Working Temperature

NYC Photo Tours

Another bad piece of advice we recently found: Never leave your camera equipment in your car overnight. The reasoning behind this is not about theft, although that would probably be the only good reason for not leaving your camera equipment in your car. However, the author of this little gem, argues that your camera equipment is very sensitive and should be cared for. No one can argue with this, but he argues that if the weather is uncomfortable for you, then it is bad for your camera. Let's ask a simple question, "Have you ever taken photos while the weather was uncomfortable for you?" If your answer is "No", you are not taking nearly enough photographs! Please stop reading this photo tip and go outside and take some photos! Geesh.

By leaving the camera equipment in your car overnight the author is presuming that the ambient temperature is going to be very cold and may cause problems. However he fails to consider leaving camera equipment in your car during the day. What about the heat of the summer? So let's discuss the larger issue of camera and battery operation in various temperatures.

Most camera manufacturers rate the working temperature of their cameras between 0°C - 40°C / 32°F - 104°F (give or take a few degrees). But upon closer inspection, this is clearly the working temperature of the battery and not necessarily for the camera itself; however, without a battery the camera is effectively non-operational! For best use, manufacturers recommend that you do not operate your battery outside these this range. After some research ( ) it would seem that there is a difference between the working temperature of a battery during charging and discharging. For Lithium Ion batteries, they indicate that you can charge your battery between: 0°C to 45°C / 32°F to 113°F - which is a little bit higher than the manufacturers' recommendation for actual use. However, you may use a battery between –20°C to 60°C / –4°F to 140°F. As you can see there is a considerable difference between charging and discharging the battery itself. We believe that manufacturers have used the lower set of numbers to help ensure users always use or charge their battery correctly. There definitely seem to be problems with charging a battery outside the recommended temperature range, so please pay attention to that.

Although you can USE your battery in fairly extreme conditions relative to charging it. It should be noted that at both hot and cold extremes you can expect a significantly shorter battery life, but it will still be operational. This does not however address the issue of the camera itself. What is the operating temperature of the camera equipment? At this time, no manufacturer's representative has been willing to indicate a number beyond the this range: 0°C - 40°C / 32°F - 104°F. It is clear however based on the personal experience of many photographers in the field that it is possible to use your equipment –20°C to 65°C / –4°F to 149°F. Think Antarctica penguin photos. The question is whether or not you personally want to be in out in those extreme conditions?

One more issue you should be aware of is condensation. If you are using your camera in extreme conditions, moving your equipment from indoors to outdoors and vice verse may cause condensation within your equipment. Good luck trying to dry that out in less than 10 hours! Sometimes it may be advisable to actually leave your equipment in your car rather than bringing it indoors. For instance if you are taking photographs in a cold environment all day, and plan to be back out in that environment the next day, bringing your camera into the warm comfortable environment of your hotel may not be a good idea. However if it is really extreme out, bring a cooler ( ex. with you and put your equipment in it so that it stays a moderate temperature when you are not using it. This is good for both cold and hot weather.