Electronics on ice


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  • #428
    IceandSalt
    Member

    Hello all,

    How do electronics react to such extreme cold? How paranoid do I have to be about keeping my laptop unfrozen? Do digital cameras work outside at Pole? Would it be advisable to bring a film camera as well?

    Thanks for your feedback,
    Webster

    #3242
    Sciencetech
    Keymaster

    Hi Webster,

    I’ve taken pictures during summers at the pole and winters at McMurdo, down to about -40. Here’s what I found:

    Most electronics do okay. At the Pole batteries go dead rather quickly, so it’s good to have a warm spare in your inside parka pocket. Some materials don’t do so well– some LCD screens get very sluggish, and in autofocus SLR lenses the plastic may shrink differently than the metal. This causes some loose focusing action but it doesn’t usually prevent photos from being taken. Manual focus lenses with internal lubricants often feel gooey and slow. Depends a lot on the camera and lenses.

    There’s usually no problem with laptops if you keep them in a case while walking between buildings.

    Condensation is the real killer. If you bring a cold camera into a warm, moist building it will fog up (externally and internally) immediately. That’ll really screw up most video cameras and many digital cameras. The way around it is to put your cameras & lenses in a case or plastic bag before bringing them in a building, and then letting them warm up gradually. Fluid-head tripods are useless, leave ’em home.

    If you’re wintering and want to take aurora pics, you’ll almost certainly need a film camera (that’s a long topic in itself). Otherwise it’s up to you. For a summer contract, I don’t feel that a film camera is necessary for general snapshots.

    I may go to the Pole this summer, and in preparation all I’ll be doing is buying a spare battery and putting some gaffers tape on any metal parts on the back of the camera (so my face doesn’t freeze to it). That and a big ziploc bag will do it.

    glenn

    #3243
    thepooles98
    Keymaster

    Glenns right. Dont let water condense on any cold electronics. I blew a fuse in my video cam a couple of years ago when I  brought it from the cold and turned it on. A good trick is to put your camera in a large baggie and seal it while you are outside. Then bring it in and wait till it warms up before you open it. You can also put the camera in an inside pocket to warm it as well.
     
    Laptops screens can freeze, but I’ve never heard of it. Most people don’t use them outdoors like a camera.
     
    My lcd screens on my still and video cameras all work fine in freezing weather. The buttons tend not to work when they get really cold and the batteries go dead almost right away. Bring extra batteries and keep them in an inside pocket.
    Mike

    #3244
    will
    Keymaster

    Hey Webster,

    I have used my camera here at pole even when it was -100f. I have froze it a few times, but just bringing it back into the staion and letting it sit, then it works fine. Just keep it warm in between pictures. And bring extra batteries, the cold sucks the life out of them, actually bring rechargable, and a charger, since you will have a plug in where ever you stay.

    As for the laptop, mine is fine after about 6 or 7 trips outside from the plane to the station to my berthing. Just remember to let it warm up before using it, and don’t let it sit out, but I shouldn’t have to tell you that.

    DVB

    PS What is the job you arecoming down for?

    #3245
    brien
    Member

    one more thing about batteries at Pole … the rechargeables will have fewer uses than in normal climates. if you only take them outside once in a while and you keep them warm when not in your camera, you may be able to get most of your recharges. However, if you use them a lot, prepare to ditch them after as few as 10 uses. If you are staying for the winter, i recommend you bring at least a dozen very good NIMH batteries and perhaps even some Alkalines to experiment with. for some strange reason, the store sells C/D batteries, but no AAs and the AAs that are distributed for headlamps and other community use lasted only until June … so bring your own and a lot of them. You can always sell them to your buddies.

    #3246
    IceandSalt
    Member

    DVB (what’s that stand for, anyway?),

    Thanks for the recommendations on batteries. I’m bringing rechargables, but I’ll bring several more than I was planning to. As for “shouldn’t have to tell” me something — Please tell me. Common sense is a good thing, but this is my first time on the ice. I plan to take full advantage of all the experience that is around me.

    I’m coming down as cargo coordinator, will be working with Paddy.

    Take care,
    Webster

    #3247
    IceandSalt
    Member

    Hi Glenn,

    Sounds like my little digital will be sufficient then. And I’ll be careful not to freeze my face to it.

    Thanks for the suggestions,
    -Webster

    #3248
    thepooles98
    Keymaster

    I find that duracell AA batteries work way better than rechargables in the cold. Try sending down a 24 pack and saving the rechargables for indoors. Often batteries are available, but just as often they are not. Best to bring your own.
    Mike

    #3249
    brien
    Member

    Absolutely, I agree with Mike. The disposables work much better outside than the rechargeables. The program pushes rechargeables as a “green” solution for Antarctica, but since the disposables last longer and work better then really what’s “green” is debatable. The key to any of them is keeping them warm inside a jacket until you need them.

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