Is my digital camera waterproof?

So it’s a little rainy out and you’re dying to catch some shots of raindrops dripping off a leaf, or maybe even a close-up of your kids feet as they splash in puddles.  Don’t do it.  The shots, I mean.  They’ve been DONE.

Do, however, consider taking your camera outside, even in inclement weather.

Is my camera waterproof?

Short answer: absolutely NOT

Long answer: Your camera is probably ‘weather-proof’.  The difference between water and weatherproof is that something that’s waterproof can be submerged and remain unharmed.  (Like SCUBA cameras).  Weatherproof means it can stand up to drops of water from rain or snow, and that it can usually handle certain amounts of blowing sand, extreme temperatures, humidity etc.

On a Nikon forum, I recently read a thread started by a guy who dropped his Nikon D700 into 12 inches of water for “partially submerged for less than 5 seconds“.   He was peeved that Nikon wouldn’t repair it, telling him his $3000 camera was a write off.   He was frustrated that Nikon claimed the D700 was weatherproof/sealed, but that it should be waterproof for the price he paid.  Obviously he doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

But he brought up some good points: companies are loath to call anything ‘waterproof’.  Even if it is, they aren’t going to make claims like that.    Secondly, submerging an electronic piece of equipment for ANY amount of time is very dangerous.  And lastly, he missed the difference between something that’s waterproof and weatherproof.

Generally the more you pay for DSLR bodies and lenses the more weatherproof/sealed they are.  They’re designed with weather seals here and there, so check your manual or online to find out if your camera/lens is sealed.  Or if you can’t find out, take it into a respectable photo lab, like Henry’s, where they’ll be able to take a look and find out for you.

So let’s say your camera IS sealed and the manufacturer says it’s ‘weatherproof’…

HOW weatherproof?  What does that look like?

Weather sealing refers to light rain, snow, and other “weather” elements.  Take it out in the rain, snow, dust, fog, humidity, whatever.  My only concern is with the pop up flash as it doesn’t seem to be sealed from the elements at all.   Try taping it with electrical tape to seal the cracks.

I found this testimonial about the D700 on the same forum: “I took mine through the Gobi just after I bought it. It survived a fairly decent assault of sand, and dust (as well as a sandstorm at one point) with only sensor dust as a scar.  I’ve even used mine in the pouring rain for more than an hour running “

And this story accompanied by a great shot:  “Just thought I’d add a wee post into this thread, to say how incredibly impressed I was with the D700 after getting absolutely soaked in flash floods on a camping trip a couple of days ago. Even though there was quite a bit of condensation inside the mirror box, everything’s still going good. Taking it to the service shop next week to get the annual sensor cleaning done, so will have them give it a wee clean out and check just in case.”

Here is another fabulous visual on the kind of rain a high-end DSLR can withstand:

It scares me a little to look at this, but I know, from my personal experience, that it’s true.  ***Note this photog has his hot shoe protected with his hot shoe tab (yes, that little piece of plastic you promptly threw away).  Consider using a shower cap or electrical tape to protect the hot shoe.*****

What about water AND low temperatures?

There was a cool article written about photogs in Antarctica that might shed some light:  (I apologize in advance to you poor Canon users :)  Scroll down to the end to read the conclusions of theses extreme photogs:  http://www.luminous-landscape.com/essays/antarctica-2009-worked.shtml

Let’s say you DID drop it in a few inches of water…

you goofball, here’s what an industry pro says:

Topeeka  Pro User  says: “During my long career in computer service, I have seen a LOT of instances where electronic gear got wet…from rain in an open window, defective sprinkler systems, accidental dunkings in mop water etc. While there is NO guarantee in any of this, a large part of the time a purely electronic device can be rescued and brought back to life if you DO NOT try to turn it on “just to see if it works!”  Instead do all you can to drain the water from it by gently shaking it, inverting it, putting it in front of a fan or over an air vent or a combination of all of these.  Then use a lot of patience, like waiting a few days to make sure that it is totally dry.  After you are sure you have done all you can to get all the moisture out, cross your fingers and apply power…”

I’ve even read about people putting their wet gear into a bag of rice–to draw the moisture out.  I feel like, if you’re at this point, rice can’t hurt, rice?   I mean, right?

I welcome your feedback and your experiences shooting in inclement weather–as well as YOUR horror stories and anecdotes that will inspire us to put that pesky strap around our necks or not leave a tripod unattended in a fast-running stream.

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