will be bothered by barrel distortion.

    If you want a standard lens, and need less barrel distortion, try the 50mm f/1.4 instead.
     
  13. Rob Skeoch

    Rob Skeoch Advertiser Advertiser

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    I'm surprised as well.
    For starters it wasn't that cold that you should have any issues. Maybe the suggestions that the lube is old make sense.
    I've had the same problem with the copal shutter in my 300mm view camera lens this year but it isn't that old... I think I'll get the lube done.

    I have heard of photographers using a dedicated body with the lube removed for extreme cold.... but that was years ago when cameras didn't do as many tricks. The theory was the cold would shrink the metal slightly and you wouldn't need lube. No idea how well it worked and I'm not suggesting you would need any treatment like that in this day and age.

    -rob
     
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  15. Denis R

    Denis R Member

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    you need an F

    the F will keep working, well beyond your frozen fingers
    just wind the film slowly to avoid static

    my N75 works fine at +6f, but I quit once my fingers are froze -- makes for a quick roll
     
  16. ruilourosa

    ruilourosa Member

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    make a fire!
     
  17. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Read "To build a fire" Jack London.
     
  18. FilmOnly

    FilmOnly Member

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    I appreciate all of the input.

    With regard to the shutter, I understand that the mirror is independent of the shutter. I mentioned the slow mirror because with the first F-1N that failed, the mirror had been exhibiting the same behavior, and the problem turned out to be with the shutter. It is an involved and costly repair (see my original post).

    Likewise, such is why I am leaning toward thinking that the problem with the second F-1N is beyond that of a normal CLA. I understand what some are saying here--that it could be an age/lube issue. However, this was not the case with the first F-1N that failed...and both cameras have the same symptoms (i.e. a mirror that gets slower and slower...).
     
  19. Mark Fisher

    Mark Fisher Subscriber

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    I had a similar problem with an OM-1. Changing the mirror foam and lubing it solved the problem.
     
  20. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    My New F-1 that I bought used had the same problem, so I sent it to CLA once, that was at Canon, and I was told that the problem was caused by the lack of oil/grease because it had been sitting on a shelf for a long time. So once the CLA was done there, it was fine and still is today.
     
  21. Paul Goutiere

    Paul Goutiere Subscriber

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    I had left my Pentax Spotmatic in the trunk of my car overnight during at -45C (-49F) one December in Edmonton Alberta Canada.(This was about 1979) I was able to wind it on and take a picture. I could meter as well, but it was a little hard to turn the meter on.
    When I tried again the film broke. I was able to process the film later and found the last shot to be fine.

    The film broke like glass!

    My vote would be for a slightly worn out Pentax Spotmatic with a slightly worn out 55mm Takumar.
     
  22. Bob-D659

    Bob-D659 Member

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    As you found out, there are no plastics that are flexible at -45C or F for that matter. BTW rubber brake hoses break at that temp too. :sad:
     
  23. Paul Goutiere

    Paul Goutiere Subscriber

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    Then we are left with the question; What do we mean by "cold"? Alaska cold or Florida cold?
     
  24. FilmOnly

    FilmOnly Member

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    I agree, Paul...cold means different things to different people. In my view, 15F or 20F is not that cold. If I could stand it, so should my camera.

    I enjoyed reading your story about your Spottie. I once had two Spotties. If it were not for the radioactive lenses in the Takumar lineup--especially the beautiful and indispensable 50/1.4--then I would have held onto my Pentax gear. I do not believe the 55/1.8 you mention is thoriated. I have considered going back...I do like having a winder or motor, though...

    PS: I do not wish to get into a debate as to why I will not use thoriated or other radioactive lenses. I have seen enough evidence to raise a concern, and, especially since there are plenty of fine lenses out there, I would rather err toward safety.
     
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  25. Mick Fagan

    Mick Fagan Subscriber

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    One of the more interesting jobs I have had was working in a freezer at –26ºC in downtown Melbourne in the late sixties. The job entailed shredding frozen calf and pig pancreas organs for the manufacture of Insulin.

    I shared digs with a fella who was travelling down to Antarctica as a photographer and Morse code operator. Radio was bad during a blizzard and quite a few messages travelled via Morse code in those days

    Anyway he was wondering about the effectiveness of winterising his cameras, which were three Nikon F bodies and three lenses, 35, 55 and 105 Nikkors. The three bodies and three lenses were so he didn’t have to change lenses in very bad weather and also so that at any time there could be three people using the cameras.

    The upshot was that we convinced the Government body running my section to allow the government body running the Antarctic division, to use our cold rooms for tests.

    We dropped the temperature –33ºC, which I think was the coldest we could get. You have to understand these were quite large workrooms with machinery for cutting and shredding inside.

    The cameras that were winterised, which meant that they were cleaned and all lubricant removed and a couple of others that were literally straight off the shelf from the Nikon importer, were left inside for ½ a day to really cool down.

    A special shutter-testing set-up had been arranged with the shutter tester on the outside and the cameras on the inside with a very thick piece of glass in-between.

    From memory the winterised cameras worked perfectly, the normal cameras were not that far behind, maybe ¼ to ½ a stop at most slower. Manageable, but a difference nonetheless.

    I know that one of those cameras worked in temperatures around –60ºC as pictures were taken in a blizzard of some penguins. The penguin pictures were of quite interesting scientific value at the time, as very little was known how they survived down there.

    I don’t know how long after coming back to Australia before the cameras were re-lubed, but I know one of them is still in use by my friend to this day in a working capacity.

    For the Australian members, this was at CSIRO in Parkville.

    Mick.
     
  26. FilmOnly

    FilmOnly Member

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    I very much appreciate your story, Mick. It demonstrates what I have been trying to convey: 15-30F is not that much to ask of a camera (especially a top-of-the-line pro camera). Having two cameras malfunction in these conditions has made me consider going in another direction.