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I’m often asked about how my camera functions in the cold. So far, in my practical experience, I’ve never really experienced camera failure from the cold with Canon’s 1D and 5D series cameras. I usually fail first. So, for the curious ones out there who own a Canon 5D III and wonder how it may perform in cold weather, I conducted a few tests recently to chime in on this subject. Fairbanks has been having some below normal temperatures for this time of year, so I thought I’d take advantage of that chill. Since my office is in the hills, where it is generally 15 degrees or so warmer, I escaped the -40 below zero temps of the low lands.

Test one: Camera function in the cold -20 degrees

I placed my Canon 5D Mark III outside on a tripod in -16 to -20 degree temperatures, with a  fully charged battery and took one picture approximately every 15 minutes. After 10 hours, the camera worked fine and the battery still read a full charge.

No noticeable problems, other than a little slower reveal on the LCD screens.

Test two: Battery function in the cold -20 degrees

After the camera spent 20 hours in -20 temperatures, I put a freshly charged battery in the cold camera and plugged in a release cord and set it to take consecutive 15 second exposures (Long Exposure Noise Reduction turned off). The camera fired away for three hours until the battery ran out of  juice.

The camera worked fine, but I did notice that after sitting outside for an entire day, the small buttons on the top of the camera did not activate the respective functions. For example, the ISO changing button did not work, so I changed the ISO using the back display using the Q button. Pretty impressive performance all in all.

If it get’s really cold in the hills, I’ll repeat this test again.



  • Calin - Thank you for this Patrick!!! I am wondering if the temperature was C or F.

    I live in Canada and I have a wedding tomorrow…and I am concerned about my 5dMIII camera…Cheers!ReplyCancel

  • Kollin Brinkerhoff - Thanks a ton for doing this test and sharing the results. Did the buttons ever work again?ReplyCancel

  • Patrick Endres - Rick, can you please explain further? What are the conditions? The lens itself should not fog up. However, if you are near water it may frost/fog depending on temperatures and moisture conditions.ReplyCancel

  • Rick Williams - I am having problems with my lens fogging up on cold nights. Any suggestions?ReplyCancel

  • Greg Syverson - Ejoyed seeing the vido of the moose trying to protect her calf. We filmed a sequence where a small number of wolves took down a caribou. Very interesting to watch. Some may find it sad…but we all know it is the way of life in the wild. Thanks for sharing.ReplyCancel

  • Greg Syverson - I tested my Canon 5D Mark3 in -5 to -20 and had no problems other than what you mentioned. The buttons did not always do what they were suppose to. Later it worked just fine. Your report on battery life is 100% correct from my experience.

    You really have provided a lot of great information for other to learn. I would be happy to share you site with others that ask about auroras. I am just a guy that loves to be out there in the cold in the middle of the night. Just do not have the skills to write about it as you. Best Wishes and your aurora photography is outstanding.ReplyCancel

  • Ricky L Jones - Nicely done, I’ve have had issues with the older Canon batteries in cold weather. I never tried my 7D below -10 but good to know about the 5DMk3ReplyCancel

  • Patrick Endres - Thank you Jim!ReplyCancel

  • Jim McCann - Wow! That is some valuable information, Patrick! That’s the sort of stuff I always wonder but likely would never do the testing myself. Thank you very much for doing this. I love my 5D III. Perhaps you could someday share with us something about your computer and backup system? Thanks for all you do.ReplyCancel

2012 camera lens use by percentage

Lenses used in 2012

While the year is not over yet, it is shaping up to be one that measures among the least amount of pictures taken in a given year. While it was a very good year in many ways, I simply did not shoot as many frames. As one curious to some degree in the metrics of life, and particularly the photography process, I made a graph to show which lenses I used the most. These images reflect the pictures that I kept and put on my website, not every single picture taken, so while it is not 100% accurate, it reflects a fair description of lens use. What was slightly odd in this year, is that I photographed less of the wide angle landscape range, which is usually a more dominant part of my work. I look forward to reviving that in 2013, and I’ll be starting that off with a trip to Antarctica on January 1.

  • Patrick Endres - Pat,
    I used that lens much more at one time but I’m often in a place where I need to take one medium zoom for weight reasons and I choose the 100-400 over the 70-200 for it’s extra reach and versatility. My version of that lens tests out pretty sharp.ReplyCancel

  • Pat Landers - Interesting. The figure that sticks out to me is how little you use your 70-200. I assume you’ve got the 2.8. It’s so useful, and of such high quality, and is the workhorse for so many Canon wildlife photographers. Maybe Alaska is just too big for it…ReplyCancel

  • Patrick Endres - Milo,
    Yeah, for many reasons, this year seemed slim for me regarding shooting. At heart I’m more of a landscape photographer, but I do love that tunnel vision shooting too :) I may explore making a graph that compares my various years of shooting, that would really be interesting.ReplyCancel

  • Milo Burcham - Interesting breakdown, Patrick. Still, the wide angles make up half of your work. I am curious what that was in other years? This has been an off year for my photography but in recent weeks, with all these clear skies, I have started picking up my camera again. The weather this summer and fall did not help! For me, my 600 would make up 60% of my work (I am guessing)with the 100-400 making up another 20% or so. To say I have tunnel vision is literally accurate:)ReplyCancel

Polar bear portrait, arctic Alaska. Canon 500mm f/4L IS II, w/1.4x (700mm) 1/400 sec @ f/5.6, ISO 800, Hand held from a moving boat

If there is one excellent feature among the new genre of super telephoto lenses, i.e., the Canon 500mm in this case, it is the Image Stabilization technology. In many situations, I end up photographing without a tripod. It is counter-conventional wisdom for many, but when an effective method and style is learned, there is a tremendous amount of flexibility and speed gained in a quick response, free from a tripod and the intrinsic necessary limitations. I might also add, that it is the reason I have recently developed biceps tendinitis, but that is another story.

Moments are fleeting in the natural world, and the ability to respond quickly is often less emphasized than all the necessary gear one is supposed to have. My advice to anyone with camera gear is: get to know it, learn how to use it quickly and with good form that translates into the right balance between capturing the moment and achieving technical excellence. Of course, it is not always advisable or possible to hand hold big lenses, but explore the liberties available to you, given your ability.

I took this photo from a moving boat (although in calm waters), with an extender pushing the focal length to a 700mm equivalent  The shutter speed, at 1/400 sec resulted in a super sharp image. Image Stabilization technology declares that with excellent form, one can gain 2 -3 stops of stability. This varies certainly, but anything helps. The one other thing that helps is: practice. And after that: practice

  • Karen - I love this close-up! The bear has quite an expression, almost smug, as if it is sizing up the photographer.ReplyCancel

  • Patrick Endres - Dave, I concur fully,
    Fran, thank you
    Jim, right from the Dylan era!ReplyCancel

  • Fran - You have the most exceptional talent with a camera; this one in particular is really beautiful… that curious expression, the slight twitch of his polar bear nose, the colors of white bear, ice-blue sky and pebble beach…superb :)
    While I can’t see these creatures in reality, I have you to bring them to me on screen and for that I cannot thank you enough.
    love your work
    p.s i hope the bicep tendinitis is getting better :) ReplyCancel

  • Jim McCann - Another great image, Patrick! And I’m still new to this long tele hand holding stuff. I’m sure you are aware my background is in the heavy Gitzo era, and I’m still feeling a bit odd handholding the new big white, the 500 MkII. In the truck I still carry one of my Gitzo’s as well as a heavyweight Gitzo monopod and a bean bag that goes over the open window/door, but I’ve only been hand holding. Times they are a changin’!ReplyCancel

  • David Shaw - Great portait Patrick! Remarkably clean bear for that time of year too. I’ve done a lot of hand-holding with the 500mm and have found it much easier than one would expect. The greatest disadvantage is not being able to hold the lens in position for long periods of time waiting for the right pose, or expression. For that kind of thing, a tripod definitely remains superior.


Its been quite on the blog here as I enjoyed a little vacation and have been completing my first E-Book, which I’m hoping to have ready before December 20. In the next few weeks I’ll be releasing the title and other details.

This is one of the images from that book, that I took in October during a magical aurora display in Alaska’s arctic. The distinctive shape is accentuated because the auroral curtain is directly overhead, in this viewing position it is referred to as a corona. Standing on the ground, one looks directly up at the undulating aurora curtain and the movement is often dramatic. The aurora brightness was very high in this moment and it required only a two second exposure, which helped isolate and further define the shapes. I’ve photographed coronas before but not like this one! What a fun night that was. The purple/violet and green colors are the most commonly observed in my experience.

Aurora corona. Canon 5D Mark III, Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8, 2 sec @ f/2.8, ISO 1250

Aurora corona. Canon 5D Mark III, Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8, 2 sec @ f/2.8, ISO 1250

  • Alex Adam - Dave just sent me the link to this latest set of pictures. Absolutely mind-blowing – well done! Can’t wait till next Fall.ReplyCancel

  • Patrick Endres - Mark and Sue, that night will do down in history. Fun to share it with you. And you are so right, those corona displays move fast!ReplyCancel

  • Mark Van Bergh - Sue has it right. I was just watching in amazement and by the time I got the camera ready to shoot straight overhead, the display ended. Obviously, you, as a “veteran” of aurora photography, were less “frozen in their tracks” watching the display and regained your senses in time to actually photograph it. :-) What a night indeed!ReplyCancel

  • sue rakes - Georgia O’Keeffe would have had a field day! YOU were the only one who really really got those and you were actually on the run. Patrick, you are the bomb diggity!ReplyCancel

Icebergs in Neko Harbor, Antarctica.

For those who have read this blog over time, you may remember that I shared some experiences from my trip to Antarctica two years ago. I’m repeating a similar, although slightly less extensive trip this year in January. The Expedition leader is a long time friend and colleague Hugh Rose, and the line up of staff includes many extremely qualified friends and colleagues. The trip is organized by Cheesmans Ecology Safaris, long time veterans of travel to Antarctica. It will undoubtedly be a great adventure full of epic sights and experiences. I will be sharing some images from that excursion upon my return.

“There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.”
~ Beverly Sills

  • Sara - Love your images, thanks for sharing :) ReplyCancel

  • Larry Flinner - Patrick – Glad you changed your mind. Looking forward to seeing you on the trip.ReplyCancel

  • Mark VB - Patrick, what happened? You finally gave in. I know you’ll have a great time. Wish I could be there with you and Hugh (and Rod, Marlene and all the others).ReplyCancel

  • David F. - Have a nice trip Patrick,

    Waiting for images as you return.

    Excellent quote to join the words.ReplyCancel