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Old October 26th, 2005, 08:41 PM   #1
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Working at -20F ?

Hi, I'm planning on shooting in Alskan mountains this winter and the temperatures are pretti cold. I don't think I'd go out for a long trip below -20. We will be going miles away from the highway on our snowmachines. Our trips wil be anywhere from 3 to 8 hours. I have experience shooting stills even in a colder weather but it was never longer than an hour trips and my truck was always nearby. I normally keep batteries in my pocket if I don't shoot to keep them warm other than that my camera/lcd worked just fine.

Please share your experience. Will miniDV tape work in the cold or should I invest in a Firestore?

Also I'm in a process of buying a camcorder so if a particular model does handle very well or some don't please let me know.

Thanks
Alex
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Old October 26th, 2005, 09:34 PM   #2
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I would be very concerned about oils and lubricants in the camera becoming gummy. While common sense would say that anything that gums in the cold would loosen again when heated, it would seem that common sense does not often apply to matters of digital video camera guts.

Now, no joke--I might consider a set of battery powered (heated) undergarments. They make them, I know, for backcountry hiking. Wrap the cam in those with a weatherproofing of some kind over that, and you will be set for Everest.
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Old October 27th, 2005, 02:46 AM   #3
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Thanks DJ, it looks like I might get something like that. I think it's actually a very good idea. It'll be a little bit harder to access controls but it could be the only option on those long rides.

If anyone else have real experience shooting in the cold please let me know what you did and how well your equipment handled it.

Thanks
Alex
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Old October 27th, 2005, 09:28 AM   #4
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Heating the camera before the shoot may be a bad idea, actually. You stand the chance of condensation accumulating when you bring it into the cold. Ever wear glasses?

Oh wait, I think that is the other way around.

You should try to keep it at a constant temperature for several minutes before recording, though. Dramatic changes in temperature can't be good for it. In John Carpenter's The THING, they shot in British Colombia, I believe and they said they left the cameras out in the cold before shooting to avoid any problems. So heating it may not be a good thing.
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Old October 27th, 2005, 10:43 AM   #5
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This is true--you don't want to go from a warm place to a cold place with the camera without giving it time to acclimate itself--otherwise your condensation switch probably will trigger. Same with tape. Make sure when you change tapes, the new one has been out in the cold too for awhile.

I've shot down to about a -12 F with no camera trouble. Can't say the same for my body.

You didn't say what camera you're using, but all of them generate some heat. A 2/3" chip one like the DSR500/570 runs quite warm. If you invest in something like a Portabrace camera housing (like the TV news guys use), it will help keep that heat in and you shouldn't have any trouble.

Take extra batteries because they will run down a lot quicker in cold weather. Batteries you can keep warm.
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Old October 27th, 2005, 11:02 AM   #6
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I have shot wildlife at 30 below with an XL1, and have had little problem. At times, however few, have had timecode skips and bars. It could be from using warm tapes when changing them. The handwarmer chemical packets are also valuable and should warm your hands and the camera without much added bulk. They can be attached with rubber bands or velcro or pinned inside a heavy fabric cover for the camera and lens.
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Old October 28th, 2005, 11:53 AM   #7
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Thanks everybody. Very much appreciated. I kinda new that camera will be OK in the cold if I watch for the condensation and keep a few batteries warm.

Alex
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Old October 28th, 2005, 06:16 PM   #8
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I've shot for about 20 mins with an uncovered XL1 at -85 (-30 without windchill).
The camera worked perfectly. The batteries only lasted 10 minutes before death, which is about 5 minutes longer than my hands lasted (with 2 pairs of gloves).
Then I continued to shoot, still without cover, for another 2 hours at -20 degrees.

I would not attempt it again. I would purchase a Porta Brace winter cover and some handwarmer packs, if I was going to go below -10, if only to keep the batteries lasting longer.
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Old October 29th, 2005, 03:03 PM   #9
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Thanks Dylan,
Just reading your post made me cold. But living here in Alaska means you have to put up with the cold weather for many months out of the year. Yes you can stay indoors for most of the time, but me and my friends like riding snowmachines so we'll spend some time out there carving fresh snow and climbing those hills.
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Old October 31st, 2005, 01:01 PM   #10
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Condensation usually happens when you take your freezing cold camera from outside and bring it inside. Porta Brace's Kodiak cases are good protection and the inside has pockets for the handwarmers.

Before entering the warm area, put the camera in a large plastic bag and then seal it up. This will prevent moisture condensation inside the camera. I'm not sure exactly how long to wait before the inside of the camera reaches room temp, but probably in the 2-3 hour range. Use caution if you try speeding up the warming process.
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