Monday, November 5, 2007

Cold Weather, Digital Cameras, and Battery Life

I like to take a lot of pictures when I hike up in the mountains (of myself, of course, but a lot of landscape scenery shots as well.) One of the problems us shutterbugs may have noticed is that the batteries just don't seem to last as long in cold weather . . . particularly in the near freezing temps of the Cascades at this time of year. It's not a new phenomena . . . batteries just don't work as well at low temperatures, and that includes all that paraphernalia gadgetry we like to carry. . . GPS units, cell phones, FRS radios.

But particularly my camera which has optical zoom and auto-focus features that really eat up the power. I find that when the air temperature drops below 40F my camera batteries are only good for a third to a half of the images they normally should take. The time-honored way for cold weather photographers is to tuck the camera under the jacket when you're not taking a picture, thus keeping the camera and batteries warm. But that's counterproductive if you're hiking nude . . . as I'm often doing (seems my body does far better in the cold than my fancy electronic equipment).

I do carry spare batteries as a matter of course and my answer for cold weather battery life is to keep those spare batteries in my pack with one of those chemical hand warmers up against them. When my primary battery goes 'south' I switch out batteries for the warm backup. Battery life is still not as great but by doing the switching (the primary will warm up and regain additional life), I get close to normal use.

Another factor is to insulate your camera if that is at all possible . . . some sort of case or 'camera cozy' to prevent the all-metal body of your camera from getting really cold. Something as simple as a ziplock baggie over the camera with the lens poking out, while un-elegant and ugly, goes a long way to keeping the camera (and the battery) just a little warmer, and protected from moisture and the elements. Wedge in another hand warmer and your camera will stay nice and warm . . . and the battery perky.

The LCD on digital cameras uses a lot of power so switch it off and use the viewfinder instead. If you have power optical zoom, try to minimize it's use.

The same protocol applies to the other electronic devices you might carry. The batteries will have only half the life as they get cold. Keep cell phones and such in your pack and carry backup batteries.

Related Posts with Thumbnails