Just How Does the Weather Sealing on Higher End Cameras Stack Up?

We asked manufacturers to show us what they’re got when it comes to weather sealing their cameras.

Weather sealing is far more important than you’d think when comes to your camera’s operability. It’s one of the biggest variables that we test with cameras that boast this. With our 10 years of testing cameras and lenses, we asked each manufacturer to show us some of their best. With that said, we asked for weather sealing diagrams on some of their best cameras–and they provided, for the most part. We incorporated this with our real world testing to see just how each system is stacking up to one another.

Editor’s Note: Please note the differences between the reference to weather sealing and waterproofing. None of these cameras are waterproof and cannot survive working underwater. But they can survive quite a bit of tough weather and dust/sand/gravel/dirt being flung at them. In order to complete any sort of weather sealing, one must use a weather sealed lens too. This blog post was done by contacting each manufacturer about their cameras and asking them to provide diagrams to us. Then, as we always have, we took the cameras out into the real world to thoroughly abuse them. Bon appetit!

 

Canon

In our experiences and tests over the years, Canon DSLR bodies have been very well weather sealed. Even cameras like their Canon 6D Mk II which isn’t targeted to professionals is very well sealed. And even before that, my Canon 5D Mk II survived being out in Hurricane Sandy. While I’ve been very critical of Canon’s relative lack of innovation over the years, I can’t discredit them for the reliability and build quality of their cameras. That doesn’t mean that each and every one feels great in my hands–but the company has always deserved credit for their weather sealing.

Canon EOS R

Canon provided the Phoblographer with these diagrams of the Canon EOS R to show off the weather sealing on the camera. As you can see, it was very well designed with sealing materials around many of the most sensitive parts including the battery port, the card slot, the hot shoe (though there could probably be more there) and at other places where water and dust could potentially get in. 

As you can see, anywhere where there is a button on the camera, or any sort of entry area has either very high precision materials or weather seals. This translated well into our reviews and experiences with the camera.

I purchased a Canon EOS R personally. This was for two reasons: I was impressed at the quality of the lenses moreso than the camera system (though it isn’t awful at all) and it makes sense for us to keep one around for future lens and accessory testing. As many of you saw in our Sigma 28mm f1.4 Art lens review, we put the camera and the lens down in snow as well as shot with it during some strong snow coupled with equally strong winds. The camera and the lens both survived. But we’ve done this with a bunch of other lenses and other times with this camera. So as far as weather sealing goes on the Canon EOS R, we’d happily take it into some of the toughest conditions we’ve ever shot in and we’d rate it to be well enough to work in hurricanes. 

This weather sealing in the case of the Canon EOS R will satisfy the needs of a photojournalist who needs to go shoot in the rain with a lighter camera body. It is also sturdy enough to be able to survive hikes and much more. I’m pretty impressed and professional photographers will be too. However, I need to make it clear that in order to make the most of the sealing on the Canon EOS R you need a weather sealed lens. I typically use the Canon 50mm f1.2 L USM RF but the Canon 24-105mm f4 L IS USM RF is also weather sealed. Canon’s 35mm f1.8 RF isn’t–and that’s honestly one of the biggest disappointments of that lens.

 

Nikon

We’ve been testing and using Nikon cameras for years now and have always found them to be very reliable. But we’re not alone, many photojournalists have also found the same thing to be true. When we contacted Nikon, they sent us over diagrams of a few of their top tier cameras: the Nikon z7, Nikon D850 and the Nikon D5. We’ve tested the former two, and were quite impressed in our real world tests.

 

Nikon Z7

The Nikon Z7 is a camera that was designed with a whole lot of potential–and if the autofocus, image processing and card slot were just not much of an issue with use, then I’m pretty positive that the camera system would be right up there with what Sony is capable of doing. In these diagrams, we see where the weather sealing on the Nikon Z7 is. To clarify, the Nikon Z7 and Nikon Z6 have pretty much the same camera body. The internals are what’s fundamentally different. These cameras have sealing along all of the buttons, the microphones, hot shoe and all of the ports. These are all of the places where one would most likely run into functionality issues.

If we’re interpreting these diagrams just right, there seems to be two points where there could be potential problems with the Nikon Z7: and that’s around the battery port door and the card slot as they don’t appear to be double sealed. The diagrams from other camera manufacturers show clear sealing, and I’m willing to admit there could just be an issue with the way that we’re reading the diagrams. However, this is where one could run into a potential issue in the field.

The lead image of this blog post is a shot of the Nikon z7 with the Nikon 35mm f1.8 Z in the rain. As you can tell, the camera and system can take a lot of abuse from the rain. Admittedly, we didn’t put it down on a lot of wet surfaces during our testing. However, the Nikon Z7 and Z6 probably went through heavier rain than almost any camera system we’ve tested with the exception of Fujifilm. To that end, we have as much confidence in the system as we do with Canon’s options based on how we tested the camera.

 

Nikon D850

The Nikon D850’s diagrams were also sent to us; and as we’re able to tell it’s very well sealed too. It’s a bit clearer and easier to see where some of the ports are sealed as well as the battery door, the buttons, and even the dials. Arguably, these dials look even more weather sealed than what Canon offers. To be fair, both Canon and Nikon target their higher end DSLRs as more premium products. 

In our tests with the Nikon D850, we tested the camera in light rain. In our Nikon D850 review, we stated;

 

“At one point during the Nikon press trip, the Nikon D850 took quite a splash from the whitewater river. But it survived with no issues; my shirt on the other hand… In addition to that, I took the Nikon D850 and the 28mm f1.4 out into a small rainstorm here in NYC. They both survived with no problems. I’m very confident that the Nikon D850 will survive most of what you throw at it as long as it has all the ports closed shut.
In the hand, the Nikon D850 feels really great and surprisingly never hurt my wrist at all carrying it all day long. It’s amazing that Nikon was able to pack this much into a camera like this. Professional photographers looking for a solid DSLR will find it with the Nikon D850 for sure.”
 

Nikon D5

Last on this list is the Nikon D5. And as you can tell there are even more weather sealing ports. 

In conclusion, we don’t believe the Nikon Z7 and Nikon Z7 to be as sealed as Nikon’s DSLRs. But in real life practice, we didn’t find it to be much of an issue. We’ll be transparent in saying that we’ve used Nikon cameras extensively for months–even holding onto the Z series options for as long as six months. But we didn’t experience any sort of technical limitations with the cameras that would be caused by inclement weather. So even though the Z series isn’t as durable as the DSLRs from what we can tell of the diagrams, Nikon states that it is as sealed as their Nikon D850.

 

Sony

Of all the manufacturers listed in this roundup, we are very sad to say that Sony was the only one that refused to offer us these diagrams. Why? We’re not exactly sure, but when we told them that they were the only ones not submitting, they replied with “Noted.”

To that end, Sony’s cameras have been pretty well weather sealed against the elements but in our own tests, we’ve found them to start breaking down sooner than options from Fujifilm, Canon, Olympus, and Nikon. We decided to keep this statement in this article to show off our fairness towards every brand and in full reinforcement of the Phoblographer’s editorial policy on transparency. Otherwise, someone would be bound to say “Where’s Sony in all this?” 

 

Fujifilm

I’ve always been very impressed by Fujifilm’s cameras not only for the unique image quality that they try to provide with the X Trans sensor, but also for the weather sealing that they’ve put into their camera bodies. Reviews Editor Paul Ip and I have looked a number of cameras and saw just how well sealed the Fujifilm XH1 is. And in our tests, the Fujifilm XT3 also seemed very well sealed.

 

Fujifilm XT3

We were able to secure the X-T3 sealing diagram. Unfortunately, this same diagram is not available for other models, but I can tell you that all of our cameras are designed for the elements. 
 
Below are a few notes on the special treatment on the sealing design for X-T3:
  • Where the users touch directly (such as battery cover and inside of card slots), we prioritize durability when choosing the material.
  • Where users operate(buttons etc), we fine tune the sealing of each area to maximize smooth usability as we as well as weather sealing functionality.


The Fujifilm XT3 has lots of sealing around the ports and the buttons. In addition to that there is sealing around the mount with just a bit around the hot shoe. However, the sealing seems to be where it counts–which is fantastic for pretty much the only APS-C camera on this list. Though I admittedly haven’t spent enough time with the Fujifilm XT3, I can attest to the fact that its predecessor, the Fujifilm XT2 and even the Fujifilm X Pro 2, can survive hurricane-like rains when coupled with a weather sealed lens. Heck, we’ve even used the Fujifilm XT2 with a flash in the rain and it was fantastic. I’ve only ever heard of the cameras breaking down in the snow when put down in around maybe an inch or two of it. In that case, I’d probably expect it.

On the higher end, we’ve taken the Fujifilm GFX 50R out into some very, very torrential rains and used it. It continued to work even after bringing it back in to take shelter. Again though, we can’t fault Fujifilm’s cameras when it comes to weather sealing and providing that they’re coupled with weather sealed lenses. They simply just work and they’re very reliable. On top of that, I’ve always felt like they have the best ergonomics. Couple all this with their film simulations and you’ve got a winning formula.
 

Panasonic

Panasonic S1 and Panasonic S1R

 

At the moment of publishing this piece, we haven’t had extensive time with the Panasonic S1 or Panasonic S1R while in the rain. However, the company really wanted to make their first entry into the L mount and full frame world a big one. And to that end, there are tons of weather seals and lots of protection on the Panasonic S1 and Panasonic S1R. If we look at these camera models and the Nikon mirrorless cameras, then we can see that the sealing is pretty similar. Very notable is the battery port. There is sealing around the edges but also sealing on the inside. This is very important as an extra measure to ensure that moisture and dust doesn’t get into there. 

Additionally, we can see weather resistance around all the buttons and even the exposure dials. This camera is thoroughly sealed and providing that it is paired with an equally well sealed lens, you shouldn’t run into any issues.

 

Leica

When I contacted Leica for this article, I originally wanted them to include the Leica M cameras. Leica has said for years that their Leica M lineup have been built with sealing in mind from the start. That’s also evident if you know any of the horror stories that Leica cameras have been through while in war zones. But the M series hasn’t really been thorough on explaining any of the seals or measures that are taken to ensure that it can continue to function.

Leica Q2

On the other hand, while I didn’t get a diagram for the Leica Q2, we were able to learn that it is rated to IP52. The IP rating gives us a ton of confidence in how the Leica Q2 will work. While it also isn’t waterproof, it can survive a lot of abuse while around lots of moisture. These product images and a few tests that we’ve done can prove this. The only problem that we encountered while testing the Leica Q2 is a spec getting into the viewfinder; but otherwise it all works flawlessly.

Leica S

The Leica S we were able to get a diagram for. As we can see here, the Leica S is very well sealed when it comes to weather resistance. All the buttons, the ports, and the dials seem to have protection. As we can also tell, so too do the Leica L mount lenses–at least some of them.

Afterall, this is a medium format camera. It should be very well sealed.

Leica SL

The Leica SLis Leica’s full frame, autofocus, ILC camera. We’ve seen bottles of water poured over it and even heard about nails being hammered in with it. The last statement is a joke, but if you hold one you’ll understand just how incredibly sturdy it is. I’d be shocked to hear of one breaking; and one saved a Journalist’s life.

 

Olympus

Olympus, for years, has always made very reliable and weather sealed cameras. While folks may scoff at the Micro Four Thirds sensor, I’m not sure that anyone can really scoff at the reliability of these cameras while under environmental pressure. 

Olympus EM1x

The Olympus EM1X is capable of resisting some insane environmental issues. We’ll let this video do the talking for us.

 

Olympus EM1 Mk II

It’s little brother, the EM1 Mk II can also survive quite a bit of abuse. But we’ll let this video do the talkin for us.

Ricoh/Pentax

Ricoh couldn’t provide anything to us for this article. But we decided that we’d bring up an old video of us abusing the Pentax K1–which is just as sturdy as its replacement, the Pentax K1 Mk II.

So What’s the Best Camera System When it Comes to Weather Sealing?

Well, I think from what we’ve seen Pentax, Olympus and Leica really take the cake when it comes to weather resistance and reliability. After that, Fujifilm has always been the most reliable for us with Canon and Nikon being a hair behind. Sony’s cameras, while good, have given us problems in the rain before. However, their lenses are very well sealed.