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Metal Housings in Cold Water?

Discussion in 'Tips and Techniques' started by M DeM, Feb 26, 2019.

  1. M DeM

    M DeM Barracuda

    Greetings folks-

    I have a Subal housing, and I'm wondering about diving in Norway and Canada. I brought a camera to the North Pole, and the blades on the iris froze up, so there wasn't really much point in worrying about all the fogging that took place, but yes, there was fogging aplenty.

    What is the protocol for bringing our gear into cold temps? Not sure how cold it is diving with Orcas or in parts of Canada, but for hypotheticals, let's pretend we're going ice diving.

    What happens with strobes? Do clamps constrict? Is the metal housing a benefit or a weakness? Do you add insulation? Do the wimpy GoPro dive housings crack?

    So curious-- anyone have experience or thoughts?
  2. Chris Ross

    Chris Ross Barracuda

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Sydney Australia
    The only thing that matters for fogging of housings is if the water temperature is below the dewpoint of the air in the housing. If this happens then the water condenses from the air onto the cold surfaces. I would guess that the air if often colder than the water and in many places the air is very dry when cold. In general metal housings have a better reputation with regards to fogging compared to acrylic and in particular small compact housings.
  3. Searcaigh

    Searcaigh Chromodoris gordonii Staff Member ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Dubai, UAE
    If you're diving in water then the water has to be above freezing to be liquid surely.

    My only experience with photography in sub-zero temps was in Alberta, Canada at -25C and my camera worked fine for extended periods outside of the car we were traveling in.
  4. Gareth J

    Gareth J Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: UK
    I spent 5 days diving Silfra in Iceland.

    Initially we had issues with the lenses fogging. I found, if we put the cameras in the water whilst we kitted up, when we picked the cameras up for the dive the lenses where OK for the dive.
    I put it down to the temperature differences in the camera and the water causing the fogging.

    The biggest issue we had after that, was the cold really effected the battery life in the cameras and strobes.
    (We beat the cold with a mix of thermal layering, heated vests, and dry gloves.)
    M DeM and Searcaigh like this.
  5. EireDiver606

    EireDiver606 DIR Practitioner

    Not if it’s salt water and has a current or continuos movement in it but correct me if I’m wrong.
  6. Storker

    Storker Divemaster

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: close to a Hell which occasionally freezes over
    I've got an m43 system in a Nauticam housing. Two Inon strobes on arms with standard clamps. I've used that setup during winter, with around-or-below freezing temps topside and down to some 4-6C below. Never had an issue caused by low temperature.

    I wouldn't worry if I were you. The batteries of course lose some capacity when it's cold, but make sure they're fully charged and you should be fine.

    Disclaimer: if the topside temp drops below some -5 to -10C, I don't bother going diving. Getting out of the suit and breaking down the gear before everything freezes solid is a bit too much of a drag. So I can only speak about temps above that.
    M DeM likes this.
  7. JohnnyC

    JohnnyC Divemaster

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: United States
    Not a housing, but I took my Nikonos RS (it's metal af!) to Silfra. Water was 1 degree science. No problems with lens fogging despite the fact that I assembled the camera on-site.

    The pictures were surprisingly decent considering I was using ISO400 speed film in the Icelandic winter with ambient light. I doubt you'll have any issues specific to the metal housing that would be any different in cold air/water.
    M DeM likes this.
  8. Imla

    Imla Divemaster

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Oslo, Norway
    Norwegian here... Been using my Nauticam and D800 with Inon Z240/330 or Symbiosis Flashs in water down to -2C. Never had an issue with fogging or freezing. (I also happen to know that one of Norways best and most active UW photographers use Subal housings.)

    I put my camera together in my home, plop it in the sea and no more fuss about it.
    M DeM and EireDiver606 like this.
  9. davehicks

    davehicks Barracuda

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Seattle
    I find the biggest factor for fogging is sealing it in a High Humidity environment. Combine that with the heat generated by an internal flash or compact camera running an Electronic Viewfinder, and you get fogging. Try to close the housing in a room with Air Conditioning on, or outside if the conditions are cold & dry.
    M DeM likes this.
  10. blatter

    blatter Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 2,500 - 4,999
    Location: Australia
    Done dives to - 1.5 C in Antarctic and Canada and support above comments. Always good to close housing in airconditioned or at least cool dry air. If condensation occurs in metal housings it happens first and mostly on the metal structure of the housing itself rather than ports or camera which is good as it reduces chance of fogging and damage. After the dive (I expect the OP knows this from previous experience) let things warm up once in a warm place before opening housing to avoid condensation in unwanted places on cold cameras and lenses. For land cameras it is good to keep thenm in a plastic bag when you go inside out of the cold until they have warmed up to avoid condensaion. Have used Ikelite DS 160s with no problems in cold. Clamps and arms seem to work the same as in warmer water, unlike hands. I find dry gloves are really good to have in water cooler than 6-7 C.
    M DeM likes this.

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