Happiness is a Warm Cam

…or rather, a warm Compact Flash card. Score it Illinois winter 1, JNack 0. Short story: take care when shooting digitally in cold weather.
Longer story: On Friday my wife and I hiked around my snowy little hometown, filling a 1GB CF card via my Canon Rebel XT. The weather was brisk (maybe 35 degrees F) but sunny and not uncomfortable, and we captured plenty of images I’d love to have back. I kept the camera inside my jacket much of the time, and reviewing the shots in the field, everything seemed fine. Sadly, when I popped the card into my Mac, the photos were nowhere to be found. Bridge could display a few image fragments, but nothing usable transferred. The next day I reformatted the card in the camera and happily shot indoors for another couple hours; then things hit the wall. I got errors in the camera, and neither it nor the Mac could reformat the card. The card now resides in a trash can, and much of two days’ worth of shooting exists only in my memory.
I should note that I have no special expertise in this area, and I haven’t yet gotten to consult teammates who likely know a good deal more. The card itself claimed to be “unfazed by… arctic cold” (hmmm…); memory is generally supposed to work well in the cold; and it appears that Canon rates their cameras for shooting at freezing and above, so I thought I was in the clear. I might chalk this up to a fluke, but last Christmas I lost another batch of images taken in the same area (different card, different camera), so I suspect the technology is more fragile than we’d like to think.
In any event, it’s not a complete bust: I was able to salvage a few interesting shots of trains, real and imagined.

0 thoughts on “Happiness is a Warm Cam

  1. There may be some trapped moisture in the memory card case that could be causing the problem. Rather than throw the card away, you may want to place it into a sandwich bag or something similar with some silicagel or Drierite or other dessicant.
    Shooting digitally in cold weather can be problematic. It’s not a bad idea, if you do lots of cold weather shooting to keep some dessicants around and a container that you can place memory cards or entire cameras into. Another hint with lots of dessicants…..you do not have to throw them away when they have absorbed water. You can “recharge” them by roasting them in an oven for a while by driving off the moisture.
    Also, with my Canon 20d, I have the battery grip that hold two batteries in addition to a holder/adapter for lithium batteries which hold their charge better in the cold. Although lithiums do not last long, this has been very useful before when the rechargeable batteries have been exhausted due to cold and there was that one shot….

  2. John,
    That does like temperature-related malfunction to me (unless the battery died suddenly because of the cold). Possibly a casualty of condensation.
    Sounds more like directory corruption. Do you reformat the card after every download? If you still have the card, you could run recovery software on it like Photorescue.
    Ask your buddies who just got back from the Antarctic…

  3. This has nothing to do with cold weather. I and 20 others shoot on the streets of New York City year round often at temperatures of 20 F with all kinds of cameras and CF cards. I have never ever heard of such a problem.
    This must be something else.Perhaps water condensation from going from a cold environment to a warm one and then back to cold.
    In this case you should pack the camera in tight sealed plast bag with desecants before going to the warm aerea.

  4. Maybe it’s useless, but try to contact Digital Camera Magazine (http://www.dcmag.co.uk) staff: they wrote an article about a year ago talking about a company specialized in card recovery in extreme situations.
    Hope this helps.

  5. I had the exact same problem today. I went outside to shoot some pictures of our fresh snow (I’m in Portland, Oregon where we NEVER get snow) and after a while, I started getting data corruption and “CF Error” on my screen. I brought the card back indoors, warmed it up, and it worked again. Went back outside, and a few minutes later, it stopped working.
    Very frustrating, I hope I can get some pictures before the snow is gone…
    [Gah–sorry to hear that. There are few things more frustrating than losing photos, and I continue to suspect that the technologies are a little more fragile than we’d like to think. –J.]

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