Water and moisture are your camera’s greatest enemy

Most technicians agree that water is your camera’s greatest enemy. Serious water penetration can be very harmful, if not fatal, to a camera. Even a heavy rain can permanently damage a camera.

While cameras will tolerate a few raindrops, you’ll need an underwater housing to survive complete immersion or a heavy splash. And even small amounts of various liquids, especially sugary soft drinks, can make a shutter or lens ring stick to the point of inoperability.

Moisture, such as what happens while trekking with a camera through a humid jungle or even a tropical climate such as Miami, can have long-term damaging effects on your gear if you don’t take care. Furthermore, moisture can cause a lens to fog if you take a camera from a cold environment (such as an air-conditioned room) to a hot one or vice versa.

While transporting equipment, use desiccant to ensure it stays dry. A larger and reusable version of the small silica gel packets included in shipments of new electrical and photography gear, desiccant is the same substance (silica gel) but in larger quantities. It sits in an enclosed container with your gear and absorbs moisture; if you’re doing underwater photography, it’s an essential accessory. You can buy refillable containers and gel packets to fill them; you can also get small sealed containers that can be recharged in a microwave when they become saturated.

For shooting in the rain, AquaTech and Tenba are two companies producing rain covers for digital SLRs (dSLRs) that allow you to protect your gear — even if you’re shooting with large tele-photo zoom lenses. It’s common to see pro sports photographers using covers like the one shown in 10-2 with their equipment on the sidelines of football games if there is rain or snow. If you shoot outdoors in inclement weather, you’ll want to consider using a rain cover to prevent water from damaging your camera.

The AquaTech Sport Shield protects your camera and lens from rain, wind, sand, and other elements while allowing full access and control for shooting in poor conditions. Models come in several configurations and styles. Photo courtesy of Aqua Tech

A camera sustaining a serious splash is going to be better off if it is turned off when it happens, which prevents electrical short-circuits. If your camera is on when a splash occurs, turn it off as quickly as possible before any water potentially reaches any circuits. Take out the batteries and then use a lint-free absorbent cloth to remove as much water as you can reach without damaging or disassembling the camera. Open all the compartments and port covers (for example, the rubber cover over the AC connection). Then you need to let the camera dry completely before attempting to turn it on. If at all possible, and if the water penetration seems significant, get it to a professional camera technician before you turn it on again. And time is of the essence, because rust sets in quickly.


In extreme cold, such as -10°F or colder, you need to take extra measures to protect your camera and lenses from moisture. When transitioning from warm to cold (and vice versa), keep your gear in a sealed zipper-style plastic bag or equivalent freezer bag until its core temperature has adapted to the new temperature to avoid freezing condensation that can be permanently damaging (usually about 15 to 20 minutes is sufficient, depending on the extremes). Also, when you’re shooting and your face is close to the camera, watch your breath — it is full of moisture that will freeze and cloud your view. And, finally, remember that in very cold conditions, your battery life will be seriously diminished!

Category: Camera care

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