How To Stop Camera Lenses Fogging Up
AKA how to keep your lenses warm!
Without doubt one of the major annoyances when filming or photographing fireworks is finding that your lenses are fogging up, due to a combination of cold and moisture. It can ruin video and photos, more so as you often don’t realise it has started until it’s too late.
Whilst wiping your lenses is an immediate solution, that can complicate shooting further by disturbing focus, if you had that set to manual.
This is also a problem that can happen at any time of the year – even in summer – and none of the solutions put forwards by other photographers have worked for me, including acclimatising gear beforehand.
What we need then is a solution that keeps your lenses warm but ideally does not require power, does not disturb your filming too much and is good value for money. I think I have found such a solution! It’s to use disposable hand warmers such as “Little Hotties”, widely available for example from Amazon. In this article I’ll show you how.
Watch the video
My video on keeping your lenses warm explains what Little Hotties are and how to use them. You can also scroll further down for a written guide.
Introducing "Little Hotties" hand warmers
I first came across these over a decade ago whilst filming and photographing professional firework displays in the winter. These involved long periods (more than 6 hours in some cases) of standing around after setting up had completed, waiting for the display to start. My hands and feet were getting very cold!
So I had a look on Amazon and found “Little Hotties” hand warmers (plus a smaller version you can put in your boots to keep your toes warm). These, used as intended, were brilliant and my cold fingers were sorted.
At the same time, I had for several years been struggling with the problem of my lenses fogging up, either before or during filming. UK winters are both cold and damp, but even in the summer, misting up was an issue if the ground was damp and there was no wind. In some cases I lost a good deal of video or photos because it’s hard to see on a screen if misting up has started – often you only notice when it’s too late. So my whole setting up and filming ritual was punctuated by frequent trips around to the front of my lens with a torch and much paranoia.
None of the “tried and tested” solutions worked including acclimatisation and lens coatings. Figuring that I need to keep the lens warm, one night I made the leap and decided, more out of desperation I think, to attach some of these hand warmers to my lens barrel with an elastic band. To my delight, it worked, and I haven’t looked back!
They work simply by removing them from the packet and shaking them. Contact with the air starts a chemical reaction and within minutes they’re well over 30C. They stay warm for hours too, making them suitable for other kinds of night work such as astrophotography.
Typical costs are around 30p to 50p each depending on the pack size you buy.
Attaching them to your lens
I use elastic bands but there’s no reason you couldn’t try another technique. You just need to keep them in contact with your lens barrel. With longer lenses this is quite easy, with shorter lenses such as pancake kit lenses, you may end up covering your focus or zoom rings. In that case, some trial and error is needed to find the best position for them.
With perseverance it’s possible to to use most kinds of lenses with one or two hand warmers attached. My Nikon kit lens for example (16-50mm) is a tiny pancake lens but it’s possible to still use it with a hand warmer attached.
These can be placed next to action cameras too. I’ve used one to keep a GoPro warm during a milky way time lapse.
Potential problems using hand warmers on camera lenses
I haven’t run into any major issues using these as yet and they have been very successful. I would stress that they don’t appear to be in any way weatherproof so I would avoid using these in the rain.
You should also be careful not to get the corners of the bags in shot when using very wide angle lenses. It’s easy to do.
Really the main problem is with small lenses and trying to work around the hand warmers if also using a zoom ring or similar. However I can assure you with some practice it’s definitely possible!
A cheap and widely available product, these hand warmers (and I am sure, any similar type of product) works surprisingly well to keep camera lenses warm and reduce or prevent fogging up. They’ve certainly made life a lot easier for me and for the low cost of trying them, I recommend them to any other photographer or videographer shooting in conditions that have caused fogging up problems.
And keep in mind I am not an Amazon affiliate and am not financially incentivised to recommend this product, I do so based on my positive experiences with them.
Do you have a good tip to help prevent lenses misting up? Let me know, as I’d love to try it.
Lens warmers - Quick FAQ
I recommend a disposable hand warmer, as this is a cheap and easy way to keep a lens warm while shooting. Attach it with an elastic band.
In my experience, no, it made no difference and just added an extra level of hassle and time to setting up. Moisture still came from the environment (and my breathing) and still condensed on the lens.
In my experience, Little Hotties hand warmers offer great heat, long duration and very low cost. They also don't need charging, unlike an electrically powered lens sleeve.