Cameras operating in -40 degrees C

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Just to share some tips to operating cameras in very cold conditions:

Because I am not very organised to purchase a camera that has been marketed for cold climes, used a friend's pentax, optio digital camera. It worked well and the ONLY damage was not cold related. Unfortunately my buddy accidently cracked the LCD, hitting it on a lump of ice.

1. Use lithium batteries - lasted all the way for the 4 weeks of photo taking.

2. Did keep the camera warm most of the time before usage (in my battery warming bra!). Camera does cool down very quickly once exposed to the air but still operated fine. Do note that you might like to keep electrical/batteries in a plastic bag before putting it next to the skin. One lass from another expedition suffered electrical burns from her batteries for her satellite phone.

3. Wrapped camera in a soft plastic material used to cover keyboards and keep them dry! Did this to prevent snow and condensation entering the camera as would be using the camera outside and inside tent. Temperature differentials will cause condensation.

Outside temps ranged from -40 degrees to a balmy -23 degrees C on the final day.
Inside temps got up to about 20 degrees C at the top of the tent.

Pictures have come out as well as an inexperienced photo taker like myself can expect

Like to share with you a picture of our mega star Arctic hotel. Was trying to capture the sun dog around the sun. Picture was taken at about 9pm.


New Member
Dec 4, 2005
nice... you were there for vacation?


Senior Member
Mar 2, 2004
A village in a forest
It must be quite a trip for you. -40°C!! Wow. The coldest I have ever encountered was only -25°C, ha ha. Still I think it is a good experience to be able to explore all these extreme places. And nice tips on the use of the camera in extreme cold weather. Would love to see more photos from your trip.

Temperature of -50oF is not uncommon in places like Harbin in China or Minneapolis in USA.

Although the battery can last, other things may break.

The best is still return to old school and use a mechanical camera..... all the way down to -50oF :)

Photo was taken @ 8th April at 9pm.

Hey jonathan - think with the technology now and protection of your gear - a digital camera is possible in extreme cold. With this type of travel, it is far more convenient as well. So:

- Condensation proofing your camera
- Keeping it warm before you use it to reduce energy requirements
- Protecting it from being bashed around. We broke the LCD from not having put the camera back in its case. My buddy put it down her boot to keep it warm but bashed her leg into some ice rubble. I have read about LCDs shattering from the cold - ours broke becos of carelessness. Fortunately we could use the eye viewer to see what we were snapping and so still have photos.

Nice photos....
BTW, did u happen to have ipod when u were there?
If yes... did it work fine... :)
My buddy had an ipod - but neither of us would use it as we needed to listen out for polar bears or ice breaking. Just sang songs in our heads!

Did listen to it briefly one night - however we warmed all electrical equipment before use


New Member
Sep 3, 2007
Thanks for the information, really will come in useful as I'm thinking of doing the whole Trans-Siberian line + Mongolia and various parts of East Asia early next year, which will be the middle of winter for most of these places. Temperatures in some of the Russian cities hit -50, so I guess I'd better start planning for that too.

One thing - how do you condensation-proof something? I was under the impression that condensation would form on the inside of your lens/body, which could be disastrous.


Senior Member
Jan 21, 2002
wow, always wanted to go the arctic and the antartica to take photos!
dunno if it will ever come true...

Thanks for sharing!

Yes - I guess so plus get away from civilisation, try to collect data for weather and climate scientists, plus train in a cold environment!

One thing - how do you condensation-proof something? I was under the impression that condensation would form on the inside of your lens/body, which could be disastrous.
Hey scrappy the camera (except for the lens) was wrapped in a strong thin very flexible plastic to ensure all joins were covered up. The plastic film wrap is a material used to cover keyboards to protect them from liquid spills.

The condensation that we would be getting would be from starting up the stoves to heat up the tent so from minus we were going to positive 20....30 somthing. Since the dew point in the tent was being elevated, condensation would form on anything cold. We had condensation in our vid cam :( a couple of times when we took it out too early from it's protective casing (a plastic bag) so had to heat up the vid cam until all the condensation had been driven out before usage.

For the camera I often had it next to skin. However the plastic wrap kept my sweat off the camera. We had no problems using the camera inside and outside of the tent (well not visible to us that the inside of the lens had condensation) and all pictures show no signs of condensation having been formed.

nuts said:
wow, always wanted to go the arctic and the antartica to take photos!
Nuts - go to the North of Norway -- that is in the Arctic. I was first in Svalbard and this is a good alternative. It is cheaper if you do this before and over Easter (low season). Let me know if you intend to go - will give more info.

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