This is what happens when you try to intentionally overheat your cameras
Overheating is a common issue for some photographers and filmmakers (especially filmmakers). Certain brands have been pretty notorious for it, while others seem to handle things just fine. In this video, Gene Nagata (AKA Potato Jet) throws a bunch of different DSLR, mirrorless, cinema and action cameras into an incubator at their maximum claimed operational temperature (40°C or 104°F) to see just how long it takes for them to overheat and shut down.
Gene begins the video by explaining his process and the conditions he’s attempting to simulate (coming from a cool air-conditioned room to the hot outdoors). The operational temperature of most cameras seems to be 0-40°C (32-104°F), which isn’t an unreasonable range for many parts of the world.
The first camera tested is a Sony A6600. Now, Sony’s no stranger to overheating issues, and with the A6500 it looks like they’d been resolved. But the A6600 showed some rather interesting results. Gene ran the overheating test three times with each camera.
- From a cold air-conditioned room, straight into the 104°F incubator and hit record
- Leave the turned-off camera in the 104°F heat for an hour, and then hit record
- Leave the turned-off camera in the 104°F heat for another hour, and then hit record
Somewhat disappointingly, the Sony A6600 overheated from a cold start in a mere 22 minutes. But what was interesting were the second and third tests. After leaving the camera in the 104° heat for an hour after the initial overheat, it recorded for 43 minutes. After leaving it in there for another hour, it went on to record for 59 minutes.
It’s confusing, but I think I might have a possible explanation. This could be completely wrong, but it’s an idea. Switching to the completely different topic of 3D printers. The hot end on a 3D printer, through which molten plastic is extruded, can reach temperatures of 200-260°C depending on the type of material you’re printing. The build surface upon which you print also regular heats up to 50-100°C, again depending on the material.
Most 3D printers have some kind of overheat protection, and one specific part of that is called thermal runaway. If the temperatures of the hot end or heated bed increase rapidly, outside of the set parameters, the overheating protection kicks in and the whole thing shuts off and starts cooling back down. A gradual steady temperature climb, however, which is the desired result, means everything gets up to temperature and it prints as normal.
I wonder if Sony has implemented something similar into the Sony A6600 (and possibly other cameras), which looks at the current temperature vs the temperature when it started recording. A rapid climb like going from an air-conditioned room into 104°F temperatures kicks in the warning and shuts it off early because it’s climbing rapidly, however, a camera already at 104°F takes longer to switch off because it’s a fairly consistent temperature across the duration of the recording?
It may be something else entirely, but it might explain why there is such variability in the overheating reports from users with various Sony cameras. If this is the case, the trick is to simply let your camera acclimate to the warmer temperatures when going from the cool indoors to the warm outside before hitting record.
With other cameras, Gene observed some very different results, with certain cameras seemingly impossible to get to overheat. The complete list looks a little something like this.
- Sony A6600 (with and without the LCD flipped out)
- Canon EOS R
- Canon EOS 90D
- Canon EOS M6 Mark II
- Canon C300 Mark II
- Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K (with both internal and external batteries)
- Sony FS7
- GoPro Hero 8 Black
- DJI Osmo Action
Some of the results were somewhat unexpected. The Canon EOS R and EOS 90D, for example, had no issues whatsoever and just kept on recording no matter what. The EOS M6 Mark II, on the other hand, would shut off after 50 minutes regardless of whether it was starting from a cold air-conditioned room or a pre-heated 104°F.
It might seem a little extreme to cook your cameras in an incubator, but knowing how your gear handles certain conditions can be extremely useful to know, especially if you regularly shoot in warmer climates. And Gene did keep the temperatures within the limits of the manufacturer’s claims (mostly).
Do you have overheating issues with your camera? What camera is it?
John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.