How Do Photographers Handle Fog On Lenses In A Humid Environment?

September 20th, 2016

foggedlensPeggy on the Alabama Gulf Coast asks:

How do you all handle fog on your lenses? I have some extreme temps here from interior to exterior, and this am I was shooting some turbulent skies and my camera fogged up. I cleaned the viewfinder, lense and LCD but it fogs up on the interior. Is there a trick to the trade on how y’all handle this?

Since I’ve lived here in the Northwest all my life I’ve never experienced this problem. But doing some research on the subject. There seems to be a number of opinions on the subject:

  1. This thread on dpreview.com seems pessimistic that there’s much you can do.
  2. However, this lady claims that at least in some situations you can deal with it.

Perhaps our readers in the humid climates can give us more advice on this subject.

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13 Responses to “How Do Photographers Handle Fog On Lenses In A Humid Environment?”

  • I shoot the outside photos first on days with high humidity. I also run the AC in the car but keep the temp on the warm side. That drys the air yet keeps the glass warm.

  • I worked for many years in the UK and while it was quite a humid climate, there was no air conditioning so unless I breathed on the lens, I seldom had fogged lenses. I often found I inadvertently breathed on the viewfinder eye piece and that fogged up but then it also benefitted from having the lint build up removed as I wiped away the fog. In Southern California we just don’t often have enough humidity to cause such a problem. But on an assignment to Charleston in the summer I ran into exactly what you experienced. That and the humidity caused malfunctions with the electronic in my Canon DLSR into the bargain. Fortunately it was at the end of one day’s shoot and I could dissemble my camera in my hotel room and let the dry air work its wonders. But after that, I decided to shoot exteriors first after letting my camera acclimatize outside first. Taking a cold camera and lens out into a high moisture and warm air mass guarentees such problems. Then I shot the interior shots after the camera had acclimatized to the air conditioning in the building. I think if I were to work in such an area again, I would have one camera and sense for inside use and one left outside since it is not just the inner surfaces of the many lens elements that can get fogged but the electronics can have problems as well. I have wondered since as well if a portable hair dryer and a large bag into which to put the camera and blow in dry air might also help.

  • Years ago, when I often travelled for reportages, I encountered some issue of fog on the camera and on the lenses when passing from outside (very cold and humid temperature) to inside (warm and humid temperature). In some cases it helped very much to wrap the camera inside a plastic bag, so that the micro particels of water falled over the plastic instead of the lenses. Just wait few minutes and unwrap the camera. Sometimes it works, sometimes don’t. I actually didn’t experimented this trick in the last years, here in Rome I fortunately do not encounter such a problem. Good luck.

  • When shooting at night I have sometimes attached a chemical hand warmer to the lens with an elastic band or velcro strap. A mini handheld fan held just out of view, to one side of the lens can also help and will be far more practical than my first suggestion! Your best bet as others have mentioned is to place your camera and lens in the car a couple of hours before use.

  • I shoot the exterior last. On humid days, I set my camera and lens outside in the sunlight after I finish the interior of the home. In the time it takes me to put away my lights and stands, the camera is acclimated and the heat and humidity and the lens fog is usually gone. I have the biggest problem on overcast and humid days after I’ve shot in an air conditioned home.

  • Here in St Petersburg, Florida… I keep my T-shirt untucked and wipe my lens repeatedly. :-/

  • Peggy, I live in the Atlanta Metro area and our summer humidity can be brutal. On very high humidity days when I know I have to shoot exterior as well as interior shots it takes a little extra planning. I leave my camera in the bag, lens cap on outside to acclimate to the warm, hot temps while I go inside and do my initial walk around, turn on lights and jot down notes about the shoot. That allows the temperature of the camera body and lens to warm up a bit but stay protected from the moisture. It takes about 15 minutes when going from the cold inside AC to warm, humid outside air temps. I still make sure I have a dry, lint free cloth to wipe down the front of the lens and back of the camera when I take it take of the bag. Most of the time this helps. I also find that the humidity is worse down here in the early morning but the air seems to dry out a little bit as the day moves on. Your camera will be fine as long as you let it warm up first before trying to shoot outside.

  • I get that all the time here in Sarasota FL. I go from my 75 degree air-vehicle to my 85 percent humidity 90 degree outside temp. Or from the air-conditioned property to the outside. I keep lenses tissue or a lens cloth in my pocket and try to wipe the lens, but most of the time, I still have to wait for the lens to equalize in temperature. I also try to keep my camera in the rear of the car, in my camera bag, as far away as I can from the air conditioner (perhaps in the trunk would work). but most often, you need to let the camera equalize to the conditions you are working in. (James, I too have used the tee shirt solution, but always scared to scratch the lens, unless you have a filter on.

    I first learned about fogging when I was a kid In NY & Vermont when I would go star gazing with my fellow GEEK astronomer friends, they would have the same issues of their scopes fogging up in the winter skies. They used long lens hoods and electric heaters, even after they let their scopes equalize for hrs.

  • I run into this all the time during the winter. When my camera/lens is outside for quite a while it becomes very cold and if you take it into a warm house you end up with a big mess. I found by placing the camera//lens in a very large ziplock bag and sealing it while I am still outside, and then bring it into a warm house you will prevent any condensation what-so-ever. However, you do have to wait a few hours before opening the ziplock to make sure the camera has warmed up.

  • After reading these, I don’t know what I am doing right. Orlando is a setup for fogging, and my glasses do all the time. Really fun at an ATM and can’t see. That said, I can’t recall the last time my camera lens fogged up…if ever. Perhaps it acclimated as I set up flashes and other equipment. Don’t know if my bag, Domke canvas, has anything to do with it. Typically, during the summer I save the outside for last unless weather doesn’t look like will hold, as I don’t want to be sweaty in the house. Transitioning to the exterior is gradual, usually with a covered patio first. Must be doing something right.

  • I have used the zip-lock bag trick with much success. A few years back I was shooting star trails over Shenandoah National Park on a very cold evening and tried the plastic bag method when bringing my very cold camera back into a warm cabin. The results… ZERO condensation!

    On a daily basis when shooting real estate… going from the cold A/C in my car to hot and humid exteriors back into the cold A/C of my car, the solution was pretty simple. I keep desiccant packs in my Pelican case. The combination of desiccant plus a sealed Pelican case equals no issues what-so-ever. I learned this trick from GoPro… they have small dry-bags that you put in your waterproof case to keep the moisture out when you use the GoPro in water. It made me think… the GoPro waterproof case is really just a tiny Pelican case. Camera inside, desiccant inside, no fog inside… hmmm.

  • move to sunny southern california! 🙂 Goodluck!!

  • Here in Michigan, even with our Summer humidity, I’ve found this to rarely be an issue. In cases where I expect it will be I prefer to shoot the warmer environment first. In depths of Winter, where it generally would always be an issue, I simply start inside then move out.

    However, when I get back to the orifice to do post, I’ll simply pop the card out before I go in, and leave the equipment in the closed case for 40 minutes to warm up some. Fortunately, not many folks call me out for a shoot when it’s 10F out;).

    In general, if I can anticipate the situation, that alone solves the problem.

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