Doug Stockdale's Singular Images

February 1, 2008

Canon XTi – cold weather issues

Filed under: Photography — Doug Stockdale @ 11:47 pm

Open During Construction

My biggest complaint during this trip into China was the lousely cold weather performance of my Canon Rebel XTi. On consecutive days I had problems with using this camera in the cold weather. Now, it did not shut down altogether, but after a certain point, I was not sure that when I pressed the shutter release, what exactly I was going to get. Not a good thing, by any means.

By background, I have had the camera for over a year and I use it mostly in Southern California, not a cold state during the winter. I had used it for a week in Colorado last February, but in retrospect, it was for a sustained hour to hour and a half of local snow shoeing. So I did not have it out in the cold (below freezing) for that long of a period before this trip.

My first problems occurred after I had decided to walk into Jiashan from my hotel, which was about an hours walk. And it was the begining of the blizzard, so the wind was blowing, it was below freezing and it was snowing. About two hours into my walk, the camera started to change its operational mode. I usually keep it in Av (Aperture priority) mode, but it was switching to M (manual) mode. But I was not moving the mode selector on top of the camera. Yikes, what was happening?

No matter what mode I put the selector in, within a second it was back into Manual mode. To make things a tad worse, it was also jumping between no exposure compensation, and a -2 exposure compensation. So I opted to use Manual mode (as if now, I really had a choice) and I had to recheck my image after each exposure, because I could not tell what I was going to get. I figured it must be the cold, so when I was not using the camera, I tucked inside my coat and kept it zipped while I continued my walk. I did experiment and after warming it up, I could shoot two quick exposures with Av before it defaulted itself back to M. Grrrrrr.

I knew that the batteries with the Canon were suseptable to the cold and run down fast. Which is the reseason that I have a second back up battery in my inside fleece pocket. So in reflecting on the cold issue at the end of the day, I started wondering if my RRS L bracket was not acting like a cold sink, since it was pretty cold when I returned after four hours of walking. And since I had hauled my tripod and did not use it, I decided to remove the L bracket and leave the tripod in the hotel for the next days hike. I was hoping that the problem was solved. Wrong.

The next day, I again took a four hour hike in the blizzard, same conditions as the day before, but no L bracket and I kept the camera tucked in my coat while walking and not photographing. About an hour into the walk, problems again. Slightly different and not quite as severe. The camera would not show the menu display, but the display would go all black. If I toggled the mode function, I would see the menu for a second and then it would black out again. But that was providing enough feedback that I was still in Av mode and how many exposures that I had left on this CF card. And I was getting the feedback image after the exposure so that I knew I had made the capture. Dang nab it!

So, I guess that I need to pay attention to the cold weather analysis when I consider the next camera and meanwhile make sure I keep this camera bundled up if I make any more long walks during a blizzard;- )

Best regards, Doug

BTW this is one of a number of images that I considering for another China photo series; “Open during Construction“. And it may also be a series that will be in color. A trademark of the (Eastern) Chinese large facility constructions are the green weather covering. hmmmmmm…….

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3 Comments »

  1. Doug, it sounds like your camera is strictly a Southern California kinda guy! I left my Nikon D40 in the trunk overnight. It got down to about 16 degrees and I was able to go out shooting with it in the morning. No problems and the battery was in top condition. You might consider an Nikon! ;-)

    Comment by Paul — February 2, 2008 @ 3:38 am

  2. I wonder if your problems are related to condensation – moving from warm to cold like you were doing would cause condensation all over the camera, including internals. It would take a while to go away in the damp conditions you were experiencing.

    Paul wouldn’t see such problems having had the camera kept at low temperature, therefore no condensation. had he kept the camera indoors before going out in the cold he also might have had problems (but then again, may not).

    This is pure physics, nothing to do with camera type in use. Always a problem for any equipment moving from warm,dry to cold, damp.

    Comment by Martin Doonan — February 2, 2008 @ 10:19 am

  3. A further update from Anita Jesse (thanks Anita); I’m sure you are already miles beyond me in learning about the issue of cameras in cold weather. Still, I thought you might be interested in this quote from http://pixelatedimage.typepad.com/pixelatedimage/technique/index.html

    The Canon 5D is rated by Canon to operate to -40C (?), so the real issues in the cold are battery life and moving from cold to warm, which causes condensation. Spare batteries will go in an inside pocket and be kept warm with HotShots if necessary. Cameras will be put into medium-sized kitchen garbage bags, the air sucked out, and the top twisted shut before going back into the vehicle. I’ve got a bag of silica packets to deal with errant moisture in the plastic bag.

    That first sentence really got my attention, so I did a little more research at the Canon site and found this info re. the XTi rating

    Operating Temperature Range 32-104°F/0-40°C

    Operating Humidity Range 85% or less

    By the way, at the Canon site the rating for the 5D is

    Operating Temperature Range 32-104°F/0-40°C

    Operating Humidity Range 85% or less

    Comment by Doug Stockdale — February 5, 2008 @ 5:04 am


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