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01-01-2016, 12:40 AM   #1
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Torrential rainfall tested the limits of the weather sealing on my K-3 II

A while back, I had a soccer assignment that began in moderate rain but got progressively worse as the job progressed, eventually becoming a torrential rainstorm that threatened to end the game early (but did not). While I was under a portable gazebo together with the rest of the staff in the scorer's area, I had to repeatedly wipe down my Pentax K-3 II and DA 18-135mm with a towel (my DA* 60-250mm was damaged at the time for an unrelated reason) and yet I had lots of trouble keeping my camera dry.

After about 80-90 minutes of continuous, heavy exposure to rain, the camera started to malfunction, with the SR system going haywire and the camera having trouble turning on. I stepped into a storage shed with much better rain protection and tried to let the camera dry. About 15 minutes later, the camera returned to normal operation, and the camera now continues to function normally. I did leave battery and memory card access doors open for the night when I got home to air out the camera and minimize the likelihood of long-term damage. I've shot quite a few basketball games since with absolutely no incident.

This should give you a sense of the limits of the weather sealing on the K-3 II (and other K-system cameras). I suppose what happened was that traces of water slowly seeped through a rubber foam seal in one of the camera body seams due to the extended and severe exposure to rain and accumulated inside the camera, but dried up shortly afterwards. The lens saw at least one very small water droplet reach internal lens elements (and yes, I was actively zooming in and out), but image quality is not impacted in any meaningful manner and there is no functional damage to the the lens electronics.

01-01-2016, 01:02 AM   #2
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That sounds like some pretty lengthy and consistent exposure to moisture, and any system like that has a limit to what it is capable of withstanding. Anyone who has spent a lot of cash on a top quality raincoat will know that not many man made items are truly waterproof, which as we know WR doesn't actually claim to be. It looks like you approached and even reached the limits of what WR can manage. Thanks for sharing your experience, a good point of reference.
01-01-2016, 01:17 AM   #3
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I'm just trying to paint the picture in my head. You were under a portable gazebo yet still had that much water hitting the camera? Also, were you zooming quite a bit?
01-01-2016, 02:10 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by colonel00 Quote
I'm just trying to paint the picture in my head. You were under a portable gazebo yet still had that much water hitting the camera? Also, were you zooming quite a bit?
Yes, I was zooming actively while shooting (taking care to wipe it down as often as feasible), but water certainly did not enter the body via the lens or mount. I'm pretty sure it was accumulation of water through foam seals due to continued exposure to moisture.

01-01-2016, 04:53 AM   #5
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I am glad that all is OK. Your post is a timely reminder that WR means (added) weather resistance, not waterproof.

Thank you for sharing,
01-01-2016, 05:59 AM   #6
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Good to know, the 18-135 WR is on my short list of lenses to buy.

Sam Abell of NatGeo often says "Bad Weather makes Good Pictures" and so I try to go out and look for opportunities when everyone else has the sense to stay indoors I've had some fun shooting in bad weather with my 18-55 WR, but I'd like the extended range the newer lens offers with the WR as well.
01-01-2016, 07:13 AM   #7
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A slip on some rocks while wading in a strong current caused me to fully dunk my K-3 and 50-135 into a river. The cam and lens were not affected. I've shot the same gear unprotected in a continuous drizzle, again with no problems other than the pesky need to wipe off the front element, having left the hood at home to lighten the backpack.
01-01-2016, 08:10 AM   #8
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Ca. 1978 I had my first slr, a rolleiflex sl35 with tessar 135/4 attached slung around my neck in Acadia National Park, when I slid down some seaweed-covered rocks into waist-deep salt water. My arms were too busy flailing to keep me upright (which I barely managed), and so camera and lens were dunked. I'd previously read what to do in a photo magazine (popular photography or some such) : I immediately drove the gear to the nearest drinking fountain, flushed it out with fresh water, sealed it in a plastic bag, went home, shook out as much of the water as I could, and put it in a warm oven with the door open overnight. The next day I shipped it to Rollei for an assessment. They advised it was a write-off, and sent it back.

The lens was obviously toast, with the diaphragm fused by rust (salt water had remained trapped inside). The body appeared to be in better shape. With nothing to lose, I pulled off the top plate and removed the pentaprism (unnecessary steps that woefully complicated re-asembly). This yielded no joy, so I attacked from the bottom, squirting in WD-40 (trying not to go nuts with it), and forcing gears. After giving up, I went back to it a couple of days later. The WD-40 had by then worked it's diabolical magic, and I was able to cock and fire the shutter! I spent several hours re-assembling the film advance mechanism until I got it working properly again, through sheer trial-and-error. I continued using this body for the next ~25-years (I still have it), with occasional hiccups, a hand-held meter and a new vivitar 75-205 cf-zoom in m42 mount to replace the tessar. I later lost a prized distagon 25/2.8 when it fell out of my bag somewhere at a beach, and didn't miss it until too late. I replaced that with a $25 new 28mm JML Optical in m42, procured from an Astronomy supply house. Thus began the seeds of my replacement system, an SP offered to me by a friend.

The moral of my little story is: keep on usin' da film!

Pelagic SL35, non-pelagic distagon 25/2.8, tri-x (vignetting caused by polarizer):




Last edited by dsmithhfx; 01-01-2016 at 08:34 AM.
01-01-2016, 09:21 AM   #9
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Glad to hear it is all okay!
01-01-2016, 10:27 AM - 1 Like   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by dsmithhfx Quote
Pelagic SL35, non-pelagic distagon 25/2.8, tri-x (vignetting caused by polarizer):
You ~REALLY~ should have provided a lot ~MORE~ vignetting for that lower left quadrant, dsmithhfx.

Last edited by fwcetus; 01-01-2016 at 11:53 AM.
01-01-2016, 10:51 AM   #11
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Thanks for the report. I still chuckle when a 'famous photographer' (i.e. one with a TV gig) was filmed taking images at the base of Yosemite Falls. His hi-level Canon gear soaked out on him - oh well, I'm a pro so I can make a call and get another in 18 hours. Watching his frustration was priceless.

Hey silly, buy a Pentax and maybe you won't need to make a call! And good luck telling the difference from your precious Canon shots, once the K-3 is set to 'plastic' NR setting..

Ooo I woke up grumpy in 2016 better take a nap!

---------- Post added 01-01-16 at 09:55 ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by Marktax Quote
A slip on some rocks while wading in a strong current caused me to fully dunk my K-3 and 50-135 into a river. The cam and lens were not affected. I've shot the same gear unprotected in a continuous drizzle, again with no problems other than the pesky need to wipe off the front element, having left the hood at home to lighten the backpack.
Even my non-WR Program Plus managed that trick in 1997, dunked in a High Sierra stream. I removed the battery & aired it out for ~18 hours on top of my pack and it was fine Nothing like today's pesudocomputers we shoot with now but some good automation nonetheless.

The heavy off-brand lens fared poorly and torqued on its mount - my remaining images only had one side in focus the rest of the trip.
01-01-2016, 03:21 PM   #12
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I use to shoot Marathon races sometimes in the rain and/or drizzle. In those situations I would use a plastic bag or something of that nature. It was mostly to protect the camera so I let my so-called Water-Resistant lens stick out by only a few inches out of the plastic bag or protector. A few years ago I tried to sell that same lens that I used for Marathon races and the buyer told me he could not give me top price for it because the lens suffered from condensation. He even showed me the ring inside the lens. I was baffled, because I thought I took pretty good care of my equipment and never let the lens get wet, but then I thought back...
01-04-2016, 07:11 PM   #13
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You are luckier then I was...my K10 never came back to life
01-05-2016, 01:36 AM   #14
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I got into a thunderstorm in Scotland and my K-3 went nuts the next day. In these uncertain conditions i went with the 18-135 WR and the 55-300 WR, turned out to be a good idea.
The next day i bought a sack of rice and put my camera in it for a day. After that there was still a misfunction with my onboard flash (it always fired and i could get faster than 1/180 with my shutter), but it kept going and i got some nice pictures out of the rest of the tour. Later the flash malfuznction was easily fixed by my Pentax service point back home.
The Pentax Cameras are really strong in bad conditions, but of course they have their limits.
01-07-2016, 10:08 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by bwDraco Quote
I suppose what happened was that traces of water slowly seeped through a rubber foam seal in one of the camera body seams
Hi

I should point out that the pump action of short to long zooms resulting from long extending tubes is indeed extremely strong. If you zoom in and out quickly, as you would do when shooting football where players are far and near a lot, the resulting pumping strength could be nearly as strong as that of a bicycle pump. (Maybe not quite, but you can see what I mean). In a none sealed lens the pumping strength is somewhat mitigated because there are no seals to offer extra resistance.

When you zoom in very fast you create a partial vacuum inside the camera body and when air rushes back into the body through less than fully sealed spaces it takes water with it that was hanging around there . Once the water is distributed deep inside the body it simply cannot be expelled by any reverse pumping action. Consequently it will be accumulating. The body can't be totally sealed otherwise you would not be able to zoom in and out very well.

I bet you constantly sucked in water into the body by your fast zooming action. The best way to avoid this from happening, at least partially, is to zoom in and out as slowly as you can.

All demonstrations I have seen to demonstrate Pentax's water sealing by pouring water over the camera (and I have poured water over my own camera to wash off salt which accumulated during ocean sailing) is fine as long as the lens is not zoomed or any other part of the camera is being operated during the process and water is being toweled off before usage continues.

Cheers.
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