Scott Wyden works for for Mack Camera & Video Service, and has seen his share of interesting repairs. Scott lends his repair perspective in this article about camera protection.
How should I store my camera? Is an expensive bag worth the money? What if I get caught in the rain?
All of these questions are things you may ask yourself after buying a new camera or going on a shooting trip. I'm here to speak from the point of view of the repair part of the photography industry. I believe that you get what you pay for! But, purchasing a high end digital camera with weather seals does not necessarily mean that your camera will be totally safe from the environment. A small amount of rubber here and there will not keep your baby protected from the sand and water. Protecting your camera from the environment is the first step in caring for your camera properly.
I’m going to start from the beginning: New Camera Day! Let’s say you walk into your camera store and purchase a brand new Nikon D5000 with the 18-105mm lens. The salesman sells you a memory card, an extra battery and gives you a great deal on a generic camera bag. After a couple of weeks of using the camera, you book a flight to Costa Rica. Who wouldn’t be excited to get away and visit a place that offers so many wonderful photographic locations? So you pack up your camera, batteries, charger, accessories and memory cards into your generic bag. During your trip you make your way into the rainforest to take some amazing photographs. When you return to your hotel, you look into your bag, and there is a small puddle of water in the bottom. This means your camera has been sitting in water for quite some time. You thought you were safe because you left your new camera in the bag while it was raining.
You may be thinking that this story is just silly and never happens, but you would be surprised at how many repairs I see come in for the same water damage issue. The photographer doesn’t have the camera out in the rain yet it somehow gets wet. When packed in a wet bag, the moisture and condensation inside will corrode your camera quickly. As I stated earlier, you get what you pay for. The Nikon D5000 is an amazing digital SLR camera, but it is not weather proof. Nikon doesn’t claim it is either, but I used it as an example in my story because it’s the first camera that came to mind. When first purchasing the camera, a better camera bag should have been purchased as well. When traveling, a good bag will physically protect your gear from possible impact and the environment. Most camera bags from companies like Think Tank, Tenba, Kata and some others all come with built-in rain covers. Ideally, a seamless built-in rain cover is perfect to ensure that no water is able to get through. The bag I use when traveling is the Think Tank Streetwalker HardDrive.
Let’s go back to my story and see what else is missing from the initial purchase. Hopefully, you are thinking “A UV FILTER!” A UV filter is a great way to protect your lens. One bump on a hard surface and the front lens element can break. I personally would prefer replacing a $30 filter then an expensive lens element. The filters I use are from Hoya, Promaster and B&W. ($20 and up).
But what else is missing? The one thing that so many photographers overlook is an extended warranty and/or insurance. For those that just want a simple solution to a possible problem the extended warranty works great. For a long time my employer only offered extended manufacturer defect warranties, but now offers extended warranties which covers impacts, sand/grit and liquid damage (not submerging). On the D5000 this warranty would have cost around $110. Note: This article is not so I can pitch the company I work for but to tell you what is available for photographers.
Another option to protect your camera and lens during a vacation is a very inexpensive device from Op/Tech USA called a Rain Sleeve. It costs around $6 or so and can be stuffed pretty much anywhere. The Rain Sleeve is a soft plastic bag shaped like a camera. This gives you rain protection at a low price and it doesn’t weigh much at all. Depending on your trip (and the amount of exposure to the environment) there are more heavyweight solutions from Think Tank, Storm Jacket & AquaTech, For my normal vacations I find that the Op/Tech USA is just fine!
There are a couple other products I’d like to mention which can further protect your equipment. A camera wrap like LensCoat's BodyBag when the camera is not in use is valuable because a lens should never be attached to a body when transporting. A lens wrap like LensCoat's TravelCoat is another choice because it adds a soft layer to the outside of a lens for more protection. There are also products available for your strobes that do very similar things. Every little bit helps!
I hope what I’ve written is taken seriously because I see so many impact and liquid related camera problems on a daily basis. If you have any questions please get in touch with me and I’d be more than happy to help!
Thank for reading and happy safe shooting.
You can contact Scott, check out his website and his blog at http://www.scottwyden.com
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