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Can my digital camera function at -20 degrees Celcius?

  1. Apr 12, 2009 #1
    After 5 loyal years, my Canon Digital IXUS 400 has given in... i can take pictures, but there are red stripes all over them. Maybe it is something fixable, but i've been meaning to replace the thing anyway.

    So, i put it in a plastic sealed bag in the freezer, which the thermometer indicates is at -21 degrees Celsius. What will die first? The accu? Will it overcome the powers of nature and keep functioning?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 12, 2009 #2


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    The camera will probably be fine, the only parts that will suffer are the batteries and any lubricants in motors/gears.
    Are you sure it's -21, thats cold for a domestic freezer
  4. Apr 12, 2009 #3
    Liquid crystal display?

    'liquid' being the important part.
  5. Apr 12, 2009 #4

    Could be -20 as well, it's only a 1,50 euro thermometer that's hard to read because it immediately rises in temperature if you pick it up to get a good read. But i turned the fridge power to maximum so this is probably why it's so cold.. i really want to push the limit of this fine camera.

    Indeed it is the battery that gives out first. Every 5 or so minutes i checked if it still worked, and it's actually pretty strong. But once the surface temperature of the camera got below -5 C(this is just an estimate), the battery failed before the lens-system could coil out completely, and after cooling it even further, it didn't move the lens-system at all; all it says was "replace battery".

    After having the thing gradually warm up to room temperature, it functions exactly as it did, though. The battery capacity could've deteriorated in the process, but so far it seems no big irreversible damage occurred. Pretty amazing if you consider what vulnerable electronics is inside.

    I'm not going to try for safety reasons, but anyone care to take a gander if it can function at, say , 80 degrees Celcius? (by heat oven or whatever, no liquid-warming of course)
  6. Apr 12, 2009 #5


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    If they didn't work at -21, they sure wouldn't sell in Alberta. That's a moderate winter temperature here. Still, it's a good idea to keep it warm until you need to shoot. Batteries do indeed tend to give out first upon prolonged exposure. Cheaper units might also have sealing issues that could allow condensation to build up inside.
  7. Apr 12, 2009 #6


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    I've used my digital camera in weather as low as about -15 C, but it simply will not function if the battery is allowed to get that cold. I have to keep it in an interior pocket and can only use it for a minute or two at a time before the battery can no longer produce enough electricity to power it.
  8. Apr 12, 2009 #7


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    I have had a similar experience. A cold battery doesn't work well, if at all.

    I have manual cameras get sluggish in cold weather.

    I would recommend against freezing the camera, and I'd recommend contacting the manufacturer. There could be sensitive components that should not be used when cold, and the other part is any humidity in the camera will freeze and could perhaps damage sensitive parts when thawing or condensing. Make sure to put a bag of silica gel in with the camera to absorb moisture.
  9. Apr 12, 2009 #8


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    Capacitor electrolytes aren't going to function normally if they freeze, I'd think.
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