Do you take your camera out in rough weather? How rough? Do your cameras generally survive?

The annual Ferrari Owner's Parade in Rome.

One of the things I always grapple with is the idea that our modern cameras are weather sealed. It's a great idea but on some level I'm always incredulous about camera maker claims. I still grab a big Ziploc plastic bag to take along when I head outside and it looks like rain. 

The Panasonic G85 is supposed to be splashproof and dust proof. I'm never sure what that really means. And so, my question to the virtuous and brave readers of VSL. Can you share with me your experiences  of taking modern digital cameras out into inclement weather? Do you routinely use an unprotected camera in the rain? Do you take any sort of precautions? Are there limits you won't push beyond with your gear? Have you ever experienced a gear failure that was a result of soaking your camera?

The worst thing I've done with a camera is to stand in torrential rain shooting video with the Sony RX10iii for half an hour. Nothing failed. I did have duct tape over the battery and card doors.....

What's your most riveting weather+camera story?


ODL Designs said...

I don't tend to use the weather sealing much for work... But for family events I have taken my camera into the pool with the boys knowing it can take a splash... I have also often been out in the snow with them and that stuff melts fast on a warm camera body.

However it was most useful when shooting at an event, when an attendee spilled their drink on me and my camera. So all in all, I find it pretty useful, and certainly better looking than a plastic bag :)

Mike Teegarden said...

These are awesome: https://www.amazon.com/OP-TECH-USA-9001142-Rainsleeve/dp/B002TI71HQ/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1510239852&sr=8-2&keywords=op%2Ftech+camera+cover
Cheap and they hold up well. I shoot a lot of my son's soccer games in bad weather and this do a great job. I also often gaffer tape a golf umbrella to a monopod to extend the handle and then I can lean the shaft against my should while I shoot. Basically a hands-free umbrella. As long as the wind isn't strong, it works great.

Sašo said...

I had a Lumix LX5 with filter adaptor (screw on) and a protective filter, I assume this is the one piece that saved the camera many times as it seald the lens from weather and protected it from impact. I frequently shot with it in all kinds of weather be it rain, snow, heavy fog, extreme cold (-10/-20°C)... It fell to the ground and got bumped to other objects more time than I can count. But that was more or less normal, the two incidences that are worth mentioning are rhe folowing.
Once I was shooting wawes on the beach with a light drizzle and a rouge wave came and splashed all over me, so the camera and my self were wet, completely. I took out the batery as quicliy as I could and packed the camera. I dried it out and miraculously it survived and kept on working after two days (the first day there were some glitchec but were gone on the second day), some rust apeared on the hot shoe and that was it.
The second time I was clumsy shooting by a lake, I bumped into my tripod and sent the camera into the lake with the tripod. Again I took it out as quicly as I could, removed the batery and dried it out again, a night in rice did the job. It just kept working.
After a year or so I guess it got tired of all the abuse and it died (it wouldn't turn on again) for real after I got about 120k shots out of it.


Stan Yoshinobu said...

Yes, windy dusty and sandy conditions.

MO said...

hi Kirk

I only just got my first real weatherproof solution. A canon d III and a 24-105 f4 lens. under 375$ each. Cheap option that i felt i missed on occasion. and im not afraid to take the chance. But i would have a hard time trying it with GH5 and a olympus pro lens. would have to do 3-4 weddings to pay for it. but 725$ is covered by the weeding if it breaks. don't think it will though. But i like not having to be afraid that it might! But the thought of getting a 3000$ messed up by getting wet gives me nightmares!

But i have but i have shoot weddings in light rain withe 5d II and non weather sealed lenses with no problem. Would not try it with my gx80/85 from panasonic though ;)


Yonatan Katznelson said...

I have used my GX8 with the lumix (not leica) 12-60 in a downpour and neither camera nor lens suffered for it.
I have also used the same combination in a snow flurry without a problem. I don't make a habit of it, but it's nice
to know that I don't need to worry about it.

David Lobato said...

Any drama began last year in Houston, TX, during the April 16 storm and flood. My Nikon D7000 and kit lens got pretty wet while I recorded the flood conditions. Not completely soaking wet, but plenty of moisture covered it. No issues resulted.

Then this year, late August all hell broke loose with Hurricane Harvey. The deluge was biblical and I was worried primarily for my own life much less for a camera. My iPhone 7 proved its water-worthiness and I lived to tell about it. All my regular cameras were packed and placed as high as possible inside my home. On the kitchen counters, washer and dryer, high closet shelves, etc. They survived okay but many other possessions did not.

In late December 2016 we were at Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. It was well below freezing and the spray from the falls was intense. My mirrorless camera failed after 5 minutes. Even the lens focusing was literally frozen from any motion. The then new iPhone 7 kept on taking picture after picture. I got frost nip on my fingertip taking photos with the iPhone. Great photos btw.

Anonymous said...

I clean my Olympus E-M1 by rinsing it off in the sink. :)

Kurt Friis Hansen said...

The problem is, that you don't even need rough weather, to go foul with your camera.

A few years ago, I experienced a really, really, REALLY moist environment in Iguazu, bordering Argentina and Brazil. One day, it rained and rained and... and when it did not rain, the moisture could kill you - I actually got "dish washer" hands within 30 minutes, so...

I decided NOT to use my GH2, and left it in my camera bag. I used my spare camera - a simpler Olympus E-PL1 without any wether guarantees of any kind (just like the GH2). The camera behaved perfectly, and worked as it should. No hiccups. Not even the next day.

Not so for my bagged GH2 camera. The next day, the camera started to misbehave in several ways, but it was managable. One problem was, that the internal "power-cell" (soldered in order to guarantee "planned obsolence" of the camera) had sent it's power to another dimension outside the universe, I occupied, and each time I switched batteries, the camera was completely reset (no back-up power for clock, settings etc.).

When I reached home base, and sent the camera to Panasonic, it turned out, that it had internal "water damage". Cost around 600 dollars to get repaired. Shortly after, I crushed the "sviwel and tilt" screen. Bummer!

My old Canon EOS 350D (no guarantee against influence from the elements) experienced soaking rain around Europe and Asia for some years without any effects on functionality. It still works like a dream.

Even if a camera is specified as "weather resistant", I wouldn't put too much trust in marketing phrases like these, UNLESS the camera manufacturer backs it by a written guarantee.

Now, look at the lovely cars. Would you buy any car, that you could not use in rain, sleet or snow, slight sand storms etc.?

Why accept less for a camera? Especially for new cameras (in the unusable state without a lens), that now seem to reach the price level of still working used cars (rain or not).

Wonder why smartphones seem to catch on. Ehh?

A lot of the more modern smartphones in the higher price brackets have a very good protection against moisture and dust at a certified level. It may not be advisable to soak these phones in salt water or for several minutes in ordinary, clean tap water, but with a minimum of care, these phones would probably survive anything, that you threw at most - also - high end cameras for real pros with deep pockets.

AND... if any mainstream smartphone decided to give up its life for any or a higher purpose, there's probably some shopping mall within a few miles distance, that could supply an (un)authorized repair or a completely new replacement phone. I once tried to get my EOS 40D repaired in Malaysia during a holiday period. No dice. The hundred or so photo journalists I had a chance to meet wished me luck. Not even Nikon users had any luck in that period. Shops were open, but even then - even in Kuala Lumpur - reasonable low/high level gear had to be ordered over the internet.

So... I wouldn't count on anything, that was not certified, and not covered by a written manufacturers guarantee

Lacking that, buy cheap, and have a spare camera at hand if you plan on carrying cameras outside any clean room environment ;-) Especially if you travel. In todays world, you'd probably be lucky if you'd find any camera-outlet stocking (semi)pro gear within a radius of a few hundred miles. Unless you're in Guangzhou and a few similar Asian photo-mekkas still carrying the full programme from several manufacturers as a matter of course.

In Europe? Forget it. I usually rely on Amazon in case of an emergency.

Regards and a big smile

Anonymous said...

Kirk, living in Australia means I’m 6 minutes from the Pacific Ocean. Although my go-to combo is the previously mentioned G85, I still have my bird photography setup being Canon 7Dii/100-400ii. After a boat/sand/beach trip I simply hose off any salt or gunk, dry with tea towel and away we go. Happy days. I used to do the same when I had the Olympus E-m1 a few years back.


Michael Meissner said...

Yes, I've taken my E-1, E-3, E-5, E-m5 mark I, E-m1 mark I and G-85 into wet conditions using the 11-22mm, 14-54mm mark I, 50mm, 50-200mm mark I classic 4/3rds lenses, and the Olympus 12-50mm, Olympus 12-40mm, Olympus 14-150mm mark II, and Panasonic 100-300mm mark II lenses (along with the EC-14 and MMF-3). I believe I've also shot the Olympus TG-2 and TG-860 in wet conditions. The only time I had a problem was with the 100-300mm mark II lens.

Now, would Olympus/Panasonic honor the warranty if there was an issue, I dunno. Maybe the will, maybe they won't. But I feel secure that the gear was designed for rain type conditions. Except for the TG cameras, the gear is not designed for soaking, it is designed for rain, etc. Fortunately, over time, I have enough gear that I can cope if something breaks.

Salt water is more of a problem, since salt is corrosive. Generally, you want to be careful with salt spray. I've shot a few times on whale watches where I got splashed by ocean waves. I always carry distilled water in my car when I got on a whale watch, to rinse off the gear immediately after getting off the boat.

The issue with the 100-300mm mark II occurred on my last whale watch. I bought the lens used, so there was no warranty support. I shot some whales, and had a few waves come overboard and splash us. I used the distilled water to rinse off the E-m1 with 14-150mm lens and G-85 with 100-300mm lens. The E-m1 was fine. The 14-150mm lens was fine. The G85 was fine. The 100-300mm lens did not work after rinsing. I did the rice trick (put gear in a sealed container of uncooked rice to draw out the moisture for a few days), and it didn't work. Eventually somebody suggested that perhaps something got stuck in the gears, and doing some percussive maintainance would work. I hit it once or twice, and evidently it knocked the salt grain away, and the lens works fine.

That being said, I would imagine Olympus/Panasonic would be within their rights to refuse to work on a lens with salt damage. Lensrentals.com has a blog post about salt water damage:

I happen to like going to (and shooting) renaissance faires. In the big faires, it can be an hour or so to get back to your car, and if rain happens in the middle of the day, you just have to go with the flow. Because I have splash proof gear, I'll keep on shooting. Sometimes I'm under shelter for a bit, sometimes not. Here are some pictures from when rain happens:

(E-3 + 14-54mm lens)

(E-5 + 14-54mm lens)

(TG-860, rainbow after or during a rain):

RocketRick said...

I've used my Olympus E-3 and E-5 cameras in the rain on multiple occasions, and have even rinsed them off when they got filthy from using them in the desert. Never a problem.

Ash Crill said...

The Fuji X-T1 is also 'weather sealed', but the worst I have done with it is to shoot some waterfalls and seascapes.

I went down the coast once at low tide to take some shots, and wound up wading out onto a rock platform that extended into the ocean. As the tide was coming in a wave smacked me in the back and nearly knocked me over. Thats when I decided to pack it in and wade back to shore.

Weather-sealing isn't really designed to withstand dunks in cold salt water.

Anonymous said...

Hi Kirk,
I haven't tested my G80 in heavy rain yet because I bought it with the wonderful but not weather sealed P14-140 II.
I read something about weather sealed Olympus lenses not 100% sealed on Panasonic bodies and vice versa due to external mount differences.
Here is where I read it:

Daniel Walker said...

On a trip to the jungles of South America I spent seven days in very heavy rain were every square much of my body was submerged in wetness. It rained so hard for days you couldn't see the person to your side. Much to my surprise my Olympus M5 with the 12-40 made it though much better than I. No lost images or gear but I had to be removed.


I routinely shoot in the rain with my OMD EM1 and the 12-40 and 40-150 Pro zooms. I just pat them dry with paper towels when I get back to the car. No problems.

Daniel Smith said...

I am in North Dakota and do take the cameras out in nasty weather. Coldest for me has been 43 below and hottest 122 above. North Dakota and Death Valley. Wind, rain, blowing sand, snow and salt spray - all conditions I have photographed in.
In sand and salt spray and rain I tend to use Saran Wrap on the body and lens. A close fitting covering that protects while allowing me to feel the controls.
No special treatment but I dress according to the weather conditions.
Canon F1 to Nikon F-F2-F3's to Canon 6D/1Ds MkIII, 1D MkIV to Panasonic LX bodies. All in these various conditions.
If I can take it the cameras can. Special hoods and raincoats and the like generally catch wind. A good umbrella in rain when possible, good rain and waterproof clothing and very good windproof cold weather gear is a must. Merino wool socks keep me warm even if they get wet.
I try to keep the safety factor going as I don't get good images when I'm miserable or hurt.

Peter Knott said...

Hi Kirk,
Like many others above I can testify to the weather resistance of Olympus E-3, E-M1 and Olympus pro lenses. In 6 years they have had 4 instances of partial immersion in the surf along with a coating of sand, but followed by a rinse with fresh water under the shower and wipe dry they are all still going strong. They regularly are used in showery weather, near waterfalls and almost weekly along the Australian coast somewhere. The only downside is the lack of weather resistant remotes.....
I have a Sony A7II and 16-35 that I definitely do not have the same level of confidence in. A fair weather camera only...

Mim said...

I'm not fussed by a bit of rain - as long as it's drops rather than a flood, and fresh water rather than salt I just try to protect it with my body and give it a bit of a wipe down. I've never had a camera fail because of water.

But I did lose a body and lens to a thunderstorm. in Yosemite a few years back I was at Glacier Peak and there was a beaut of a storm on the other side of the valley - it made my hair stand on end despite being a few km away. THAT killed my Olympus EM10 and kit lens - afterwards they refused to recognise each other (or other bodies and lenses)

I got some great photos of the storm before it stopped, though :-D

Carlo Santin said...

Not a weather story but I bricked a Sony RX100ii on a hike. It was on a beautiful morning this past July. I went out for a nice hike. I had a small bag with water, a snack, and the RX100 which was in a separate compartment. Didn't notice anything until I felt water dripping down my leg. My water container somehow opened and leaked into the rest of my bag. When I took out the Sony it was wet but not terribly soaked, or so it seemed. The camera worked initially and I took some shots with it but when I got home later that day it stopped working completely. I did try to dry it out and it turned on, extended the lens and then never worked again. Luckily I bought it second hand for not a lot of money but it was a terrific little camera. I still miss it.

Gary said...

A month ago I dumped my Nikon D5500 and metal Tokina short zoom in a streambed on a hike in Utah. It wasn't completely submerged. Got the camera out quickly and removed the battery. This is not known as a weathersealed camera but all it needed was a cleaning. The lens needed cleaning as well (river sand in the zoom an focus rings) but Tokina handled it for less than the cost of a new lens. I think our camera gear is more resilient than we may think. As an aside, I found Tokina customer/repair service to be responsive and helpful.

soulnibbler said...

Yeah I do it with all my gear, I've been lucky so far:

A99 https://flic.kr/p/Syxcds
Fuji gfx: https://flic.kr/p/X5LGqY
If I'm shooting I shoot it naked, if I'm just roaming I try to keep the camera under my coat or shirt if I don't have a coat.

Roger's recent piece at lens rentals was scary, but not enough for me to change habits. Then again its just fun for me and if I break a camera I'll have to deal with it.

Anonymous said...

I've used the Olympus EM5 first edition for multi-day, very rainy hiking.

I take this model rather than a full frame because of lightness and weather sealing when I must allow for inclement wx. I use one of the two weather sealed Olympus zooms I have. I leave the zoom on all day and don't remove it to change lenses during until back under shelter.

I keep it slung around my neck, but tucked inside my rain parka, which is zipped all the way up. I take it out only when I shoot, and then put it back. I take no further precautions during actual shooting, during which time it may be out for minutes at a time, and for many times during the course of a day.

I've experienced multiple days of very heavy, driving rain, while miles away from anywhere dry, and used it constantly during that time. This includes:

5 days on the Hadrian Wall walk
3-1/2 days on the Inca Trail
Multiple dude ranch day rides in Colorado

Never had an issue, still works fine.

Now that I think of it, this is the only time I use this rig. I consider it a foul weather camera.

Corwin Black said...

Panasonic G1 - some rain, lots of meeting with ground in the forest (wet moss and such, its decent stabilizer if you dont have tripod :D), worked fine

Konica Minolta 7D - hard rain and snow plus heavy wind, works even today (pretty sure it endured something with original owner)

Fuji S5 Pro - some rain, bit of snow .. as its based of D200, its fine

Im not really babying my cameras much, but then they not exactly super expensive. :D

Today, even Hasselblad H6 is supposedly sorta weather proof.. I mean if someone actually is insane enough to test it. Cause, thats typical outdoor camera that Hassy.