Problems with Mavica CD500 Camera at High Altitude

Sony does not mention it in their specifications, but after I had some difficulty above 10,000' altitude, I called Sony technical support and found out that Mavica CD500 has a recommended altitude limit of 6000' (just under 2000 m) and an absolute limit of 9856' (3000 meters).

I have used mine successfully to take a couple of pictures at 10,800', but on a hike to 13061', I had CD writing trouble at 11,000' and above. At first, I got a CD error (13:xx) at 11,000' and changed CDs without finalizing. All but the last two of those pictures were accessible when the CD was finalized back home at 1200' elevation. For the rest of the trip up the mountain, I initialize a new CD and took pictures up to 13061' without getting any errors, but when I got home, however, the last 20 pictures of that sequence could not be read by the Camera.

I saw a hint on the Internet that the laser focus in CD writing is affected by air density and that if initialized (and finalized?) at altitudes widely different from where pictures are recorded, there can be problems. The Sony representative could not answer that question, but I might experiment the next time I am at 13,000'. It is, at least, consistent with my recent experience.

On another hike up to 13,000', I initialized a new CD at 9500' and took 41 pictures, most above 12,400' and had no problems using the USB connection at 1200' to download the pictures. I have not yet finalized that disk. Perhaps, the CD writing algorithm changes when the disk is partly full and after that change the altitude problems are more serious. Until I learn otherwise, my work-around will be to initialize at around 10,000' and not fill the disk.

I had the Sony representative check if their "memory stick" cameras had any altitude specifications and he reported that they did not. So I guess I will need a memory stick camera to use at high altitude.

Last updated: June 25, 2008

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