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I am generally a lazy person, so I am extremely averse to changing lenses on my camera in the cold. I am concerned about my fingers getting cold, but here I read that condensation is extremely dangerous for my camera in cold weather conditions. I understand that condensation occurs when I take my camera from cold air into a warm house, and moisture collects on the lenses. This moisture can harm the interior of the camera, as water does harm to electronics. Besides, water drops can freeze if I leave the warm building for the outside again, so a common advice is to pack the camera into an air-proof bag.

Now, if I am shooting outside, is the camera interior air-proof? Is the air inside the lens and near the sensor warm? Is it dangerous to open the compartment and change lenses outside? How am I supposed to change lens when shooting outside in winter?

  • As the answers indicate, condensation isn't an issue, but I sometimes change lenses using a film changing bag, so that blowing snow doesn't get inside the camera or onto the rear lense element. – Mark Plotnick Jan 19 '15 at 21:26
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    And cold fingers have been known to drop stuff. – bmargulies Jan 19 '15 at 22:56
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The camera interior of an SLR camera is not air tight.

However condensation is not generally a problem when changing lenses outdoors. Condensation occurs when moving indoors due to a cold glass surface being in contact with warm moist air.

When changing lenses outdoors the cold air is dry and so condensation will not form inside the camera. When taking your camera outside, it will contain a small amount of warm moist air, however this will likely disperse very quickly when you remove the lens.

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    A bit counter-intuitive at first, but practically you are right: this must be the reason why we never see condensation on the inside of the lens. – Pavlo Dyban Jan 19 '15 at 15:47
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    So the time not to change lenses is just after coming in from the cold, especially to the sort of places where many people warm up (cafes etc.) which tend to be rather humid. – Chris H Jan 19 '15 at 16:40
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    Be nice to your camera and lenses tip: put them inside locked/closed plastic bags before going inside. Then they will be surrounded by cold dry air that will be gradually warmed to inside temperature. – hlovdal Jan 20 '15 at 8:54
  • The airtight bag is ideal, but simply waiting an hour with the camera out in the open will do the same thing, it's just about allowing it to slowly warm up before exposing the interior – Jon Story Jan 20 '15 at 9:05
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    @JonStory I always use a bag these days. Neither the lens nor camera body are airtight in general, so the interior is exposed (to an extent) as soon as the camera is indoors. Also I've seen condensation form very quickly on the lens front element / camera LCD screen. This water can easily run through joins in the camera/lens if it's they're not weather sealed. – Matt Grum Jan 20 '15 at 9:44
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As already answered, no problem changing the lens as much as you want, in any temperature, provided:

  • the temperature remains constant during the lens change
  • no external particles enter the lens mount (snow, rain, dust)

I tend to change lenses with the camera facing downwards at 45 degrees, with clothing shielding any blown-up snow. Being a Russian pro photographer, I've changed lenses in temperatures below -35 C ;).

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No, as it was already mentioned. Cold temperature of air generally makes it really dry. Vapor capacity of colder air is much lower than warm/humid air. I have significantly more issues changing lens in warm/humid environment on a camera that was seating in an air-conditioned room for sometime.

  • It doesn't actually matter if its actually warm, a small temperature difference can do the same to your camera. Because your camera is colder than the air temperature, condensation occurs. Temperature is relative, which is why you have the issues there and then (what you experience as warm/humid). – Barry Staes Jan 20 '15 at 9:02

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