DSLR sensor heating during the summer

Started Feb 5, 2015 | Discussions
rokaroka
rokaroka Regular Member • Posts: 395
DSLR sensor heating during the summer

I'm still new so hopefully this isn't a stupid question: It's still a way off but I've been wondering about AP with my DSLR during our hot Arizona summer nights. I know some CCD cameras are cooled and I'm assuming a DSLR sensor would suffer from the same heating problems as a CCD. So the question is what, if anything, can be done to cool a DSLR sensor or is it even necessary? Would waiting some time interval between exposures help? We routinely have periods where the overnight low never gets below 90 degrees around here so it's a real concern.

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starman1969
starman1969 Veteran Member • Posts: 4,414
Re: DSLR sensor heating during the summer

I've not heard of any way to keep the sensor cool when shooting with dslrs in hot conditions. What I would probably do is make sure to take plenty of calibration frames. That is at least 30 dark & bias frames. The more calibration frames the better.

It may, as you say, be worth keeping long gaps between exposures but I have never shot in such warm temperatures so I can't confirm if that would make a difference.

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Rutgerbus Senior Member • Posts: 2,267
Re: DSLR sensor heating during the summer

Iff you have money, anything can be done!

For example, you can buy this coolerbox for your camera to control the temperature of the chip. Unfortunately, this particular reseller does not sell it anymore...not sure why that is though.

http://www.telescope.com/Orion-DSLR-Camera-Cooler/p/101916.uts

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astrodad1 Contributing Member • Posts: 712
Re: DSLR sensor heating during the summer

Or you can build your own cooler

http://dslrmodifications.com/rebelmod450d16c.html

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Lyle Aldridge Senior Member • Posts: 1,207
Re: DSLR sensor heating during the summer

rokaroka wrote:

I'm still new so hopefully this isn't a stupid question: It's still a way off but I've been wondering about AP with my DSLR during our hot Arizona summer nights. I know some CCD cameras are cooled and I'm assuming a DSLR sensor would suffer from the same heating problems as a CCD. So the question is what, if anything, can be done to cool a DSLR sensor or is it even necessary? Would waiting some time interval between exposures help? We routinely have periods where the overnight low never gets below 90 degrees around here so it's a real concern.

Here is another DIY Peltier cooler, done in a plastic junction box. Same concept as others have posted, but IMO, a bit more elegant in execution. You can also find a lot of discussion of these in the DIY forum at cloudynights.

That said, however, I'm in Tucson, and have experience with summer heat. Although I can tell I'm recording a bit more noise during the summer (using an unmodified Canon T2i), I don't find a crying need for cooling.The heat has never produced the warnings and shutdown that recording prolonged video does. It's an issue, I guess, and maybe someday I'll address it, but at my admittedly mediocre skill level, other problems seem more worthy of attention.

Fortunately, though, my part of Tucson cools off at night, usually into the 70s during the hottest part of summer. So those extra degrees where you are might make a bigger difference.

rokaroka
OP rokaroka Regular Member • Posts: 395
Re: DSLR sensor heating during the summer

Lyle Aldridge wrote:

rokaroka wrote:

I'm still new so hopefully this isn't a stupid question: It's still a way off but I've been wondering about AP with my DSLR during our hot Arizona summer nights. I know some CCD cameras are cooled and I'm assuming a DSLR sensor would suffer from the same heating problems as a CCD. So the question is what, if anything, can be done to cool a DSLR sensor or is it even necessary? Would waiting some time interval between exposures help? We routinely have periods where the overnight low never gets below 90 degrees around here so it's a real concern.

Here is another DIY Peltier cooler, done in a plastic junction box. Same concept as others have posted, but IMO, a bit more elegant in execution. You can also find a lot of discussion of these in the DIY forum at cloudynights.

That said, however, I'm in Tucson, and have experience with summer heat. Although I can tell I'm recording a bit more noise during the summer (using an unmodified Canon T2i), I don't find a crying need for cooling.The heat has never produced the warnings and shutdown that recording prolonged video does. It's an issue, I guess, and maybe someday I'll address it, but at my admittedly mediocre skill level, other problems seem more worthy of attention.

Fortunately, though, my part of Tucson cools off at night, usually into the 70s during the hottest part of summer. So those extra degrees where you are might make a bigger difference.

Thanks for the link! Looks like he built a really nice enclosure for not a lot of money. The Peltier cooler assembly he used is only about $85 and the rest of the materials couldn't have cost very much. The only drawback is the power requirements. I shot with a very portable setup, an iOptron SkyWatcher, that runs on 4 AA batteries. So I'd have to drag along a deep cycle battery too. Still a much more attractive option that an expensive CCD camera - for now.

You must be up in the mountains near Tucson for it to cool down into the 70s during the summer. I'm jealous!

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rokaroka
OP rokaroka Regular Member • Posts: 395
Re: DSLR sensor heating during the summer

astrodad1 wrote:

Or you can build your own cooler

http://dslrmodifications.com/rebelmod450d16c.html

Thanks for the link! Now I have a couple of options.

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just Tony
just Tony Veteran Member • Posts: 3,244
Live view / video is the #1 problem

From what I've read the main problem is not long exposures - where the sensor isn't really doing much of anything at all - it's all the activity caused by the data readouts. Using the sensor to create a live video feed is the worst possible thing to do. Live framing and focusing ought to be done sparingly.

When it comes to gathering images, I treat the time interval between completing my setup and beginning the takedown as absolutely precious. A few thousand added electrons are a small price to pay for a few million more photons. Plus some tasks such as trails require minimal breaks anyway.

This company (which I haven't used, I merely found them in google)

http://www.spencerscamera.com/

offers DSLR conversion services for H-alpha, IR, and heat dissipation. I can't imagine that for the heat problem they can do much more than add a strip of copper, so I have no idea how much it will actually help. And a cooled enclosure likewise can't do a huge amount because there is a fair amount of poor thermal conductor material between the sensors and the outside of the camera. With either option I'd want to hear some success stories.

rokaroka
OP rokaroka Regular Member • Posts: 395
Re: Live view / video is the #1 problem

just Tony wrote:

From what I've read the main problem is not long exposures - where the sensor isn't really doing much of anything at all - it's all the activity caused by the data readouts. Using the sensor to create a live video feed is the worst possible thing to do. Live framing and focusing ought to be done sparingly.

When it comes to gathering images, I treat the time interval between completing my setup and beginning the takedown as absolutely precious. A few thousand added electrons are a small price to pay for a few million more photons. Plus some tasks such as trails require minimal breaks anyway.

This company (which I haven't used, I merely found them in google)

http://www.spencerscamera.com/

offers DSLR conversion services for H-alpha, IR, and heat dissipation. I can't imagine that for the heat problem they can do much more than add a strip of copper, so I have no idea how much it will actually help. And a cooled enclosure likewise can't do a huge amount because there is a fair amount of poor thermal conductor material between the sensors and the outside of the camera. With either option I'd want to hear some success stories.

Thanks for the post, it gives me more to think about. I'm not sure that sensor heating will really be a problem for me or not. It was something I had read about and it got me thinking because, living in Phoenix, whenever overheating is mentioned I pay attention

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W5JCK
W5JCK Veteran Member • Posts: 3,668
Re: Live view / video is the #1 problem

I live in Texas where it is hot as hell during the summer and I really have never had any issues with sensors heating up too much. Perhaps a bit more noise, but not much of an issue. However, there are some common sense things you can do, depending on your camera model.

  • Pull the LCD out away from the camera body. It produces heat so don't keep it flat up against the back of the camera, which is near the sensor.
  • Turn the LCD off. Some cameras allow this option.
  • Give the camera a cool down period once in while.

However, for what we do I doubt the heat will be much of a factor. Last summer I set up cameras to take hundreds of images each of the MW for creating time lapses and for capturing meteors. It doesn't get much hotter than late July to mid-August in Texas. Yet I had no camera heat issues. AZ is fairly dry. Texas is a bit more humid. Now if you live in a high humidity area, then you might have more issues. But dry heat is not too bad on DSLR or mirrorless cameras. However, if you use a marginal camera that requires a very high ISO setting then you might. But I think you should be okay with most APS-C and FF cameras. The M4/3 and 1" sensor cameras might have issues.

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Lyle Aldridge Senior Member • Posts: 1,207
Re: DSLR sensor heating during the summer

rokaroka wrote:

You must be up in the mountains near Tucson for it to cool down into the 70s during the summer. I'm jealous!

Not really in the mountains; this is just one of the oft-unnoticed ways Tucson is cooler than Phoenix (yeah, you have my sympathy). If you just look at the maximums that get reported each day, Tucson looks almost as hot, but I think you have almost twice as many hours above 90 as we do. We're at a higher elevation (2400-2900 feet), surrounded by higher mountains on all sides, and don't have those SRP canals running all over town to raise our humidity. So on those 100+ days that look the similar in the nightly summary, you're above 100 by 10AM, while we don't get there until after noon, and you're still above 100 at midnight, while we drop below that pretty quickly after sunset.

rokaroka
OP rokaroka Regular Member • Posts: 395
Re: DSLR sensor heating during the summer

Lyle Aldridge wrote:

rokaroka wrote:

You must be up in the mountains near Tucson for it to cool down into the 70s during the summer. I'm jealous!

Not really in the mountains; this is just one of the oft-unnoticed ways Tucson is cooler than Phoenix (yeah, you have my sympathy). If you just look at the maximums that get reported each day, Tucson looks almost as hot, but I think you have almost twice as many hours above 90 as we do. We're at a higher elevation (2400-2900 feet), surrounded by higher mountains on all sides, and don't have those SRP canals running all over town to raise our humidity. So on those 100+ days that look the similar in the nightly summary, you're above 100 by 10AM, while we don't get there until after noon, and you're still above 100 at midnight, while we drop below that pretty quickly after sunset.

I wasn't aware of this. My wife and I have always enjoyed Tucson. We take short trips down there all the time. We're also avid cyclists and Tucson has a great cycling culture. Maybe we should just move down there

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rgibbons
rgibbons Regular Member • Posts: 348
Re: DSLR sensor heating during the summer

It is good to power your camera from an external power source.  Using the internal batteries creates additional heat, (batteries get warm with use).   Also,  using an external monitor/display, rather than the built in display on the back, can reduce the camera temperature, (the displays also generate heat).

Russ G.

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swimswithtrout Veteran Member • Posts: 3,791
It will not be hot enough to damage a sensor

But there is an extreme, day and night difference, in the noise from my camera when comparing my images from 10-20F and 70-80F ambient temps !! One looks like it came from a cooled CCD astrocam, the other from a cheap P&S.

I've grown to love those clear, cold nights that are just above 0F. It saves me a LOT of money vs buying a cooled CCD !

Herra Kuulapaa Regular Member • Posts: 192
Re: Live view / video is the #1 problem
1

just Tony wrote:

From what I've read the main problem is not long exposures - where the sensor isn't really doing much of anything at all - it's all the activity caused by the data readouts. Using the sensor to create a live video feed is the worst possible thing to do. Live framing and focusing ought to be done sparingly.

When it comes to gathering images, I treat the time interval between completing my setup and beginning the takedown as absolutely precious. A few thousand added electrons are a small price to pay for a few million more photons. Plus some tasks such as trails require minimal breaks anyway.

This company (which I haven't used, I merely found them in google)

http://www.spencerscamera.com/

offers DSLR conversion services for H-alpha, IR, and heat dissipation. I can't imagine that for the heat problem they can do much more than add a strip of copper, so I have no idea how much it will actually help. And a cooled enclosure likewise can't do a huge amount because there is a fair amount of poor thermal conductor material between the sensors and the outside of the camera. With either option I'd want to hear some success stories.

I may have some answers to you.

This is what happens to sensor temperature during continuous ISO1600/10min exposures in different temperatures (°C), horizontal axis is the time in minutes. Heat practically rises +12°C above the ambient during exposures:

This makes it nearly useless to take darks with uncooled DSLR due to frame noise nonuniformity. According my experience you need to wait rather long to see any real difference in sensor temperature.

This is what happens to noise when temperature rises:

ISO1600/10min Nikon D5100, which has low dark current noise buildup

You want to keep the sensor temperature low, but for that you need cooling.

This is what monochrome dark frame looks in different temperatures:

Nikon D5100 ISO1600/10min

In the end it comes to this. Cooling makes the noise go away much better than any other camera related option.

Narrow band Rosette with cooled monochrome Nikon D5100

Herra Kuulapaa Regular Member • Posts: 192
Re: Live view / video is the #1 problem

With the long wait time to see any real difference in sensor temperature I'm referring to so called cool down pause between frames. Cool down time is measured in minutes to reduce temperature even two degrees C (freezing conditions are different case of course and -20C makes conditions quite optimal noise wise).

Tristimulus Veteran Member • Posts: 7,718
Re: Live view / video is the #1 problem

Wonderful graph - thanks for sharing!

At my nothernly latitude we have bright summer nights and when the autumn darkness set in the temperatures are seldom above 10 C so I have no experience with hot nights. However when temperatures get above 0 C Noise increase very rapidly with raising temperatures and by 10 C noise is a real problem (at least to me and now I am only talking about actually use and not theory alone). The graph shown above tell the same story as my practical experience. Actual work however show me exactly where I stumble upon practical limits.

The Canon 60Da is rather noisy down to some degrees below 0 C. From -10 C and down noise is not much of a problem with this camera - at least not for all practical purposes (as said I am actually using my cameras).

The Sony A7 is much better in this respect and I do not stumble upon any practical noise limits even at 10 C. Main drawback with this camera is the lack of Ha sensitivity - else this would have been my astrocamera numbers one.

Another problem is where to set the limits - we all have different needs and different workflows - so defining a practical limit for noice vs temperature must be done through experiments or practical experience. I know my limits but I do not know yours...

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