Alley in Pisa, Italy

by Lars Kotthoff

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Are there camera out there that are capable to withstand at least some of the following type of weather conditions and are able to take good quality photos (not necessarily the most high quality photos)?

  1. Hot weather where temperature might hit at least 50 degree Celsius
  2. Underwater condition in a swimming pool (able to take good photo during day / night)
  3. Sandstorms condition
  4. Thunderstorm condition
  5. Earthquake condition
  6. Underwater condition in sea
  7. Able to withstand hard knocks
  8. Snowing condition
  9. During nuclear meltdown or post nuclear conditions
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Earthquake condition? What exactly are you planning here? –  mattdm Apr 27 '12 at 0:52
    
I am planning to get a feel of the earthquake and take photo (and video) of the condition during the earthquake and after the earthquake. –  Jack Apr 27 '12 at 1:08
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Now, this would become an interesting question if we included post nuclear war conditions. –  rfusca Apr 27 '12 at 1:17
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What did your friend recommend? –  Ward Apr 27 '12 at 6:33
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@Jack: It seems like you are asking for the kitchen-sink camera. Ultimately, you get what your money buys, and to get everything, you need to spend a lot of money. Your essentially asking for a weather resistant camera, which certainly do exist, but they rarely sell for less than $1000 in DSLR form. There are a few water sealed point-and-shoot cameras that can be used underwater, but they are not guaranteed to work in pretty much "any" condition. They offer your average point-and-shoot quality as well, so certainly not "kitchen sink" level. –  jrista Apr 29 '12 at 16:57
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3 Answers 3

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Yes, there are cameras that will work in extreme weather — at least on the more realistic side of each situation. There are many ruggedized cameras, almost any of which will cover some degree of each item on your whole list — although none will take being actually hit by lightning. A ruggedized camera can handle going to the beach (although you should be careful to get sand out of any moving parts after), but a sandstorm is a tall order and you would want additional protection, if you're really out in it. Likewise, these will handle snorkeling, but if you're diving down where there is significant pressure, you probably need additional precautions.

For nuclear disaster, assuming your own safety is either adequately dealt with or that you are past caring, no off-the-shelf camera will help. Radiation will fog film and can destroy digital sensors (and flip bits on memory cards). When photographer Igor Kostin illegally went into the Chernobyl site days after the explosion, he wore a lead suit and protected his camera gear with lead boxes — something similar would be recommended were you in a similar situation. Years later, a Chernobyl tour site notes that putting camera equipment on the ground is forbidden as it risks contamination, but doesn't offer further words of warning on protecting camera gear; presumably the tour is short enough and stays far enough away from high radiation areas as to minimize the risk.

For the more realistic scenarios, though, a camera feature search at Digital Photography Review turns up three dozen shockproof cameras, and I believe all of these results happen to be waterproof as well — which also means sealed against dust. You can narrow down the search from there.

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+1 for the fast respond. The website pretty useful. –  Jack Apr 27 '12 at 1:11
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+1 for actually answering the nuclear part –  rfusca Apr 27 '12 at 16:37
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2 and 8 are not significantly different other than the depth potentially involved. Underwater enclosures are made for hundreds of feet of submersion for most popular camera's including DSLRs, but they are not necessarily cheap. For the average DSLR, it will generally run $1500 to $3500 for such an enclosure. Also, special underwater strobes are necessary at depths below about 40 to 50 feet or even 10 feet depending on water conditions.

3, 4 and 8 are all weather proofing concerns. The underwater enclosures from above would likely work, but are also overkill. There are also a variety of cheap (relatively) weatherproofing options available for most professional gear. Top end professional gear will even have some weatherproofing built in, though it is fairly rare to rely on the built in weatherproofing.

5 and 7 are also very similar and is really linked to build quality. The higher the build quality, the more durable the gear will be against shocks. There are also camera's like the GoPro that are designed specifically for taking physical shock abuse.

1 and 9 are the real challenging ones that pretty much require specific design since operating temperatures can't easily be avoided and radiation hardening is a very special case.

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At extreme temperatures, don't forget to take into account the survivability of the laccessories, especially the batteries and memory cards.

  • Batteries will lose capacity at temperature extremes (and may even rupture or explode).
  • You can buy industrial-grade or extended temperature SD cards, rated to extremes like -40 to 85C, but they will be relatively expensive. One brand that I've used costs around $50USD for a 2GB SD card (a capacity that is commonly available for less than $10USD in consumer-grade versions).

You will need to think about these things if you can't open up the ports on a ruggedized camera to attach a power or data cable (so you don't need onboard batteries or memory storage) without losing the environmental protection the camera provides.

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