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Customer Discussions > Photography forum

Need a camera that operates in cold temperatures


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Showing 1-18 of 18 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 29, 2013, 8:20:45 AM PST
I am an avid outdoorsman and I need a camera that will hold a battery charge after being subjected to extended periods of <40 degF temperatures. I have a Canon Powershot ELPH 300 that got great reviews but in those kinds of temperatures, it will only hold a charge for about an hour and that's with it turned off!

With the type of shots I need to take, it is unrealistic for me to keep the camera or extra battery inside my clothes to keep warm. I might miss the shot trying to get the camera ready.

I looked at the GoPro Hero3 but I am more interested in taking stills than video.

Any suggestions are greatly appreciated!

Darren

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 29, 2013, 1:03:47 PM PST
brad-man says:
Your present camera should be fine. Just have spare (as many as you need) batteries in your pocket. Keep the spares warm and swap them out as needed. When the original battery that died warms up, you can likely put it back in the camera for more shooting...

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 30, 2013, 8:56:43 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 30, 2013, 9:00:51 AM PST
EdM says:
"With the type of shots I need to take, it is unrealistic for me to keep the camera or extra battery inside my clothes to keep warm. I might miss the shot trying to get the camera ready."

What type of shots? That info would help in giving a better answer of a few best types of camera to choose from.

When you say that keeping batteries inside your clothes to keep the battery warm is unrealistic, that is almost saying that your shooting pictures is unrealistic. The real world is not going to repeal the laws of physics and chemistry - cold saps batteries, badly. Compare:

http://www.antarctica.gov.au/science/science-support/scientific-equipment

"Batteries

"All types of battery have reduced performance in the cold; they go flat faster and have less ability to deliver electricity in the cold. Make sure you are using batteries suitable for the temperatures you will encounter in Antarctica.

"Always use fresh batteries from the major battery manufacturers. Don't use cheap batteries because they will cost you dearly with their poor performance..."

Another opinion about shooting in the cold, to hopefully convince you that batteries in frigid weather is a serious matter:

http://axspot.wordpress.com/2008/09/07/memory-and-batteries-for-antarctica-south-georgia-the-falkslands/

"Memory and Batteries for Antarctica "

"It makes me think 4 batteries that are interchangable with both camera bodies would be sufficient. 5 batteries might be better."

Your camera is NOT ideal for the cold for several reasons. First, a DSLR can go from off to shooting in under a second, while a P/S such as yours will very likely take more than 10 seconds or so, to turn on [especially with the small buttons when you're wearing gloves], then extend the lens, then change the amount of zoom and focus/compose, and then finally to shoot.

There are some grips/battery packs for some DSLRs which provide extra battery life, as one way to deal with the cold.

http://digital-photography-school.com/battery-grips-for-dslrs

Next, your particular P/S, while fine for ordinary shooting, is not very good for battery life:

http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/300HS/300HSA.HTM

"The Canon 300 HS is supplied with an NB-4L lithium-ion battery and a plug-in charger (CB-2LV). Per CIPA standards it lasts for 220 shots in still mode."

Many cameras, especially DSLRs, easily last for 300 up to 1000 shots on a single battery. However, this info is not easily found, as CIPA standards are not usually advertised. Shooting in the cold will definitely decimate your battery life. Also, well maintained batteries will hold charge and last much longer. It might be that your current battery has deteriorated from use in the cold or is otherwise defective and needs to be replaced.

In the not too distant past, some people used film cameras to avoid the battery life problem. OTOH, when really cold, even film can have problems with static electricity and even in the coldest areas, the film base can stiffen and have problems. See this article, only a small portion of which is quoted.

http://www.kodak.com/global/en/professional/support/techPubs/c9/c9.pdf

"In arctic regions, however, winter temperatures of -40°F (-40°C) are fairly common, and temperatures of -60°F (-51°C) aren't unusual...
"Batteries lose efficiency and deliver only a small portion of their power. Battery-operated flash units, motor drives, exposure systems, and motion-picture camera drives may not function..."

The cold will have a negative effect on any camera, but especially on normal, run of the mill, consumer digital cameras, no matter how fine in normal conditions. The reality is that you will have to adapt to your actual or expected conditions to get photos. OTOH, the photos that you do get may well be unique and wonderful, as those conditions are not where people go shooting every day. Good Luck!

Posted on Jan 30, 2013, 9:30:09 AM PST
Okay, I'll come clean...What I'm really doing is taking pictures while I am bow hunting and any movements I make (changing batteries, etc.) could potentially scare away the game I am trying to kill. When I first get to my hunting spot, I set my camera up so that I can easily turn it on and take a picture with as little movement as possible. This scenerio means that my camera can be exposed to the elements for some time before I need to use it. My Canon PowerShot ELPH 300 does not like this scenerio so I am looking for a replacement. I had an old Fuji Finepix (forgot the model) that seemed to keep a good battery charge despite the cold. Does anyone out there have experience with the situation that I have described and can they recommend a camera that they have used successfully in that situation.

Darren

Posted on Jan 30, 2013, 9:50:54 AM PST
S. Owens says:
Ah, the bow hunter's camera. While you need one to function in potentially cold and wet situations you also will want one that is silent so it doesn't disturb your game.

Now besides trying to find a new camera that can withstand the cold better maybe you should try some more creative options to keep your camera warm. Although they may to be the cheapest things in the world I'd guess that if you could put your camera on a "heat pack" that could keep it warm and help improve battery life. Add a little more protection to prevent heat loss and you could actually end up with a camera that it to hot to handle. Now giving your camera its own heater may cause some other issues but it will most likely solve your battery issues and may also let it work faster overall.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 30, 2013, 10:14:46 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 30, 2013, 10:15:39 AM PST
EdM says:
No man can serve two masters. Or in another context, "The hunter who chases two rabbits," answered the master, "catches neither one."*
My suggestion would be to do only one kind of shooting for each outing.

It is difficult enough just to shoot photos of wildlife due to their awareness of the mechanical, gun-like look of a DSLR camera with long lens and the movement needed to move/control/shoot it, as well as the shutter sound. Camo and other useful measures for photography will not resolve difficulties in trying to do two different things at the same time.

* http://users.rider.edu/~suler/zenstory/chasrabit.html

Posted on Jan 30, 2013, 10:32:22 AM PST
S. Owens, I never thought of using a hand warmer in that way; what an elegant solution. One of the reasons I was attracted to the GoPro Hero3 was that it comes with a battery heater. But since I like to take photos more than video I didn't know if I wanted to invest that kind of cash into something that I wouldn't use to its full potential.

Thanks for the suggestion!

Posted on Jan 30, 2013, 11:27:49 AM PST
In the film "Chasing Ice" they used Nikon D200's built into what looked like modified Pelican cases. The cameras were out in the glaciers unattended for months at a time. I'm thinking you could rig up something like that with a clear window, remote shutter release, and insulated with hand warners inside. I've seen shutter releases for P&S's that are little more than a velcro strap with a fitting that accepts standard mechanical shutter release cables, that shouldn't be a problem. Cut a hole in the case and glue a standard UV filter to it. You'd need a little air to get inside for the hand warmers to work. It could be done.

Posted on Jan 30, 2013, 12:10:52 PM PST
More good advice but way too rich for my blood. I'm looking for a nice point-and-shoot model that I can easily carry in my pack. And if it gets jacked up by me dropping it out of a tree or something, I'm not out a boatload of money. From what I've learned, I guess my problem can be narrowed down to one camera battery doing better in a cold environment than another camera battery. I've heard that AA and AAA batteries hold a charge longer than some proprietary camera batteries. Can anyone verify that information?

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 30, 2013, 1:27:51 PM PST
brad-man says:
The batteries you are likely referring to are Sanyo Eneloop rechargeables. They maintain their charge for over a year normally. You'll need to do some research to see how they do in the cold. I suspect that Lithium batteries will perform better. All you need to do is pick up several spare batteries, preferably aftermarket to keep costs down, in a warm place. If currently your batteries last around an hour, then just replace the battery in the camera at 45 min intervals so you'll be ready when your next meal comes along...

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 30, 2013, 1:49:37 PM PST
"Hold a charge" is not quite the concern... After all, warm them both up and they'll both show more capacity. Also consider that for many years recommended storage for alkaline batteries was under cool dry conditions; because the chemistry in the battery doesn't react as fast when cold.

And what type of AA? Disposable alkaline? While they start with a higher voltage (1.5v per cell) and (unless you buy bargain brands) may be around 3000mAh vs a NiMH rechargeable (1.2V per cell, and top end rated for 2600mAh -- they need proper conditioning and usage to achieve that capacity; most new NiMH of 2600mAh may only manage 1400mAh on the first conditioning cycle*)

Alkalines drop at a more extreme rate; NiMH/Li-Ion cells undergo an initial drop but then hold voltage for a long time before dropping "dead".

http://eznec.com/Amateur/1.5_vs_1.2_Volt_Batteries.pdf
http://www.powerstream.com/AA-tests.htm

Most camera proprietary cells are now Li-Ion. Li-Ion can't quite be compared as a single cell is 3.7V (one Li-Ion cell is similar to /three/ NiMH cells in voltage). Li-Ion can handle higher current draws (recharging a flash?) than alkaline/NiMH, so will feel "faster" (if you can find a device that can swap a Li-Ion for an alkaline holder).

In cold conditions, being able to supply a higher momentary draw may be more important than having a battery that acts slow for a longer period of time.

Posted on Jan 30, 2013, 4:25:41 PM PST
Neo Lee says:
Will a freeze-proof camera do any good? It's probably a bit better at insulating the temperature. Olympus TG-820 12MP Shock/Water/Freeze-Proof Camera-Red (Old Model)

Posted on Jan 30, 2013, 9:31:04 PM PST
brad-man says:
Any camera can easily handle temps around 40 deg f. It's the batteries. If you want to max the chill time, research the batteries, find which ones behave best in the cold and then find a camera that uses them...

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 31, 2013, 12:52:16 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 31, 2013, 12:58:23 AM PST
Neo Lee says:
But with better heat insulation, a camera and any battery can be quite warm inside. It's pretty much like how sweater works for people; it keeps the heat trapped inside, otherwise we would be researching for antifreeze flesh right now. Likewise, a camera shouldn't need some antifreeze batteries; it just needs a sweater for its own. The ultimate one would be a camera in a vacuum flask with a transparent window just for the lens. Only if that existed. Olympus TG-820 is said to have double-layer shell, and I don't have the slightest clue of what's that about, but the description says that makes it operational down to -10 degree C. For how long? That's the question. If someone has one of these cameras, it might help with the answer.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 31, 2013, 2:17:17 PM PST
Sweaters, like wet suits, work by preventing direct contact between the warm and cold zones. In the case of the sweater, this is by creating a mesh of air which only slowly transfers internal heat to the outside (and why a wet sweater is normally quite ineffective -- the water content transfers heat so much faster -- wool supposedly doesn't suffer from this, perhaps since high lanolin wool sheds the water rather than trapping it in the air spaces).

BUT a sweater still relies upon a source of heat (the person wearing it). A camera wrapped in a sweater is not producing internal heat sufficient to build up the insulating layer effect.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 31, 2013, 3:02:57 PM PST
could always get one of those small chemical heating packets people use for thier hands. lay that against the camera body, then wrap it all in some insulating material like thinsulate.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 31, 2013, 9:29:19 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 1, 2013, 1:15:25 AM PST
Neo Lee says:
"A camera wrapped in a sweater"

Don't do that. It was supposedly and obviously an analogy. Unlike human, a camera has rigid body; therefore, it does not require the flexi of a sweater like human do. If you wanted to go with wool sweater, thinsulate would be a much better choice like eric suggested. Thinsulate is at least much better than wool in terms of heat insulation (1). For once, it might actually work. Poke a small hole for the lens, throw in a heat pack and then wrap everything tight.

(1) Thinsulate's R-value is about 1 m²K/W.Inch which is one of the best heat insulator out there. Wool's R-Value is about 0.5 m²K/W.Inch, meaning wool needs to be twice as thick to be comparable to thinsulate. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R-value_(insulation)

Posted on Feb 3, 2013, 8:42:05 PM PST
OldAmazonian says:
Disposable lithium AAs work ok when cold. Tethered ultracapacitors may work better.
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Discussion in:  Photography forum
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Initial post:  Jan 29, 2013
Latest post:  Feb 3, 2013

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