International travel always creates some complications especially when you are travelling around the world, luggage restrictions, security, x-rays and their effect on film but I found one more big concern when planning a trip to Hokkaido, Japan during the winter and that was the cold.
Hokkaido has a brutal winter there is 3-4ft of snow over everything, we experienced temperatures down to -17°C plus a vicious wind chill, driving is difficult to say the least with sheet ice roads and whiteouts (but thats a story for another time). I knew I was perfectly capable, with the correct gear of surviving these temperatures however I was slightly more concerned about my Canon EOS 5D Mark II, which lists in its instruction manual a minimum operating temperature of 0°C. This gave me some concerns when planning the trip I didn’t want to go all the way to Japan to have my camera freeze up, that would not have been good.
I then started thinking about taking a second camera, I ruled out another Canon EOS 5D Mark II because if one failed due to the cold the second would no doubt follow suit. So after much thought I decided the best idea was to take a camera that would not be effected by the cold and what better than a Hasselblad 501c, despite running the x-ray and film risk and having hand luggage that was probably twice the weight I was allowed it seemed to at least give me a backup option in case the cold weather did cause a problem.
So how did the Canon EOS 5D Mark II cope in these conditions, well during the two week trip it never put a foot wrong. It got battered by the wind, covered in snow, dripping wet, went from a warm car to the sub zero temperatures and still nothing caused it the slightest problem. There were no performance issues to speak of, the battery life was only slightly reduced and a battery still lasted a days shooting including some long exposures, sometimes a second was needed but given that I took four with me that didn’t really worry me.
Another concern when photographing in very cold temperatures can be the problem with lenses especially problems like condensation when moved between warm and cold environments. I used the same lens throughout the trip and that was a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM which is without a doubt the best lens I have ever owned its sharpness and contrast is epic and had no problems coping with the harsh Japanese winter.
So what’s the result, in my opinion Canon have been a little safe with their figures. The combination of a Canon EOS 5D Mark II with a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM will easily survive sub zero conditions, snow, moisture and anything else winter can throw at it. One word of caution would be that when changing lenses make sure the camera and lenses have acclimatised to the conditions as condensation could cause a issue here. Oh and as a final thought the Hasselblad worked without fault, as you would have expected.