Not Your Everyday Banana

by Bart Arondson

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I'm grabbing the camera (Nikon D3100) and heading off to a large flying weekend at the beginning of November in Australia. I've never been to one of these before, so I was hoping to get a few pointers before I leave.

I've been to the air field hosting this weekend. It's a standard bush airfield, very large and very dusty. Also, November is very close to the beginning of summer, so chances are the heat will be on.

The questions I've got so far:

1 - We'll be sitting at the side of the field with no shade during the flying hours (middle of the day). Would subjecting my camera to a few hours of direct heat and light be very dangerous? Should I somehow be covering the camera to prevent problems?

2 - During the same time I'll be storing the camera away if I am not using it. Should I be taking any special precautions when doing this (like putting it in a plastic sealing bag while away or will that cause problems with the heat dissipation etc)

3 - I'm planning on using two, possibly three lenses during the day. I can swap a lens around pretty quickly, again is there anything I should be doing extra during a lens swap in a dusty windy environment?

If anyone has shot in these conditions, I would like to hear your suggestions and input.

Thanks for your help

Scoldog

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You're going to be in a plane? Might be best just to use a wide angle zoom. Are you planning to use the kit lens/es? Might be better to purchase a higher end wide angle zoom as kit lenses aren't as well sealed. –  BBking Sep 19 '13 at 2:42
    
I'll be inside a lot of the static airplanes, which means I'll be using the 18-24mm wide angle lens. When out on the field during the flying time, I'll probably be using the standard 18-55mm lens and possibly the 55-300mm lens. Unless anyone recommends just using the wide angle lens and telephoto for out on the field? –  Scoldog Sep 19 '13 at 4:13
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2 Answers 2

1) Don't point it at the sun directly and you should be fine. They are designed for outdoor use.

2) The camera will be much more vulnerable to dust while using it than when away in any kind of bag, you should adequately protect it from dust and leave that protection in place while in a highly dusty environment.

3) Be ready to send your camera in for cleaning afterwards if you do. In any dusty environment, chances are good you will get dust inside the lens and camera body and pretty decent some of that will end up on the sensor sooner or later. When you have to change it, change it as isolated from the wind as possible, as isolated from dust as possible and as quickly as possible, beyond that, it's gonna be risky any way you do it. Best bet would really be multi-body shooting in a situation like that, but doesn't sound like that is an option. Try to plan carefully and keep swaps to a minimum as well.

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Power off the camera before lens change. Everybody should know it, but it's good to mention it anyway. An extra reminder when working in dusty environment ;) –  Esa Paulasto Sep 23 '13 at 6:38
    
@EsaPaulasto - I'm not entirely sure that that isn't an old wives tale. I believe the original reasoning was that some kind of electrical field on the camera sensor would make it attract dust or that turning it off would make the mirror go down, however, I personally have never turned off my camera to change lenses. Every time I start to remove a lens, the mirror goes down and the camera adjusts itself to get ready for the lens change. I've never had a problem with it gathering dust to the sensor. I do avoid overly dusty areas, but I have had to change in mild dust conditions frequently. –  AJ Henderson Sep 23 '13 at 13:14
    
One thing I would point out is that I generally hold the camera opening down and lens up while changing and do the operation very quickly (seconds) by loosening the lens cap on the lens, placing it on it's cover, loosening the lens from the camera body, but holding it in place. I align the lens so that I can pick the camera up, move it over the other lens as I simultaneously move the lens cap from one to the other. Total process is about 1 to 2 seconds of exposure to dust. It's a bit slower if I have to do it on the fly, but the procedure is similar. –  AJ Henderson Sep 23 '13 at 13:17
    
Must be old wives tales, since I read it here in PhotoSE ;) But I have to admit the answers to this question were a bit vague. Might as well put a bounty on it and see if better answers pop up. –  Esa Paulasto Sep 23 '13 at 16:11
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1) Direct sunlight and the resulting heat can have an effect on the performance of camera systems while it is heated to a higher than designed temperature, but rarely has any lasting effect once the gear has cooled back down. I have personally experienced problems with gear that had been heated by direct exposure to intense mid-day sunlight. Once the camera was shaded and allowed to cool gradually it returned to optimal performance. I would recommend a plan to shade your gear from direct sunlight when not using it, ideally with an air layer between the shade and the gear to allow the heat absorbed by the shade to dissipate away from the gear.

The largest exception to the temporary nature of heat problems are lenses that contain Fluorite. One reason Canon finishes their large telephoto lenses in white is to mitigate the rate that heat builds up inside the lens. Since these lenses are the only mass produced lenses in the world that use actual Fluorite elements, they are especially sensitive to rapid temperature changes which can cause fractures in the fluorite elements.

2) Storing the camera in any container that protects it from windblown dust should be sufficient. But based on your first concern, try not to store it in a container that absorbs the heat of the sun and transmits that heat to the camera (such as a form-fitting black bag).

3) I don't change lenses in the environment you describe unless the shot is worth more to me than the insides of the gear I am exposing to blowing dust and sand. Rent or borrow an additional body and keep each lens mounted while exposed to the harsh conditions. If you absolutely must change lenses, do so inside shelter (such as one of the static planes) so that the wind isn't as much of a factor and use your back to shield the camera from whatever direction any dust may be blowing. Brush the dust off the exterior of the camera and lens and allow it to settle before removing/replacing the lens.

Even when following these precautions, non-professional grade gear such as your D3100 will be more susceptible to dust getting inside than more rugged and weather-sealed cameras and lenses, so keep your camera bagged when not in use.

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