We haven’t tested a camera for underwater photography in a while. The last one we did was a film-camera. And though we do a ton of tests of cameras in the rain, snow, and other torturous weather situations, we’d never put cameras near salt water. In fact, that’s very easily the quick death of your camera. Salt water causes a lot of problems that can’t be fixed. And even putting your camera in rice or silica gel probably won’t remedy what’s going on.
Let’s first face the facts, the chances of your gear not being completely destroyed are very slim. If you get yourself to a repair center immediately, maybe they can fix it. But it’s going to cost you. A warranty won’t cover it for sure because of what salt water does to a camera and electronics.
LensRentals did a teardown of a camera that got saltwater in it before. And here’s a quote from that article:
But the amount of salt and corrosion here and on the bottom means we wouldn’t trust anything in this camera, ever again. It can’t even be a parts donor — the chance that those parts will eventually corrode and fail is too high. That’s why many service centers won’t repair water damaged cameras; they have to give a warranty after the repair and chances are very high something they didn’t replace is going to fail during the warranty period.
One of the reasons why salt water is the worst in this situation is because of what salt water does. When it stays inside, it doesn’t totally try out. In fact, it will eventually just look like there’s a bunch of salt inside when all the water has evaporated. And that corrodes the electronics fully. At that point, it’s much more practical to just replace the camera because that’s what you’d end up doing anyway.
For the record, even if you’re using underwater photo gear, brands always recommend that you wash it down with fresh water. The reason why is that it can majorly dilute the salt water and get rid of it completely. If you do this, then your gear is likely to continue to function well.
If you’ve got a camera that’s rated to go underwater, wash it down with fresh water after use. Additionally, also make sure beforehand that all the battery doors and port doors are sealed completely shut. If water gets into the camera, then it’s not going to work again.
While this is applying to cameras, it also majorly applies to lenses. Lenses have coatings that give them their image quality. Additionally, lots of lenses have motors that help here too with focusing. And these days, most lenses focus electronically by wire instead of using tactile settings. If saltwater gets into your lens, it’s completely done.
If you really want to try to clean your lens, you can consider the tips that we’ve gathered from lots of technical staff over the years. But I assure you that something is going to go wrong.
Generally speaking, keep away from salt water when you’re testing camera gear. I’ve very carefully taken cameras from Olympus into the Atlantic Ocean while standing in it and while also keeping the camera way above my head. You can also carry a plastic bag around the camera too. But truly, weigh whether or not it’s worth the risk.