18 Dec 2015

What to do with the camera during the winter...

What to do with the camera during the winter...

Updated December 18th 2015
© Jouko Lehto
Lappajärvi, about -20 centigrade. Olympus E-3, Zuiko 70-300mm f11, 1/2000s, ISO200. © Jouko Lehto

And the cold keeps coming...

This blog text got the idea from the questions in different forums: people asking can they take photos in cold, will the camera get broken, how to handle the camera and what to wear. For those of you who have been taking photos during winters there might not be that much new - you might even find some hints missing. Please make your comments in the end, there is a place for that. If You have a good hint, please share it!

Here in Finland we have a real winter for some months every year.  Temperatures  will go at least down to -30 centigrade also this winter, we'll get enough snow... So I have some experience on this matter. For more than 50 years...

To make this short for those in hurry, here is a short list first:

How to keep the camera working during the winter

1. Keep the camera dry.
2. Use the lens hood.
3. Keep extra batteries in a warm pocket in a small, closed plastic bag.
4. Keep yourself warm.

Easy? No.

The longer version. And some history

Now and then there are questions in different forums about how to use camera in wintertime. The manufactures usually recommend the use to some degree, like 0 or -10 centigrade or something (32F or 14F), and that's kind of restrictive for us living in the areas where it can get a lot colder. Here in Finland it can go at least down to -30 centigrade (-22F) every winter. In fact, it already has done that in the north.

In the old days about every pro photographer had a manual, fully mechanical camera(s) for winter use - everyone I know anyway. Those little button-sized batteries kept the power for an hour or two in the cold, and changing them on those conditions was a pain nobody wanted to do. Now the batteries are larger (also in the size), but, again, they keep the power for a couple of hours in cold. Fortunately they are easier to change...

So, while waiting for the fully mechanical digital camera to appear, we have to use these battery eaters. And I suppose we'll use them a long time.

Of course there are reasons for camera manufacturers to make those recommendations about useful temperatures. The battery life drops, the humidity problems and freezing lubricants can cause some damage, and maybe even some body and lens materials can get too fragile in extreme conditions.

Anyhow, I have not broken a single camera or a lens in my life because of the winter. Closest call was the "hammer", Konica ART3, with it's original lenses. At about -30 centigrade it got frozen, and I could wind it up only by taking the lens off after every shot... But then the film broke into pieces. The Olympus OM1 never left me in trouble, but even the slowish winder was too fast for film in wintertimes - usually just some electric flashmarks on sides, but sometimes the snap (film)...
Memory cards won't break that way. At least the ones I have  haven't. But don't try to bend them in cold.

Snow games. Olympus E-3, Zuiko 70-300mm f 5.6, 1/640s, ISO 200. © Jouko Lehto

Keep the camera dry

This is the difficult part. It's not the snow or rain, it's the humidity in the air that's the problem.
The snow is easy. Just keep it away from the lens. It can be cleaned off from the lens with a clean handkerchief or tissue paper or something, and blown away from the body, or wiped off. Hood helps a lot, it just keeps the falling snow away from the lens in the first place. And even if you make a dive into the snow with your camera, the hood protects the lens. You can also use a protective filter (UV, skylight) if you like, but use the hood anyway. The lens cover is off course a good thing to use between the shots. Wipe the camera and lens clean before putting them into bag while you are OUT.
Rain is just a bit more difficult. If your camera and lens are both "weather sealed" and you trust that, threat the water just like snow. Wipe it off and keep on shooting. Dry the equipments before putting them into bag.

But the humidity...

There is always water in the air. No problem. We need it. But here we are dealing with things like dew points in different temperatures.
Usually, the colder the weather the dryer the air is. But usually we don't stay outside in those cold temperatures for days. We get in to our homes and cabins and hotel rooms when possible. And our living produces humidity - breathing, sweating, coffee makers, potato boilers, showers, sauna... You name it.

When we get in to a normal warm room from the cold, the camera is still cold. Under the dew point. If the cold camera is in touch with that "humid" air, all the humidity condenses to the camera and lens. The larger  the change in temperature is, the stronger the effect. So we have to avoid that.
Before getting in or into a warmish place like a car or a tent or a house  PUT THE CAMERA AND LENSES INTO A TIGHTLY CLOSED PLASTIC BAG OR A GOOD TIGHTLY CLOSED BAG WITH ZIPPERS OR SIMILAR. And don't open the bag before the bag and the camera equipments have warmed up! You will never get good photos inside, in any case, with that cold camera! Just more or less foggy scenes and shades of gray.

If you forget to put the camera into a bag, and got moisture on your camera, wipe it as dry as you can, and let it warm up before you use it. Let the lens cover be off. If you can, put the camera over or close to a moderate warm heath radiator, not on a hot one. Do not take the lens off! And hope the camera and  lens were weatherproof - do not zoom the lens  in and out, just leave it as it is.

If you took the lens off from a cold camera in a warm room, pray for the best. You have moisture all over and in the camera. Do the next steps: Take battery and card off, leave the doors open and take the lens off again - leave the lens mount open. Find the warm radiator and place the camera and lens close to it, and if possible, aim some "wind" into the camera. Hope the camera dries out fast. After you are sure the camera has warmed up and dried also from the inside, put the battery and card in and take some test shots. If they are ok, you're fine. If not, contact the service.

Frozen pines. Seitseminen National Park, Olympus E-3, Zuiko 12-60mm f5.6, 1/80s, ISO 100. © Jouko Lehto

Cold sweat?

Hanging the camera in your neck is ok. Keep the lens cover and the hood on if it is snowy / rainy / windy, and take the cover off just when you are planning to take photos. Snow and water on the lens is not a good thing for IQ - usually. Sometimes they can create a nice artzy image, anyway.

Putting the camera inside a jacket or coat is not a good idea. Ever. NEVER, NEVER PUT THE CAMERA UNDER YOUR COAT. Or any other clothes you are wearing. The sweat is more dangerous to the camera and lenses than water. And the humidity of sweat will get everywhere under your coat. We all sweat all the time, more or less. If you really don't sweat at all, contact your doctor immediately.

The sweat does a couple of things to electronics. First, it conducts electricity. It can make some unwanted connections to the camera. Second, it is corrosive for connections, materials, oils and also for some lens coatings, at least on old lenses. I wouldn't want to make a test on sensor coatings or new lenses. Third, the sweat is mostly water. It can freeze. And if that ice is inside your camera, the camera stops working for a while.

The corrosive (and connection) problems can occure after a long time, the freezing can be immediate. Better to avoid both. Use a bag, it's better.

But the batteries...

This is easy. Take some spare ones with you when going out. In my use the batteries usually last for about 1-4 hours real winter photography, depending on how cold it is, what I am photographing, and how. The colder and more intense shooting, the shorter the battery life.

Keep spare batteries in a warm inside pocket IN A SMALL, CLOSED PLASTIC BAG or something similar, to keep them warm and dry. Change battery when needed. You probably can reuse the "dead" ones again when they have warmed up, without charging. They will also charge up nicely when they get warm.
Nowadays the battery change is quick and easy on about every camera, so that is not a big problem if you are ready to do it.

Bohemian waxwing eating rowan berries, about -25 centigrade. Olympus OMD E-M1, Zuiko 50-200mm, f5, 1/250s,  ISO 800. © Jouko Lehto 

The cold

And I mean cold. Around the freezing point everything works fine. The batteries can run out a bit faster than usual, but nothing to worry. Just remember to put keep the camera dry etc, and put it into a bag before going in, letting it warm up in a dry bag. No problem.
I'm talking about temperatures below -15 centigrade, way below freezing point. At certain point lubricants like oils lose their quality, plasticks and metals get fragile and the photographer just wants to get in as fast as he or she can.
I have been shooting with different cameras below -30 centigrade... Maybe somewhere like -35. That was cold. I know there are much colder places on earth every year, and I'm glad I don't have to be there.
But the point is, that the cameras usually worked - at least as long as the batteries worked. They slow down - the focusing gets slower, aperture works slower etc, but they work. Oh yes, everything is slower on those temperatures anyway.
The problem is the photographer and the ergonomics.
It's not a good idea to handle camera and lens bare handed on those circumstances.  Using cloves or mittens makes handling harder, the harder the smaller the camera is.
I like small and light cameras and lenses. I use Olympus gear now for that reason. But the only camera suitable for use with mittens in my gear is the OMD E-M1, with the grip. Luckily it works about fine, even if it is still on the smallish side for that. All those buttons.... And the smaller lenses just vanish into mittens. I still use the older FT-lenses (12-60, 50-200 etc) because of the quality, but also because they can be used with gloves and mittens. The new 12-40 and 40-150 seem to be ok for that too. The pancakes are for warmer conditions. Of course they work, but...
Fortunately the cameras are automatic nowadays. You can set about everything to auto-mode, from AF to auto iso, bracketing etc. That helps. You know, with snow the light meters usually get fooled. You have to compensate. For AF there usually is enough contrast and light, except the nighttimes. IS / OIS / VR /whatever shake reduction helps with low light shooting. Never has it been this easy before. Even framing from the back screen helps - the OVF/ EVF/RF -finder won't get that steamy, and you can even breath during photography sessions. In the long run that helps a lot.


Keep warm

Yourself, I mean. The doctors don't like to do amputations that much. A photographer with frozen fingers or toes is a useless photographer - and maybe fingerless or toeless soon.
Check the weather (and forecast) before going out, and dress yourself properly. I don't mean Mr. Bond-style... We do use wooly underwear here when necessary. Don't forget the gloves,  good warm shoes and something warm for your head. You know it can be even 30% of the escaping body heath that goes away from the bare head? A wooly hat or something helps.
First body parts getting serious cold bites are ususally auricles, nose, cheekbones, fingers and toes...
For the rest of the body... Think what you are going to do. If you are going to stand on one place, you'll need a lot of warm clothes. If you are going to walk around all the time, less - even if it is really cold. If you are going to sleep outside, you'll need a very good sleeping bag. If it's windy, the cold is more biting. Think. Remember also, that wet clothes won't keep you warm. Wear layers, layers...   Maybe it's a good idea to put some extra into the bag? 
The reason I'm writing this is sentence here is, that I have seen some tourist groups going for an arctic safari in Lapland. They have been properly dressed on the safari with the help of the organizers - maybe even  a bit "overdone", but they have been from southern parts of Europe or Asia and not used for cold, so better that way. But, after the tour, they have left their overalls and caps, even gloves and boots and in a few minutes have started the body-shake autodance - the tremor that starts when the normal body temperature gets too low. A good reason to get inside quickly. But if you want to take photos outside...
The cold also takes quite a lot of energy from you. Some hot drink in a bottle (non-alcoholic!) helps a lot. Alcohol is not a good idea - it does make you feel warmer, but in fact cools your body faster.

First snow at Seitseminen National Park. Olympus OMD E-M5, Samyang 7.5mm Fisheye f5.6, 1/13s, ISO 400.  © Jouko Lehto 

Be creative!

Winter here in north is very beautiful time. The lights may be low, the weather may be cold, but it's beautiful. Polar night, Aurora borealis, snow, stars, nature... And winter activities like skiing and skating, all open  good possibilities to be creative and take (and make) good photos.

Don't be shy, get out!

25 Feb 2015

Lenses for mFT-cameras

Lenses for mFT-cameras

Updated April 2nd 2015
© Jouko Lehto

Disclaimer: I have no relationship with these companies - except that I use some of their products. I don't work for them, they don't pay me anything. Also the information here is collected from public resources - manufactures pages, dealer information, lens tests, ebay... I have no legal responsibility on the information - the manufactures can change the items as they like, and the list shows no hint of the quality of the lenses.

Canarian Kestrel. Tenerife.
Olympus OMD E-M1 + m.Zuiko 75-300mm @ 270mm f6.7, ISO 800. © Jouko Lehto

In the beginning...

Basicly I'm intersted in lenses available for mFt-cameras because I use them. I have about enough lenses really - some mFt, some FT, some older manual lenses - and mostly use the AF-compatible ones now. But there are always use for the older ones for some special reason: nostalgic, rendering, reach, macro ability etc... Mostly nostalgic anyway. And there are now and then the questions about the need to change a lens or send it tho the service - even "new" lenses need that sometimes. 

There were so many threats in different locations (DpReview, 43rumors etc) asking for the next lenses, complaining about the lack of some specific lens etc, that I decided to make a list of available ones. I knew, that it is going to be a quite long list, because I personally have quite many, maybe even too many lenses myself, and there are lots of choices more out there.
But I was suprised. With a little digging I found new manufacturers, some I had never heard of, making lenses to this system. So the list grew. There are some very exotic choices (by features): F0.8-0.95 lenses, full circle fisheyes, special macros... Not to mention pancakes, pinholes and very compact telezooms. There are AF-lenses from 7mm to 300mm now available as new, equivalent from 14mm to 600mm in "full format". 

So, not too many holes there anymore. Remember, all the 43-lenses (FT) are usable with converter in mFT-body: AF may be slow with some cameras, but apertures work fine, contacts work and even EXIF-info and IS-system work, if the last one is available in the body. Some companies make only manual focus lenses (like Samyang, Cosina-Voigtländer and SLR Magic), but that does not mean the lenses are poor. In fact, if you check some reviews and tests, they are mostly at least very good, and usually excellent. Manual focusing and using aperture manually of course is more difficult than working full auto, but that's the way life is.

If you are interested on the lenses or other equipment, please check the manufactures pages about the availability, and also some tests / reviews / comments of the one you are interested in. Most of the lenses are on production, except the ones marked. Some might be officially announced, but just not out yet. Fortunately it is easy nowadays to make some comparisons before buying...
There are also toylenses, bodycap lenses and pinholes etc on the list - maybe not high quality lenses on traditionally thinking (meaning sharpness, contrast, color rendering etc), but able to give some special results in the right hands, as any lens. After all, it is always the photographer that makes the photo.

The List

I have divited the list for three main parts: PRIMES, ZOOMS AND OTHER. You'll find the normal subcategories (fisheye, wide etc) from the list. Basically the lenses are listed by the shortest focal length, and fastest (largest) aperture first within equal focal lengths.

PRIMES contain single focal lenght lenses, ZOOMS (varifocal and parfocal lenses) and OTHER focal length reducers, teleconverters and extension tubes. And in the Prime-section there is the SPECIAL MACRO... real special lens. Other macro lenses are included in the normal or tele-sections. 

With varifocal zoom lenses tho point of focus changes when the lens is zoomed, with parfocal lenses the focus point stays the same. There is no info about which type the zooms now are, but that is not so big deal with AF-lenses - you focus again after zooming and composing anyway ... But, of course, the parfocal design would make the workflow faster when needed, and using the lens for video would be easier. No info available anyway.

There are some strange Field of view-degrees with some lenses: I suppose this is partly due because of the differences between lens designs and real focal lenghts (so they are real), and mostly because different measuring methods with FOV. Usually it is measured diagonally. In reality I'd suppose that the lenses with the same advertized focal length will have about the same FOV.

Primes or Zooms?

Some years ago - decades in fact - if you wanted the best image quality the lens choice would always be a prime. Now those days are gone. If you check some lens reviews and test results, you'll find that the zooms are really good now, and there is no real difference in the overall image quality between the best zooms and the best primes.

Why to choose a prime then? To make a premium fast zoom there needs to be quite a lot of glass inside. Premium fast zoom is always larger and heavier than a prime with the same aperture - and a prime can be made even faster. But then there is also the question, that how many primes you'll need to cover the zoom range... Is the 12-35 or 12-40 F2.8 enough, do you need a faster aperture and in which focal lenght, or even more lenses? Or, if you have the 12mm, 20mm and 45mm lenses, do you need everything in between? How much do you want to carry?

And then there are other aspects of image quality than sharpness and contrast. The much talked BOKEH, meaning the way out of focus areas turn out in the final image. MICRO CONTRAST, how well and real the smallest details of feathers or fabric show out. FOCUS SPEED and RELIABILITY... BUILT QUALITY? Check the tests and reviews for those.

F or T ?

F-stops, T-stops... Two different ways to measure the aperture and light transmission. F-stops refer to the aperture (1/F), T-stops to the real light transmission. Basicly, lenses with F-stops are usually designed and made for photography and lenses with T-stops for videography. Last ones usually have "clickless" aperture construction, and F-stops a marked with clikcs. But, both can be used for photography and video. F-stops and T-stops compare to each other so, that F-stops are a bit faster in markings: F2 is about  T2.2. So the fastest lens on the list is either F0.8 or T0.95... Pretty fast anyway.

Winter scene. Olympus OMD E-M1+ Samyang 7.5mm f3.5 FE at f8.
Photo shows some lens reflections etc, but hey, that's just 
taken right against the sun.  © Jouko Lehto

Software correction vs optical correction

About all new lenses rely in the in camera or raw software correction for barreling, vignetting and chromatic aberration corrections. Older lenses (FT-series) were mostly built to correct those optically. In the end, from the results, it is difficult to know how the correction was done.

Coatings and hoods?

Even if some of the manufactures don't announce it anymore, I think it is quite safe to say that about all of these lenses are multicoated on a way or another. Most modern technology is the nanocoatings, which uses nanoparticles to reduce reflections. Names like nanocoating or zerocoating mean that. The older technologies are not as effective, but work quite fine too. Still, I'd recommend to use a hood too: that empty tube in front of the lens adds contrast shading the front element, reduces reflections and protects the front element from dust, moisture and fingerprints.


When you are reading the photogrpahy forums, lens test etc, you can not pass the "equivalence"-term. Basicly it is the question to compare the field of view with lenses between different formats, and the "full format" meaning the old 135-film size (or 35, kino, whatever). Nowadays there are "full format cameras" like Sony A7-series, Canon 5D-versions, Nikon.... They have the same size of sensor as the old SLR-cameras had for film.  

mFT-cameras have smaller sensors. The crop factor is 2 - so, to get a "normal" 50mm equivalent field of view, we need a 25mm lens. And the 150mm tele corresponds a 300mm lens. Easy? No.

Field of view, FOV, in fact is about easy. It works, about, anyway enough, if you are familiar with those FF-systems, modern or pass, for you to get the lens or focal lenght you want. If you are not, you'll learn the this system while using it. No problem. For us oldies, 2x is good enough.

Depth of Field, DOF: it is dependent of the real focal lenght and used aperture. So, a 25mm lens with F1.4 is a 25mm lens with F1.4. Equivalent for 50mm F 2.8. The smaller the F-stop NUMBER, the larger the aperture opening, and the thinner the DOF. And the longer the lens and shorter the focusing distance, the thinner the DOF. On the other words: a wide-angle stopped down to F8 and focused to infinity has a large DOF, a 300mm at F2.8 and focused to 2m has a very thin DOF.

Metering the light: Use the real values: F1.4 = F1.4, F8 = F8... The camera does that anyway. If you are using some other meter, make a test shot too. On important shots, do that always, and check the results. There are discussions about how many photons hit the sensor in reality etc, but that goes too deep in theory to have any influence for my use of camera. Maybe has something for the engineers...

ISO-values: ISO-values mean the sensors sensitivity for light. All sensors have the base sensitivity (usually ISO 100 or 200), and that can be changed by used voltage, between reasonable limits. Theoretically ISO-values are compareable between different camera manufactures, but... In practice all the in-camera prosessing is included into the ISO-value setting, so the metered ISO/shutter speed /aperture combination can vary quite a lot between different camera manufactures and camera models. Meaning:
  1. If you are using different camera models, don't just move the values from one into the other. Use cameras own meter, and take some test shots, check results. In reality: that's what you do anyway.
  2. The corresponding ISO-value between different camera bodies can vary quite a lot - lets say "standard" ISO 800 can be something like ISO 400 to ISO 1600. But, in practise: use the camera you have, the ISO/ shutter speed/ aperture combination is the thing that makes the effective exposure.
  3. The higher the ISO, the more noise you'll get. How much is acceptable or too much, is up to you. The overall circumstances and the meant use of the photo also have a factor here. 


 (And most of us, really): If you are just getting into photography and not sure what you are going to shoot with your camera, getting into a new hobby - or casual shooters, with nothing particular in mind, but wanting to travel light... The KIT systems are really quite good and always a good starting point. Not too expensive, really capable for great results and flexible. One or two lenses from around 14mm to 150mm (there are variations) give both a reasonable wide angle and a longish tele, useful in nature and travel photography. Both- and everything in between - in a compact and light, easy to manage and hold baggage. Later you can add some more lenses or change to faster ones, after you find out what you need.


The next manufacturers are now included in the lists:

California, Cosina (Voigtländer), Fotodiox, Jackar, Kipon, Kodak, Kooka, Kowa, Lensbaby, Metabones, Meyer-Optik-Görlitz, Mitakon, Neewer, Olympus, Panasonic, Photex, RJ Camera, Samyang (alias Rokinon, Walimex), Schneider, Sigma, Skink, SLR Magic, Tamron, Tokina, Veydra, Viltrox, Yasuhara, Zeiss and ZY Optics. Missing some?

What more?

Quite a list on next pages. But I'm sure there will be plenty of more. And we don't have to wait too long for the next ones.

My quess: More AF lenses coming, and maybe also from new companies. Longer superzooms. Tamron has a patent for a 14-300mm lens... Quess the proper format? Maybe even something to the longer side. One trend seems also be faster, wider aperture primes. Olympus has patents for F1-lenses... Hopefully there will be something compatible with the wallets too.


PS1. Even if the lens is marked as "out of production", it doesn't mean it is unusable or poor quality. In fact, some of the older lenses are of very high quality in every way. FT-lenses work fine IQ-wise with every mFT-body, but are usually larger and heavier than the new lenses. Sometimes that is good, sometimes not.

PS2. Some lenses are sold under different names. Samyang for example is sold also under Rokinon and Walimex brands - but the lenses are the same. I have just listed one name here.

PS3. Some cine-lenses can be in fact with PL-mounts - they are here because they are marketed also as mFT lenses. As full manual lenses they have all the original functionality anyway. There are also other manufactures making PL-lenses, not mentioned here. And other mounts adaptable to mFT - C, M42, L39, T, Leica M, Nikon F, Canon FD & EF, Pentax K, Minolta MD... About every manual lens can be used with these bodies. Pick yours.

PS4. There are now AF-compatible adapters available for Canon EF-mount too. At least Kipon and Metabones make those - but the results of the real AF-useability seems to vary from adapter to adapter and lens to lens. Check the day's results from manufacturers pages and user blogs and comments around the net. Updates and new products change things.