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If I leave it in the sun for a few minutes, even in winter, it gets pretty hot. In summer, I'd have to shade it as it has been too hot to touch. This makes remote-triggered wildlife photography and landscape time lapses difficult. Doesn't that kind of heat affect the memory card and internal mechanical components?

Everyone understands why a camera interior has to be as black as possible, but I'm mystified by the exterior being black. Even the rubber components get mushy from that kind of heat. I remember Sony had a few white NEX models that only sold in Japan; were there other models that were once white? And while we're at it, why are bigger telephoto lenses white, but not ALL lenses?

(And yes, I did see the lens question asked here in 2013. Has anything changed since then?)

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    Despite the "it's better in hot conditions" hype, I still believe that this answer is much closer to the real reason for white lenses.
    – Philip Kendall
    Feb 24 at 9:06
  • Fluorite, which was included in the first mass marketed white lenses, is more sensitive to heat than other types of optical glass. Contraction/expansion affects refractive properties.
    – Michael C
    Feb 24 at 14:18
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    Because the factory used black paint?
    – Michael C
    Feb 24 at 14:19
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    Of course, in many cases, the interior and exterior are a single piece of material, so since it has to be black on the inside, it will also be black on the outside. Making the material a different color on the outside is possible, but more expensive, so why spend the extra money on something that for most people is purely aesthetic? Feb 24 at 15:12
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    I suspect, Darrel, yours is the easiest explanation: injection molding bi-colored thin plastics is probably as expensive as it is challenging. Feb 24 at 18:22

5 Answers 5

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This is purely speculation, so take it with a grain of salt. But the outside of a camera can benefit from being black for the same reason the inside does, to prevent light bounce.

This may not be as big a deal in wildlife photography, but in studio work, having a white camera would add a fixed reflector to every lighting setup. Anything in your lighting setup you can't control is a hindrance. Incidentally, this is the same reason I always wear very dark colors when I'm working in the studio.

In the old days when my camera had brushed metal surfaces, I'd sometimes have to drape a piece of black fabric over it to prevent it from reflecting the backlight back onto the subject. I've never had a problem with my camera heating up in the sun, but I imagine having a light colored fabric cover would work just as well. You could even use a suitable camouflage material to provide you both shade and to better hide you from your quarry.

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    And a white camera would become dirty pretty quickly.
    – xenoid
    Feb 24 at 6:05
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    @xenoid, you speak the truth Feb 24 at 6:06
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    One of my photography teachers recommended wearing a black shirt not to be artsy, but to reduce the number of things that could reflect off your subject's eyes. (He also recommended having an assistant wear a white T-shirt under their black shirt, just in case you need to bounce light somewhere.) Feb 24 at 16:11
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    I suppose a white camera could be seen in a close-up studio portrait's eyes, but you'd have to look extremely hard, AND get past the reflections of the lights. I have macro shots of irises where, if anything, the camera lens is reflected off the shiny surface of the eye. But these are brightly illuminated, highly magnified subjects shot from a working distance of a few centimeters. Feb 24 at 18:19
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    @jeffronicus It's not just the reflections off your subject's eyes, it's reflection of your colored clothing onto everything in the scene. It's usually not that noticeable, but try wearing a neon yellow-green, orange, or pink shirt and then shooting a bride in a pure white dress. You can set your camera's WB to perfectly match your flashes, even going so far as to use something like X-Rite's Color Checker system, and you'll see a yellow-green, orange, or pink color cast on her dress if any light from the flashes is bouncing off your shirt towards the white dress.
    – Michael C
    Feb 28 at 22:08
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From a marketing perspective, black tends to be a safe colour to choose because it's the least offensive and most subdued.

From an manufacturing perspective, if a pigment is involved (such as the case with paint, colouring plastics, or powder coating metals), black tends to be the safest and cheapest colour to go with for a number of reasons:

  • black pigment is cheap (typically carbon black)
  • carbon black is immune to fading and discolouration
  • carbon black protects plastic against UV degradation. This is why black nylon zip ties exist in addition to the uncoloured (white) nylon zip ties.

A popular, good white pigment that doesn't fade and protects against UV is titanium dioxide and tends to be one of the pigments in higher demand thus making it expensive. It's also just more expensive than carbon black by default.

So the pigment is the likely explanation if the exterior of the camera is mostly plastic. This is why if you need to colour a plastic something other than its native colour, black tends to be the default.

If you choose to make your camera exterior out of metal, well that's just expensive to begin with. If you use paint or powdercoat, you are back to the pigment argument.

If you choose to colour your metal without involving pigments then that leaves plating and anodization. I don't know of a white plating or anodization (though I have never gone specifically looking for one) but black ones are common.

But if your case is already metal and you don't want to use pigments then perhaps you could just give it metallic finish Well that might involve more material costs since it could involve nickel or chrome if steel, brass, or copper is involved. Or perhaps just plain if it is aluminum or magnesium. And then would need to it to be sandblasted, brushed, or, dare I say, polished to a mirror shine. And you do see this often...on the few metal parts on the exterior because metal is expensive. You might see it more often if more cameras had significant metal exterior.

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Why not leave it bare metal (assuming metal construction)? Or polish it so that it reflects 100% of the light? And why do so many wildlife photographers put camouflage on their white lenses?

A white surface is a better reflector than a black surface is, but that doesn't mean the surface will be cooler to the touch. That has more to do with what the material is made of and how well it transmits the heat. I.e. a lens with dark neoprene camouflage cover is very likely to feel cooler on the surface than a white lens will; and actually be cooler internally as well.

The big white Canon lenses are white to reflect more heat; Canon even changed the formula so that the white finish is more reflective of IR wavelengths not that long ago.

Yes excessive heat can adversely affect the camera/components... but making them white isn't really much of a solution for that level of abuse.

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    Sorry Steven, but a white surface will be much cooler to the touch. And if you look at remote communications equipment left out in the elements, much of those electronics are enclosed in white plastic cabinets. I also have performance graphs for power supply performance in white plastic vs. gray metal cabinets left in the desert sun showing steep losses for units inside gray metal boxes. Feb 24 at 18:04
  • @KnobScratcher Steven writes about exposed and polished metal, not gray-painted metal. Feb 25 at 1:05
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Your camera is not white because:

A. You did not buy the white version, or

B. You have not painted your camera white.

Sometimes A might not be an option but B always is if you want a white camera.

However it is worth considering that leaving a camera out in the sun for a extended times is not traditionally considered a good idea. Heat is bad for electronics and lubricated mechanisms. Also bright light is a risk to film.

Might be worth using a camera with a plastic shell if your photography is seriously dependent on handling cameras left in intense sun without gloves.

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    -1. OP is obviously asking "why are cameras not made/sold as white by default?"
    – Brondahl
    Feb 24 at 17:35
  • "Also bright light is a risk to film." .....huh? Feb 24 at 17:58
  • @KnobScratcher leaving a loaded film camera in full sun is can turn ignorable light leaks into disasters. Heat is not good for film, too. Feb 24 at 22:54
  • @Brondahl The market provides white cameras. Assuming efficiency, the market provides white cameras in accord with the demand for white cameras. In addition, for market rate payment someone may be hired to customize a camera in another color. As always the options are pay someone to do what you want or do it yourself. Feb 24 at 23:04
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There's a definite market for black equipment. I specialise in "candid" photography, and want my equipment to be as inconspicuous as possible. Black simply draws less attention than white or chrome, and I've been happy to pay a bit more for black DSLR lenses and bodies, where necessary.

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    "I've been happy to pay a bit more for black DSLR lenses and bodies" - pay more? But aren't "black DSLR lenses and bodies" the overwhelming majority? (Hence the question.)
    – MrWhite
    Feb 27 at 0:59
  • @MrWhite: Black is the majority, but some things also come in chrome or white, and I've sought out the black versions of equipment that was no longer available new. Feb 27 at 1:02

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