Nikon gear - how weather-proof is it???

Started Mar 11, 2010 | Discussions thread
(unknown member) Veteran Member • Posts: 4,734
Personal experiences, personal opinions

The whole build quality and weather sealing discussion is pretty much angels dancing on pinheads based on my experience. I don't say that lightly... I take my cameras and lenses into some pretty heinous conditions, like an ice storm at 12,000 feet in the Cascade Mountains, sandstorms in various deserts, monsoons.

No matter how weather sealed your lenses and cameras, they'll fail if water gets in, and water getting in is as much related to how long you give the water as any other factor. It WILL get into a weather sealed camera given time, otherwise it'd be an underwater camera. That's why you'll see people with garbage bag improvised camera covers, umbrellas, and why there's a rule that you dry off the camera BEFORE you dry off the photographer. Same with lenses.

In the Cascades ice storm, I had a D100 and a D2X, and a couple of lenses. Both cameras were kept under my outer rain parka most of the time other than when shooting. Both got ice on them (the wind was blowing it sideways) that then melted off in the moments under the parka. I was continually clearing the front of the lenses, and drying the cameras and lenses. I had several lens failures, all due to extreme cold causing the autofocus to stop working as the lubricants stiffened up beyond tolerances... they'd start working again when they warmed up a bit. Also had a couple times when ice built up fast enough without my notice and literally froze the focus ring. But, no fog inside ANY lens, no fog inside ANY camera, and besides shooting for several hours in the ice storm, that evening I used both to shoot skateboarders at a skate park. Oh yeah, in the cold the batteries had a life of about 100 photos... until you warmed them, then you'd have another 100 photos...

Same for dust storms. Both consumer and "pro" lenses got gritty sounding at some point. Dust under the focus rings. Both needed a really careful blowing out and cleaning after. I found dust inside the mirror box on both a D2x and the D80 (this was different year than the ice torture) despite never changing lenses when outside in the dust storm. Both cleaned up the same. Both shed dust from time to time for a year from places unknown. Nothing got inside the important parts of the cameras. No dust inside any lens other than the usual stuff that comes with age.

I've never had a camera or lens fail because of elements, other than extreme cold causing things to seize up and batteries to die. Looking for some wood to knock on... Also, I do use consumer digital P&S for some things, don't treat them any more cautiously, and have never had a failure because of the elements.

And even in the situation where you think it MIGHT make a difference - a fumble into water briefly because you snatch it out before the splash has finished - that will kill both a consumer or pro camera pretty quickly. "Weather sealed" doesn't help, sadly you'll find several of those talked about on these forums every year.

I'm sure there are situations where it matters whether cameras and lenses are weather sealed or not, but I'm also equally sure that 99.999999999999% of photographers will never actually be in a situation to experience the difference. (I don't think I put enough 9s after the decimal...) If an incoming blizzard or monsoon rain doesn't get you rubbing your hands with glee and rushing to get ready to go out and shoot (sadly for my family, it does that for me) - you don't punish your gear as much as I do, and it's probably not an issue.

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