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Okay, I'm not talking about putting a camera inside a microwave oven! ;)

But does storing a digital camera near a microwave oven (one that is used regularly) damage it in any way? I'm thinking perhaps any degradation of the image sensor.

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    \$\begingroup\$ How near is "near"? Bear in mind that microwave ovens also get hot and vent steam etc. depending on what you are cooking. (?) \$\endgroup\$
    – MrWhite
    May 27, 2017 at 11:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ See the video How a Microwave Oven Works by engineerguy. \$\endgroup\$
    – Theraot
    May 27, 2017 at 22:40

2 Answers 2

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No, there is no danger. Any EM fields outside the microwave are very weak. There is no danger or risk.

Microwaves are like visible light waves, except bigger (the "micro" is in comparison to other radio waves). Both are non-ionizing radiation; they don't have the energy to displace electrons in atoms. And, just like visible light, microwave radiation follows the inverse-square law and drops off dramatically as you move away.

Microwaves use exactly the same radio waves used for WiFi, except with higher power and greater concentration. However, the box of the microwave keeps that confined. In the US, Federal regulations limit the amount of leaked microwaves for the lifetime of the device (that is, not just when brand new) to 5 milliwatts of microwave radiation per square centimeter measured 5 centimeters from the box. For comparison, the FCC limits WiFi routers to 1000 mW (or, you know, one watt). And, you shouldn't worry about either.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Wow! Great answer! Thank you! So, if I understand correctly, at 0cm, a WiFi router can be 200 times stronger than a microwave oven at 5cm. Right? \$\endgroup\$ May 26, 2017 at 20:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ "Any EM fields outside the microwave are very weak" - That seems to be more true in theory than in practice. I do agree though that it's unlikely to affect a digital camera. \$\endgroup\$ May 26, 2017 at 20:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BlueRaja-DannyPflughoeft "weak" by "could damage your camera" standards are not the same as "weak" by "can be detected by a radio receiver" standards. Not by many orders of magnitude. On the right frequencies, I can hear a transmitter with the same power as a microwave from the opposite side of the globe on my radio receiver, but I'm not concerned in the slightest about damage to my camera, or my eyes. \$\endgroup\$
    – Phil Frost
    May 26, 2017 at 22:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ wrt ionising vs non-ionising radiation: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ionizing_radiation#/media/… \$\endgroup\$
    – cat
    May 27, 2017 at 13:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RockPaperLizard Next question, then, is can wifi damage digital cameras... \$\endgroup\$
    – user3739
    May 27, 2017 at 13:09
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Let's try physics. And math.

By regulation, the maximum power density outside the microwave is 5mW per cm2 at 5 centimeters away.

For comparison, a typical cell phone has a transmit power of about 500mW. Spread over a sphere of radius 5cm, that's a power density of 500mW / (4*pi*5cm2) = 1.6mW per cm2.

1.6 and 5 are roughly the same, within an order of magnitude. Your camera is probably farther than 5cm from the microwave oven, and you probably aren't afraid to set a camera closer than 5cm from a phone. Come to think of it, there's probably a camera inside the phone.

So unless there's some reason the electromagnetic radiation from a microwave is more harmful than a cell phone (I can't think of one) there's no reason to be concerned.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Note that the limit for new microwaves is 1mW/cm² \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    May 26, 2017 at 22:42

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