Cold Weather and the Leica M Shutter
Old 11-13-2018   #1
Aaron Hellman
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Cold Weather and the Leica M Shutter

With the approaching arrival of winter on the East Coast, I am curious if a drop in temperature affects the operation of the shutter on my M2. I could imagine that the springs and lubricants slow down, which might then cause the shutter to be slower than normal. Is that right? If so, does it make sense to adjust either the aperture or shutter speed to counteract the change in the shutter operation?

Are there any other winter-related issues I should be aware of when using my Leica in cold weather? Condensation on the film? Lens issues?

As always, thank you for your help.
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Old 11-13-2018   #2
David Hughes
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Actually, you send them back to Leica and they re-lubricate it for Arctic conditions... Well, they used to but these days, who knows?

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Old 11-13-2018   #3
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I have used Leica M and screw mount for almost thirty years now and the only time I had trouble with cold was with an elderly IIIc that was past due for a service. I had it out in the cold of an Ohio winter for about an hour and some of the frames showed that the shutter was capping. I had it serviced and no problems since then. I suspect you will be fine unless you plan to spend a lot of time in extreme cold. You can always keep it inside your coat. Joe
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Old 11-13-2018   #4
nukecoke
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It will be good news if both shutter curtains are slowed down by the same rate. The thing is in cold weather it will likely get uneven exposure, eg. with one side or the frame darker than the other side. You won't know if it would happen unless you try it in cold weather, because a camera with leica style shutter would produce perfect exposure during summer but uneven ones in cold, if the lubrication is not optimal.

It's is not just springs and lubricants that got slowed down. The rubberised curtains also get "lazy", imagine wearing rubberised waders in frozen weather. Later Canon RF started to use metal curtains to improve this. And they somehow bragged about it in the user manual saying metal curtain makes the camera more "all weather".

I try to avoid using cameras with such focal plane shutters in environment coder than -5 Celsius, but the more modern version of the shutter like the ones in Pentax MX has not shown problems in my experience.
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Old 11-13-2018   #5
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It was -28C I went on Redeu Channel in Ottawa to skate. On second hour film in M4-2 broke.
M4-2 was on me all the time and it worked.
Watch for condencat then in and out. I use large ziplock bag,
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Old 11-13-2018   #6
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Reading David Douglas Duncan's book on the Korean War, I saw he said his cameras worked through some very bitter weather. He noted that the film became brittle and broke but the cameras - both LTM Leicas - worked well. I have shot with M series Leicas in snow and cold and never had a problem, but if it's been a while - say more than 20 years - since your M2 was serviced, you could run into issues.
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Old 11-13-2018   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nukecoke View Post

I try to avoid using cameras with such focal plane shutters in environment coder than -5 Celsius, but the more modern version of the shutter like the ones in Pentax MX has not shown problems in my experience.
I try to avoid using cameras at all in environment colder than 40F! (Therefore No problems with my Leicas!)
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Old 11-13-2018   #8
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If you like to shoot with no people in the frame, come to Texas. Below 40f everything is deserted, no one goes out, the weatherman calls it an "Arctic blast".
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Old 11-13-2018   #9
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Temperatures you will encounter on the East Coast don't count for needing to relubricate the shutter. Now if you were in Fairbanks, Ak and it was 40 degrees below zero you might want different oils.

Keep the camera inside your jacket when not shooting, advance the film slowly so it does not break or you do not get static electricity marks and enjoy the winter sports. One of the advantages of classic cameras without the battery is they are not affected much by the cold one encounters south of the Arctic or below the summit of Everest.
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Old 11-13-2018   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Hughes View Post
Actually, you send them back to Leica and they re-lubricate it for Arctic conditions... Well, they used to but these days, who knows?

Regards, David
Yep, send it to Leica NJ for relubrication service. You'll get it back by next summer, if you're lucky, when it wont be needed.
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Old 11-13-2018   #11
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Trust me. Leave your camera out (around your neck on strap?) for 20 mins in -45F and it will slow down. How do I know??? In fact, I would worry about metal parts breaking at that temp and lower. I once had a car key shattered in two in -45F when I dropped it on the sidewalk.

Keep your camera under your coat and only bring out for shots, and you can spend many hours in -45F weather. Well, actually, I doubt you will want to spend too many hours in -45F. Its pretty cold.

FWIW, My old Zorki-C did fine in -10F to 10F conditions without much concern for how long it was "exposed". Film does get brittle. Breaks easily. Digital konks out pretty quick due to battery. I had an Olympus EP-2 that stopped working in about 0F, even though I mostly kept it under my coat. I did bring it out a bunch of times though...

A friend who used to live near Whitehorse would always tease me that -45F is nothing compared to -56F. Apparently that extra 10 degrees of cooling makes a huge difference.
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Old 11-13-2018   #12
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Where on the East Coast of the US does it reach -45 degrees F? Those temperatures are rare even in Siberia or interior Alaska.
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Old 11-13-2018   #13
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Used to service German made Arriflex motion picture cameras, especially the Arriflex 16S, which was made at the same time as the original Leica M cameras (1952-1969). ARRI made special cold weather lube we used in them for when shooting outside and the temperature below 20F. Always wondered if they had cold weather lube over there at the Leica factory as well.

Haven't yet had issues with my Leica M or Barnack cameras in the cold, but did have a Nikon S2 give me trouble when it got below freezing. Had DAG service it, and it's much better now. Still wouldn't trust it below 20F though.

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Old 11-13-2018   #14
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I’ve used Leica M cameras winter and summer in the Canadian Rockies, Alps, on Denali and in the Himalayas for 40 yrs. Never had any problems and never had them ‘Arctic’ serviced. Three of the Alaska Range climbing trips I used Leica CLs. The only precaution I used was to wind each consecutive frame slowly when the temps were low.
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Old 11-13-2018   #15
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Living and shooting around Northumberland and Scotland l have experienced some very cold temps, my leicas do not usually have any issues with the cold
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Old 11-13-2018   #16
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I used my M's in -30 with some modifications. I sent them to Marty Forscher in the 70's and he removed the lubricants. New lubricants work well at -20f without major issues. Leave the camera outside when coming in to prevent condensation. Broke film at -20f and used my coat as a changing bag to remove the film. Reloaded and continued shooting. Wear gloves to avoid frostbite on the fingers.
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Old 11-14-2018   #17
David Hughes
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FWIW, when I come in from the extreme cold I usually stick things like cameras, binoculars and mobile phones into a sealable freezer bag and leave them to warm up slowly indoors.


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Old 11-14-2018   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ktmrider View Post
Where on the East Coast of the US does it reach -45 degrees F? Those temperatures are rare even in Siberia or interior Alaska.
I was like: Ok maybe -45F is like -20C, then I google converted it and asked myself the same question.

My hometown gets free supply of siberian cold currents every winter and it rarely gets lower than -35C/-31F in the coldest days in winter.

Here is a Creative Commons image of how the winter in my hometown looks like:



https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikiped...e_Festival.jpg


I've used a Yashica Electro 35 on one of such nights and it survived. The batteries died halfway.
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Old 11-14-2018   #19
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In case you want see whats really cold: https://www.lensculture.com/articles/alex-vasyliev-my-dear-yakutia No idea which camere he used, but couldn't stop to smile when I read this desription for one of his photos:

Once it gets warmer, for example -35C, people go outside for walks with their family to squares..

And yes, Celsius not Fahrenheit

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Old 11-14-2018   #20
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Once it gets warmer, for example -35C, people go outside for walks with their family to squares..

And yes, Celsius not Fahrenheit

Juergen
You do realize that -35F is actually colder than -35C (-35F = -37C; -35C = -31F), right? Once you hit -45, the situation is reversed (-45F = -43C; -45C = -49F). People who grew up in the metric world frequently underestimate the negative side of the Fahrenheit scale and how cold it is. Those extra 32 degrees before the numbers go negative are tricky.
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Old 11-14-2018   #21
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You do realize that -35F is actually colder than -35C (-35F = -37C; -35C = -31F), right? Once you hit -45, the situation is reversed (-45F = -43C; -45C = -49F). People who grew up in the metric world frequently underestimate the negative side of the Fahrenheit scale and how cold it is. Those extra 32 degrees before the numbers go negative are tricky.
Of course I know, most of the developer I use come with instructions in F and I watch daily US-news. Was just confused thinking because of the post before.

Juergen
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Old 11-14-2018   #22
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If I go outside at all in those temperatures my gloves are far too bulky to use a camera anyway.

I do have a Pentax SV that quits working when it gets below freezing. The two of us get along just fine.
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Old 11-14-2018   #23
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I should have mentioned....my experience with cold temps is mostly interior North American and at elevation -- U.S. and Canadian Rockies. My town gets -40F (or colder) some/most? years (in winter of course). Bozeman, MT is a nice place to live, but I wish the cold temps would scare people away. I've spent extremely little time on the East Coast. Have no idea how cold it gets there.

I've taken film cameras (mostly RF's) on my way to work (nordic ski to work in winter), or on ski trips around the area (Yellowstone), or climbing / ice climbing trips (I don't ice climb, my friends do. I stick to rock).

The Olympus XA was a surprising performer on winter trips. It is battery dependent, so you MUST keep it in the jacket, but its so small that's not difficult. However, sometimes the wind is just too much and I don't open my jacket for nuthin. The image is just not worth it.

I would take FSU cameras out as well. My original thinking was: hey, they're just cheap FSU cameras, so what if they don't work or break down from "abuse". Well, my respect for FSU cameras has changed over time. Never had an issue due to extreme cold. Never had much of an issue at all. They're so simple, there isn't much to break. Only issues were clearly the fault of the user (me) and we don't talk about that anymore

Also took film Leicas (IIIa, IIIf, M2, M3) out in extreme cold. I would pamper them so they spent no more than 20-30 minutes out from under my coat. No issues with the bodies, but I have had lens focusing get sluggish or worse. Same with FSU stuff.

Some of my cameras have had recent servicing, but others are ??. I can see how a recent service would improve confidence in cold weather.

I'm surprised nukecoke had an Electro35 last so long. My old Nikon FE2 didn't like cold but I could switch to manual when needed. I don't know how my digital Nikons would fare, but my current situation has me in a place where 32F is considered cold. Funny, because that's "shorts weather" in Bozeman
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Old 11-14-2018   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nukecoke View Post
I was like: Ok maybe -45F is like -20C, then I google converted it and asked myself the same question.

My hometown gets free supply of siberian cold currents every winter and it rarely gets lower than -35C/-31F in the coldest days in winter.

I've used a Yashica Electro 35 on one of such nights and it survived. The batteries died halfway.
To be specific. Temps of -40 or colder are not exactly common in my town either. However, I seem to recall at least one day in most years when it gets to the -40F mark (or lower: -44, -46). That is often just one day. My first day at my new job in 2009 was -44F, the day I broke my car key was -46F, the day I was sealed in my apartment (front door was frozen shut) was -41F. And, these are often the low temps of a given day. It could warm up to the -20s later.

Those are seriously cold temps. Nobody goes outside for long. Where I lived, there was a clear threshold temp when people would emerge to do fun things -- that was about 0-5F. At 10F many people were comfortable getting out, and at 20F I would actually see college students roaming campus in shorts. Below 0F was for "hardcore" folks. I was NOT hardcore. I skiied to work in about -10F, but that was not fun. Not sure I would attempt that again.

Going up in elevation, I suspect I have experienced colder than -45F, but no official record of that. These are temps that can be quickly fatal or injurious, and not fun to experience. Put simply, around the limits of technical ($$$) gear. Wind becomes a grim enemy. I was young and stupid once . Glad to have survived it.

An Electro35 lasting half a night at -31F is impressive. Even if you babied it along under your coat.
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Old 11-14-2018   #25
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To be specific. Temps of -40 or colder are not exactly common in my town either. However, I seem to recall at least one day in most years when it gets to the -40F mark (or lower: -44, -46). That is often just one day. My first day at my new job in 2009 was -44F, the day I broke my car key was -46F, the day I was sealed in my apartment (front door was frozen shut) was -41F. And, these are often the low temps of a given day. It could warm up to the -20s later.
You guys get that cold in Corvallis? Used to live in southeast Portland (on the side of Mt. Scott) and it rarely got cold enough to snow, much less got down to zero. Are you guys further up in the Cascades than we were in Portland?

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PS: I'm sorry, I'm confused, your Avatar says you live in Corvallis, Oregon, but I see on one post you're talking about Bozeman Montana. Is that where you get the -40F weather?
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Old 11-14-2018   #26
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I've seen -40 in Minneapolis!
At that point I'm inside eating deep fried cheese curds and drinking beer.
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Old 11-14-2018   #27
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I experienced -40F when I lived in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. At that temp, your vehicle will make the strangest noises for several minutes after (if) it starts.

To stay on topic, I've used my MP in -20F weather a few years back. No problems at all.

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Old 11-14-2018   #28
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Yep, send it to Leica NJ for relubrication service. You'll get it back by next summer, if you're lucky, when it wont be needed.
Beat me to it.

Here in Northeastern VT it is often below zero F in the winter, I rarely have troubles with the MP, and that is only the meter when the batteries give up the ghost. M7 is less reliable as it seems to drink battery juice faster. I've not had trouble with uneven exposures.

M9 was not happy when it got below 10F, again battery woe.
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