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02-02-2011, 08:44 PM   #1
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What does "coldproof" mean?

This is one spec that's often quoted about the K-5/K-7, and that's this mysterious "coldproof to -10 C" or "cold-resistant" feature. Of course Pentax offers no official description of what exactly this means. All they say is it's "a fully weather sealed and coldproof design".

Obviously this doesn't mean it is resistant to becoming cold. Not only is that impossible, unless it were airtight and covered in a thick thermally insulating material (or vacuum), but the metallic body would probably ensure that it would be the object in your possession that drops in temperature the fastest. Also, being able to operate at -10 C is not very impressive, considering any dinky little P&S can easily do the same (besides somewhat reduced battery life). People have taken unsealed entry-level DSLRs into far more extreme temperatures.

The only possible solution I can think of is that "coldproof" is a property not of the camera, but of the weather sealing itself. I guess cold can compromise properties of the seals by thermal contraction, or making the rubber brittle. It could mean that the weather sealing retains full effectiveness down to -10 C. I can think of two problems with that theory though. Any precipitation at those temperatures would be snow. The only real way for it to intrude into the body would be if it were to melt into water, which implies that the temperature of the body has risen above 0 C, making the "-10 C" claim pointless. Also, Pentax's wording: "a fully weather sealed and coldproof design" seems to imply that the coldproof design is a separate property.

That or it's just marketing speak: a "feature" that sounds nifty, but is vague enough that it cannot be disproven or used in a warranty claim.

Any other thoughts?

02-02-2011, 08:58 PM   #2
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I think you're boring.
02-02-2011, 09:00 PM   #3
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It's the electronics.

A lot of circuitry will cease at near-freezing temperatures. Also, batteries will stop functioning at maximum capacity.
02-02-2011, 09:00 PM   #4
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02-02-2011, 09:01 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by bikecoboss Quote
I think you're boring.
Ummm... ok?
02-02-2011, 09:15 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by bsamcash Quote
It's the electronics.

A lot of circuitry will cease at near-freezing temperatures. Also, batteries will stop functioning at maximum capacity.
That's the thing, I've not seen or heard of any electronic device fail at those temperatures (except, ironically, a crappy thermometer of mine), unless it were because of the reduced battery life issue, which is because of chemical properties, not electrical. People run around with P&Ss and cell phones shooting in the snow all the time. I've personally taken my K-x into temperatures well below that and shot hundreds of photos without issue. That means this is pretty much a pointless guarantee.

In fact, battery issue aside, I would be lead to believe electronics would perform better at those temperatures. Low temperature lowers electrical resistance and prevents overheating. The only way that could harm the electronics would be if the resistance became so low that it caused an overcurrent. I seriously doubt that's possible considering people have used liquid nitrogen to cool their PCs.

Last edited by Cannikin; 02-02-2011 at 09:27 PM.
02-02-2011, 09:18 PM   #7
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It means that up to -10 degrees C, your camera's electronic and mechanical components are guaranteed not to go haywire due to the temperature.

My car isn't coldproof- during the winter, the thermometer shows that the engine is overheated sometimes, even though it isn't.

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02-03-2011, 12:37 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Cannikin Quote
In fact, battery issue aside, I would be lead to believe electronics would perform better at those temperatures. Low temperature lowers electrical resistance and prevents overheating. The only way that could harm the electronics would be if the resistance became so low that it caused an overcurrent. I seriously doubt that's possible considering people have used liquid nitrogen to cool their PCs.
Lower resistance isn't necessarily better. The electrical characteristics changes with temperature and when they have changed enough the device stops functioning.

But -10 isn't extremely cold so it was probably not such a big deal, yet most other cameras aren't guaranteed to function below zero (even if most of them does.)

The PC guys are only cooling the cpu, I doubt the PC would work if they cooled down the entire motherboard.

02-03-2011, 01:00 AM   #9
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low temperature compliant lubricants for mechanicals. P&S and ccellphones have little mechanicals in them.
02-03-2011, 01:13 AM   #10
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I thought it meant the weather sealing still worked in the cold ie snow as well as in rain.

G
02-03-2011, 07:07 AM   #11
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it means that the camera and all parts inside the camera can have a temp. of -10░.
the seals,battery and all mechanical part are in full function when their own temp is -10░ celsius.
02-03-2011, 07:15 AM   #12
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I think Cannikin has a perfectly reasonable and legitimate question.

Why not ask Pentax?

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02-03-2011, 07:21 AM   #13
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Not a problem here.....I fail at anything below 60F, so it makes little difference to me how "Cold Proof" it is. I have used my K20D for extended shooting at 115F with no problems. BTW, 115F beats 40F any day. It is currently 17F here this morning, but will be 65F by Sunday.....when I might venture out again......
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02-03-2011, 07:34 AM   #14
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Imho comparing a dSLR which would stay a long time in the cold to a P&S or a cellphone which goes back to a "warm" pocket right after the shoot is irrelevant.

For me, coldproof means that the final user will not see any usage difference related to low temperature conditions. It doesn't mean it will cease working going below -10.
I had my K20D outside in Canada while the temp was below -25 deg celsius, and it worked, but the rear LCD screen was unreadable, vision angles were reduced, and the battery life was ridiculous. With the K-5 however, I haven't had any issue like this, even the batteries hold better the charge in low temp.
02-03-2011, 09:18 AM   #15
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Well, after some deeper research, I believe that the points of failure in a camera as temperature drops can be summarized as follows, in order of falling temperature:

Physicochemical (the main issues):
- Battery life. Low temperatures affect the chemistry of the cells, preventing movement of ions and reducing effective battery life.
- LCD. Low temperatures affect the physical properties (phases) of liquid crystals, causing decreased responsiveness. If temperatures fall far enough, the liquid crystals may crystalize entirely, causing the LCD to cease functioning altogether.

Mechanical:
- Precision mechanical devices, such as the shutter, mirror and AF system, can be affected by extremely low temperature. Thermal contraction or changes in the lubrication can throw off the finely tuned tolerances of these devices. AF may become inaccurate or freeze up entirely. Other high precision mechanical devices, such as hard drives, have been noted to fail mechanically at low temperatures due to these effects. Anecdotal evidence indicates that these effects may be relevant for cameras when approaching Arctic temperatures (-30 C or below).

Electrical:
- Many articles I have read have indicated that it would take Antarctic winter temperatures (-55 C) before the electrical properties of standard semiconductor devices starts to become unpredictable. Even many run-of-the-mill consumer devices have been shown to function well in cryogenic temperatures, and have significantly improved performance while at it. The sensor, for instance, would have greatly improved high ISO and long exposure performance due to reduced signal loss and reduced noise normally caused by heat. The main point of weakness would be material integrity: brittle components, such as plastics or the PCB, may fracture under stress of thermal contraction. Overall not relevant; other parts of the system, including the photographer, would fail long before these effects become a factor.
- Capacitance. The effective capacitance of capacitors is reduced at low temperatures. I believe that the K-5 uses a capacitor to power low level devices, such as the internal clock, when the camera is off. Overall, not really an issue as the capacitor is recharged by the battery every time it is turned on. It just might "forget" the time if you leave it alone for awhile.

Other considerations:
- Condensation. Low temperatures increase condensation, and minor moisture that would have otherwise evaporated would instead freeze on the components. This is of course bad, but no "coldproof" design can prevent this unless airtight.
- Lens. The optical and mechanical properties of the lens may be adversely affected for the same reason as the camera's mechanics. I know of no lens rated as "coldproof", so this may in fact be a point of weakness.
- Film. Obviously not a factor with digital cameras, but just as a side note I have read stories of photographers having their film become brittle while shooting in Antarctica and having the film break under normal operation (winding, etc.).

In the end, though, it doesn't change the fact that anecdotal evidence has shown time and again that, besides the first two (battery and LCD, which really can't be helped), -10 C really is nothing for your average consumer electronic device, let alone a ruggedized beast like the K-5. It may be, though, as ZEPsikopat suggests, that the improved design means the "effective" operating temperature has in fact been lowered beyond that of "normal" temperatures where other cameras start exhibiting real problems, heading into true extremes (-30 C or below). The "-10 C" figure is just something far inside the safety zone as a liability buffer. They might as well have gone with "-20 C" as a headline grabber, as that's where problems might start to pop up for lesser devices, but I'm sure the K-5 would be fine. It's not like they would let you use that in a warranty claim (or "-10 C" for that matter) anyway, seeing as they don't for "weather resistance".

Last edited by Cannikin; 02-03-2011 at 09:46 AM.
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