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Photography Question 
Jeffrey Ufberg
 

Weather Factors and Camera Gear


I read somewhere that you have to put your camera equipment in plastic bags when you are taking it from a warm area to a cold area. Is this true, and is there an alternative?
Thank you ...


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12/4/2005 8:28:25 AM

 
Bob Cournoyer
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/9/2003
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  Hot to cold, cold to hot, dry to humid. In a Zip-Loc or sealed non-porous bag, the camera has time to warm up or cool down without condensation forming on it.
Alternative ... bring a mop ... :-)
Bob


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12/4/2005 8:57:48 AM

 
Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/17/2003
  Warm-to-cold isn't all that critical. It's the reverse that could cause condensation to form immediately, first on exposed lenses and then on moisture-sensitive internal parts. When coming inside from a really cold environment, the Zip-Loc bag trick will work to prevent this. Just be sure that the bag is close to the temperature of your equipment before you seal it and bring your gear indoors.
The container and what's inside must come up to temperature equally. Whatever condensation DOES occur will happen on the outside of the bag ... not on your expensive equipment.


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12/4/2005 11:59:17 AM

 
Bob Cournoyer
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/9/2003
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  Thanks, didn't think about the temperature of the bag!
Bob


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12/4/2005 12:06:32 PM

 
Jeffrey Ufberg   thank you all so much, I appreciate it...just have to find a big enough bag...a guess a freezer or storage bag.


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12/4/2005 4:26:30 PM

 
Susan Jane Allen
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/20/2005
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  I'd like to ask a question related to this, if I might. I'll get my new Rebel XT in two days, and in a month or so, we'll be entering into super-humid, sub-tropical cold around 45F to 60F (southern China). It gets so humid (but no rain) that the kitchen and bathroom walls literally drip and tiled floors become slippery-wet. White-washed walls become black in spots with mould and everything is blanketed in fog for about two months. Transition from hot to cold or humid to non-humid isn't that much because (lamentably) there's no central heating, but I do use a space heater which cuts down on humidity in my bedroom and makes it a couple degrees warmer.

I suspect that this will cause danger of mould in my camera and lens interiors? What would you suggest I do to minimize this danger? Also, whenever I go out to shoot, I and my camera will often be wrapped in dense fog. Even though there's no rain (that will come afterwards!)should I put my camera in a ziplock bag as I've seen suggested in some tips and cut a hole out of it for the lens to peek through? Or would that make it worse as fog gradually creeps into the bag too? Quite worried about this and would appreciate suggestions.


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12/6/2005 6:59:23 AM

 
anonymous A.    Travelling in the Phillipines I found the problem worst when getting out of an air conditioned vehicle. I wear glasses and couldn't find the camera, let alone see through the viewfinder! But the condensation always cleared rapidly as the gear came back to the ambient temperature/humidity, usually much less than a minute, and never long enough to be risky to the camera's electronics.
Fit a filter you can wipe with a dry cloth (never wipe the lens, of course), use the filter ring to hold a platic bag in place over the camera (you put the camera into a loose fitting bag, seal the opening with a couple of folds and a rubber band, then press the lens against the side of the bag and screw a filter step-up ring on from the outside. If the bag is clear, you've got a soft filter free! If you don't want that, carefully remove the plastic inside the ring then screw a UV or skylight filter into the step-up ring. You can still use the viewfinder, although it is very simple to take off the viewfinder frame and use it the same way as you do the filter mount to goive a completely clear viewfinder.
Tried this, it works, and it works for salt spray and sand, too.
Or, buy an underwater housing!


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12/6/2005 4:43:36 PM

 
Susan Jane Allen
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/20/2005
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  Thanks, will try when I'm out in fog. For the overall humidity and mould prevention, I was thinking of doing what we used to do in Africa, when away on vacation and that is to install a light bulb in a closed wardrobe and leave it on 24 hours a day. I could just keep the camera there, I suppose, and if on the bottom, don't suppose the heat would affect it? Was worried because I think I read somewhere that the camera or some part of it shouldn't be exposed to constant heat. Any other ideas would be appreciated.


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12/6/2005 5:35:49 PM

 
anonymous A.    I was in Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa in September/October. Milder than home (Australia) and no special precautions needed.


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12/6/2005 5:53:00 PM

 
Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/17/2003
  Susan,
The moisture-laded atmosphere of tropical climates is much different than just coming in from the cold. You must think about protecting your equipment against corrosive damage the whole time you are shooting outdoors.
When the relative humidity reaches around 100%..(if it's not already raining), fog forms. Unless your camera is waterproof, moisture-sensitive electronics are can be damaged from prolonged exposure to this type of environment.
My cameras and lenses are mechanical with very few electronics but I'm still hesitant to expose them to a very humid environment for more than a few minutes at a time. (Maybe I'm just overly cautious.)
I'll take my shots, then return the gear to a water-tight container...(i.e., a Zip-Loc type bag).
A soft felt bag covers my camera bodies before they go into the plastic bag. Not only does this inner-bag act as a shock absorber but it helps to absorb whatever moisture might have formed on the outside.

David,
Your response clarifies my original point.
Coming from a cool-to-warm environment causes instantaneous condensation on external components,...(like eyeglasses and camera lenses).
Internal condensation can be occurring at the same time.
How quickly the equipment is warmed will determine how fast the moisture which had formed will evaporate.

The worst thing to do is to place a cold camera into an air-tight container AFTER the condensation has already formed.
Then, the condensed moisture can't evaporate and will cause fogging of the lens' inner glass elements or worse.




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12/6/2005 5:59:20 PM

 
anonymous A.    I can't disagree with Bob, but lliving in a humid climate and spending a lot of my time photographing in tropical and temperate rainforest, constanly wet and with the only protection for my camera the rainproof I am wearing, I have never had a problem with corrosion, electronic failure, fungi or mould.
At the end of a day's shooting or whenever I get out of the rain/humidity, I dry my camera and lenses (externally). I can't get my wife to take even that much care!
Film is another matter...However well protected, both exposed and unused film are at risk in high humidity and high temperatures; and in the very cold, it gets brittle and can break in the camera! If you shoot film, be really careful of what you load into the camera with the film...and here I am talking about condensation. If the film isn't at the same temperature as the camera, do not open the camera back, do not load that roll of film. I get away with my apparent lack of caution in humid and dank conditions because manufactures do an excellent job of sealing and protecting their bodies and lenses; but there is no protection against introducing the moisture to the inside of your gear.


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12/6/2005 6:44:09 PM

 
Aaron  Reyes
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/8/2005
  i don't think the xt is very well sealed.
I was thinking about this issue since winter is coming on us. I think i'm going to get a pelican case just big enough for my xt and some lenses. when I go cold to hot, just pop it in the airtight, waterproof case. if I need to open it up before it has warmed completely (which will take quite a bit longer in a case) I can go outside again...
think that'll work? I hate the hassle of the plastic bag and sucking the air out of it. (not that that's completely necessary)


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12/7/2005 6:08:47 AM

 
Susan Jane Allen
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/20/2005
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  I believe I read somewhere that the XT isn't very well sealed and I think I also once noticed that there's no waterproof casing manufactured for it, even if it could be afforded. Central Africa, right on the equator in rainforest is a very different climate than Kenya and South Africa, but David's experience was quite encouraging. Unfortunately, the weather here is something I haven't experienced anywhere else on earth. The first time I saw water dripping off the walls, I thought the bathroom upstairs was flooded or something, until I went into the kitchen and saw all the walls and floors covered with condesation---it lasted more than a month. Suddenly understood why south Chinese artists were obsessed with mountains and mist. Anyway, I guess I'll keep the camera stored in my relatively drier space-heated bedroom, in a closet with a light bulb to boot, get felt bags for camera and lenses (sounds like a great idea)and keep them sealed in ziplock bags, and when I want to photograph the misty city streets and landscapes, I'll keep the camera wrapped in a small dry towel and keep several dry on hand. To catch local colour you have to have your camera out all the time or you'll miss a lot. When I'm out for street photography, I don't even fold up the tripod; I carry it around fully extended! Thanks everyone, this has been really helpful. I'll probably be back in a month pestering everyone with questions on how to shoot in low light situations and fog with my first SLR!

This is going to sound really dumb, but I've been away for most of 30 years---what's a pelican case? Like a padded plastic, waterproof sealed bag for cold drinks or a diaper bag or something...?


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12/7/2005 7:06:28 AM

 
Aaron  Reyes
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/8/2005
  http://www.pelican-case.com/
waterproof, crush proof, "bomb proof",
great cases. I think the military uses them in extreme conditions. the smaller ones aren't that expensive. someday i'd like the camera bag that fits snugly into a case. pretty pricy though. some even have a goretex seal on the purge valve that'll let moisture out, but keep it from coming in...
cool stuff


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12/7/2005 8:21:56 AM

 
Will Turner   "I get away with my apparent lack of caution in humid and dank conditions because manufactures do an excellent job of sealing and protecting their bodies and lenses"

That depends on the camera model, the environment and the degree of exposure. Some SLR cameras are not well sealed against moisture entry at all. Later AF film and digital cameras have a lot more sensitivity to moisture because of the amount of electronics involved.

Humidity alone can kill a digital camera, see: http://www.digitalcamera-hq.com/minolta-maxxum-7d-reviews.html
Also, some digital cameras have had problems with moisture invading the supposedly sealed sensor and causing intermittent malfunction or failure. Back in the day I saw a few film camera shutters turn green with corrosion after heavy exposure to salt air. Anything that keeps the humidity or salt air close to the camera after exposure, even something as simple as fish slime accidentally encountered and not cleaned off, can increase the chances of corrosion.

Lenses usually need exposure to humid air over a longer time than camera bodies to grow fungus, but AF chips and circuitry can be affected by humidity and moisture. You could greatly speed up the process if you did something foolish like working the zoom off the camera and introducing a lot of humid air.

I notice many pro photographers using plenty of silica gel and dry boxes for lenses and cameras when going to a extremely humid environment, renewing the silica bags as needed. O-ringing all bodies, sometimes using underwater housings. Can't think they'd go to the trouble if it weren't an issue.


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12/7/2005 9:12:39 AM

 
Susan Jane Allen
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/20/2005
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  Awwggg! I wonder if I can buy silica here. And the plastic bag trick explained by David. Sounds complicated, but will have to try. The more you have in life, the more complicated it gets. Pelican bags.... Photography, I'm learning is a bottomless hole in your pocket.


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12/7/2005 3:32:24 PM

 
Lynsey Lund
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/14/2005
  I'm heading back to the original question if that is ok. I just wanted to clarify something. If its more important when going from cold-to-warm and the bag temperture should be the same as the camera...this means I should have my bag outside with me, and seal my camera and lens BEFORE I get back into my car/go inside? Does it matter if I take my lens off or should I leave it on and seal it and my camera together? Wasn't sure if there was any pro/con there.

I just wanted to make sure I understood that correctly. We gets tons of snow, and some rain, but we are fairly dry (MT)...and its been god-awful cold here...we didn't even get to 0degF today. Does anyone know if there is a certain cold temperature at which I should avoid taking my camera (D70) and lens out? I haven't been able to find it in my manual and I don't want to hurt anything. Thanks for the input.


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12/7/2005 7:36:46 PM

 
Aaron  Reyes
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/8/2005
  well you're not going to want to leave your camera outside, go in and get a bag, then come out to put it in the bag and go in again. so if you have the bags with your camera, that'll be better, and they'll be the same temp. i'm sure it doesn't matter much. how long can it take a plastic bag to cool down.
generally below freezing you should bag it, unless you weren't out too long. even half an hour in the 30s shouldn't bother the camera. (but it's your camera) take a look at your glass if you're worried about it. if you see it fog up, take it back in the cold for a few, and then bag it. it's not like it'll be an instant death sentence for the camera.
don't take the glass off. you'll open up the camera and make it more prone to fog...


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12/7/2005 9:14:21 PM

 
Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/17/2003
  What's easiest for me and affords peace of mind, is to keep my gear in plastic bags all the time.

Inside my back-pack, each camera/motordrive combination (without the lens attached) is in a soft felt bag and is sealed in its own gallon-sized Zip-Loc.
All of my smaller lenses and tele-converters are in soft cases and are kept in another bag all together.
My biggest tele is stored in a hard case with a pack of silica gel in it. The case isn't all that big and fits into a third bag by itself.
Another bag protects my flash unit and flash meter,...each wrapped in a felt bag.
Finally, there's all of my remotes, slaves, cables, and other small accessories...neatly packed together and sealed in another bag. Like my cameras, anything with delicate electronics is wrapped in a soft felt bag first.

This system may appear excessive but it prevents many problems:
-I can hike great distances in foggy/humid weather without exposing my gear.
-If it starts raining, my pack will get wet but everything inside stays dry.
-I spend a lot of time in and around water and have taken a few spills. The plastic bags have saved my gear several times when I've fallen into a creek while fishing or exploring.
-As for temperature extremes, my entire pack can come in from the cold with no worries. I just make sure that everything is packed up and sealed after my last shot has been taken.


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12/7/2005 11:41:18 PM

 
Will Turner   "Awwggg! I wonder if I can buy silica here. And the plastic bag trick explained by David. Sounds complicated, but will have to try. The more you have in life, the more complicated it gets. Pelican bags.... Photography, I'm learning is a bottomless hole in your pocket."

Nah, you just have to think outside the box. Silica gel or pellet bags are available everywhere, especially on the internet. The cheapest route is military or business surplus in large bags, they can be renewed in the oven. A large case with rubber gaskets (many people use the larger surplus army ammo cans) makes a good storage container. The important thing is make sure it's sealed from outside air so the silica will last longer. Take your cameras out each day from your camera bag and get them into your micro-dry environment. You can renew the bags in the oven every so often.

There are other ways. Air conditioned rooms are the easiest. You can buy or build a 'dry box' to hold cameras and lenses, using either light bulbs or silica to keep the interior dry. Your closet idea might work but will probably require more heat than a single lightbulb. Don't forget to keep all lamps safely distanced from cameras or flammables.

Definitely take a hygrometer(sold on the net or at cigar stores) with you to measure ambient humidity, you want to keep it under 60%.


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12/8/2005 7:40:34 AM

 
Susan Jane Allen
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/20/2005
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  60%---that's very useful to know. Yeah, flammables... lost half my clothes and nearly set my apartment on fire in Macau with the lightbulb trick. Thanks for the reminder to think out of the box--it does frankly take a lot of energy to try to buy or have anything unconventional made here --don't buy on the internet in China for various reasons--and even simple things like gallon-sized ziplock bags can't be found, but will figure something out along the lines of all this great advice.


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12/8/2005 11:53:22 AM

 
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