Camera weather sealing, do we need to worry?
One of the benefits of the Olympus and Lumix Micro Four Thirds cameras is their superior weather sealing. Most models from these two manufacturers are so good I no longer even think about putting them away in inclement weather. Having such faith shooting in rain or snow for the last 10 years has made me complacent. This past month I paid dearly for that carelessness.
Canon drove the technology for weather sealing
Back in 1989, when Canon released the EOS 1, they opened the door for quality weather sealing in a professional camera. Before the EOS 1, even Nikon’s most professional models were extremely susceptible to damage from rain, snow, and even condensation. I know, I drowned at least one Nikon F3 and one F4 over my 35-year career shooting Nikon cameras.
Olympus has perfected weather sealing
Today, it’s Olympus that leads the industry in protection against the elements. Nobody engineers weather sealing like the folks at Olympus. The video below gives a simple example of how impermeable their cameras and lenses are to massive amounts of water.
So what’s the point?
A couple of weeks ago I returned from Alaska, a destination I frequent and a place where it rains a lot. On this two-week trip I was carrying the Sony RX100 Mark Vii as I’ve been doing for about six months. It’s a great little camera that I use mainly to capture photos of our Natural Exposures Explorers, for vlogging, and incidental serious shooting.
I had come to depend on the RX100 Mark Vii for producing video for my YouTube channel Natural Exposures TV. It’s also been a great point and shoot for fantastic stills, all in a package that literally fits in my shirt pocket. In other words, I’ve been really enjoying using this camera, until the rain came.
One rainy day while fishing in Alaska, I drowned the RX100. It happened by simply pulling it from beneath my raincoat for a few pictures of one of our NE Explorers. It was never out for long but apparently longer than it’s capable of handling. Eventually, it just quit working. I tucked it away and took it back to the lodge where I placed it in a bag of rice.
It spent the night there in a warm environment. The next morning I pulled it from the rice and fired it up. It came alive seemingly unscathed. Until I took a picture. With the click of the shutter, I would get an image that looked as though it were covered with a thick pink layer from corner to corner. It was awful.
Sony Pro Services
Once I got home, I went through the process of joining Sony Pro Services. The website for Pro Services is very well done, easy to navigate, and inspired confidence. As the RX100 was evaluated, I was impressed with how effectively Sony kept me informed, the entire process taking only a few days. They even called after the camera was returned to see how I felt the process went. The process/service was superb. The final outcome not so much. Unfortunately, the camera was unable to be fixed which was disappointing, to say the least. $1200 down the drain. They did offer a replacement for about $900, but I declined.
What’s the upshot?
The moral of this story is that not all cameras are weather sealed. In defense of Sony, they don’t claim the RX100 can be used in rain. That was my mistake, and I’m willing to admit it. However, the Micro Four Thirds world has done such a phenomenal job protecting against inclement weather that I forgot not all cameras are protected.
Unfortunately, this disappointing experience has made me wonder about potentially the same issue with my A9 body. Sony says the A9 is weather-sealed, but I’ve never seen anything proving that. No videos from Sony like the one I’ve shared above from Olympus.
I plan to eventually replace the RX100 but only if the rumor is true that a version with weather sealing is in the works. If not, I’m most likely going to be buying the new iPhone 12 which, if similar to other iPhones, can be submerged in 30 feet of water for ten minutes with no issues.