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08-01-2012, 11:00 PM   #1
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Want to buy rugged body for Northern Lights

I am ready to purchase a new DSLR so I can take pictures of the Northern Lights up in AK. My first concern was the extreme cold and its effects on the Plastic bodies I see on the lower priced models. It can get -20 degrees out there at times and Id hate to have my tripod fall or me trip and break the plastic body. Ive read of the metal framed Pentax w/ a water resistant o ring seal and thought it might be a good choice to start out with. I have a few K frame AF lenses and also an adapted Cassagrain telescope but will want an 18 to 30mm area lens for the wide angle scope Id like to shoot the "lights"
Id like to stay in the $2k price w/ the wide lens if possible. Any recomendations out there?
Also I dont have a dealer to look at these so its hard to make decisions from up here.

08-01-2012, 11:23 PM   #2
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It looks like you have the right budget for the right gear
Available at BHphotovideo (I have not looked elsewhere but you can probably find better prices elsewhere):
K-5: Rugged, metal body DSLR, best of class sensor, 879 USD
DA* 16-50: weather resistant zoom, from wide to medium telephoto, constant f2.8 aperture 899 USD

And you can even add a DGB-4 grip (204USD) which would allow you to change quickly your batteries. Quite useful in the cold.

Total: 1982 USD. Enjoy!
08-02-2012, 07:08 AM   #3
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I'd also be interested in running the numbers as to how long batteries last in colder enviroments; camera body only with batteries; also th ebatteries themselves when kept closer to ones' person to keep a bit warmer up until use time, and also... Battery strength in grips and - something I'm not sure if it exists on the Pentax market yet - a type of battery tether.

Just after the K-5 came out a while back I ran into a photographer from the general Charleston area that brought there K-5 to the summit of Everest along with what I believe was a Pentax MX. Both worked at the summit. Although the person also complained that they quickly lost three different batteries for the K-5 due to the conditions.

Btw anyone want to volunteer to test out there K-5 or new K30 at the location for the worst weather on the planet; Mt. Washington VT?
08-02-2012, 09:36 AM   #4
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I have a K10D and a K5 and they have held up to everything Upstate NY winters have thrown at them. I have had no battery issues. The only cold weather issue I have come across is the aperture getting a little slow on a couple of my lenses, the DA 40 in particular. Mechanical mechanisms will be sluggish in extreme cold. I have shot for extended periods in temps just slightly above 0F and for shorter periods in the -20F range without problems. We have a lot of members in the forum from northern Canada who regularly shoot in extreme cold. There is a big difference between spending a couple of hours outside shooting the northern lights outdoors and spending a few days outdoors on an Arctic back country trek. A good, fully charged battery will give you a few hours of shooting on a K10D, K20D, K7, or K5 in cold weather. A spare battery is an option but I have never needed one, even on my aging K10D. Keeping a spare battery warm by carrying it close to your body has been mentioned as they do that on overnight winter camping trips. Those chemical hand warmer packs will work in your camera bag also, but only for a short time. There have been some posts of folks with battery issues in the cold and I suspect there is something wrong with either the battery or their camera because most of us just bring our cameras along all year without any thought at all and have no problems.

08-02-2012, 09:43 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Medium FormatPro Quote
I'd also be interested in running the numbers as to how long batteries last in colder enviroments; camera body only with batteries; also th ebatteries themselves when kept closer to ones' person to keep a bit warmer up until use time, and also... Battery strength in grips and - something I'm not sure if it exists on the Pentax market yet - a type of battery tether.

Just after the K-5 came out a while back I ran into a photographer from the general Charleston area that brought there K-5 to the summit of Everest along with what I believe was a Pentax MX. Both worked at the summit. Although the person also complained that they quickly lost three different batteries for the K-5 due to the conditions.

Btw anyone want to volunteer to test out there K-5 or new K30 at the location for the worst weather on the planet; Mt. Washington VT?
Mt. Washington is in NH but I have brought my K10D along on skiing and hiking trips throughout New England and the Adirondacks without issues. My daughter is a pro skier and I shot her and her friends at the Dew Tour at Killington last January for 2 days with the K5 and never recharged it. I live in the Adirondacks.
08-02-2012, 09:45 AM   #6
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+1^^^^^
and spare batteries are cheap in any case so grab a few if you are really worried. chinese ebay batteries can cost as little as 2 for $10
all my back up batteries for the K10,K7 and Oly e300 are chines and I've never had an issue with them. I've gone and shot in some damn cold winter nighttime weather using live view on a tripod (the LCD slowed down and the effect of cold was obvious on it) , but I haven't gone days in the extreme
08-09-2012, 03:12 AM   #7
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You will need a fast, wide angle lens. A sigma 10mm f/2.8 fisheye would be a good choice(especially if you are a fisheye freak). Another good choice would be an 11-16 f/2.8 Tokina- good for general ultra wide. Pentax cameras are usually good for -10 degrees, better than ALL other makes. Typical exposure would be 30 seconds f/2.8 ISO 400-1600. Watch out for dew on the lens. For quick grab shots of an aurora, a K5 with its extreme 51,000 ISO you could just get in a 1-2 second f/2.8 hand held . Even a K10d will give adequate results. The whole kit will be well under 2k.
08-09-2012, 05:42 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by reeftool Quote
Mt. Washington is in NH
Yes I sit at my computer being properly corrected; my mistake.

But still the fact is correct. Mt. Washington NH still widely documented as having the worst weather on the planet. And unfortunately it is a part of the AP trail.

There have been many cases of hypothermia in the summer months of July and August at that very location. The wind goes so strong; that it hurts quite a but when it rains.

08-09-2012, 08:13 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by ZaneG Quote
It can get -20 degrees out there at times
It appears from your post that you are already in Alaska, so I'm sure you're aware of this, but for those who haven't been there but may be planning a trip.....
Depending on what part of Alaska you visit, and the time of year, you might find yourself wishing it would warm up to -20. In the interior -50 and colder is not uncommon.
08-09-2012, 11:20 AM   #10
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It was -20 deg F when I was in Alaska earlier this year shooting the aurora and my K-7 survived just fine. Autofocus with my DA35 got pretty inaccurate, but it worked in live view with contrast detect. Also, the top LCD screen stopped working. My sister-in-law had a plastic Panasonic GH2 and it survived just fine as well. Battery life was short, especially if you are attempting lots of long-exposures.

Overall, I got cold way and sought shelter long before the camera gave up.
08-09-2012, 07:37 PM   #11
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My k-x survived last winter just fine, so any pentax will do the job. A da 14 f2.8 would be ideal imho.
08-10-2012, 07:33 AM   #12
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DA 14 is pretty solid look at the review section someone shot goes caving has a shot up of his covered in mud
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