This past week saw photos uploaded from the first ever photoSentinel Pro in Canada… where things get cold. Really cold. Which provides us with an excellent excuse to discuss our cold temperature testing.
We put a fully operational photoSentinel Pro (kitted out with a Nikon D3100) inside an extreme cold unit and set it to an extended high duty cycle – triggering one photo roughly every two minutes and connecting to the 3G network to upload a photo every 10 minutes, for 14 hours a day across 27 days. Over the time, 8000 photos were taken. For the first week the photoSentinel Pro was tested at a constant -10°C (14°F), then further down to -24°C (-11°F). At -10°C the system was run on mains power and at -20°C it run alternatively on mains and battery/solar power.
To summarise the results (contact us if you would like to see the full report), the photoSentinel’s electronics operated normally in the extremely cold conditions, without a single temperature-related complication. Consistent with anecdotal evidence from Arctic photographers, the Nikon D3100 performed fine as well (though we’re not sure if taking it that cold would affect warranty).
As you would expect, the 7.8Ahr Li-ion battery lost some performance, but still performed at an operational level. Battery life (with no recharging input) at -20°C (-4°F) was about one third shorter than at room temperature (~20°C [68°F]) and lasted roughly two full days. It is recommended that a larger battery (12-18Ahr) be used for such cold conditions, particularly in locations with poor sunlight.
The only real issue was condensation on the camera lens and housing window – a complication faced in cold-weather photography no matter what equipment is being used. Our test conditions meant the photoSentinel Pro was transferred from the warm and humid office environment straight into the cold unit. Conditions out on the field would be different and if appropriate care was taken (e.g. opening the housing immediately on moving into below freezing conditions to minimise the air moisture), this issue may be mitigated. We’re in the process of conducting further testing with high quality silica gel and a condensation film on the window.
So, all in all, the photoSentinel has passed the cold testing with flying colours, though a blizzard might compromise the clarity of the photos!
Here in Australia we have the opposite issue – heat! There are numerous photoSentinel Pros snapping away in the Australian desert at temperatures as high as the mid-40s°C (mid-110s°F). This in situ testing has shown the photoSentinel works just fine in the heat (and there’s certainly enough sun for the solar power!). With increasing enquiries from even hotter places (such as UAE and Saudi Arabia) we’re in the process of setting up some more controlled heat testing. Stay tuned!
COLD UPDATE: After more than 6 months on the Canadian prairie, we can happily report that the photoSentinel Pro kept clicking away down to at least -30°C (-22°F). A few days later the location of the photoSentinel recorded the lowest temperature for that day on the planet at -36°C (-32.8°F) and a wind-chill of up to -60°C (-76°F)! It was unfortunate, though unsurprising, that the unit stopped at this temperature; it would be near impossible for anything to work in conditions that cold. Fair to say we’re pretty stoked the unit was faithful to -30°C (-22°F) and more than ever we are fully confident in supplying photoSentinel for use in any climate the world over.
HEAT UPDATE: photoSentinel has been in the Australian desert for a few years and this year installed units in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, with more about to be turned on in Saudi Arabia. There have been no heat-related issues whatsoever with these units, right up to air temperatures of at least 46°C (115°F) (radiant temperature would be even higher).