waterproof cameraHave you been the victim of a waterproof camera that stopped working because of water leakage? Or do you know someone that has buyer’s remorse because their particular model stopped working after getting wet?

If you’re not familiar with anyone with one of these devices, surely you’ve read comments such as: ‘Do not buy this camera, it is not waterproof.’  Or as one person states, “As a consumer, I was led to believe by the advertisements that it was waterproof.” The real deal is that these cameras are not waterproof, but water resistant.

In other words, the manufacturers have done everything reasonably possible to ensure the least amount of water will be able to find a home inside your camera. Not only the camera is made to resist water, but you as the owner of the camera have some responsibilities also.

These types of assertions could really make you question your purchase. There are certain precautions you can take to prevent the likelihood of water damaging your camera. The other question you will need to ask yourself in case your camera is damaged because it got wet is whether the manufacturer’s warranty will cover your purchase.

Waterproof cameras rely on soft rubber or plastic gaskets or O-rings to keep water from getting inside the device. You really have to take extra care that the seals are making sliding contact with the body of the camera. There are two ways the seals do this, some gaskets press against the ‘mating’ surface of the body of the camera, while others press and slide into a final position. An O-ring is on a projection that fits into a recess position as the door is shut which creates the sliding seal action previously discussed.

Each time you close the compartment door which usually houses the memory card and battery, as a precaution, you should run a clean finger over the seal to make sure it is free of all dirt or debris. A piece of unnoticed grit could be a problem because it can press and drag the grit against the mating surface of the seal, creating a scratch that could lead to a leak. A scratch can have the same effect as a piece of dirt left behind that could leave your underwater camera vulnerable to taking on water.

Seals and Warranties

The big five camera manufacturers: Panasonic, Olympus, Sony, Nikon and Canon, offer a limited warranty for a specified time frame and some even offer an extended care plan for a nominal fee.  All the manufacturers require an annual replacement of the camera’s seals for a nominal fee. This is not only for the extended warranty to remain in effect, but to also act as preventative maintenance to ensure integrity of the waterproof function.

In some cases, consumers have complained that replacing the seals can cost as much as the camera. However, according to one owner, Panasonic currently offers a DIY (Do It Yourself) seal replacement kit at a reasonable cost or you have the option of the service department doing it for you. If you purchase an extended warranty, it is a good idea to see whether seal replacement is required for coverage to remain in force, and whether the replacement will be covered.

What’s interesting is this IPX8 code, the Ingress or International Protection Rating. It means the equipment is suitable for continuous immersion in water under conditions specified by the manufacturer. Further, this is also accompanied by a time frame of how long the device can be submerged which most experts agree is up to one hour.

For example, the Nikon PowerShot AW100 can be submerged in water up to 33 feet for up to an hour. This is the limit for waterproofing in a controlled test, doing anything else could result in a failure of the seals to protect the camera. For example, the activities include jumping or diving into water with the camera, placing the device under a running faucet, standing under a waterfall or even placing it in the way of spray from a boat. These findings are not just for this particular model, but for all the rugged or tough compact cameras.

The same goes for shockproof ratings. Typically, manufacturers perform drop tests for shock using MIL-STD-810 methods. If a camera has a shockproof rating of 5 feet, that’s a 5-foot drop onto 2-inch plywood. This is very interesting because if you should drop your tough device on a harder surface, it may not survive and the shock (heavy vibration) from the drop could cause the waterproofing feature to fail.

The drop rating isn’t meant to advise consumers how far up they can be dropped, but basically serves as a standard of measure. It is an indicator of how this particular specialty camera should reasonably perform if dropped from 5 feet up onto any surface. It’s very important to do your own research and pull up the manual for the particular model you want to purchase. Keep in mind that although these cameras are labeled as ‘rugged’ or ‘tough’, they are still comprised of electronics which make these devices sensitive to rough handling and other abuse.

How To Care For Your Waterproof Camera

Use your camera how you intended. Its imperative you put the device through several tests especially before the warranty expires. Consumers are finding that if their model is compromised because of leakage, it’s usually after the warranty lapses. As an owner, you’re left holding a colorful brick. As long as your camera is still under warranty, there is the possibility that you can have your camera replaced or exchanged, so it’s important to find out if there’s a defect with the camera’s seals before the warranty expires.

Keep your camera cool: Avoid leaving the device in direct sunlight. The waterproof seals can become damaged because of the heat, extreme changes in temperature and salt water which all can alter the seals fitting appropriately. If the camera has to be in the sun, use a cool wet towel to protect it from the heat and UV rays.

Beware of water pressure: Some owners like to test the specs of their model by diving deeper than the manufacturer’s recommendations. What they don’t realize is that as you go deeper underwater, the pressure builds and this pressure can push the seals out of place and cause leakage. It’s important to stay about the depth limit suggested by the manufacturer.

Be Careful of Marathon Times Underwater:Each model has a different spec on how long you should keep the camera underwater. So, check your manual to be sure. However, all the manufacturers mentioned in this article recommends no longer than 60 minutes.

Check and re-check your warranty:  When purchasing a waterproof camera, you really need to understand what the warranty covers. For example, some warranties do not cover damage to the camera because of leakage, but may cover only defects in manufacturing rather than actual camera failure as reported by the purchaser.

Have your camera inspected:In order to maintain the function of your camera, you should have the manufacturer inspect the seals once a year. In fact, all manufacturers recommend the seals be changed on an annual basis in their certified service center. Some camera manufacturers have a do-it-yourself waterproof seal kit that is more economical than sending in your camera for the service. Changing out your seals annually will help your device last for years.

The elements are not good for your device:  Although, certain elements like sea water, ice, chlorine in pool water, mud, and dirt are all different corrosive substances and could wreak havoc on the waterproofing feature of your camera. Make sure the compartment where the seals, battery and memory card are located is closed and secure before rinsing the device in fresh water (water with no chemicals), open the compartment door and allow the camera to dry thoroughly before storing it. Additionally, avoid using cleaning agents such as alcohol, soapy water or mild detergents when cleaning your camera which could affect waterproofing.

Waterproof seals work when they are clean and tight:  Salt and dirt may buildup in the O-ring grooves over time. Some owners use a Q-tip to clean them. The compartment door where the O-ring, seals or gaskets are located should be free of sand, hair, dirt, fiber, water sediment before and after use. If left unchecked this could cause the door to close incorrectly which will increase the risk of water leakage. Use a soft, lint free cloth to remove debris and water from the camera and compartments. Also, inspect the waterproof seals or gaskets for cracks or tears.

As with any electronic device, proper care and maintenance is required to preserve the integrity and operation. Although the rugged and tough tag has been placed on these types of specialty cameras, when checking the fine print they are not that rugged and appears to be high maintenance if you want to use the camera underwater.

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Filed under: Waterproof Camera Buying Tips

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