Effect on the CCD of shooting a picture with the sun in it

Discussion in 'Digital Cameras' started by AK, Aug 25, 2004.

  1. AK

    AK Guest

    Does anyone know if the CCD can be damaged if one shoots a picture which
    includes a direct view of the sun - e.g., a landscape at sunset, with
    everything fairly dark, and the sun much brighter and not reduced on
    brightness because the lens is fully open to account for the dark scenery?
    I.e. - can you burn out the CCD cells in the area that captures the very
    bright sun image?

    AK, Aug 25, 2004
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  2. AK

    Arty Facting Guest

    Hey! That's a good idea!

    Let's know how you get on

    Arty Facting, Aug 25, 2004
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  3. Alan,

    If you leave the sensor exposed too long, the colour filter is likely to
    be the first thing to go, resulting in pink spots or bands in images I
    have seen.

    A quick 1/30s at sunset, plus framing (watch your eyes!), no problem.
    Midday sun left for several seconds may be another matter, but your eyes
    couldn't stans that either.

    In normal use - no problem.

    David J Taylor, Aug 25, 2004
  4. AK

    AK Guest

    Thanks for the HELPFUL response.


    AK, Aug 26, 2004
  5. AK

    Alan Meyer Guest

    Question 1 for Ron or anyone:

    If you compose the shot using the LCD on the camera back
    are you exposing the CCD to the sun the whole time you are

    Question 2:

    Does anyone know that CCDs really will be damaged?
    There are lots of things, including photosensitive
    things like solar panels, that aren't damaged by hours
    of direct sunlight. It's not obvious to me that, just because
    a CCD is photosensitive, that it will be damaged by sunlight.

    Does someone have the facts on this as opposed to
    theory or speculation?

    Alan Meyer, Aug 26, 2004
  6. Do a search at google's advanced newsgroup search engine, in the
    newsgroup sci.astro.amateur A couple years back this issue was
    discussed to death, with some detailed information on the energy
    level in each photon, the thermal-sink properties of CCD chips, the
    melting point of the substrates used in the bayer filter array, etc.
    on ad-infinauseum. If I remember correctly, in summary: yes, the CCD
    can be damaged by prolonged exposure to the sun (the bayer filter
    layer being destroyed long before the CCD is damaged), but this
    depends not only on the position of the sun in the sky (morning and
    evening sun-light causing less chance for damage), the CCD model in
    question, the duration of exposure (many minutes), but also the
    focal length of the lens in front of it -- longer lenses providing a
    larger image of the sun on the chip, spreading out the energy to
    lower levels, wide-angle large aperture lenses providing the most
    chance for damage because it focuses the radiation (sun's image)
    into just a few pixel areas and the heat-sink properties of the CCD
    cannot dissipate it fast enough.

    (deal with the run-on sentence, I'm in no mood to edit it)

    Don't worry about it for casual picture taking, but don't leave your
    camera's lenses (either the main lens or the EVF lens) pointed at
    the sun for more than a few minutes or so. The LCD layer inside of
    an EVF display is much more prone to having a hole burnt into it by
    the sun on the back of the camera than the CCD chip through the main
    lens. It's something that few think about when laying their camera
    down on a picnic-table to catch that frisbee for a couple minutes.
    When putting my camera down for a few minutes I have a knee-jerk
    habit of turning my camera's body 90 degrees to the shadow it casts.
    If it's for an extended time then it goes back in the camera bag or
    I make sure I throw a coat or something over it so the heat from the
    sun won't add to the eventual thermal-noise in my images. (Black
    digital camera bodies suck, silver is best. "Pro's" need to get
    their collective superficial heads out of their asses and think
    about what a "pro-black body" is really doing to the quality of
    their photos. But then, I've never known a "pro" that wasn't also
    mostly "just a plain idiot propelled by greed and nothing more".)
    JustPassinThru, Aug 26, 2004
  7. Alan Meyer wrote:
    It depends on the camera, but likely yes.
    I already told you that this can and does happen. I have seen the results
    (pink spots and banding). I have also seen these in WebCams which had the
    sun in their view:


    Top left of the image, there are diagonal pink stripes.

    David J Taylor, Aug 26, 2004
  8. AK

    Colin D Guest

    Yes, you are. That's how the LCD gets its image.
    You may not damage the CCD, unless its temperature rises sufficiently to
    damage the chip, but you will expose the bayer filter array to strong
    illumination which could permanently fade or alter the filter

    Cameras that allow previewing on the LCD don't have mechanical shutters,
    and the CCD is always exposed to light through the lens. How long the
    filters will last is anyone's guess, but I wouldn't expose such a camera
    to light more than I need to get the shot.

    Colin D.
    Colin D, Aug 26, 2004
  9. AK

    Mark M Guest

    A while back, someone posted a link to a time-lapse sequence someone had
    shot which included a sunset. This repetetive shooting of the sun--even
    though it was fairly low and darker in the sky--resulted in a permanent pink
    line which formed on all subsequent pictures in the sequence. The pink line
    followed the path of the sun, which obviously and permanently damaged the
    sensor beyond repair.

    So... Obviously there is caution worth taking.
    I thought I had a link to the avi or mpeg file that was posted, but I can't
    find it.
    If/when I do, I'll post a link to it here.

    -Mark M
    Mark M, Aug 27, 2004
  10. AK

    Mark M Guest

    I assume by CMOS you're talking about a Canon DSLR.
    Remember that DSLRs don't have live video display because it's protected
    behind the real shutter until the tiny instant of exposure for the shot.
    This is far less problematic. But with all-in-ones or "point-and-shoots"
    with active displays, their CCDs are always exposed...during composition,
    exposure, and beyond. This is likely hundreds or even many thousands of
    times the exposure time that a DSLR camera's CCD or CMOS sensor would have
    sunlight directly cast upon it. -Obviously a FAR different level of risk.
    Mark M, Aug 27, 2004
  11. SNIP
    14F.4046F5A1E7A7202A.59025EDDE1AC81C4%40lp.airnews.net> is probably
    what you remembered (the link in that message is dead now it seems).

    Reading that thread, by the way, could prevent a complete rehash of
    the theme. Unfortunately many people don't understand the potential of
    usenet, so we'll probably rehash it anyway...

    Bart van der Wolf, Aug 27, 2004
  12. AK

    AK Guest

    Very interesting - I have moved up to the Nikon D70 from the 995, and I
    think, looking at your example, it was a good thing I didn't take any shots
    into the sun with the 995 (which is also an excellent camera, in my
    AK, Aug 27, 2004
  13. AK

    AK Guest

    Actually, I'm using a D70, and not sure what the exact sensor technology
    is - CCD or CMOS - I can easily check. But the key point, I think, is that,
    as someone pointed out, with a DLSR, the image is only on the sensor for the
    fraction of a second that the picture is being captured - the rest of the
    time, the mirror feeds the sun's image into the optical viewfinder.

    Thanks to all for their interest and assistance.


    AK, Aug 27, 2004
  14. AK

    JPS Guest

    In message <[email protected]>,
    Probably IR, as a well-exposed image can not possibly damage the sensor
    with visible light. A setting sun may lose almost all of its blue, and
    a good deal of its green, and some of its red to the atmospheric haze,
    but the IR shines right through like the sun was high in the sky. I
    have looked through my Sony F707 in nighshot mode when the disk of the
    sun was totally oblivious behind the haze (you couldn't even tell where
    it was), and the sun was a bright, distinct disk through the viewfinder.

    I have heard the term "hot mirror" used for the IR-stopping filter in
    some cameras. Perhaps these mirrors bounce the IR so it doesn't heat up
    the sensor, as might happen with no filter at all, or with a thin filter
    directly over the sensor that turned the IR into ambient heat.
    JPS, Aug 27, 2004
  15. AK

    Alan Meyer Guest

    To all the responders:

    Thanks for the info. I'll check out sci.astro.amateur, and
    I appreciate the posting of an actual photo with a damaged

    I will take the recommended steps to protect my camera.

    Alan Meyer, Aug 29, 2004
  16. AK

    Eddy Vortex Guest

    I use an Olympus C2100 and have taken 100's of shots of the sun, many at
    17x, and I haven't seen any damage to the CCD over the 3 years that I've
    been using this camera. Eddy
    Eddy Vortex, Aug 31, 2004
  17. AK

    Martin Brown Guest

    If you try hard enough you might damage it. Framing a shot and taking it
    on digital has never given me any problems. I suspect to do real damage
    you need several minutes (human eye typically suffers permanent damage
    in about 30s of staring at the sun). CCD's are much tougher than human
    eyes but they will eventually protest if tormented sufficiently.

    The first thing that happens is that you see charge leakage into the row
    of cells that share the readout electronics. CCD images with a vastly
    overexposed sun in the FOV are not cosmetically very pleasing.

    You see similar artefacts on astronomical CCD images of bright stars.

    Martin Brown, Sep 1, 2004
  18. AK

    Ken Davey Guest

    Fact - sunlight falling on a piece of paper will not burn it.
    sunlight focused on the paper by a lens will ignite it.
    Assume that leaving your camera pointed at the sun will significantly raise
    the temperature of that portion of the ccd that lies under the sun's image.
    Brief, handheld exposures will probably not do any damage. Avoiding
    excessive sun exposure seems a common sense sort of thing.
    Ken Davey, Sep 2, 2004
  19. AK

    AK Guest


    I think that's the critical point - having the sun focused on a section of
    the sensor for long enough would, one assumes, heat it up and do some damage
    at the point of focus.

    By the way, not everything in the message above is what I wrote - someone
    made an error in attribution when replying or asking another question.

    Thanks for the helpful response.

    AK, Sep 2, 2004
  20. AK

    Colin D Guest

    For a camera that allows previewing the image on the lcd screen, there
    is no shutter over the CCD. The sun is focused on the CCD for the
    entire time you are viewing the image, which may well be many seconds.
    Heating of the CCD may not be too much of a problem, but fading of the
    RGB Bayer filter array may well occur, which will permanently ruin the
    camera. Others in RPD and RPE35mm have documented occurrences of this
    happening to their cameras.

    Colin D.
    Colin D, Sep 2, 2004
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