Sunday, March 18, 2012

SONY NEX OVERHEATING: Final Test Results

SUMMARY



After numerous tests and re-tests my conclusions are the following:
  • There are ways (some more obtrusive than others) to lower the surface temperature of my NEX.
  • None of these methods individually or taken together modify the following, essential characteristic of the NEX:
    • From cold the camera will heat up, display the thermal warning, and then may or may not make it to the 30 minute mark (at which point the camera reaches its maximum 30 minute segment record time.).
    • If the camera records to the 30 minute mark, then trying to record again immediately will result in thermal shutdown after a few minutes.
    • If in either case, if one allows the camera to cool for 4 to 5 minutes, then the camera may record one or two more additional 30 minute segments (allowing for cool down in between), most often  without any warnings, even though the recorded surface temperature is well above the point where shutdown previously occurred. 

The best strategies for increasing the chances of making it to the initial 30 minute mark are, in order of effectiveness:
  • Use the Sony 32 GB Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo Media 
  • Use the AC adapter instead of the battery.
The following offer only marginally small improvements to cooling and/or record time.
  • Keep the LCD open and use a small, portable fan.
  • Remove the rear label and apply heat sinks and use a fan.
WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?

Yes it's true that the NEX is sold as a still camera, and what a great still camera it is.  And yes it's true that  one might regard the video functions as a kind of "bonus" feature that is a "nice to have," but not worth too much time and attention if they don't work exactly as expected.    Although I do not agree with these assertions, even if I did, I would still find fault with my camera as is.  Here's why.

The behavior of the camera is paradoxical.  
  1. Why does it report thermal distress at temperatures that seem far below temperatures at which it will later operate with out a fuss?
  2. Why does it not report thermal distress prior to shutdown at higher temperatures?
  3. Why does the camera's surface temperature continuously rise in spite of serious counter-measures?
  4. Why does using the Memory Stick format seem to reduce the operating temperature?
It seems to me that even if the essential characteristics of the camera cannot be altered, some practical changes would make the camera more usable:
  1. Determine if the thermal distress indicator is functioning correctly.  
  2. Ensure the thermal distress indicator functions consistently.
  3. Determine if the camera triggers thermal shutdown appropriately.
  4. Provide guidance on maximizing record time (Examples: Memory Stick, AC adapter, waiting periods between recordings).
  5. Add a countdown timer to recording (from 30 minutes) so that users know that there  is a maximum record time independent of card size.
Improvement on theses items would make camera operation more predicable and the user experience more enjoyable.

IT IS TIME TO ASK SONY

It's  time for Sony to acknowledge this as an issue and work toward a solution.  I intend to send these comments to Sony in a letter.  I urge others to do the same or to simply file a question with Sony customer support 



Some have speculated that the camera heats up more when recording using a fully charged battery.  My tests indicate that this is not the case.  My tests on my camera show that the heating curve depends more on the state of the camera (cold or warm) than on the state of the battery.



2 comments:

  1. do you know the best email to send sony questions regarding this issue? It's the absolute worst problem of my otherwise wonderful sony nex 7.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I realized that I just commented on an older post so I'm duplicating my comment here just in case...I think it's relevant so I want to make sure as many folks see it as possible:

    I just talked to Sony about my NEX-7 yesterday and they admitted a few things to me which align with my tests and with yours.

    All Sony alpha cameras have additional undocumented features for protecting against heat well beyond straight thermal limits.

    These include how often and how long recording takes place. If you record too many clips, too quickly back to back, for too long, the camera will shut down with the 'cool camera' warning even if the camera isn't hot or showing the temperature warning icon on the screen.

    Pulling the battery out between recordings resets these timers/counters and eliminates many of the overheating issues...as they are not temperature driven but timer/counter driven. Sony of course warned me that I could damage the sensor by doing this but then they have to stand by the design of their product.

    They admitted that this could be changed in firmware down the road but with the new A77 firmware coming out today with no change to these sorts of features, and the 5N firmware just having come out and not really changing anything, I doubt we'll see anything soon which helps the NEX cameras.

    ReplyDelete

Your comments welcome.