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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Glove-Box Cameras

The recent posts about how nice it was to just leave a mechanical 35mm slr with a roll of Tri-X in it in the trunk of the car, just in case a photo opportunity came along—they all resonated strongly for me. I tend to have cars which are hatchbacks, rather than have trunks, so my "car camera" tends to live in the glovebox.

It’s true that digital cameras are often terrible glove box cameras—just when you see that cougar on your driveway, you take out the camera to find that the NiMH batteries are dead, dead, dead. But it’s not true that all digital cameras make bad glovebox cameras. In particular, the Canon A series of digital point-and-shoot cameras are excellent. I have a Canon A95, which I load up with a 1GB flash card and a set of four Energizer e2 lithium AA batteries, and it lives in the glove box of my car pretty much all the time. The lithium AA batteries have a huge capacity (much better than alkaline AAs) and have a very long shelf life (15 years). The more current siblings of that camera take only two AA batteries, so they’d be even better.

Posted by PAUL BUTZI

Featured Comment by Bob: Canon specifies an operating temperature range of 0-40 C (32-104 F) for consumer cameras, e.g., Digital Rebel, A540 & G6. The specified operating range for the 1D II is a bit broader at 0-45 C (32-113 F). I found no specification for allowable storage temperatures.

I used to keep a thermometer in my truck, and here in North Texas the cab temperature would routinely exceed 135 degrees F when I parked in the summer sun. Today's high is forecast to be 103, which nearly exceeds Canon's maximum operating temperature for many of their cameras. While I would like to keep a camera in the glove box, I've no doubt the summer temperatures would soon kill it.


Blogger Engin Kurutepe said...

If I remember correctly the Epson digital rangefinder had a mechanical winding lever. Although the lever did not serve a practical purpose in that camera, I think a digicam which takes its energy from such a mechanical winding mechanism could be possible. Such a camera, of course, would not have an LCD-screen, and the energy from the winding lever just has to be enough to power-up the CCD (or CMOS sensor, since they tend to be more energy efficient), release the shutter, and write the raw sensor data to the memory card or to first generate a jpeg and then store it. (I'm not sure which option would be more energy efficient.)

My point is, although such a camera might not be profitable (or even possible) to build, it definitely would be the best glove-box camera. period. Neither does it need batteries, nor film.

2:19 PM  
Blogger Paul Butzi said...

I like it! A wind-up digital camera!

Even better, how about a camera like those LED based flashlights with a captive weight inside - you shake them, the weight slides back and forth, and the motion works a little generator that charges a battery, which then power the LED flashlight head.

We might be treated to the sight of people vigorously shaking their cameras in preparation for making a photograph - a delightful idea.

Think of it as a camera with a 'shake well before using' label on it, like a spray paint can.

6:03 PM  
Blogger John Roberts said...

Having lived in the south all my life, I can't imagine leaving a camera, film or digital, in the trunk of a car or in the glovebox! Where do you keep your photo equipment at home, on top of the furnace? In the heat of a Louisiana summer, film would turn to soup, the lens elements would detatch from one another, and who knows what other horrors would occur. No camera deserves a fate like that.

8:54 PM  
Blogger Rudi said...

I used to have an A-series Canon, but have recently bought a Fuji Finepix F30 and love it! The battery life on that thing is amazing!!! I have now had it for two months, and I only had to recharge the battery last week!

The Fuji-specified number of shots before recharge is 580, and I was skeptical when buying the camera, but thought I would hold off buying a spare battery (the thing is just a P&S for when I don't want to lug my SLR gear). Well, I'm glad I did! Because I do not use the camera extensively (but chimp and review shots all the time when I do use it - it has no optical viewfinder), it lasted two months on one charge. Not only that, it gave plenty of warning that the battery will need charging - and I recharged it without running out of juice in the field. I am very impressed!

3:20 AM  
Blogger eolake said...

Maybe capture will become energy efficient enough that a camera will appear which will run on ambient light alone, like my calculator.

8:56 AM  
Blogger Dave New said...

At least if you store it on the floor of the vehicle, out of direct sunlight, you should get much lower temperatures than what you might see with a thermometer mounted on the dash or hung from the mirror.

Just be careful what you stuff under the seats, these days, as there is usually an abundance of wiring and an electronic module or two (usually having to do with the airbag/seatbelt system, or heated/power seats, it seems). You don't want to break something under there, or short something out.

Also, I'd bet that non-rechargeable alkalines will survive high temperatures better than rechargeable cells.

In any event, allow the camera to cool down or warm up before turning it on. Storage temperatures are usually much more forgiving than operating temperatures.

Finally, an SLR-type camera with a focal-plane shutter is liable to croak in these conditions much faster than a digicam with zero moving parts.

2:58 PM  

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