Tough Cameras - Ice Test
As if the preceding tests weren't tough enough, each camera next had to face being frozen in a block of ice overnight. Using a standard domestic freezer and individual cartons full or water (or, indeed, ice), each model was tested to roughly -5°, well above the -10° maximum limit each model advertises and should therefore pose no problems to these cameras.
At this point in the test all the models were showing plenty of war wounds, although none had failed to power on. It became clear that the test was turning into something of a two-horse race between the impressive yet chunky Panasonic FT2 which, after minor problems involving its mode dial, had excelled in the underwater test, and the Pentax W90, which had performed extremely well in each test and was showing the least amount of damage. Following on behind was the Fujifilm XP10, which had survived the drop test in impressive fashion and produced some decent images when given the chance, and the Sony TX5, which was showing far more damage but still took excellent photos.
As the cameras were encased in a fairly thick layer of ice there was no chance of using them while frozen, leaving this particular of the test to reach its nail-biting conclusion. This test would bring into play a number of aspects relating to the cameras' extreme weather performance, from the ability of the controls to avoid freezing to the performance of the battery. As low temperatures tend to dissipate the charge at a far faster rate, each camera was fully powered up when frozen to ensure no model had an unfair advantage. Sealing the battery and memory card from any external harm is one of the most important facets for these cameras to get right, as not every potential issue will be as obvious as seawater or sand. Moisture can just as easily filter into an unsealed area and ruin battery and memory card contacts, potentially rendering a camera useless.
The second part to this test was focused on each camera's ergonomics, as the cold would not only affect the camera, but the user as well. Having buttons frozen stiff and unuseable would be the most obvious failure for the compacts, but controls either too small or difficult to operate when fingers are icy-cold was also a potential major mishap.