Film cameras for cold days

Winter can be tricky for photographers. Sure, you get the nice snowy landscapes and lots of colorful lights everywhere – but days are much shorter and it’s cold. We can’t do much about the length of a day, but we can dress for the cold – good shoes, warm coats, hats and gloves. But when it comes to photography, gloves can be tricky.

Warm gloves are important, but when you are out taking photos, they can become a hindrance. Mittens are the warmest, but using cameras with them is nearly impossible. But even with thinner gloves, some cameras can become hard to operate. I took a few of my cameras (setups) that I would usually take for street photography out out just to see how well they would handle in the cold.

Nikon FM2 with Nikkor 35/2 Ai

As sturdy as the come, the Nikon FM2 is a solid camera that will outlast most photographers using them. The battery only needs to power the meter, reducing the risk of the battery failing in the cold weather. One problem is the body – it is made of a copper-aluminum-silicon alloy that conducts heat pretty well, so the camera feels cold when you touch it. And with hardly any leather/plastic to cover the body, there is lots of cold metal to touch.

It’s a good thing the Nikon is pretty useable with gloves – film advance and the shutters speed dial are easy to grip even when you wear gloves, just the aperture ring can be a bit tricky, but that depends on the lens. The shutter button has such a great feel that not even the gloves can take away that tacit feeling.

Overall, if you are out with no gloves, the FM2 might not be the best choice because of the sheer amount of cold metal to touch – a plastic ocular ring might be wise idea too. With gloves, the camera is still easy enough to use.

Summary

Bare Hands: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

Gloves: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Olympus XA

Let’s get straight to the point: This is no camera to use while wearing gloves. The controls for both the aperture and the rangefinder are tiny and recessed into the body, making them hard to use even with the thinnest gloves. The shutter is especially difficult, since the slightest touch is enough to trigger it – with no feel in your fingers it’s almost impossible to hit it at just the right moment. And with thicker gloves, even opening the body shell can become a struggle. It is possible to use this camera with gloves, but certainly not recommended.

But then again, you don’t really need gloves with this camera. All the body is made from plastic, there are no metal parts exposed – the camera feels cool, but nearly as cold as a metal body would. But the ace up the Olympus XAs sleeve is its size – its small enough that you can put the hand that holds the camera in your pocket while still holding the camera. No need for gloves!

The Olmypus XA is the worst camera to use with gloves, but then again, you won’t need gloves with this camera.

Summary

Bare Hands: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Gloves: ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Konica Hexar RF with VC 35/1.7 Ultron

While it looks like a normal camera on the outside, the Konica Hexar RF has a secret – a titanium top and bottom cover. For some reason Konica never really advertised it, like putting Ti in the camera name like Nikon and Olympus do. But you can actually feel it – not only is titanium lighter, it is also a much worser heat conductor than other camera body materials (with the except of plastic) and once its cold, you can tell that when you touch the camera. It feels a bit cold, but not nearly as cold as a camera like the FM2 would feel. Its size makes it a bit too big to fit in your jackets pocket, so it can’t benefit from the smaller rangefinder size like the XA.

But with gloves on, it’s a mixed bag as well. Focusing works easy enough, an the aperture ring is easy to grip as well – at least with that lens. Unlike the others on this list, the Konica Hexar RF features a electric film advance, so you don’t have to worry about another lever. I never had issues with the batteries in cold weather yet, but that might change on even colder temperatures. The biggest issue with gloves is the shutter speed dial, with gloves its quite hard to use.

While still small than some SLRs, the Hexar is no „pocket camera“, but the body materials make it more bearable with no gloves. With gloves, the lack of a film advance lever helps, but the shutter speed dial is just to small to use.

Summary

Bare Hands: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Gloves: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Koni-Omega Rapid 200 with 90mm/3.5 Hexanon

This is quite the unusual camera – but it’s surprisingly well addept to shooting in the cold. It’s a heavy camera with lots of metal parts, however besides the aperture and shutter speed rings on the lens, everything you touch is plastic, making the camera ok to hold with no gloves.

But the camera shines with gloves. The aperture and shutter speed rings on the lens could be larger, but the grip, focus knob and film advance „lever are large enough to be operated even with thick gloves, making this the best camera to use with gloves on.

On a downside, this camera has no built in light meter – you need to use an external one to set your exposure (or just shoot Sunny 16. You can find more information about this camera in my Koni-Omega Rapid 200 review.

Summary

Bare Hands: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Gloves: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Conclusion

Winter might not be the easiest time to take photos, but with the right equipment, there is no reason not to shoot photos. While I often take a larger camera with me in my backpack, when I’m out on the street during winter times, I know what camera I will take with me – the Olympus XA!

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