Lenses Fogging up in Humid Florida

by Miserere


The Problem

I’m spending the week vacationing in Miami (located on the East coast of the USA, in Southern Florida, for those of you unfamiliar with American geography). I’m not taking many photos, rather concentrating more on actually vacationing and doing…nothing! But I still take the camera out of the bag every once in a while, and it was the first time that I did this while walking along the beach that I ran into a problem I’d never experienced: Fogging lenses.

Miami’s climate is tropical, with a hot, rainy, humid season extending from May through to October. I was hoping to avoid the humidity, but the cooler, dry season is late in coming this year. So how did this affect my lenses? To begin with, they spent most of the time in the hotel room, whose air conditioning rendered it cool and dry. When I first took a lens out of the camera bag while at the beach, the cold lens reacted with the humidity in the air to form a film of condensation on the front element/filter. You know how your breath condenses on window on a cold winter’s day? Well I had the whole city of Miami breathing on the front of my lens.


The Evidence

I tried taking a video of my lens fogging up yesterday and today, but due to reduced humidity (not as high as Monday or Tuesday) the fogging was not as intense and I didn’t manage to capture the process on video. I guess you’ll just have to take my word for it.


How to Avoid It

The obvious way to avoid this is to store your photography equipment on the balcony, so it’s always at ambient temperature. The downside is it will also be at ambient humidity—humidity and camera equipment do not go well together. The better option is to take your camera equipment out of the bag a short time before you intend to use it, or maybe just leave your camera bag open on the balcony while you get ready. How long does your equipment need to be out before it reaches ambient temperature? I don’t know! You’ll just have to test it yourself. Bear in mind there is a lot of cold air inside a lens, not counting the glass elements. Modern lenses, which are made out of polycarbonate, will take longer to warm up because polycarbonate conducts heat less efficiently than metal.

If you find yourself with a fogged up front element, use an appropriate cloth to wipe off the condensation. It might form again, but I found that I never needed to wipe more than 2 times in the 5 minutes following the lens coming out of the bag.


A Word of Warning

I have been talking about lenses, but a bigger problem might be your camera. If your camera is cold and you take out (without a lens attached) in a hot, humid environment, you are likely to get condensation on the mirror, which is bad news any way you look at it. Mirrors are very delicate and you don’t want to be swiping condensation off them. You might also get condensation forming on other non-polycarbonate surfaces inside the camera, which again, is not good.

For all these reasons, I would suggest not changing lenses outside until you are absolutely sure your camera is at ambient temperature.


5 Responses to “Lenses Fogging up in Humid Florida”

  1. as long as its not on the inside you’re going to be OK.


  2. Did you take any images to see what could possibly be a totally different effect (ie: filter effect) ? Might as well make the best of a bad thing……..

    • I did, but unless the effect you’re looking for is “useless”, it’s a waste of time trying to get artsy with the fogged lens 🙂

      Seriously, the images were extremely soft. I think I deleted them all, but if I find one that slipped through, I’ll post it for you.

  3. I ran into this a few years ago. The best way to handle this is to wrap your camera/lenses in sealed plastic bags. Wait for them to acclimate outside or inside depending on where you are shooting. This can take upwards of 15 – 20 minutes. Then remove them from the bag. This prevents condensation from getting on to your camera.

  4. Sune /Jonson PL Says:

    Good tips, I experienced the same in Malaysia.

    If one of your rooms is not directly connected to the air condition, leave the camera in that room

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