Cameras are an expensive purchase for most. It is therefore natural for us to worry about the effects of weather. Let me put your mind at rest. The cameras are built to withstand a huge range of weather conditions.
Icy Cold Weather
Camera electronics can usually work well upto zero degree Celsius without any problems. Some cameras can go few more degrees below that. Though this range is sufficient for most people, it is not always enough. So, what exactly gets damaged from cold weather? The battery life gets reduced, the metallic moving parts become tight, and if left out in cold for long, the lubricants can get spoilt. This is why focusing rings of old metallic lenses can be hard to turn around in winters. This is also the reason why getting those Hasselblads back from moon would be futile (Did you know that astronauts have left many perfectly fine Hasselblads on moon when they returned back?)
Here are some ways by which I have easily used my cameras rated to about zero degrees, in temperatures well below zero-
I store the camera in a warm place, usually inside a heated car for most of the time. Taking the camera out only when creating photographs helps. The camera electronics take time to reach the low surrounding temperature and before they do, I am usually done with my photography. This also keeps my camera and lens body comfortable to hold in bare hands, even in such freezing temperatures.
I keep a charged spare battery in the inside pocket my jacket. In extremely low temperature, the battery runs out very fast. In fact, there still might be charge left in the battery but still it’ll act as if completely drained. Keeping it warm increases the number of clicks I can manage per full charge. Sometimes, I exchange the cold battery from camera with a warm battery from my jacket, even when there is enough juice left in the cold one. Repeating this keeps both the batteries performing well. For an otherwise normal camera, this is the first thing to die out in extremely cold weather.
Next comes the camera body and lens body itself. I have many metal bodied lenses and cameras, which get very cold. I personally don’t prefer using my camera through gloves. Using rubber or silicon sleeves on metal cameras and lens bodies makes them slightly less uncomfortable to use. These after-market sleeves also provide some amount of protection from minor bumps and scratches.
Cold weather also has problems with long exposures. This is where the cameras actually go below their recommended operating temperature range. Now the good news, the cameras can withstand much lower temperatures than the manufacturers would have us believe. I have clicked star trails in tens of degrees below zero, with my camera mounted on a tripod for hours at stretch. The heat generated by the camera electronics helps but I am not sure as to what extent.
We shield ourselves from cold icy winds so why not do the same for cameras? I recommend using your own body, tall structures, parked vehicles etc for shielding direct ice winds from striking the camera.
Keep your camera close to your body whenever you can. The body heat will keep it warm.
Generally cameras can also withstand very high temperatures. Temperatures which can get uncomfortable for us are still workable for cameras. However there are times when these are to be used in heat which is well outside of their recommended temperature range. Lubricants can start to flow, plastics crack and sensor can become hot.
This is what I do in such times –
First and foremost, I do carry my cameras in camera bag, well protected from direct sun. Sometimes when I am traveling in air-conditioned cars on road, I prefer to keep them with me rather than in the car’s boot.
Here’s a small catch in such arrangement. The cold lens surface gets affected by condensation as soon as the camera comes out in warm or hot weather, with even little amount of humidity. The higher the humidity, worse is this problem. For such situations, I let my camera and lens come to the surrounding temperatures before starting to click. The condensation clears away on its own as soon as the temperature difference disappears. Do not wipe the condensation away when it happens. It does not help. Just wait for sometime and it’ll disappear.
Protect the camera from direct sun. Use an umbrella if you have to or stand in a shaded area.
Some say that white colored bodies of some expensive lenses does not feel as hot as the black ones. Theoretically it does sound convincing but in actual conditions, I find both white bodies lenses and black bodied ones equally warm to touch. Still if given an option between shades, I would prefer a white bodied lens for use in hot weather.
Prevention is better than cure. Keep all unused lenses in safe and cool location. It is better to prevent the lubricants from leaking over the aperture blades rather than getting them cleaned afterwards. Leave all the lenses you don’t intend to use back home.
Store the lenses vertically in your camera bag, with the aperture side towards the ground. This will prevent leaky lubricants from spoiling the optical elements and aperture blades.
Camera sensors get affected by heat too. Sensor heat is one of the causes of noise. In extremely hot weather, sensor generates more noise than in winters. So, if you are aiming to capture some long exposures, plan them well. Take one shot and make that shot count (sounds like a familiar line from a movie). The subsequent shots will have more noise.
Carry a water-bottle with your camera bag. I know that this is about cameras but then photographers too need to survive in hot weather. Water loss from body can sometimes go unnoticed in dry and hot weather. So keep sipping on water.
I have already written about it sometime back. See this article on rains – Rainy Season
Fast winds are also bad for the cameras. They carry along with them dust which can get into the insides of cameras and lenses, including inside the weather-sealed ones. Here are some suggestions for such weather conditions –
Avoid changing lenses frequently in such weather. This will reduce the amount of dust getting into the camera.
While zooming or focusing, turn the rings slowly. Quick movement in some lenses sucks in a large amount of air which creates turbulence and leads to dust getting into the lenses.
Use your dry hand to wipe the parts of the lenses that go back into the body while focusing or zooming. This will reduce the amount of dust that goes back into the lens.
Keep a blower-brush or a make-up brush for cleaning the outside body parts after you are done with photography, before packing everything back into the camera bag.
Still worried about high speed dusty wind? Here’s is an alternative – If you happen to have old cameras which you don’t use much. Get them out. They can come of use in such unfriendly conditions. Do see this – What to do with old cameras?
Cameras are meant for photographing and not for storage. Everyday, the weather will have some problems to offer but do not be scared. Take your camera out and enjoy your photography.