Cold Weather Care

LCD monitors
In extreme cold conditions, you may find that your LCD monitor becomes dark and refreshes more slowly, or even stops working altogether. This is due to the effect of the low temperature on the liquid crystals that make up the display, making them slow and unresponsive to the signals that usually power them, and unfortunately there's not a lot you can do about it apart from keeping the camera warm, and as we'll see in a moment that can cause a whole different problem. The good news is that it has to be really cold (minus 10 or lower) for this to happen, and once your camera returns to a more normal temperature the LCD will function as before. This is just one of those times when a proper optical viewfinder is a major advantage.

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Condensation
A major problem facing camera users in cold weather is condensation. Condensation occurs when warm moist air encounters a cold surface. Warm air can hold a lot more water vapour than cold air, so when the cold surface causes a localised reduction in temperature, this water will condense out of the air and form droplets on the surface. If you use your camera outdoors, it will become cold. If you then bring it indoors into a warm room, condensation will form not just on the outside, but possibly also on the inside, where the moisture can cause damage to the electronic components. Even weather-sealed cameras such as the Olympus mju or Pentax K10D are at risk.

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The best and easiest way to avoid this is to find a large airtight Ziplock plastic bag, pop in one of those silica gel packs that come with any new electrical equipment, and carry it with you when you go out taking photos. Before you come back indoors, put your camera and any moisture-sensitive accessories such as lenses into the bag and seal it up. This way, when you come inside the condensation will form on the outside of the bag rather than on your camera. Leave the camera in the bag for at least ten minutes, until it has returned to normal room temperature. The silica gel should be enough to absorb any moisture that gets inside the bag.

Wrap up warm
OK, so we've made sure your camera will survive the weather, but please also make sure that you keep yourself safe as well. The countryside of Britain may look very innocuous, but I can tell you from first-hand experience that it's very possible to get yourself into a dangerous situation just twenty minutes drive from a major city. If you're going out taking photos in any location where cold is likely to be a problem, take a few sensible precautions. Wear several layers of warm clothing, and especially a hat, scarf and warm gloves, and take some waterproofs. Take a thermos flask with a warm drink, and possibly some high-energy snack foods. If you're going right out in the sticks then a torch and a whistle are probably a good idea too, since it gets dark surprisingly early at this time of year. Always tell someone where you are going and when you are expecting to be back, and if you have a mobile phone take it with you. We love all our readers dearly, and we'd hate anything bad to happen to any one of you, so make sure to stay safe this winter.

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