Tips on photographing in sub-zero temperatures
Nikon cameras are designed to work under specific operating temperatures. To confirm the operating temperatures for your camera, please refer to your cameras User manual. In the majority of cases, these temperatures are between 0 to +40 degrees C (+32 to +104 degrees F). Nikon can not guarantee full functionality of a camera when used outside its specific operating range. However you might find the following tips helpful if you are working in sub-zero temperature conditions.
One of the main issues that occur under sub-zero conditions is that battery life is greatly reduced. The cold conditions affect the electrochemical processes within the battery as the temperature drops. The chemical reaction within the battery which produces the power slows down and results in the battery being exhausted much quicker than if it was warm. Under sub-zero conditions keeping one or two batteries in an inside pocket of your coat etc so that the battery is warmed by your body heat and swapped regularly with the battery in the camera will assist in keeping the temperature of the battery in the camera up to a good working condition.
When moving cold cameras and lenses into warm conditions, it is important to be aware of the adverse effects of condensation. Condensation is caused when there is a rapid change in temperature and water can form on surfaces that are significantly colder / warmer than the air around it. The adverse effects of condensation can result in airborne water becoming deposited on the internal surfaces of the camera and may affect performance, particularly optical components and sensitive micro-electronics. There are two methods we would recommend to avoid this. Let the camera and lenses acclimatise gradually to the warm temperature by storing the camera in a bag or case and make it easier for the camera to dry.
1. If you have been outside in the cold for a period of time your camera bag will also be cold. Pack your camera equipment in your bag before you go indoors. The cold outside air is dry and the bag is cooled gradually, so any moisture transfers away from it. Allow the bag to stand undisturbed and allow the equipment to warm up slowly.
2. If for some reason you take the camera directly into the warm indoor air, remove the lens cap and see what happens with the lens/viewfinder eyepiece. Condensation will form on the glass and there will probably also be condensation inside the camera as well. Detach the lens from the camera body and let it rest without the lens caps. Let the camera rest without body caps and remove the memory card and battery with the memory card door and battery door open. Allow the camera to acclimatise like this until it reaches room temperature and the risk of condensation is gone. Avoid the camera lying open in this way in a dusty environment but choose a place where the risk of dust getting inside of the camera body is minimized.
DSLR’s designed with gloves in mind
Warm clothing and gloves are essential under extreme weather conditions and many of our DSLR’s are designed with the use of gloves in mind. This means that the design of the shutter release and other camera functions are easier to activate when wearing gloves. An option for long periods outside is to wear a thin glove under a pair of gloves with cutaway fingers. This allows full control of the camera options and menus while still allowing flexibility to move and take the image at the right time. This will be dependent of the temperatures you are shooting under.
Holding your camera with two hands
Increased cold can make it harder to grip and hold your camera steady. Holding the camera with two hands or leaning against an object to improve stability while shooting is worthwhile considerations and can improve the quality of your images. Keeping the camera strap on is a good idea as moving around in cold conditions can result in misplacing you footing and possibly slipping. If the camera is on a strap it can avoid the need for repairs.
Rain covers for cameras
Ice and snow do lead to the possibility of the camera and lens becoming wet. In some circumstances, the use of rain covers are recommended, which are available through third-party companies. Many NIKKOR lenses have rubber seals on the bayonet mount but these are not guarantees against water ingress under heavy rainfall. The rubber seal can be seen by looking for a small rubber rim on the edge of the lenses bayonet mount.
Choice of kit
The weight of your photography kit is an important consideration in sub-zero conditions. Limit your kit to the essentials you need for the specific shoot you are on. Carrying more weight than you need will result in fatigue, loss of energy and concentration, which will affect your ability to produce good images. Avoiding changing lenses too often will also reduce the risk of moisture getting inside the camera/lens from snow or ice.