What will happen to a camera that is stored in an environment with a very low relative humidity?

Will the camera crack, or what will happen?

Will it be the same for DSLRs, non-weatherproof point & shoot cameras, and for weatherproof point & shoot cameras?

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    No one really knows because nothing happens automatically. To have an idea, at least specify which camera. There are different built qualities and environment protection, some can even be submerged underwater. – Itai May 10 '12 at 2:40
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    Okay, I'm baffled. Why the pile-on downvotes? How is this worse than any other environmental-damage question, like for example this one or this one on high humidity? Do we just not like the way the question is presented with the list of humidity ranges? – mattdm May 10 '12 at 12:00
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    I haven't voted, but I doubt the question is answerable as written, given the combination of quantitative RH ranges and vague classes of camera. How would you know what happens between 45-55% without doing lab testing? And if you were going to do a test, what cameras do you test? A question like "What risks does low RH pose to these types of cameras...?" would be more answerable, and that's basically the question you answered. – coneslayer May 10 '12 at 12:31
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    @mattdm: The questions you’ve linked to feel more like they’re asking for advice to understand and minimise risk in a general sense (they can be answered). This question feels more like random musings, it’s similar to ‘what would happen if I drop my camera from 1ft, 5ft, 10ft, > 100ft’. Whilst it may be interesting, it’s not really answerable. Perhaps ‘What precautions can I take to minimise the impact of RH variations when storing a camera?’ would have been better... – forsvarir May 10 '12 at 13:53
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    Let's help Jack improve the question, then. – mattdm May 10 '12 at 14:55

In a word, static.

Digital cameras are electronic devices, and they also have moving parts, both plastic and metal. This is a great combination for build-up of static charge and for sparks to fly.

These sparks — even very, very tiny ones — can cause malfunction of the electronics or even permanent damage.

If the camera is just stored in low humidity and not powered on, a problem is less likely.

Your original list-based question implied that there's some sort of magic level, with different behavior at each threshold. That's not the case. It's just that the risk goes up as humidity goes down.

  • Are there ways to prevent this static buildup/discharge when using a camera in low humidity? – L84 May 10 '12 at 21:21
  • I was wondering what would be the best humidity level. From what I know, if RH value is above 50%, there might be mold growing on the camera and it will grow faster when it become RH of 60% to 70%. If I store below 40% e.g. storing at 20%, I was wondering if it will kill all the mold (if there is) but will it destroy other parts of the camera. – Jack May 11 '12 at 1:59
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    Mold is very resilient. It will go dormant if dried out but spores will stay around and come back when the conditions are better. A nice moderate level is best, and if it's too damp, try to get your gear dried out before mold forms. – mattdm May 11 '12 at 2:07
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    @Lynda: that's a great question and I don't know the answer. – mattdm May 11 '12 at 2:07
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    Posted my question as an actual question: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/23293/… – L84 May 11 '12 at 4:37

If the camera is stored, unused for long periods in very low humidity, there is a small chance that some of the lubricants will dry out or move. You want the lubricants to stay where they were placed during manufacture.

The most common place that folks may inadvertently store a camera in very low RH is in a normal home heated in winter that does not have a humidifier. It is common for such homes to have RH below 20%.

  • I was thinking the exact same thing about winter and humidity. I think the deciding factor has to be length of time stored in that environment to cause things to happen, like lubricants drying. Surely not easily answered. – Dan Wolfgang May 10 '12 at 19:31

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