5 Cameras for Winter Photography

5 Cameras for Winter Photography

Winter photography can be a magical yet challenging experience due to the conditions that come with cold weather, snow, sleet, high winds, and limited daylight. As photographers, we can prepare for this in advance to ensure we're insulated and dry enough to keep out the elements that this season throws at us, but what about our equipment?

Is your gear ready for sub-zero temperatures, freezing rain, and long periods of hourly changeable weather conditions that never quite reach 32 degrees Fahrenheit? It can change very quickly from a sub-zero overcast day to a howling freezing near-blizzard in a matter of minutes. "Blizzard" might be a little over dramatic in the case below but you get the idea.

Can Your Camera Cope With These Conditions?

Interestingly, most cameras can push beyond what the manufacturers recommend, although I'd be the first to say don't try it, as you know they are tested to their extremes, and working recommendations are in place for that reason. Not all cameras are the same, however, so which ones would be best suited for winter conditions? I've photographed with a Nikon D850 with at 14 degrees Fahrenheit, and in colder conditions with a wind chill. The Nikon Z7 II and the Fujifilm X-T5 I've photographed with at 17 degrees Fahrenheit, but not any colder as yet. The camera is not the only consideration to make, however; Can your lenses hold up to these conditions? What specifications do they need to have as well? You also need to think about that. 

What's the Spec?

As I mentioned, I've successfully used the Nikon D850, Z7 II, and Fujifilm X-T5 in sub-zero conditions and they performed with no problems at all. I did keep the batteries close to me for body heat when not using them and perhaps they did run down slightly faster than normal, but I couldn't say for sure as normally I gave up before them. Either that or I'd seek out somewhere warmer before heading back out again.

So what cameras can hold up to what the winter conditions can throw at you? Here's a list of five, in no particular order, that are designed to work in conditions like these and I would love to hear in the comments other cameras, tried and tested by you, that can add to the list.

Nikon D850

  • Official operating Temperatures: 32 to 104F
  • Operating Humidity Range: 85% or less 
  • Weather Sealing: Yes
  • Megapixel count: 45.7
  • Format: Full Frame
  • Weight: 1005g

Fuji X-T5

  • Official operating Temperatures: 14 to 105F 
  • Operating Humidity Range: 10 - 80%
  • Weather Sealing: Yes
  • Megapixel count: 40.2
  • Format: APS-C
  • Weight: 557g (including battery and memory card)

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

  • Official operating Temperatures: 32 to 104F
  • Operating Humidity Range: 85% or less humidity
  • Weather Sealing: Yes
  • Megapixel count: 30.4
  • Format: Full Frame
  • Weight: 890g

Sony A9

  • Official operating Temperatures: 32 to 104F
  • Operating Humidity Range: 85% or less humidity
  • Weather Sealing: Yes
  • Megapixel count: 24.2
  • Format: Full Frame
  • Weight: 588g

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III

  • Official operating Temperatures: 14 to 104F
  • Operating Humidity Range: 30-90% 
  • Weather Sealing: Yes
  • Megapixel count: 4/3
  • Format: Full Frame
  • Weight: 504g

All Things Considered

The points mentioned above don't include the entire specifications of the cameras, but do include the important information that you should consider when working in winter conditions. Weather and dust sealing is an essential feature for these harsher conditions and these seals provide that extra layer of protection, safeguarding against the elements and ensuring your camera functions reliably even in extreme cold, freezing rain, and snow. I'm not saying leave them out in it as I also use a rain cover or cheap shower cap to cover the gear once set up on the tripod. But these seals in sub-zero temperatures help prevent moisture from entering the camera body which can lead to condensation and potential damage to its internal components.

Depending on the temperatures, I often use hand warmers wrapped around the lenses for longer shoots, such as timelapses. Apart from ensuring the lens operates efficiently, this also provides an extra layer of protection from the elements.


I have a ritualistic approach to reacclimatizing my gear to a warmer environment. Doing this will ensure you prevent potential damage to your equipment, even if weather-sealed when transitioning from a cold to a warmer environment, as these sudden temperature changes can have a detrimental effect on your gear. My bag already contains many silica gels that I gather up when I get a delivery of something which I leave in the bag all year round. This takes care of any changes in moisture levels in humid or cold environments.

The steps I take when reacclimatising:

  1. The camera bag — still closed — is wiped down to remove any of the elements and left in the room for a few hours.
  2. After a few hours, I'll open up the bag and again just leave it for about half an hour.
  3. I'll then take the camera and lenses out of the bag, wipe them down (lens cap still on), and leave them on a surface for around another hour.
  4.  Finally, I'll give them another wipe-down and then remove the SD cards ready to be uploaded.

This may be totally unnecessary with regard to timescales, and in some cases not possible depending on what you are working on, but this is my usual ritual. During this time I can take a warm shower, get a hot cuppa, and just relax. I don't need to see the images straight away, I've already experienced the conditions, and with luck, got the images I was after.

So with winter conditions on the horizon, embracing the cold can open up so many artistic possibilities. The serenity of snow-covered landscapes, the low arc of the winter sun, and the play of light on frosty surfaces, all create a dream canvas for your photography. While these can at times be challenging conditions, demanding extra effort on your part and that of your equipment, the resulting images can definitely be bountiful. Ensure you are up to it and wrapped up to the hilt, but also ensure your gear is up the the challenge of what you are going to be putting it through to get the shots.

Consider the Gear

Some of the cameras mentioned here have a hefty price tag so have you ever considered purchasing used? MPB.com is a leading marketplace for buying and selling your gear and offers a wide range of cameras, lenses, and photography accessories. With a reputation for reliability and quality, they have become a trusted online destination for both amateur and professional photographers looking to exchange and upgrade their gear.

MPB has an extensive list of available items spanning cameras, lenses, tripods, filters, and camera bags; there is something for everyone and every budget. Everything is quality-checked and graded, providing detailed descriptions of the items shown enabling you to make informed choices. The image shown of the equipment is the actual piece you would receive and not a stock image. I've personally used them for many years to trade in or purchase gear and each transaction has been quick and smooth, with great customer service and an honest appraisal and quote for the equipment I've traded to them. So if you are considering upgrading or changing your kit entirely they are definitely worth checking out.

Gary McIntyre's picture

Gary McIntyre is a landscape photographer and digital artist based on the west coast of Scotland. As well as running photography workshops in the Glencoe region, providing online editing workshops, Gary also teaches photography and image editing at Ayrshire college.

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Interesting how you failed to noted that all Canon R cameras operate as low as the D850 or Z7II.
Thus making all of them cold weather cameras.

No intentions were meant with this Lawrence, the information was gathered from the Canon technical specifications. It comes down to knowing your own gear and what it can handle temperature-wise. And of course how long we can stay out in sub-zero temperatures.

The pixel count of the Olympus E-M1 mk3 is not "4/3" as is stated, it is 20 megapixels. The format of its sensor is 4/3, not "full frame" (at least not as FF normally is defined).

I may add that "the" Olympus camera (or OM System) for winter photography, in addition to the E-M1 mk1 to mk3, is the OM-1, which is the one camera, to my knowledge, that is weather sealed with a solid rating: IP53. That IP53 rating also is valid for the standard zoom OM System 12-40mm F:2,8PRO II.

Well spotted Mats, thank you, I'll get that amended. If I remember correctly when researching, the Olympus was rated best for weather-sealing.

Well, I've been shooting in Winnipeg for a little over 7 years and have been out in -25C for a couple of hours with both the 5DIV and the R5 (two hours is all I could stand). No problem.

A lot of chest beating on camera weather resistance and none on the protection. I have been saved from bad/real cold below zero. I am in awe of those who do Milky Way's or aroara up in Canada or Alaska. I am a deer hunter/photographer so have the clothing for myself. I maybe in the south like North Florida, south Ga. and Ms.. February is the the first month and first new moon of when the MW rises in the early morning hour if during the first of the month it will be cold. On Driftwood Beach Jekyll Island Ga. in Feb. you will need long handles, clothes covered with the thickest outer hunting clothes. Or in Miss. during a Jan. 20, 2019 eight hour lunar eclipse in the cold of night. On the way to hunt stand and a hillside full of frozen figures in Dec.. Yes it also gets cold in other places, using a foot warmers' wrapped around camera/lens under a large bath towel. Last saying the Ruggard Camera Cold Weather Parka, Oh and hand warmer, best invention for your camera! About the places just around 20 degrees but at night always wished for my old snowmobile suit and boots. Also just for info Oct. in Ga. is a week of very cold temps and second image a Feb, morning of 20 degree when cold front, the cloud bank below the MW with high winds Jacksonville Beach Fl.. Just come prepared.

Main reason they have those temps is because of moisture as camera and lenses are brought into a warmer area.

Put your camera and any other gear into zip lock bags before bringing in.

Don't have to wipe anything down.

Just leave them warm up for several hours.

One important point you may have inadvertently skipped is whilst the camera body is weather sealed when attached to weather sealed lenses, the ubiquitous little plastic body caps aren't weather sealed.
That means, fit your weather sealed lens before you go out and do not remove it until after the reaclimatizing process has been completed on your return.

Excellent cameras all of them! One could also consider the Pentax K-1 MkII. I've used the MkI in -25 Celsius (-13F) for a few hours. The manufacturer guarantees an internal temperature of -10 (14 degrees F). And the weather sealing is second to none, not even Olympus.

The GFX-50s, and GFX-100s both are tested working in -25 degrees Celsius for more than two hours. The LCD panel video refresh gets slower, but the camera continues. The shutter becomes slow after two hours of sub -25 exposure.

I have brought my Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III to quite harsh conditions, from rains, to high altitude freezing with storms, never had any problems, really great tool ...

Leica’s SL2 L-mount camera is rated down to 22 F and is weathersealed. Lumix S Pro lenses are also rated down to 14 F, and are also weathersealed.

I’ve used Canon’s EOS R5 to photograph dog mushers in the Colorado Rockies (Monarch Mountain), and it and the RF 70-200/2.8L IS worked great with no problems at below freezing temperatures, even though they’re only specified to 32 F. Of course, the Leica SL2 and Sigma 35mm f/2 DG DN Contemporary (rated to 14 F) I was also using worked great in the same cold environment. See https://www.markbohrerphoto.com/blog/mush

I don’t understand why you’re listing older cameras here. The OM System OM-1 (rated to 14 F, as are M. Zuiko Pro and Lumix Leica DG lenses it mounts) and EOS R5 (rated to 32 F only, but usable below that if you keep the battery warm enough) are both available used, and are among their respective manufacturers’ most recent and well-supported cameras.

DSLRs like the EOS 5D mk IV have an SLR mirror mechanism that may fail below min rated operating temperature. Mirrorless cameras with fewer moving parts are apt to be more reliable.

But none of this equipment is rated to the industrial IC temp range -40 - 85 C, much less the military -55 - 125 C range. You don’t get the full 0 - 70 C commercial range either, but it seems most camera manufacturers over-design their equipment at least a little. That shouldn’t be depended on though, which is a good reason to use equipment rated to the temperatures you’re encountering if you absolutely have to get the picture for a client or employer.

I’ve had the Canon 5D system for awhile mk2, mk3 and mk4. Obvi it’s a favorite of mine. I spent 28days in the western US in a roof top tent in 10F & 14F degree temps. My tempurpedic pillow even froze except where my head was. Camera and lenses on the MK4 were great. What wasn’t? External drives and MacBook. In retrospect, I should have brought them out of the vehicle and up top with me (slightly warmer). Pay attention to all your gear.

beside all the recommendations here, I should add, get good winter boots, no matter how rugged or sealed is you camera if you slip in the ice is game over of your gear and possibly some bones.