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Condensation and battery care

Avoiding condensation

Anyone who wears glasses will be familiar with what happens when you come into a warm room from the cold outdoors. Your glasses mist up with condensation which lasts for several minutes until the glasses warm up to room temperature. You may not notice it, but the very same thing happens to your camera, not only on the outside but also inside, and that means moisture on those delicate electronic components.

If you’re going to be taking your camera out in the cold and then bringing it indoors a lot, for example on a skiing holiday, then the best way to avoid condensation problems is to simply pop your camera into a plastic “ziplock” type bag before you come inside, and don’t take it out for at least ten minutes. A good weatherproof insulated camera case or bag will also help.

Battery care

Modern rechargeable batteries are vastly superior to the primitive Ni-Cad cells that used to cause so many problems, but they still need attention to keep them in peak condition. With Ni-MH-type rechargeable batteries, such as the AA size batteries used in many mid-size compacts and some DSLRs, continual cycles of partial discharging and partial charging can reduce the battery’s ability to hold a charge, making them run out more quickly. However they can be “refreshed” by completely discharging them and then completely recharging them a few times in a row. Some more sophisticated microprocessor-controlled battery chargers test to see if a battery needs refreshing, and if it does they carry out this operation automatically. It’s worth paying a little extra for a charger with this feature, since it will prolong the useful life of your batteries. Lithium-ion batteries are less prone to this effect, but occasionally fully discharging and recharging can also help to maintain their performance. Li-ion batteries tend to get progressively better over the first few times they are charged, and fully discharging them can speed this process.

Ni-MH batteries, and to a lesser extent Li-ion batteries as well, are adversely affected by low temperatures, and using them in cold weather can make them appear to run out. If this happens warm them up in an inside pocket for a few minutes and they should come back to life. I usually keep a spare set of batteries in a pocket inside my coat, and swap them for the ones in the camera when they get cold and start running low.

By taking these few simple measures to maintain and care for your camera you will prolong its useful life and help to ensure that it performs properly, and that your pictures are as good as they can be.


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