Nikon D800, 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 VR lens @ 48mm, f/16, 5 frame HDR, ISO 200, finished in Lightroom 5 and Photomatix Pro 5. It was about minus 15 degrees F when I made this photograph in Grand Teton National Park.
Anytime you take something cold into a place where it’s warm, you’re likely to see water vapor from the air condense on the outside of the cold thing–like the water condensing and puddling on the outside of a glass of ice water in Florida. Warm air is capable of holding a lot of water, and that water is drawn out as condensation on cold things. Picture that puddle of water on the table, and then think about your camera, and what water vapor could do to the inside.
It’s very cold and snowy in Portland, lately, and I’ve been out shooting. If I bring my cold camera into my house, condensation will immediately fog up the LCD screens and viewfinder, and even the metal body will become foggy with “sweat.” If I shoot in warm, humid places then when I leave the air conditioned hotel I get the same kind of sweat condensing when I go outside.
Over time, this water works it’s way into lenses, and onto sensors. Mold can grow inside lenses, ruining the image, and particles that may have been shaken free by the internal sensor cleaning now become adhered, which quickly become hundreds of spots in the skies of photographs. These can be cleaned off, but it’s a lot easier and cheaper to prevent condensation in the first place. Here’s how.
- Remove the battery and the memory card before you bring the camera into the warm house. That way, you can start reviewing your images and charging your battery right away.
- Leave the camera zipped inside your camera bag, or locked in its case. This should be enough to stop any significant air exchange that will bring water-laden air in contact with your gear. Leave it in there, and don’t open the box for at least an hour (good thing you already removed your memory card, eh?).
- If your camera bag doesn’t have a zipper, or if you’re like me and you just carried your camera out in your hand, keep a plastic shopping bag in your pocket so you can wrap it up before you come back in the house. This is the cheapest gear I keep in my bag, and it’s one of the most used. Be picky, and choose only bags without small holes in the bottom.
- If it’s secure, you might leave your camera locked in the trunk of the car in tropical environments. Then it’s always acclimatized and ready to use every time you go outside.
- Keep a couple desiccant packs in your bag. I save the ones that come in shoe boxes and replace them regularly. You can also order silica desiccant packs and other dehumidifying products online that will help remove moisture from your gear.
Condensation can cause annoying spots in your images, or costly repairs to your lens. Fortunately, with just a little consideration, you can avoid it’s negative effects.
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