Doing a stop-motion by the sea, the Nikon D5200 camera and tripod got overrun by a wave and submerged in salt water, and then on sand. From reading this forum thread, this one, and watching this video, I am doing the following:

  • a freshwater bath (how long?)
  • leaving to dry in the fridge for 3 days
  • taking apart the whole camera
  • cleaning the components with a cotton swab and alcohol
  • putting it together again

Does this seem appropriate, or would another course of action offer better chances?

Update: The camera is not marketed as waterproof nor splashproof.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I would do the taking apart step first, before anything else. This will allow the fresh water to more effectively clean out the remaining salt afterward. If you have access to it, distilled water or a specialized cleaning solution is even better. However, given sandy saltwater, I wouldn't have high hopes. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 17, 2020 at 13:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ The fridge is a humid environment. That's not going to do much to help dry out the camera, unless your intent is to dry is slowly. \$\endgroup\$
    – FreeMan
    Nov 17, 2020 at 13:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ @miguelmorin 20% off "list" price directly from Nikon may or may not be a lower price than what you could get the same replacement from a discount seller. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Nov 20, 2020 at 0:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ @miguelmorin That's standard for any complaint. Taking a malfunctioning camera apart without knowing exactly what one is doing (down to being familiar with the specific design) usually damages it further and makes it harder, if not impossible, for the "trained professionals" to fix it. If it's disassembled without making some calibration marks and keeping spacing shims organized so that one knows which post each shim of slightly different thickness came from it makes it much more time consuming and difficult to reassemble. But in your case they're going to look at the first sign of corrosion.. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Nov 20, 2020 at 20:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ ... and declare it non-repairable. Water damage is not covered under warranty, either. If you had a supplemental "damage" insurance policy, usually sold as an "extended" warranty that includes damage as well as manufacturing defects, that would be the only reason to send it in unassembled (so your insurer could confirm it is a write-off and send you a check for your loss). If there's the slightest evidence the inside got wet (with or without salt water), Nikon will not attempt to repair it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Nov 20, 2020 at 20:38

2 Answers 2


It's toast.

Salt water is the most corrosive thing you can do to the electronics inside a DSLR that doesn't involve a vat of strong acid.

Roger Cicala, the founder of lensrentals.com, has posted at least two blog entries regarding teardowns he did of rental cameras returned after having been exposed to salt water without having actually been submerged in it.

The Fujifilm GFX 100 vs Salt Water Teardown
About Getting Your Camera Wet… Teardown of a Salty Sony A7sII

According to Roger¹, saltwater damage is more devastating to cameras and their internals than just about anything the gear his company rents encounters on a regular basis. He covers it in depth in this blog entry, but he has also mentioned it in many others.

The results were not pretty.

This is a portion of the main PC board of a $10K Fuji Medium Format GFX100:

enter image description here

Here's another part of the same camera:

enter image description here

This is part of a Sony α7S II:

enter image description here

At Roger's company, they don't even part out unrepairable cameras with salt water damage due to the concern that there may hidden corrosion in those parts. Normally, those guys part out just about everything - even some full frame cameras with a single scratch on the sensor get parted out to repair other cameras in their vast inventory:

Lensrentals insider joke: What do you call a D800 with a scratched sensor?
Because at $1,800 for a sensor replacement . . .

But in the case of salt water damage:

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.

¹ Probably no one in the world oversees a larger inventory of cameras and lenses that are used to take photos, rather than being stored in a warehouse as inventory to be sold, than they do.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Legally, even cars that have been submerged (in fresh water, never mind salt) aren't legal to "salvage" to drive again. Same reason: too much chance of something failing without further warning. Seen the video of the $3 million Bugatti Veyron going off the road into a salt pond? That's a total for three million bucks. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Nov 18, 2020 at 12:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ I read the linked references and they provide good cautionary pictures and advice for preventing this and other problems. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 18, 2020 at 21:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ Working with a camera damaged in that way, and repaired to (temporary?) function again, might be an interesting artistic statement, though :) \$\endgroup\$ Nov 20, 2020 at 18:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @rackandboneman The OP doesn't ask about how to make the camera into an artistic statement, the OP asks about how to restore functionality of a tool. IMHO, any effort expended to restore a camera (not designed to be water tight) that has been submerged in salt water is pointless. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Nov 20, 2020 at 20:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ The camera was toast indeed. After 10 days of drying, I put a new battery and turned it on: it smelled burned and slight smoke was coming from the body. Nikon asked not to disassemble, so I may return it for that voucher. I was able to recover the photos in the memory card after cleaning with alcohol soon after and leaving 10 days to dry. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 27, 2020 at 16:10

You've got the right approach, but given that the electronics were powered up when the camera took it's swim in the sea, I think it's quite unlikely you'll restore function. Probably the best you can hope for, if the camera was wet inside, is to recover the images from the memory card.


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