Tuesday (20-January-2015) — New Jersey

Technology: Leica T Camera — Cold Weather Issues & Limitations.

How cold does it get in Germany in the winter? The reason I ask has to do with a new camera I have been using. For several years I had a Leica X1 and Leica X2 as my trusty travel camera. They worked, and provided me with some of my best images while traveling. At times I did regret that they had a fixed 24 mm lens so was intrigued when the Leica T mirrorless camera was announced that allowed interchangeable lenses. The first two lenses were a  23 mm f/2 (which would be close to the 24 mm lenses on the X1 and X2) and a 18-56 mm lens. I wasn’t able to get the camera and lenses before the Semester at Sea Spring 2014 Enrichment Voyage and the Summer 2014 Semester Voyage.

After I returned from the Semester at Sea Voyages I did get the Leica T camera and the two lenses. I brought them along on my Hurtigurten Christmas voyage to Antarctica. Initially I planned to use the Leica T as my 2nd camera for travel image. My primary camera for the trip was a Nikon Df and 80-400 mm VRII lens for bird pictures. On the 2nd day of the voyage, the shutter on the Nikon Df failed, and the Leica T became my primary camera. The 18-56 mm lens (27-85 mm equivalent based on the sensor) wasn’t really what I wanted for the bird images – but I had to deal with it.

The annoying issue with the Leica T camera was that it would lock-up in cold weather. When this happened, you had no control over any functions, including the shutter and the on/off switch. The rear monitor or EVF monitor remained on and would follow whatever you were pointing the camera at – and as a result continue to drain the battery. I  set the camera to shut off after 1 minute, but when the camera locked-up it didn’t shut off. The only way to recover was to remove and reinstall the battery. The temperatures in the places we were visiting (Falkland Islands, South Georgia Islands, and the Northern Peninsula of Antarctica) at this time of the year (remember it is summer there now) never were below 30°F / -1°C. I’ve used many other digital cameras at temperatures well below this. The battery life wasn’t as long, but that was something I could deal with.

When I got back from the Antarctic trip I sent a message to Leica Support in the US. This was their response. “My understanding is that 0°C / 32°F is the lowest temperature within the operating range.  If by chance there was any wind chill factor at the time you were shooting that of course would have pushed the temperature even further away from ideal.  In a cold environment it is recommended to keep extra batteries in a warm place and swap them with the one in the camera periodically, minimize the length of time the camera is exposed as much as possible, and consider finding a way to insulate the camera somewhat while it is out.

Did Leica really design a camera that can only work above 32°F / 0°C? I am curious if there are any other Leica T users out there that have used their cameras in really cold weather.

Author: David Mathre

I am a scientist by training (Eckerd College, BSc; Caltech, Ph.D.). I worked for 27 years as a Chemist in the Pharmaceutical Industry developing processes to manufacture medicines for human and animal health. I now spend my time as a photographer and world traveler. My interests include the natural world, wildlife, landscapes, sky, and seascapes, travel, and astrophotography. I look for unique ways of viewing the world and presenting my images. I have traveled to over 55 countries in six continents, often on Semester at Sea voyages. While at home in New Jersey, I spend time on home renovation and expansion of a wildflower garden/meadow.

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