Looking to purchase dslr for minus temperatures

Started Aug 15, 2013 | Discussions
spytrek007
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Looking to purchase dslr for minus temperatures
Aug 15, 2013

I am planning to purchase a DSLR suited for minus conditions and at high altitude.

I had recently purchased the Olympus tg-630 camera and the quality is so bad that I have decided to get rid of it. Image quality is worse than a smart phone camera.

I have looked into the pentax series of dslr that have minimum operating temperature of -10 C. What happens if temp. falls to -15C? Are they are any cameras that can handle extreme cold?

I am also considering the Sony A390 but how is useful would this be at minus conditions?

Just found this information on cnet website for the sony a390.

  • Min Operating Temperature 32 °F/0 C
  • Max Operating Temperature 104 °F/40 C
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Ron Poelman
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Considering the difficulties of operating..
In reply to spytrek007, Aug 15, 2013

anything with gloves on or chattering teeth,
would it not be easier to buy a small P&S
instead on an SLR or enthusiast mirror-less and
to keep it warm under your gear ?
Mayhap even two cheapies, one warming and one in use ?

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Giklab
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Re: Looking to purchase dslr for minus temperatures
In reply to spytrek007, Aug 15, 2013

Pentax K-30 or K-5II with a WR lens. The K-5 is rated down to -10 I think, and a SD card manufacturer used one to test a "tough" SD card, down to -30 celsius. The K-30 should perform similarly.

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spytrek007
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Re: Looking to purchase dslr for minus temperatures
In reply to Giklab, Aug 15, 2013

I came across this article or blog post.

http://www.photographyblog.com/reviews_nikon_d300_antartica.php

It is about the nikon d300 being used below -20C. However this nikon d300 has same recommended operating temperature range as the sony a390, does this mean that the a390 can survive minus temperatures and function efficiently?

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Rod McD
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Re: Looking to purchase dslr for minus temperatures
In reply to spytrek007, Aug 15, 2013

I'd also recommend the Pentax K5 and it's more recent incarnations, the K5II or K5IIs (which lacks an AA filter).  They're a very well featured, well built, reliable, water, dust and cold resistant, small DSLR. They're rated to -10C.  Pentax's lens range is well suited to the outdoor photographer (in the sense that you can buy some excellent small light primes).  The range caters for most needs, but they don't offer TS lenses or have the range of options that C&N do in very long lenses.

Suggest you read the DPR review.

Cheers, Rod

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bobn2
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Re: Looking to purchase dslr for minus temperatures
In reply to Rod McD, Aug 15, 2013

Rod McD wrote:

I'd also recommend the Pentax K5 and it's more recent incarnations, the K5II or K5IIs (which lacks an AA filter). They're a very well featured, well built, reliable, water, dust and cold resistant, small DSLR. They're rated to -10C. Pentax's lens range is well suited to the outdoor photographer (in the sense that you can buy some excellent small light primes). The range caters for most needs, but they don't offer TS lenses or have the range of options that C&N do in very long lenses.

Suggest you read the DPR review.

Cheers, Rod

The ratings don't really mean anything in terms of actual performance, just how much liability that their lawyers are prepared to accept. In the past, the commercial temperature range for electronic components was quoted a 0-70C, which means that the manufacturers wouldn't have a claim against the component suppliers if the component failed being used outside that range, so, 0-70C has become the default warranty range for most electronic equipment (usually cut at the top end to allow for imperfect cooling, etc). More recently, with the change from bipolar to CMOS technologies, the range has got higher, -40-85C being typical - nonetheless it only takes one component to have a 0 limit to limit the whole thing. What is more likely to cause a low temperature limit is freezing of lubricants, and you have no information in which lubricants have been used or what is their limit.

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spytrek007
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Re: Looking to purchase dslr for minus temperatures
In reply to Rod McD, Aug 15, 2013

Is pentax the only company that offers weatherproof cameras?

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MarshallG
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Re: Looking to purchase dslr for minus temperatures
In reply to bobn2, Aug 15, 2013

Rod McD wrote:

I'd also recommend the Pentax K5 and it's more recent incarnations, the K5II or K5IIs (which lacks an AA filter). They're a very well featured, well built, reliable, water, dust and cold resistant, small DSLR. They're rated to -10C. Pentax's lens range is well suited to the outdoor photographer (in the sense that you can buy some excellent small light primes). The range caters for most needs, but they don't offer TS lenses or have the range of options that C&N do in very long lenses.

Suggest you read the DPR review.

Cheers, Rod

The ratings don't really mean anything in terms of actual performance, just how much liability that their lawyers are prepared to accept. In the past, the commercial temperature range for electronic components was quoted a 0-70C, which means that the manufacturers wouldn't have a claim against the component suppliers if the component failed being used outside that range, so, 0-70C has become the default warranty range for most electronic equipment (usually cut at the top end to allow for imperfect cooling, etc). More recently, with the change from bipolar to CMOS technologies, the range has got higher, -40-85C being typical - nonetheless it only takes one component to have a 0 limit to limit the whole thing. What is more likely to cause a low temperature limit is freezing of lubricants, and you have no information in which lubricants have been used or what is their limit.

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Bob

That is not my industry experience. Commercial, Industrial and Automotive grades require different certifications and tests. A Tier 1 vendor like Pentax most likely ensured that each component (including the lubricants) was certified for the temperature rating, and the entire system is typically tested across the temperature rating. These certifications are usually very expensive to perform, because you have to test across all conditions, which is all known sample variants, temperature and voltage variants, and you need to test a statistically significant number of samples.

Of course it's a warranty issue, but warranties are expensive. If a manufacturer claims a wider temp range, it most likely mean they tested to that range.

What happens if a product is rated to -10 and you take it to -15? Probably nothing, but there is a probability of failure, which will increase with longer exposure to the low temperature and use at the lower temp.

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bobn2
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Re: Looking to purchase dslr for minus temperatures
In reply to MarshallG, Aug 15, 2013

MarshallG wrote:

Rod McD wrote:

I'd also recommend the Pentax K5 and it's more recent incarnations, the K5II or K5IIs (which lacks an AA filter). They're a very well featured, well built, reliable, water, dust and cold resistant, small DSLR. They're rated to -10C. Pentax's lens range is well suited to the outdoor photographer (in the sense that you can buy some excellent small light primes). The range caters for most needs, but they don't offer TS lenses or have the range of options that C&N do in very long lenses.

Suggest you read the DPR review.

Cheers, Rod

The ratings don't really mean anything in terms of actual performance, just how much liability that their lawyers are prepared to accept. In the past, the commercial temperature range for electronic components was quoted a 0-70C, which means that the manufacturers wouldn't have a claim against the component suppliers if the component failed being used outside that range, so, 0-70C has become the default warranty range for most electronic equipment (usually cut at the top end to allow for imperfect cooling, etc). More recently, with the change from bipolar to CMOS technologies, the range has got higher, -40-85C being typical - nonetheless it only takes one component to have a 0 limit to limit the whole thing. What is more likely to cause a low temperature limit is freezing of lubricants, and you have no information in which lubricants have been used or what is their limit.

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Bob

That is not my industry experience.

Commercial, Industrial and Automotive grades require different certifications and tests. A Tier 1 vendor like Pentax most likely ensured that each component (including the lubricants) was certified for the temperature rating, and the entire system is typically tested across the temperature rating. These certifications are usually very expensive to perform, because you have to test across all conditions, which is all known sample variants, temperature and voltage variants, and you need to test a statistically significant number of samples.

Of course it's a warranty issue, but warranties are expensive. If a manufacturer claims a wider temp range, it most likely mean they tested to that range.

What happens if a product is rated to -10 and you take it to -15? Probably nothing, but there is a probability of failure, which will increase with longer exposure to the low temperature and use at the lower temp.

From your reply, I can't work out what you are saying is not your industry experience.

That the standard commercial rating was 0-70 but has increased to -40 to 85? I can give you any amount of documentary evidence to support that.

That the most likely cause of failure if the rating falls short of -40 is due to lubricant freezing? What else would it be?

Anyway, so far as supplier qualification goes, these are mass produced product, suppliers will be qualified, but after then generally the suppliers specifications are accepted except for key components. As you say, certifications are very expensive, which is why they are only done in particular safety critical markets (automotive, aerospace, medical). Frequently it happens when a new supplier is being qualified, their components will be thoroughly tested to see if they make the grade. Temperature range is in any case a statistical matter. It is highly unlikely that every single copy of a component rated down to -40 will fail at -41, the real question is what is the residual failure rate at the temperature. For this reason these thing are often certified by design rather than testing - the testing would just be far too expensive.

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spytrek007
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Re: Looking to purchase dslr for minus temperatures
In reply to bobn2, Aug 15, 2013

Just been on the phone with pentax support. I am considering the k30 or k50 since both are weather proof and suited for minus temperatures. I was told that the k7, k5, k5 II, k5 IIs and older discontinued models like the kr and kx are professional models with only manual or semi auto modes like Tv or Av.

K50 and K30 both have scene modes which are suited for beginners and mostly convenience of shooting.

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bobn2
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Re: Looking to purchase dslr for minus temperatures
In reply to spytrek007, Aug 15, 2013

spytrek007 wrote:

Just been on the phone with pentax support. I am considering the k30 or k50 since both are weather proof and suited for minus temperatures. I was told that the k7, k5, k5 II, k5 IIs and older discontinued models like the kr and kx are professional models with only manual or semi auto modes like Tv or Av.

K50 and K30 both have scene modes which are suited for beginners and mostly convenience of shooting.

There are some (myself not included) for whom scene modes are the mark of a non-serious camera. Still, the K5 has a P mode (fully automatic exposure), and the rules behind scene modes are pretty simple to learn - I wouldn't let lack of a scene mode put you off. The real operational difference in DSLR's is whether you have one or two control wheels. If you have two, when you move on to controlling your own exposure it is much simpler.

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steelhead3
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Re: Looking to purchase dslr for minus temperatures
In reply to spytrek007, Aug 15, 2013

The sony 700,900,77 and 99 are all weather sealed.  The newer flashes also.  The 16/50 (DT), 500 f4 and 300 2.8 II have claimed weather sealing.  Unlike pentax and its claims, sony doesn't tout it much.

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steelhead3
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Re: Looking to purchase dslr for minus temperatures
In reply to bobn2, Aug 15, 2013

Nikon has no problem with their lubricants at very cold temperatures...the problem arises at normal temperatures where the light lubricant sprays every where. 

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JamieTux
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Re: Looking to purchase dslr for minus temperatures
In reply to spytrek007, Aug 15, 2013

Olympus, Nikon, Canon, Sony, Panasonic all offer weather resistant models but you have to make sure you have the right lenses too.

I think that the key thing for you is going to be to work out the process of how you use the camera, where and when you can change lenses, how long all the parts need to acclimatise when you change environments, how you stop moisture getting into things in the warm areas, how you keep li-ion batteries warm, is there an AA option just in case?

I think that the best option would be sealed unit, after that something with as few moving parts (eg no moving mirror!) -materials tend to get brittle in extreme cold, and manufacturer stated weather resistant lenses attached to the camera and left on when outside.

Luminous landscape run tours there and gave anecdotal failure rates in an article a few years back, I'd suggest asking Michael Reichmann or at least on those forums, Im sure the advice will be more based on how to handle the kit than which specific kit to have.

For what it's worth I've used the Nikon D70, Sony Nex, Sony A900 and the Olympus OMD for a few hours at a time in -5 to -10 and they were all fine except for the batteries running out more quickly (I didn't try using them indoors the same day though as I was worried about condensation causing damage to components. I don't think that any were rated fir that though!

Just remembered... Kai that does the Bokeh! Tests froze a Canon 7D into a block of ice and it worked fine after it was defrosted and dried, look that up!
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bobn2
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Re: Looking to purchase dslr for minus temperatures
In reply to steelhead3, Aug 15, 2013

steelhead3 wrote:

Nikon has no problem with their lubricants at very cold temperatures...the problem arises at normal temperatures where the light lubricant sprays every where.

LOL. It gives the lie to the idea that Nikon thoroughly qualified all the components before they designed them in.

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bobn2
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Re: Looking to purchase dslr for minus temperatures
In reply to JamieTux, Aug 15, 2013

JamieTux wrote:

Olympus, Nikon, Canon, Sony, Panasonic all offer weather resistant models but you have to make sure you have the right lenses too

The problem is that 'weather resistance' makes no specific claims with regard to low temperature (or anything else for that matter) and does not affect the warranty terms - you're still only being sold a camera guaranteed to work within the manufacturer's specified temperature range, whatever that is.

Just remembered... Kai that does the Bokeh! Tests froze a Canon 7D into a block of ice and it worked fine after it was defrosted and dried, look that up!

It would be unlikely that freezing and thawing would adversely affect a camera. The question bing asked is will it work while frozen.

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JamieTux
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Re: Looking to purchase dslr for minus temperatures
In reply to bobn2, Aug 15, 2013

That was my point Bob How do you prove to Pentax it didn't get to -11 or that the spray wasn't running water and a submerge? Both are out of spec and you have no way to prove that they didn't happen, wweather resistance is very ambiguous none have the up ratings like the tough cameras as far as I'm aware.
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Allan Olesen
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Re: Looking to purchase dslr for minus temperatures
In reply to spytrek007, Aug 15, 2013

spytrek007 wrote:

I have looked into the pentax series of dslr that have minimum operating temperature of -10 C. What happens if temp. falls to -15C? Are they are any cameras that can handle extreme cold?

Temperature

A lot of us have used ordinary, non weather sealed DSLRs in -15 - -20 °C without any problems. I don't think I have ever heard of a DSLR which would not operate at that temperature.

The two most common issues are batteries and condensation:

  1. Bring spare batteries and keep them in a warm pocket.
  2. Every time you take the camera into a warm building or any place with temperatures above 0 °C, you should put it in a reasonably tight bag so the moisture in the hot air inside the building will condensate on the bag instead of condensating on (or in) the camera. I have a weather sealed camera now, but I still use this method.

I have a co-worker who for two years was in the Sirius Sledge Patrol, the Danish arctic special forces patrolling the north-east Greenland territory by dog sledges. He travelled for months in temperatures down to -48 °C. He used an ordinary, unmodified Canon 40D for his personal photos, but he had his lenses disassembled and cleaned of any oil to make sure that they would operate at low temperatures. As I understood him, all Sirius members did that, no matter which make of camera they used. They also kept their batteries in the pocket instead of in the camera, and only inserted the batteries when they took a photo.

According to him, Canon generally was most reliable in that climate. Nikon owners had problems with high battery consumption so they would have to bring several batteries for a trip. He also mentioned that Sony had been tried, but did not mention which problems they had. (Perhaps he just want wanted to tease me because he knew I have a Sony a77).

Altitude

What is "high altitude" to you?

A lot of us use DSLRs on ski trips which is usually somewhere between 1500 and 3000 meters above sea level. I haven't heard on anyone having problems at these altitudes, though I sometimes have a slight problem with the on/off button of my camera which will get stuck, probably because of overpressure somewhere inside the camera. The same happens on airplane trips where the air pressure is comparable to an altitude of 2000-2400 meters.

I have another co-worker who was on the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, 5,895 meter above sea level. Most of the group brought cameras, but several of them stopped working at that altitude. Unfortunately, she couldn't tell which ones wouldn't function.

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JamieTux
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Re: Looking to purchase dslr for minus temperatures
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MarshallG
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Re: Looking to purchase dslr for minus temperatures
In reply to bobn2, Aug 15, 2013

MarshallG wrote:

Rod McD wrote:

I'd also recommend the Pentax K5 and it's more recent incarnations, the K5II or K5IIs (which lacks an AA filter). They're a very well featured, well built, reliable, water, dust and cold resistant, small DSLR. They're rated to -10C. Pentax's lens range is well suited to the outdoor photographer (in the sense that you can buy some excellent small light primes). The range caters for most needs, but they don't offer TS lenses or have the range of options that C&N do in very long lenses.

Suggest you read the DPR review.

Cheers, Rod

The ratings don't really mean anything in terms of actual performance, just how much liability that their lawyers are prepared to accept. In the past, the commercial temperature range for electronic components was quoted a 0-70C, which means that the manufacturers wouldn't have a claim against the component suppliers if the component failed being used outside that range, so, 0-70C has become the default warranty range for most electronic equipment (usually cut at the top end to allow for imperfect cooling, etc). More recently, with the change from bipolar to CMOS technologies, the range has got higher, -40-85C being typical - nonetheless it only takes one component to have a 0 limit to limit the whole thing. What is more likely to cause a low temperature limit is freezing of lubricants, and you have no information in which lubricants have been used or what is their limit.

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Bob

That is not my industry experience.

Commercial, Industrial and Automotive grades require different certifications and tests. A Tier 1 vendor like Pentax most likely ensured that each component (including the lubricants) was certified for the temperature rating, and the entire system is typically tested across the temperature rating. These certifications are usually very expensive to perform, because you have to test across all conditions, which is all known sample variants, temperature and voltage variants, and you need to test a statistically significant number of samples.

Of course it's a warranty issue, but warranties are expensive. If a manufacturer claims a wider temp range, it most likely mean they tested to that range.

What happens if a product is rated to -10 and you take it to -15? Probably nothing, but there is a probability of failure, which will increase with longer exposure to the low temperature and use at the lower temp.

From your reply, I can't work out what you are saying is not your industry experience.

That the standard commercial rating was 0-70 but has increased to -40 to 85? I can give you any amount of documentary evidence to support that.

That the most likely cause of failure if the rating falls short of -40 is due to lubricant freezing? What else would it be?

Anyway, so far as supplier qualification goes, these are mass produced product, suppliers will be qualified, but after then generally the suppliers specifications are accepted except for key components. As you say, certifications are very expensive, which is why they are only done in particular safety critical markets (automotive, aerospace, medical). Frequently it happens when a new supplier is being qualified, their components will be thoroughly tested to see if they make the grade. Temperature range is in any case a statistical matter. It is highly unlikely that every single copy of a component rated down to -40 will fail at -41, the real question is what is the residual failure rate at the temperature. For this reason these thing are often certified by design rather than testing - the testing would just be far too expensive.

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Bob

Bob,
I didn't want to get into an argument. Merely saying that in the products I've built, temperature testing is performed. Statistics eventually come into play, because we can't freeze and bake every single part (nor would we want to). So I would tend to believe that if Pentax publishes a wider temp rating for their cameras, it's the result of actual work, and not marketing, and it should make a difference. Of course, it's possible that Nikon and Canon are simply less aggressive. There's a stress test video of the Canon 7D on YouTube and it's amazing.

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