Cold weather wide-angle re-hash


Sep 12, 2012
I have searched the threads and seen this issue danced around a bit... but not the exact issue discussed (as far as I could find).

I'm planning a trip to Trømso (northern Norway) in February 2017. I've got a handful of good-ish lens choices, but I'd like to hear what the group thinks. My main photographic goal at the time will be to photograph the (almost-everpresent) night sky if/when it's clear and the northern lights are active.

Of course, fast and wide are important. However, I think cold and moist are also a realistic concern. So with those factors in mind here's what we have available today.

  • 5Ds R: Really my only choice for main body. Seems a better option than the 7Dii for light capture, wide angle, resolution, etc.
  • Rokinon 14mm f/2.8: Would probably be the best option for combination of wide-angle, fast-ish lens, low-coma. But there's that pesky issue of lack of weather sealing. I would imagine I'd be putting myself in great danger of trashing my equipment in those conditions without a weather-sealed system.
  • 16-35mm f/2.8 L ii: We all know the issues with this lens. Good stopped down, not great wide open. It is weather sealed though!
  • 16-35mm f/4 L IS: Not fast, but weather sealed and relatively sharp wide open.
  • Sigma Art 24mm f/1.4: Again not weather sealed but a nice combination or relatively wide and quite fast.
  • 24-70mm f/2.8 L ii: Neither the widest nor the fastest lens of the bunch. But it's weather sealed, has good coma performance, and I swear my copy is the sharpest lens I own. It consistently amazes me how much detail I can get with this one on a tripod.

I've gone back and forth about upgrading to the 16-36mm f/2.8L iii. However, I'm really happy with the f/4 IS version that it seems like a much lower priority right now. Not ready to pull that trigger yet.

Anyway - I'd appreciate anyone's perspective on the best choice for this situation, taking both performance and equipment into consideration.

Speaking of weather-sealing. I hear the extreme cold makes the battery life decrease dramatically. I've got plenty of authentic Canon batteries to keep the camera going. But how to change the batteries without completely negating all that concern about keeping the camera weather-sealed? I'd appreciate any advice you may have on how to handle this.

Thanks as always!


one eye; one shot - multiple misses
Oct 4, 2011
Never been to that area, but having done many snowshoeing hikes here in Oregon where I live, been to Nepal, and hiked in Patagonia, I will say that changing a battery while outside is the least of your concerns - well, aside getting the finger tips cold for a little bit
While outside (assuming you will overnight in a warm hotel room), keep batteries inside your deeper jacket's pocket (read closer to your body).
The biggest issue will be condensation - bringing the camera from and to the warm hotel room. Some people leave the equipment in the car, or in a colder room if available, removing the batteries only.
A large zip lock bag and some silica packets will help for the transition to and from.
LCDs may have issues in extreme cold temperatures, and some buttons/switches might not operate as smooth - and so you will not. Remember to protect yourself properly too...otherwise you won't be able to stay outside for too long.
You can/could somewhat wrap a warm wool sweater around camera and lens, while shooting with a tripod, but remember to wrap your tripod legs too if not a CF one.
So, yes, cold will affect battery life, bu tit's a minor issue - keep them warm, and switch them often, once you see charging level dropping too fast. I have experienced that - a battery almost drained coming back to life after kept warm for a while :)
Consider buying a grip - not sure if the one for the 5Dsr allows for a 2AA battery caddie ( the grip on my older 5D2 has that, which means one can use lithium batteries in a emergency, and they do perform better in cold conditions too.

Regarding your lens lineup:
Yes, for the Rokinon 14mm
Yes for the Canon 24-70mm
now nothing about the sigma - the canon version is very good tough
The 16-35 f4IS as no advantage on a tripod; so if you don't need the 16-24 range for night shots, the IS will be indeed better during the day.
the weather sealed issue:
avoid changing lenses outside...
keep lenses inside a small neoprene bag when not in use
get a a dslr rain sleeve:
OP/TECH USA 18" Rainsleeve
there are others more expensive and robust, but there ones do the job

ps: get a comfortable headlamp with red light
ps2: if you tripod allows, get spiked or claw feet
ps3: convertible mittens work the best, but I still wear a smartwool base layer set under, as they are thin enough and still warm for a short cold fingers exposing while changing the battery
ps4: consider carrying a worthy p&S too

Look on threads for trips in Iceland and ...south pole

Mt Spokane Photography

I post too Much on Here!!
Mar 25, 2011
Weather Sealing is not a issue, but I agree with NWPhil, take proper steps to eliminate condensation. No matter which weather sealing you have, warm moist air can enter a camera and lens, then condense and freeze.


Aug 26, 2012
Weather sealing on the 5D MK III & 5dsR can be an issue if your in snow/rain, dust, so be aware.

I've had issues with both these cameras in the past in particular with melting snow on the camera/lens, if rain/snow looks like being an issue, I'de suggest a good quality cover, lots available.

I use these and am totally happy with them, both in Arctic/Desert conditions.

After several trips to the Arctic/Svalbard & Antarctic area, Batteries will be an issue, not sure what temperatures you will have in the area your visiting, but count on the fact that your batteries will last about a third of their normal time, take at least 4 Batteries for a days shoot.

The 5 Series Batteries last a lot shorter time than the 1 Series Batteries.

Take normal precautions when changing the batteries.

Get yourself some finger free Gloves, one of the best "extras" I've encountered for Photographing in Cold Conditions.

Have Fun ;)


Nov 25, 2015
Definitely take the f/4 IS 16-35

TBH I have no idea why people even consider buying other wide angle lenses for Canon! It is cheap, light, weather sealed, SHARP AS HECK, and has IS.

The 2.8 versions (at least I and II) do not compare in image quality to the f4 version.
Why Canon even released a III of the 2.8 surprises me, as it doesn't have IS, is a lot heavier and more expensive, and will maybe equal the IQ of the f4.

Just take the f/4 and you will be more than happy.


Aug 29, 2015
I live in Norway and have been up to the Lofoten Islands etc.. my best advice would be take the 24-70 2.8 and the 24mm 1.4 as well as the 16-35mm f4 that combo will be perfect mix of weather sealed and low light, weather wise in the winter the snow isn't as much of a problem as rain would be as it's easier to wipe off and having used my 1DX and 5DS in these conditions the past year haven't had any problems yet.

Battery life is shorter yes but not much of a problem i've found, on a single 5D battery If I turn the camera on and off when not shooting lasts me 2-3 days, but best tip is keep it inside a bag that you can tie around your neck that hangs in front on your chest then cover it in a jumper and your jacket over.

The real weather problem in the north of Norway is the wind, it can get so windy at times that I worry about rocks or gravel hitting the camera is lens so keep an eye out for that, ALSO NEVER take your camera straight out of the bag when coming back into a warm car or house, the condensation will really fuck the camera up after a while.


Feb 22, 2015
changing the batteries out in the cold shouldn't be a problem. remember that cold air holds very little moisture. when you come back in doors, remember not to open the camera at all until it has warmed up to room temperature. a cold camera in a warm room is when you'll get condensation.


Sep 12, 2012
Thanks for all the great advice.

I'll definitely make sure I have enough silica desiccants on the trip.

I was surprised there was not more concern about having a weather-sealed lens. Regardless, I suppose it's best to pick one lens to use and stick to it, rather than going back and forth with equipment at different temperatures.

I also appreciate the advice about the personal equipment. I'll definitely make sure I don't go unprepared. One nice thing is that we will be staying in a cabin out in the middle of nowhere... So I can pop outside when conditions are good, and pop inside when conditions are not ideal. Didn't want to have to spend all night outside just hoping for decent shooting conditions.

Still having to think about the right lens though...


Sep 12, 2012
aa_angus said:
Just take the f/4 and you will be more than happy.
I hear you on the 16-35mm f/4 IS. I recently took a trip to Bavaria without it and instantly regretted leaving it at home. It is the closest thing I can find to an indispensable lens in my collection. But I worry that the 5DsR will need a fast lens to compensate for its high-ISO shortcomings (I'd like to keep the pics fairly high-resolution).

Thanks for the feedback.


Nov 15, 2014
About battery life, I keep my batteries in a pocket inside my jacket, so they stay warm as long as possible. Helps my battery life a lot. Now if I were shooting mirrorless I might need more batteries than my pockets would allow.
As to changing them, I wouldn't worry unless you find yourself outside in a terrible wind blizzard. ;)


If only I knew what I was doing.....
Sep 8, 2012
FWIW, ++++1 on all mentioned above.

To put this into perspective, years ago I was in the Yukon in February with a Rebel (XTi, I think) and an EF-S 10-22. While dogsledding in the cold, the camera actually stopped working which scared me. But, after about 10 minutes of coming into a warm room (absolutely do use the plastic bag to eliminate condensation during temperature change or the water in the camera and lens will freeze), it came back to life using the same battery. I can only guess that the inner moving parts of the camera froze.

Two nights later, we were out shooting the Aurora in 31 below. The same camera was on a tripod with the same lens. Every 10 minutes or so, I'd wrap it in the plastic bag and bring it into a warmer environment (basically a tent with a space heater but warmer than outside), to let both the camera and me warm up, then go back out and take some more photos. We did this over about 3 hours and I only changed the battery once.

That camera remained in use for about two more years with no issues that I could detect.

That was a Rebel without any weather sealing so I can only presume that your equipment would be even better in the cold. Protect against condensation (a P&S once fogged up when leaving an air-conditioned hotel lobby to go outside into the warm air in Florida!), keep your batteries warm, and definitely protect your fingers!

I really love my 16-35 f/4. This ought to be wide enough considering I got some decent shots on an APS-C with a 10-22. Wider might be better, of course. If you are on a tripod, anything faster is probably not necessary.

Have a great trip.
Nov 24, 2016
Hello there!

First time poster here, so please be kind. :)

I'm not in the fortune situation of owning a WA-collection as the OP does, but looking for an upgrade of my 17-40 on a 6D and thus considered most of the listed lenses. What is of importance for me:
  • I do mostly landscapes (mainly sunset and sunrise but also starry things) + some familiy stuff.
  • I would like to keep the number of my lenses small. Usually take WA-zoom, 50 1.8 or 50 2.5 and a 70-200 4.
Here is what I think:

Rok/Sam 14 2.8: Seems to offer a lot of bang for the buck, but filtering is.. meh. In cold/condensing environments I often wipe the front element / UV filter. Might scratch the front element, bc no UV filter possible. No zoom :). No/basic exif.

16-35mm f/2.8 L II: Fast, filterable, sealed + nice sunstars. Poor corners unless stopped down, so no upgrade in IQ.

16-35mm f/4 L IS: Filterable, sealed, kind of cheap / grat bang for the buck, much better image quality, especially in the corners. I never really missed IS on my 17-40, because I usually use a tripod anyway or need a fast shutter speed to stop the action. No upgrade in "fastness".

Sigma Art 24mm f/1.4: Haven't considered this / no opinion.

24-70mm f/2.8 L ii: If I could only own one lens at all, maybe. But not wide enough. Wideangle is my bread and butter.

16-35mm f/2.8 L II: Seems to be the "eierlegende Wollmilchsau" BUT the strong vignetting reported elswhere, reduces it to a 2.8 in the center and 4 in the corners. So it is 3 times the price of the 16-35mm f/4 L IS, but only faster in the center... This was really diappointing for me, because I didn't want to upgrade my 17-40 to the 16-35 2.8 before the version III.

Now I am torn between better image quality of the 16-35mm f4 L IS and the low light capabilities of the 16-35mm f/2.8 L II. Prices seem to be similar for a new f4 vs used f2.8 now.

Can't make my mind, yet. Help would really be appreciated.



P.S.: Thanks a lot for all the helpful information and discussions I read over the past 2+ years. Great forum!


Jul 3, 2014
Paris - France
CANONisOK said:
I was surprised there was not more concern about having a weather-sealed lens. Regardless, I suppose it's best to pick one lens to use and stick to it, rather than going back and forth with equipment at different temperatures.
Well, from my experience, you won't go out by -20c° if the skies are not clear. So really, all you need is to make sure your camera and lens don't get too much condensation on it when coming back to the hotel.
So no, weathersealing is not that important for aurora hunting in Norway.

Another way to look at it is :
Sammy 14 : what can happen to it ? There's no electronic, the aperture blades are easily accessible if you need to access them...
Canon Ls : they're weathersealed, so not much worries there...
Sigma Art : Not weathersealed, but extremely well constructed. Never had an issue with my 24-35 f/2.
So... weathersealing with that kind of lenses is pretty much a moot point as long as you don't submerge the lenses or shoot for a few hours under heavy rain (both of which are pretty improbable in Tromso in February...)

As for the lens choice : When I go aurora hunting, i'll take 2 lenses : The sammy 14 because, as stated before, it's a marvelous little optical gem and it's quite cheap and it's purely mechanical... And the Sigma 24-35 f/2 Art, because sometimes you don't need to go to 14mm (if the aurora is smallish, if the foreground is important, if you want a straight horizon...) and it's another optical gem.

I'll try to avoid changing lenses in the field, have no trouble walking back to the car to do it when I need to.
Take care of the wind, keep warm, get very light silk gloves to go under your ski gloves and keep your hands warm when you're setting the camera up. Better yet, get the Canon Connect App and stay in the car when you're cold.

Enjoy your trip and good luck with the weather !


Busted Knuckles

Enjoy this breath and the next
Oct 2, 2013
+10 on Djaaf. Seems about right. You might consider renting either/both the 24-35 and/or the 20 1.4.

When are you going to return and get a 2nd swipe at the shots? Couple hundred on rented lenses seems to be a worthy investment.


Aug 4, 2013
CANONisOK said:
aa_angus said:
Just take the f/4 and you will be more than happy.
I hear you on the 16-35mm f/4 IS. I recently took a trip to Bavaria without it and instantly regretted leaving it at home. It is the closest thing I can find to an indispensable lens in my collection. But I worry that the 5DsR will need a fast lens to compensate for its high-ISO shortcomings (I'd like to keep the pics fairly high-resolution).

Thanks for the feedback.
I wouldn't sweat it... Attached shot 16-35 F4L handheld on a 5DSr, (about 20 degrees (F) outside, not that it really matters) from just a few weeks ago. It's a low res file, I know, but it holds up fine in a larger print and is obviously ok on the web. With a wide angle like this, even on the 5DSR you don't need a lot of shutter speed to stay sharp. Have a great trip,and good luck with your decision :)