Watch the northern lights captured in real time in 4K


Fully expecting overwrought music accompanying the video, I hesitated to click the link.
“The World’s Very First REAL-TIME Northern Lights Captured in 4K”? Really? Is that provable or necessary click-bait?

I suppose adding the “not-time-lapse” qualifier (or many other qualifiers) can make it true, eh?

/maybe I just feel particularly curmudgeonly today…

1 Like

Super, if you have a 4K display to watch it on (and watch it from a viewing distance where you can actually tell the difference)


The real time aspect is important to me. Having never seen them, I really have no concept of how quickly they change. As far as I can tell, pretty much everyone shoots them in time-lapse mode, although many posted videos are silent on this aspect. What drove me nuts about this particular video was how the camera kept being carried around. Why?

I’m also driven nuts by TV coverage of fireworks where they keep fading between cameras and angles…or do they? Fireworks fade of their own accord, so it can be really hard to to tell.

Set up in the best vantage point you can and just leave it. Grab a beer or something but stop trying to sex-up these things with “cinematography”.


Well, it is certainly my first time I could see both the real-time aspect of the show, and the fast-changing fine structures at the edges of the “curtains” that are usually averaged-out, blurred by the timelapse aspect (forced by low light sensitivity of normal image sensors).

A 4k camera with this light sensitivity is quite a marvel.

Yeah, this is one of those things that is sometimes disappointing about watching videos of the Northern Lights instead of being able to see them in person. One of the most magical things about them is the way they shift - so slowly sometimes that you wonder if it is moving and then you see they have moved before you realize it. It’s really worth the trip to Alaska to see them in person, though you’ll have to do it in the winter…

1 Like

Ya, I haven’t seen them in about 20 years. The videos just don’t do them justice – instead of satisfying my appetite, they just leave me wanting…

He said, "Girl, you're a beauty like I've never witnessed And I've seen the Northern Lights dance in the air
1 Like

The Sony a7S body Ronn uses for this clip is well known for great low light captures, though I had never seen one used in such low temperatures before.

Is there any reason to believe that camera stop working in winter? -18°C isn’t particularly cold, and if expensive pro-grade cameras stopped working in that weather there would be big problems.

Batteries. Differential thermal expansion (though that’s usually a small problem and more likely to manifest at out-of-specs thermal cycling as fatigue cracks or package debonding). Lubricants in mechanical parts. Possibly more.

I’m not sure the A7S is really “pro grade”. “Prosumer grade,” maybe.

My experience chasing the aurora is that the camera and lens will work just fine* but the batteries really struggle as the temperature falls.

  • although misting if you’re getting in and out of the car can be a real pain - you can guarantee your lens is fogged just as the lights get to their best.
1 Like

Have you ever seen a picture taken in the cold? This alone would suggest that cameras actually do tend to work in winters. That these pictures have existed for a long time suggests that solutions to many of your problems have also existed for a long time.

Battery life isn’t really a camera issue, and Lithium batteries are relatively immune to the problem (Alkalines were much worse). Lubrication is unlikely to be an issue given the few moving parts in digital cameras and the reliance on electronic shutters when shooting video.

Well, the A7S is about as pro a camera as exists in the format.

The “prosumer” label seems more of an enthusiast label, than anything. For example, Nikon considers many “prosumer” bodies to be professional bodies for the purposes of NPS membership: current “professional” bodies include the D300, D600, and D700.

It’s a fantastic camera, and pretty much the best mirrorless camera you can get (and I would love to get one, except for the insane cost of Sony lenses). But yes, I’m using the definition of “pro grade” that would be used by enthusiasts, as opposed to professional organizations. Particularly coming down to things like build quality, shock and weather resistance, etc.

Depends on what cameras, what winters, for how long. Usually it can be done. We get limited amount of information about failures as the pictures are missing (d’oh) and there are only some blog posts.

Given that battery is part of the camera as a whole system, and critical for the system’s ability to perform, I would say that battery life is a camera issue. (Though you can cheat this with external battery packs hidden under your winter jacket, if it turns to be a problem.) See also the complaints about smartphone batteries in cold weather.

See tests here:

(Smartphones, but electronics including the battery chemistry is pretty similar to cameras.)

Also consider that some parts, notably electrolytic capacitors, have performance that is very strongly temperature-dependent, and the electrolytic caps in particular are prone to reversible loss of capacitance at low temperatures.

See also extreme winter photography tips here:


Just how close do you think Aurora are, and how much AF do you think is even being used in this sort of situation?

Batteries are not integrated, as they are on an iPhone, but are swappable. Carry a few spares in your pocket and there’s no problem. With a fresh battery I doubt there’s any problem for at least a couple of hours, especially since -18 isn’t that cold. Back in the day when my SLR ran on AA Alkalines, I’ve had my camera die in the cold. Not with AA lithiums, and it’s never been an issue with my DSLR and a couple of spares.

But seriously, if you think that a $2,500 camera works in -18°C weather is some sort of noteworthy feat, you should be astonished that these cameras are sold in Russia, Canada, Scandinavia, Alaska, etc., or that photographers have been managing to take pictures in the winter for decades.

We get limited amount of information about camera failures, and only some blog posts? If cameras were non-functional at -20°, the information available about the failure would not be limited, and more than “only some blog posts” would be written. Try Googling “d600 dust sensor,” a problem which only affected a small percentage of users.

The camera powers up, tries to move the lens, fails with lens error. Voila, the whole camera is unusable. (Workaround would be to keep it on manual focus. Failure mode presence also depends on the firmware.)

Unless you have the cam on a tripod outside while you are inside of a house/tent/car in warmth waiting for the lights. Of course you can put the batteries to the cam later, though.

The low-temperature performance is not that much astonishing, though it is certainly somewhat noteworthy.

The astonishing thing is the light sensitivity of the sensor, as the Northern Lights displays tend to be quite faint.

Seems to be at least somewhat true. I wonder about the actual reliability of the equipment under such conditions, though. I see a number of problems possible.

The low amount of complaints may be because of people expecting the cameras to not work, so underreporting the malfunctions. Or they may actually be rare. More data needed. Maybe we could prod the Finns to repeat the phone test with cameras?

You have absolutely no idea how these cameras are designed or function, do you?

Yes, it’s noteworthy that a camera works in the cold. That’s why I see it noted in almost every single cold-weather photograph ever taken.

I see a number of problems possible with digital cameras, period. Maybe we don’t get many complaints because nobody expects them to work, and just under-report the malfunctions.

Then again, if someone did report problems you would also dismiss them as problems, as you have suggested that wearing a tactical vest and carrying lead-acid batteries is a viable and reasonable solution to powering consumer electronics.

The D300 isn’t made anymore, the D600 is the cheapest full frame camera Nikon makes , with a focusing system designed for a crop sensor, and the D700 has been replaced by the D800 and variants.

Plus, you’re missing the Nikon D3, D4 etc, which are the “most pro” of nikon’s lineup.

I have fairly decent idea. I however do not operate one on a routine basis, being content with the compacts and subcompacts that fit my needs.

I also admit being spoiled with the knowledge (rough but there) of mil/aerospace electronics design and the appropriate caveats as of work in extreme conditions.

It is good to know the conditions under which the devices are known to successfully operate. -18C is quite low in the middle-Europe. Not unknown but also not common.

Ask any service, and you’ll see a lot of complaints. Look at the offers of spare parts, that would be completely unnecessary if there were no problems.

There are always problems. Most of them are routine.

I DID THAT! And I did that for many years, day by day, which I wouldn’t be doing if it was uncomfortable. I am a living proof that it was viable even before the age of Li-ion power banks. The popularity of said power banks (see even some posts here on BB) for powering cellphones and other stuff on-the-go is a testament to me being right here, may years (late 90’s) ago.

If you want, I can take the photo of the battery I used to use, if I find it. (I should be able to. It is dead now, though, as SLAs have limited life.)

So what?

My point is that “prosumer” is a label used mainly by enthusiast amateurs, not by pros. The D300, D600, and D700 were all considered “prosumer” by those who use the label. Despite being old, and being “prosumer,” NPS considers them pro bodies. Does it matter that even better, non-“prosumer” bodies are also considered pro?

OK, let me know what interchangeable-lens camera racks focus on startup and becomes completely inoperable if it can’t.

I know you did that. So since we could wear a lead-acid battery, how could any “problem”—if one actually existed—with the A7S’s battery be considered a problem?