Alley in Pisa, Italy

by Lars Kotthoff

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I just got my first 'real' camera. Meaning something other than my phone. It's a Panasonic Lumix FZ70. I've been taking pictures of birds and insects in my backyard.

When I go kayaking (lazy float down a creek, no rapids) I see all sorts of interesting wildlife along the banks of the creek. Everything is a bit too far away to capture with my phone camera.

I'm contemplating whether or not I should take my camera out on the boat. The risk of an occasional splash or falling out is sort of scary to me. I do have an extended plan on it though.

Do any of you subject your camera to water danger? Is there anything I can do to help protect it?

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Note that your "extended plan" quite possibly will not cover water damage. Those things are mostly just a money making scheme for the store and should be avoided at all costs. –  Michael Borgwardt Jun 2 at 22:26
    
Not sure about water damage. The same plan fixed the damage my toddler did to a laptop. I got the plan for the camera as toddler insurance. –  LameCoder Jun 3 at 2:39
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1.It always happens when you don't expect it to happen 2.Anything that can go wrong will go wrong. –  fiscblog Jun 4 at 9:16
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I'm more than happy to use an expensive camera and lens when I'm doing adventurous activities. Why? I can afford to lose it/replace it. There's an old line: "if you can't afford two Ferraris, you can't afford one." –  tedder42 Jun 5 at 16:03

7 Answers 7

up vote 8 down vote accepted

You should get a water tight pouch for it. As long as you won't be submerging it intentionally for extended times, these kinds of pouches should provide plenty of protection. They just need to keep the camera a) positively buoyant and b) protect it from getting wet on the surface.

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Note, some water tight pouches are rated to be used underwater for extended periods (albeit at very shallow depths (i.e. just on the surface, no deeper)), such as [this brand](www.dicapac.com/), which works well with a little care. –  damned truths Jun 3 at 5:37

There are a few options I've used to take cameras on the water canoeing and kayaking, both on flat water and through rapids. Here's the order I've done them in, so you know where I ended up:

  • Get a dry bag. (I've used SealLine but there are many manufacturers.) Not one specific to the camera, just a big enough one to fit the camera. Keep the camera in the bag and only pull it out when you want to shoot -- which also means only pull it out when you feel comfortable that you won't drop it in the water! (For example, jet boat coming by? Now might not be the right time to try to get the shot.) I use a big Pelican case when going out in a canoe to shoot seriously; the canoe has a lot more room than a kayak and I can shoot while somebody else paddles and helps hold position.

  • Get a waterproof camera case. I've used a small Aquapac in the past, and they work ok and have a variety of sizes of available. On the higher end, Panasonic also makes an underwater housing for that camera, which represents a step-up in both waterproofness and ease of use over the more generic bags.

  • Keep this camera on shore and get a waterproof camera. Certainly the safest option, and this is the route I typically take to just get some snaps of the outing.

If I'm aiming to get some good photos while on the water I go in the canoe with the DSLR and a bag full of lenses. The kayak doesn't offer enough stability while trying to move around to get into position, however worse is that the kayak will move when I'm trying to get the shot. In a canoe I can have some help paddling, and they can be responsible for holding position while I get shots. Throwing gear in a dry bag sounds ok but is impractical for the "big" DSLR gear where I want several lenses and other assorted doodads, which means I have a camera bag to force into the dry bag, and pull out, too. It becomes a hassle to get a bag in/out of a bag to get at gear and you quickly look for shortcuts: "I don't need to seal the dry bag this time," which is of course a guarantee that this is the time you need to seal it. The Pelican case has foam that can be cut to fit gear, and then clicking the lid shut seals it, making for a much more efficient and less frustrating experience.

For less casual use, such as I expect you'll do with the FZ70, a small bag like from Aquapac is probably all you need. These bags do work, but they are not without disadvantages. Expect a significant loss in image quality by shooting through the bag, as well as a lot of frustration trying to adjust settings with the camera, and maybe even difficulty getting the shutter button itself pressed. These bags are not perfectly sized to your camera so you need to work with the shape of the bag to get at the controls on your camera. You may even need to fiddle with the position of the camera in the bag when you change the zoom just so that you can adequately hold it. If you plan to do any amount of shooting this turns into a frustrating solution.

Of course, the Aquapac bags aren't cheap, and I'm guessing you'll need something for $100+ to fit your camera. Gee, at that point the waterproof cameras don't look quite so expensive when you consider how little frustration you'll have using them... if you can accept the limited capabilities these cameras typically have. (For example, roughly 120mm zoom is the norm on waterproof cameras, as compared to the 1200mm of the FZ70.)

Something else important to consider: tethering your camera to yourself or your boat. If you're reaching out and suddenly drop the camera to grab your paddle or because you flip, you want a way to be sure you don't lose your gear. All of the options I've discussed have lanyard, loops, hooks, or tiepoints of some sort so that you can tether it to your boat or your life jacket.

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This was a good answer, but I ultimately accepted the one that I will be using. Simple, economical, and effective. –  LameCoder Jun 3 at 2:43

I have carried my FZ100 in my closed deck kayak a number of times. I keep it in a dry bag between my legs in the cockpit. If the water gets a bit rough I close the dry bag, but generally it is open. Yes, if I capsize it is probably lost, but the odds are very slight in flat water. It is important to realize that the kayak is not a stable platform, so you need a faster shutter speed than you would think. It also helps to shoot forward rather than sideways, as you are more stable in that axis.

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I use a waterproof barrel for canoeing and on a boat. It has handles too so i tie it down to the canoe. They are typically blue and come in several sizes the small will fit a DSLR with a lens attached and in a canoe you could keep it between your legs and still paddle. I use the medium and can fit all my gear in it. I put some patting in there too. I find it relatively easy to pop the lid and shoot but I still have to be careful to shoot on water and I put the camera back immediately and close the lid with the clamp. I usually have the lens i want mounted, camera on and set to the approximate settings to minimize time gear is out of the barrel.

Here is an example and a photo of the barrel from this site: enter image description here

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A dry bag is of limited use, since you have to remove the camera in order to use it. A waterproof case, or camera for that matter, is expensive. I use a zip lock kitchen bag - I don't even have to remove the camera, if I'm in a hurry in a risky situation (i.e., the boat is moving). Also, it cheap enough and small enough I can bring an extra for a friend.

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A ziplock is ok if you grab a new one for each outing (the seal and seams are not very robust), but the biggest problem with them, IMO, is that you can't tether a line to it. With wet hands if you grab the bag and it slips out of your hand... woops! In the drink and possible gone! –  Dan Wolfgang Jun 2 at 23:05
    
This would have been my first instinct, but one of my friends broke his phone due to faulty zip lock bag. Not sure if it was an off brand. –  LameCoder Jun 3 at 2:41

I take my DSLRs every time I go diving. The underwater camera is in an Ikelite housing, and stays in it all day while we're on the boat, as it gets wet. The overwater camera stays in a closed dry bag when not in use. Our boats are a bit more stable than a canoe but I reckon a dry bag will be sufficient for your needs as long as you don't want to use the camera in rapids!

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There are a couple approaches here...like previously answered -- get a dry bag and only take it out when your environment is semi controlled (no major waves/wind/etc).

I have taken my camera snowboarding with me on several occasions...in a dry bag, in a backpack. I never had an issue as long as I stayed on my A game preparing for what could happen.

It depends if you can afford to replace the camera if something happens, have you looked into insurance in case an accident does happen? A few splashes here and there on your camera won't affect it, I have had mine out in heavy rain several times...even if they shut down because of water you can typically dry them out and they are fine. I have had cameras shut down from freezing weather, sand, water...dropping it. All of these were either fixable on the spot or fixable by sending it in.

If you really want the shot, plan ahead - get a 100% dry bag setup and shoot away!

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