Here is another in our Mythbusting series. Today we answer the question “is using your camera in cold weather bad for your camera?” This origin of this myth is from anecdotal evidence of people having camera failures and other strange things being attributed to being used in the cold. Is this real, imagined, or a coincidence? Let’s take a look inside this myth and find out what’s really going on.
Inside the Myth
Some of the things we have heard that were blamed on shooting in cold weather is camera malfunctions, lenses fogging up, batteries going dead, white balance problems, flashes not working, to name just a few. If cold weather was so damaging you would think that cameras would come with warnings not to use them in cold conditions and yet stories and rumors about problems with cold weather continue to propagate.
What’s Really Going On
There are actually two issues to deal with in regards to shooting in cold weather, battery life and condensation. Batteries will not last nearly as long in the cold as they do in warmer conditions. When people have complained about equipment failures due to cold weather, almost always this is due to batteries going dead far faster than expected. This can manifest itself as camera problems, flashes not working, and numerous other electrical problems. if you are used to shooting and warm weather and find yourself shooting in the snow or other very cold conditions, be sure plan ahead and have at least twice as many batteries on hand as you would normally take. Keep unused batteries in the car or jacket pocket to help keep them warm.
A more serious problem is condensation. Condensation can occur inside your camera body and inside your lenses if lenses have got too cold and you take them into a warm location. This can obviously cause severe problems for your lenses if they get fogged up inside and condensation inside the body will create moisture that can result in very costly repairs. The primary cause for condensation is when taking equipment from the cold condition into a warm condition too quickly. If you have been in very cold conditions, take your time bringing your equipment back to room temperature. If you are getting back into your car, place a blanket or sweater over the camera gear so that the car’s heater doesn’t warm the equipment up too fast.
While it is not the actual cold conditions that are damaging to your gear, it is actually a drastic change in temperature occurring to fast that will cause the most problems. Batteries are definitely a concern and will not behave the same when very cold as they do in normal conditions, the wont last as long and won’t have quite the output which can appear to be equipment malfunctions. Can you shoot safely in very cold conditions? Yes, absolutely. Do you need to take special care to ensure you don’t have failures and that your equipment does not get damaged? Yes. Because it is not the cold weather itself that is bad, but is a contributing factor to the problems, we are calling this myth plausible.