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02-15-2010, 06:55 PM   #1
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The sun and your sensor

Hi all,

I would like to get comments on the following.

I sent an email to Pentax Australia and received a reply from Malcolm Kennedy. (Managing Director)

I have a question about my *ist-DL . Could you please ask your technical dept. to provide the answer, as I'm really after the truth.

Q : Can I do damage to the camera by taking photos directly towards the sun ?

I would like to get some good photos of sunrises and sunsets.

There are lots of discusion on this subject over the internet and it appears to me that nobody really knows the answer.

Thanks in advance,

You will destroy the CCD sensor if you point your camera directly at the sun.

Under no circumstances should you do this.
----- Forwarded by Malcolm Kennedy/CRKENNEDY on 16/02/2010 08:58 AM -----

So does this mean I have to use my film camera ? What's the point in digital then ?
Even the manual doesn't mention the sun, except for leaving it in the car.(because of high temperatures)

Also, in this case it's not my eyes I'm concerned about, just the sensor.


Last edited by chromo; 02-16-2010 at 02:04 PM. Reason: Correction
02-15-2010, 07:31 PM   #2
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Malcolm might be in CYA mode to a certain extent.
I'd be more concerned about destroying my eyes than my camera, but.....

Anyway, I know I've shot directly into the sun to prove a point on another forum regarding the flare resistance of Pentax lenses, but I didn't keep the files.

With film, we were told not to shoot directly into the sun lest we burn a hole in the film....

A couple of points:
The sensor is only exposed to direct sun when the shutter is open. Until then, it is protected by both the shutter and the mirror.

If you are shooting into the sun, odds are your exposure times are going to be very short.

Do it at your own risk, but I kinda think the risk to the equipment is pretty minimal if you use a modicum of common sense.
Your eyes on the other hand might not fare as well.
02-15-2010, 07:37 PM   #3
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I've shot directly into the sun--the camera is well and working. No damage whatsoever.
02-15-2010, 07:47 PM   #4
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I too have a couple of hundred shots straight into the full sun as its closing on a distant horizon. My eyes and sensor seem to be ok also.

02-15-2010, 10:47 PM   #5
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You can permanently blind yourself in a few seconds but you figure like in this case you are hitting the sun at 1/8000 and f:40 with the 500mm Sigma (750mm EQ)

Name:  2010_0209 077x800f.jpg
Views: 1599
Size:  34.6 KB

You can even see the sunspots that we just had on the sun behind the power line right side.
02-16-2010, 12:50 AM   #6
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Sunrise and sunsets are safe

Sunrises and sunsets are safe to look at and photograph. Just don't look at noon sun through optics.

From wikipedia Sun - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
During sunrise and sunset sunlight is attenuated due to Rayleigh scattering and Mie scattering from a particularly long passage through Earth's atmosphere,[159] and the Sun is sometimes faint enough to be viewed comfortably with the naked eye or safely with optics (provided there is no risk of bright sunlight suddenly appearing through a break between clouds). Hazy conditions, atmospheric dust, and high humidity contribute to this atmospheric attenuation.[160]
02-16-2010, 12:52 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Wheatfield Quote
A couple of points:
The sensor is only exposed to direct sun when the shutter is open. Until then, it is protected by both the shutter and the mirror.
Of course LV probably raises a whole new set of issues. I've never considered it a problem before (frankly it would be a significant problem to me not being able to shoot into the sun) but might think twice about using LV shooting with the sun in frame.
02-16-2010, 01:13 AM   #8

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i would use live view before i looked through an optical view finder into the sun, at any time of day or cloud cover etc

expect your camera to die however according to pentax.

02-16-2010, 01:34 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by WerTicus Quote
i would use live view before i looked through an optical view finder into the sun, at any time of day or cloud cover etc

expect your camera to die however according to pentax.
The sun has regularly featured in my landscape images over the last 25 years, each shot composed using an optical finder and yes I can still see fine.

I'm sure the response cited is more to do with limiting liability than providing practical advice.
02-16-2010, 12:38 PM   #10

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I remember advice, back in the day, not to leave an SLR laying in the bright sun with the lens pointed up, or directly at the sun, without a lens cap. This, of course, is not the same as aiming at the sun momentarily to take a picture.

The idea was that the lens might focus the sunlight on the focal plane shutter and burn a hole in it, if allowed to sit for a prolonged period. This may or may not be an old wives tale, but I've always had the habit of putting my cameras down on the bottom plate, so the lens is pointed horizontally.
02-16-2010, 09:46 PM   #11
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"Leave not in sunlight uncapped lens on slr camera lest the Sun focus through the viewfinder and start a fire!"

Sunrise & Sunset -- true horizon rise & set, not over a hill or mountain -- are safe to photograph even with telephoto lens. Other times of day 35mm and wider lenses are safe only at high shutter speeds -- beware the bright flash in the viewfinder on pressing the shutter!

attachment: M42 S-M-C Takumar 3.5/28 @f/3.5 on 5D1 ISO400 1/8000 sec Northern Hemisphere November Noon
Attached Images

Last edited by rhodopsin; 02-16-2010 at 10:01 PM.
02-16-2010, 11:03 PM   #12
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I see no problem in pointing the Camera at the sun, although, looking into the sun is terrible for your eyes.

As WerT stated, use Live View if you have it.

Even for sunrises/sunsets i'd still have a good pair of UV protectant sunnies on before I stick my eye to the viewfinder.
02-17-2010, 12:19 AM   #13
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old spotmatic

I purchased an old Pentax Honeywell spotmatic with horizontal traveling cloth shutter. The previous owner apparently shot into the sun and managed to burn a hole into the cloth shutter curtin. A tiny tiny pinhole surrounded by warped surface. I suspect that the mirror went up and the curtin was exposed before the shutter assembly begins it's travel.

Under the right conditions, (wide apeture, slow shutter, concentrated focus point), I could see a few senors getting a bit of heat.

With that said, my 8mm lens very often catch the sun and I have not experience any sensor failures thus far.

go forth and shoot.
02-17-2010, 02:12 AM   #14
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First a weak sun, very low in the horizon, about to disappear: Burning Horizon by *netrex on deviantART

A bit higher: Speedy Tourism 2 by *netrex on deviantART

Then more directly, but not full strength yet: Shadowcaster by *netrex on deviantART

This is the highest I've photographed it: Breaking the Snow by *netrex on deviantART

If you take an extremely long exposure, probably with a tele, I think you might ruin your sensor.
02-17-2010, 05:11 AM   #15
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Malcolm is really good with customer contact considering his role at CR Kennedy, I have a lot of respect for him, ive spoken with him on the phone in the past and found him exceptionally helpful.

I think with the whole sensors this he's probably been overly cautious, I'd say point the camera at the sun for an extended period could do some nasty damage.

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