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A Sun Damage Concern

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  • A Sun Damage Concern

    I do not know if this has been asked or considered by anyone else, so please forgive me if I'm just being redundant.

    I have seen many panoramas which the sun, in a clear blue sky, is photographed directly. A perfect example is the banner photograph above. When shooting analog or film based photography, this is not normally an issue, but I have concerns over letting the sun ever enter the field of view of the imager chip. The impact does vary with the design of the digital camera, i.e. whether it employs a physical shutter or if the lens is always focusing light onto chip. Regardless, just as it is considered dangerous to visually gaze at the sun for risk of retinal damage, I do not want to put my camera at risk of degrading, destroying, or damaging the imager.

    In reviewing various camera manufacturers, I have never seen anything in the specifications regarding the absolute and accumulated damage thresholds, nor anything which define a safe exposure limit when the sun is in the field of view.

    Has anyone ever considered this issue and I would appreciate advice on properly protecting my camera from sun damage.

    Thank you in advance.

  • #2
    Re: A Sun Damage Concern

    I own a second-hand Sony camcorder that apparently has a 'burn' right in the center of the screen (chip). It didn't show up when I tested it, but it's worse in certain lighting conditions.

    It does happen.

    Edmonton, Canada, Eh ?


    • #3
      Re: A Sun Damage Concern

      Hi Steaphany,
      The image above was shot at f/12 with the 10.5mm Nikkor lens.
      It is my opinion that direct sunlight does not cause damage to a sensor, especially with wider angle lens and in doing panoramas. You are dealing with sensitive equipment however so I wouldn't have my camera stare at the sun with shutter open for an extended period of time (extreme overexposure). Cameras are built so they can be used outdoors in direct sunlight so I wouldn't worry much about these concerns.
      Here's the same question posted from another forum:


      • #4
        Re: A Sun Damage Concern

        Related to my post here, I have been researching an upgrade to my camera equipment. As overall image quality is my paramount concern, I have been leaning towards Sigma's SD14 dSLR which is one of the few camera manufacturers using the Foveon X3 14.1 imager chip. The Foveon X3 is technologically different from it's competitors since the color information is extracted by the intrinsic property of the silicon semiconductor material where wavelength absorption varies with depth, Blue being absorbed near the surface with Red being absorbed deepest. This means the imager does not rely on a Bayer mask of organic Green, Red, and Blue filters and the camera does not need to perform any color interpolation to reconstruct the "missing" information.

        For anyone interested in more information on the Foveon X3 technology, here are some links:

        Foveon X3 versus Bayer imager comparison -
        Foveon X3 Technology -
        Wikipedia page - Foveon X3 -
        Wikipedia page - Bayer Mask -

        Getting back to the subject of this thread, I submitted a inquiry to Foveon regarding the Sun Damage risks and they were kind enough to reply:

        Thank you for your inquiry. Unfortunately, we do not have specific technical data to answer the question of exactly what the maximum safe exposure would be for photographing the sun, or a scene with the sun in it. Anecdotally we can tell you that we have had literally thousands of images captured which do include a direct shot of the sun, and we have never seen or had a report of a damaged image sensor due to the sun's intensity. Certainly, the image sensor in the SD14 will be no worse,
        and likely better, than the image sensor in any other consumer SLR camera. Our sensors do not employ organic color filters, which are used by all other sensors and are susceptible to bright light damage from UV or heat much moreso than the silicon which performs the color filtering in our sensors. The Foveon sensor does employ a microlens array, like all other sensors, and the microlens array can be damaged by high heat or intense UV exposure over time.

        For any specific information on what the SD14 camera can tolerate as a whole, you should definitely contact Sigma directly, as we cannot speak for their product's environmental limitations. One other suggestion would be to inquire on the users group forum for the Sigma cameras at -- there is often a wealth of information here and the Sigma users community is usually very responsive to inquiries like yours.

        Again, thank you for your interest in Sigma's camera and our sensor technology, and best of luck.

        The Foveon Team


        • #5
          Re: A Sun Damage Concern

          Whilst the focused light of the sun can result in extreme heat. certainly enough to burn holes in a fabric shutters and distort metal ones,
          I have never heard of sensor Damage, though undoubtedly noise is increased with sensor temperature.

          If it was a substantial problem I am sure we would have all heard of cases of damaged sensors, and manufacturers would warn about it.

          Never the less, I always keep the time that the shutter and sensor are exposed to direct sun to the minimum, especially in live view.
          such precautions would seem to be worth taking.



          • #6
            Re: A Sun Damage Concern

            Originally posted by Terrywoodenpic View Post

            . . . . . If it was a substantial problem I am sure we would have all heard of cases of damaged sensors, and manufacturers would warn about it.
            Isn't it mentioned in the Warnings section of all your owner's manuals? It's in mine, along with the stuff about not using the battery changer while you're in the shower. . . .

            Edmonton, Canada, Eh ?


            • #7
              Re: A Sun Damage Concern

              True, but I always thought such disclaimers were a means to separate legal liability from potential customer stupidity and not based on the actually technology.


              • #8
                Re: A Sun Damage Concern

                But it might become an issue with cameras with Live-View though.
                The sensor is used to produce the Live-View information and when
                direct sun is fallen onto the sensor for a much longer amount of time, I could imagine a damage then.

                I use the Live-View function very carefully and try not to expose the cam to direct sunlight too long- just a short glare - if any.