No, Your Camera Is Not Waterproof. It’s Protected, Maybe.

A conversation that we tend to have with camera manufacturers over and over again has to do with weather sealing. For the most part, every high-end camera has some sort of weather sealing built into it. And sadly, from what we understand, brands don’t cover weather sealing damage in manufacturer warranties. That’s likely not to change unless consumers file a class-action lawsuit of some sort. So in the meantime, we’d like you to understand the differences here.

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How The Phoblographer Does Our Weather Sealing Tests

We’ve had to refine our tests over the years. Some brands let us do some crazy things. OM Digital Solutions has always let us run their higher-end cameras under faucets or even hose them down. Leica’s SL series cameras have IP ratings attached to them. But most camera manufacturers will just say their products are splash, moisture, or dust-resistant. In that case, we end up trying to figure out a whole bunch of things. First off, we try to use those cameras and lenses in the rain or snow. But, some brands will put the sealing only at the mount and will tell us that the product will be fine otherwise, so how we test them varies. However, we can’t say that in our reviews with any sense of responsibility to consumers. This can make things complicated. A while back, a Fujifilm rep responded to our claims that the Fuji XS10 wasn’t weather resistant. He froze it in ice and it kept working. If we did that, we’d be promoting reckless behavior with your camera. We also feel that running something under a faucet to simulate hurricane-like rain is more practical.

Sometimes splash the units down with handfuls of water. At the moment, our reviews team is revamping this test to make it more strict. 

At other times, we may take a camera and lens to the beach, in the forest, or somewhere else where it might get a bit dirty. 

What Is Weather Sealing?

Weather sealing is basically a few things. It involves a design that typically keeps out moisture, splashes, and dust. Rokinon and Samyang will say that their units have weather sealing, but the diagrams show there to be vulnerabilities. If you dive into our Samyang 85mm f1.4 AF review, you’ll see this in the build quality section. Where’s the sealing around the front element, for example?

Some brands only put it at the mount to protect the contacts. 

Typically speaking, all of this involves rubber gaskets put into the cameras or the lenses. At times, it may also mean some different designs, like with the Nikon 40mm f2 and the area that goes over the mount. It’s all important. The more weather sealing your product has, the longer it’s likely to keep functioning in tip top shape. There’s also maintenance to consider, and we’ve written at length about isopropyl alcohol and how to clean lens contacts.

What Is Waterproofing?

A Sony rep explained waterproofing best to me and said that their products aren’t designed to be submerged. When you think about waterproofing, you think about the idea that something can work underwater. Your phone probably has a degree of waterproofing to it. But cameras and lenses don’t; they can’t keep working if they’ve been submerged. 

A Push for More IP Rated Cameras

The way to get brands to make sure weather sealing is understood is to add IP ratings to cameras and lenses. Who knows, it may even mean more people start buying cameras again. Phones are marketed as being waterproof! And so why is it that my phone can withstand a lot of water but my multi-thousand dollar camera can’t?

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.