Camera weather sealing, do we need to worry?

Posted Sep. 4th, 2020 by Daniel J. Cox

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.

Normally I would have popped up the built-in flash to brighten shadows below the hats, but I was concerned that might not be good due to the rain.

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.

This is what all photos look like now. No this is not an incorrect white balance setting.

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.

 

 

 

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There are 2 comments on this post…
  1. Mike GOn Sep. 25th, 2020 (2 months ago)

    It amazes me that no manufacturer has made a large sensor (say 1″, m43, or APSC size) point and shoot, other than one expensive model by Leica. All of the weather sealed options have the very small sensors (1/2.3 or 1/1.7) that were relevant 10+ years ago. I always thought if Olympus, who know how to do weather sealing, had made a weather sealed competitor to the Sony RX100 range that it would’ve sold extremely well.

  2. Mircea BlanaruOn Sep. 16th, 2020 (2 months ago)

    I totally agree with you even I don’t want to blame one or another company about this issue!!! I remember the “abuses” on my first DSLR camera (an entry level Olympus E-410 but for me very expensive) back in 2008 to 2010! Trying very hard to succeed and to gain, as much as I could, photographic experience, I was present in the “field” even in blizzards (here, in Romania these things are not terrible like in Alaska) at -7 degrees C in full snow near the Danube or in summer torrential rains or being put down (with my beloved camera) by a pack of community dogs in the local Public Garden. Unfortunately, the Olympus had no weather sealing and suddenly died after two and a half years of usage (not totally, there was only a problem with the on-off switch mechanism). After that, I bought an Olympus E-520, a big step forward but I totally renounced to the bad weather experiences and I can say the camera is working properly to these days. But, in the era of mass production items I don’t know why all these cameras don’t get this weather sealing, and even it is the problem of minimizing the production costs the issue still exist at high end items. An 1300$ compact camera is still very expensive, not to mention other models or to think about the disappointing feeling when the camera dies…

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