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03-19-2016, 01:56 PM   #1
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Climate Control - Advice on travelling with a Pentax SLR

Right team,

After a hugely successful round of information about the Pentax MX, I have come back to the forum for another round of questions... This time, its about using any Pentax in a variety of difficult conditions. Come the summer, I will be beginning a bout of adventures and I am very keen to bring with me one of my beloved Pentaxs. The adventures will include the following conditions:

1) Two weeks at Sea. I will be sailing on a very old traditional sailing boat in a French sailing festival, there won't be a big risk of the camera getting soaked (it'll be protected like a child, spray however could sprinkle it), but there is the prolonged period of moist sea air - is this an immediate no go?

2) Asia. The camera will be coming with me to Cambodia for a few months, with me arriving at the end of the Monsoon season but still in its rainiest and most humid period of the year. Temperatures will be around 22 degrees and will climb to mid 30s. I'll be there for quite a few months and I'm pondering storage solutions/ film storage issues/ running into trouble with camera mechanicals. Is there a piece of gear I need to get in particular? Or am I all good to just go out and use it without fear of causing harm?

3) Heat. What are the maximum temperatures that I can use these cameras in? My family are based in the gulf and the summer brings in temperatures around 50 degrees celsius. Will this kill the seals in the camera?

4) Being on the move. I'm also slightly concerned about the risk of the camera being shook on my travels. Although I'm always thinking about my kit when I'm on the move, some modes of transport e.g tuk tuks and motorbikes on bumpy roads, do tend to shake the crap out of me and whatever I'm carrying. Is this a problem for a camera in a case, in a well insulated bag? It won't be serious, but I'm thinking about subtle vibrations for periods of time...

5) Film. I keep reading about people storing film in their fridges. Is this really a thing? Cold Edinburgh has left my room the same temperature as an aggressive fridge, but, Summer is coming and I want to have a good stock of film on me for all my adventures. Any dos/don't and tips?

6) Which camera to bring. Now, this will no doubt cause a range of different answers and is not a brag about the cameras I have (because in reality, I am a skint student who got lucky on eBay several times...) but there is good reason for asking. In my possession I have a K1000, KX and a K2, all of which bring different features, however, it also needs to be sturdy, uber reliable and not struggle in the above described conditions. The K1000 is the most basic camera, suggesting that there is less to go wrong, however, the other two are the superior cameras... What would you take? There is a chance that an MX will come my way, should eBay bring down from the heavens one of those lucky bids that nets something for a good price, and all my cameras have gone in for a service etc at Cameratiks in Edinburgh so are ready to go...

If any major flags spring to mind then I am armed with a modern DSLR, which has travelled with me since I was 17 and will be with me anyway, however, I've been getting so much joy out of film lately that I'd love to save those special shots for film. But as always, I am dying to hear the wisdom of fellow pentaxians, so, what say you all?

Many thanks,

Pentax Student

P.S Sorry for the essay...

03-19-2016, 02:07 PM   #2
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For me, that's not an environment I'd take anything short of a weather-sealed camera into. The advantage of the MX, K1000 and similar cameras is that they will work mechanically even after the electronics have packed up. The film doesn't sound like it'll survive well without refrigeration. You're heading into very camera-unfriendly territory. Have whatever you take serviced as soon as you get home.
03-19-2016, 02:40 PM - 1 Like   #3
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I don't think it's that serious. I shot with a KX and spotmatic in Florida, year-round, for several years. Despite being exposed to rain, truly excessive humidity (and I've been to Hong Kong, Macao, etc) and temperatures that can go above 40 it never even stuttered. A few years ago I "upgraded" to a Nikon F2, and that camera came on a month-long Hong Kong trip, in June-July, with me, seeing about 35 rolls of film in that time. It was (and continues to be) exposed to a lot of crap. On that trip it was caught in monsoon rain, had warm tsingtao spilled across it, was bled on, taken out on a speedboat, and on one particularly bad occasion ended up sitting in about 3-4mm of water for a few hours, because I stupidly left it on a desk below an open window during rainy season. On that occasion I put it in a bag of rice overnight, and continued machine-gunning through film the next day. No problems. It's since been living in Vancouver with me, very close to the sea, in high-humidity, and does still see rain, though nothing torrential. The 35mm f/2 that it usually carries needs the aperture ring lubed, but otherwise I can report absolutely no problems.
I'm extremely hard on it and often take it places I wouldn't bring my pricier digital equipment, but it's taken everything in stride.
From my experience owning an MX and KX I would say the Pentax cameras of the era feel like they're just a half-step behind in robustness (I'm looking at you, cloth curtains and thin MX top-plates...) but I wouldn't hesitate to bring one into the situations you're describing. They're photographic equipment, not collectors items, and for years mechanical cameras like them served in the worst imaginable conditions to bring us some of the world's finest reportage work. They'll almost certainly be up to your tasks.

Cold-storing film is definitely a real, beneficial, thing. In your position I would try to keep it cold-stored whenever possible (hotel-room or hostel minifridge, etc) but remember that opening whatever is holding the cold film (plastic bag, plastic can, whatever) will expose it to condensation. Somewhere very humid that WILL give you problems with sticking, peeling emulsions, etc. You'll have to decide if and how to cold-store film in a practical way for your travels. If it's a serious concern you might consider mailing home your exposed films at a few points during your travels, a few days in a small express-post envelope would likely be less traumatic than a week or two in heat pushing 50 centigrade. My Hong Kong films where cold-stored after exposure (my friends family thought it was a bit odd to find rolls of plus-x in the fridge, but didn't mind) and there weren't noticeable changes in the way the film handled developing/printing. Temperatures where mostly between 35-40, at times slightly higher.

For your trip I would be inclined towards a simple kit, perhaps a 35 and 105mm for walking around, plus a fast 50 and something wider, a 21 or 24mm, if you can carry it. For bodies I would bring a backup, especially if you'll be doing the whole journey without returning "home". I would carry the second body in a thick plastic bag with some silica gel, which is also how I would store my exposed film. B&W will be more tolerant of bad handling, and negatives will handle better than slides. For a good story about color film being horribly mistreated look up the story about the Lawrence of Arabia reels that almost were lost at an Egyptian airport.

Overall it's not an absurd or impossible goal to shoot a K1000 or similar, and it could be extremely rewarding to shoot the entire experience on film. You'll almost certainly find your images from the end of the trip will be much stronger than those at the start, if you have any taste for documentary, street, or reportage -type work it will be a wonderful chance to hone your skills through a mountain of shooting with very simple equipment.

I would be more worried about humidity with electronics and dust/dirt with mechanicals. No real experience with dry heat or dusty conditions though.

It seems we're trading essays.

Last edited by PGillin; 03-19-2016 at 02:54 PM.
03-19-2016, 03:25 PM   #4

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Honestly, the k1000/kx are built like tanks. I'd imagine both would survive the trip without too much bother. Assuming nothing mechanical fails (which frankly is one of those things that can happen very rarely, but would have happened anyway), then the only likely problems are either wet ingress into the lens (take care to dry it out), or the light meter fails.

Film wise, for long term storage keeping it in the fridge is advisable, but a few weeks/months whilst being used won't kill the film. Keeping the used films in the dark is more important.

03-19-2016, 03:47 PM   #5
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I have read that keeping a few of those little "Do Not Eat" silica gel dessicant bags will really soak up moisture. They come in all sorts of packages, I wish I hadn't thrown so many away after unpacking whatever I've purchased.
03-19-2016, 04:48 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by robgski Quote
I have read that keeping a few of those little "Do Not Eat" silica gel dessicant bags will really soak up moisture. They come in all sorts of packages, I wish I hadn't thrown so many away after unpacking whatever I've purchased.
They have them here at Amazon: Silica Gel Desiccant Bags

And even ShieldPro Humidity Indicator Card 10-Pack 10-60% 6 Dot (10 Cards)

The two above are priced at $9.99 each. This one is larger is $25.99 Dry Packs 10-Pack Silica Gel Desiccant Packets, 56gm

They have an assortment of sizes as well.
03-20-2016, 06:15 AM   #7
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Keep your gear in the same environmental conditions as your body and don't worry.

03-20-2016, 12:03 PM   #8
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I'd carry a small screwdriver to fit the tiny screws, which can loosen from vibration. Also, clean you cameras and lenses every day to keep any kind of grunge from building up.

03-20-2016, 01:51 PM   #9
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You should be fine with all the above advice. Keep in mind that slower speed films will be affected less by warmer storage conditions, or rather affected more slowly simply because they are less reactive.
03-20-2016, 05:05 PM   #10
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Here's what you do. Throw your favourite camera in your kit bag and go. Pentax film cameras are not made of sugar you know. These are tanks. Lord, how did we ever get shots out of North Africa and the Atlantic during WW2 or Vietnam in the 60's? I understand these photogs used Rollei's, Leica's, LX's and Nikon F's, but I don't think you are going into a war zone. Relax and enjoy your trip. Your camera and film will be fine.
03-21-2016, 09:48 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by robgski Quote
I have read that keeping a few of those little "Do Not Eat" silica gel dessicant bags will really soak up moisture. They come in all sorts of packages, I wish I hadn't thrown so many away after unpacking whatever I've purchased.
Yep I always have a couple in my camera bags when I travel. I bulk buy the silica gel bags and replace them every year. I keep one with every lens/camera/accessory that I own at home and in each camera bag.

03-22-2016, 02:30 AM   #12

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Cameras, especially Pentax cameras, are generally much tougher than people give them credit for. Take your tough-as-nails K1000, some film and go. I've travelled with my old, well-used, never-serviced cameras in all weather conditions and never had trouble. The heat may make your film gallop towards its expiry date a bit quicker, but buy long dated stuff and keep it out of direct sunlight and you shouldn't have any trouble.
When you go somewhere humid, as others have said, silica gel is your friend. You can get loads of it very cheap. And even if the humidity completely lunches the electronics, you'll be able to operate the camera anyway!
03-22-2016, 06:46 AM   #13
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Ziplock bags and freshly ovened silica gel bags.
For camera lenses and film.
Don't bother with fridges or freezers condensed moisture is instant death to film.

Take spare batteries for K1000.
04-01-2016, 08:18 AM   #14
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Thanks for all the advice! This was absolutely perfect

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