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08-20-2017, 08:23 PM - 14 Likes   #1
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About those WR body weather seals...User responsibility and best practice

With a few notable exceptions, most threads on this site that specifically relate to weather seals generally fall into three main groups: reports of failed seals and/or rants about expectation of seal performance and/or Ricoh voiding warranty when water is found inside the camera. The standard responses range from success stories ("seals saved my camera"), sympathy comments, more rant, and suggestions of user (victim?) blame. That last is particularly prominent to the point that I have been thinking that a short treatise on user responsibility may be more kind and ultimately more helpful. Note that this note specifically excludes discussion of lens flange seals and/or use of focus/zoom on a sealed lens. The intent here is focus on the body only.*

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A few initial talking points:
  • Given enough time and/or pressure differential, any seal in any system will fail
  • All seals degrade with age and factors such as heat, ozone, contamination, etc. may contribute to the process
  • Hermetic seals are only a good idea if a static internal environment is also a good idea
  • Many on this site and elsewhere who have shot electronic film cameras and did so under challenging conditions for many years without failure due to moisture
  • The above four points strongly infer that mindfulness and appropriate expectation might be combined to secure a good result. (That certainly reads stuffy.)

When water gets in with help from the user

I have my K-3 in front of me as I type. Pentax claims 92 environmental seals and has featured photos and video showing the camera quite thoroughly wet, if not soaked. That appears to be a clear invitation to excess. On the body, I count six points where user behavior may reduce the benefit of the camera's seals. They are (working from the top down)...
  1. Microphone port flap...must be properly seated
  2. USB, HDMI, DC-in flap...very easy to not get fully seated to seal
  3. SD Card door...probably the weakest point in the system, though it is quite possible that there may be additional internal seals similar to those used with the hot shoe
  4. Wired remote port flap...must be properly seated
  5. Battery door...I would not leave the camera base sitting in standing water...'nuff said, eh?
  6. Grip contact cover...if properly seated, probably is quite effective, however, see point #5 above
Some might also add the lens mount (duh) and PC sync cap.

As is noted above, time is not our friend where water is concerned and while there are well-documented occurrences where a Pentax camera has survived full immersion or cleaning under a gentle stream of water, prompt removal of standing water from the camera is a prudent course of action. Some additional thoughts regarding time and pressure...
  • Avoid situations where the camera may end up sitting in pooled water (e.g. bottom of leaky camera bag or ice chest**)
  • A splash is a high pressure moment. The same is true for a falling drop of rain. A few more words about "splash". There has been a subtle move by manufacturers to use "splash" in preference to "all-weather", or "rain" when describing seal performance. I think that is is safe to assume that "splash" as a "waffle word" does not include firehose, 30' waterfalls, garden hose nozzle, or a rogue wave at the sea shore.
  • Aftermarket plastic or glass protectors for rear and top LCDs may allow water to pass and hold it against the main seals for the LCD itself

On the subject of humidity

Water in the camera is not always due to seal failure and damage to internal components due to moisture is not always due to gross incursion of liquid water. The sad truth is that water vapor in the air will follow the concentration gradient and while seals may slow the process, eventually the vapor pressure of H2O inside will be the same as on the outside. Moist air may encourage growth of fungus and when the camera passes from a warm, high humidity environment into a cooler space, condensation on internal surfaces, including electronics and optics, may occur as a result. This has always been a problem for cameras and lenses, particularly in the tropical parts of the globe where specialized storage in low humidity cabinets is not unusual. Another common humidity risk element is present in cold winter areas where outside air is cold and dry with indoors air often being somewhat more humid. Moving a camera filled with warm moist air to a 10F (-12C) outdoors will result in condensation within the camera and/or lens. The most obvious indication is condensation on internal optics and mirrors. Note that moving to an air-conditioned space from the humid summer outdoors is very similar. There are many approaches to dealing with humidity and condensation and a full discussion of a little off-topic. Google is our friend. Many thanks to user @JinDesu for suggesting expanded content on humidity.

Please indulge a small aside on the matter of hermetic (love that word) seals. User expectation often is that the camera should be warrantied watertight. The logical extension is that the camera be fairly airtight as well. There are troubling implications to both in that once water or moisture-laden air gets in, it may be very difficult to get the wet out again. The seals work against us and there is a good reason to not make them too tight. It is my belief that Ricoh/Pentax should extend a grace in their warranty restrictions where condensation is a potential cause for water damage.


Best Practices

I won't guaranty that following these suggestions will save one from wet grief, but they are common practice and field-tested and I do believe them to be of value.
  • If one finds that rain gear is needed, it is quite likely that one's camera needs some level of protection as well
  • Do not be presumptuous of the effectiveness of the seals. Hubris is not a virtue. Yes, it is sort of cool to allow the seals to be the first line of defense against the wet (I confess), but it is better to avoid doing so.
  • Do not expose the camera to more than a few minutes of steady rain or penetrating mist. If one needs to wipe the lens front element or camera eyepiece or if water is dripping off the gear, there is reason for concern.
  • Make sure that doors and flaps are properly closed.
  • The seals on exterior doors and flaps as well as o-ring mount gaskets (WR and AR lenses) work best if they are kept clean of grit, lint, or contamination. Many thanks to @BigMackCam for reminding me of this and for his cleaning suggestions (comment BELOW)
  • Do not allow water to stand on the camera. Carry a small towel (e.g. dish towel) to wipe water from the camera before returning it to the bag
  • When working in the rain or when potential for splash is high, avoid setups where one of the body doors or flaps are open to the wet
  • Consider use of well-fitted camera rain sleeve or poncho
  • An umbrella can be a huge help, particularly if one has a willing assistant to hold it. Having an umbrella might allow one to carry the camera around the neck or off the shoulder.
  • Most camera bags have minimal water resistance. Know before you go.

When to weep
The following indicators of water penetration have been reported by users on this site...
  • Visible fog, droplets, or sloshing water in rear/top LCD
  • Persistent fogged viewfinder eyepiece
  • Condensation on inner surfaces of SD card access, USB/HDMI access and similar
  • Liquid water inside SD card access or battery bay
  • Sloshing sounds from within the camera
  • Failure of one or more camera controls
  • Failure of rear or top LCD displays
  • Failure to power up
  • Camera is demon possessed
  • Liquid water found during service attempt
  • Gross corrosion found during service attempt

Mitigation
There are multiple reports from users on this site of successful drying after a mild incursion. I have never had to perform the procedure, but conventional wisdom goes something like this:
  • Power off and leave power off until confident that the camera is dry
  • Remove battery
  • Remove lens
  • Open all camera access doors and flaps
  • Place in a closed plastic bag with desiccant to draw moisture out of the body. Tradition calls for dry, uncooked rice grains, but rice can cause problems if allowed to get into the mirror box and other openings and can get mushy. Some users have used other grains or dried legumes (e.g. wheat or lentils) and have reported good results. A recent option is silica gel-based crystal-type kitty litter (see HERE).
  • Drying may take several days and may also require a change of desiccant
Incursion of salt water is much more serious and I hesitate to recommend a DIY solution beyond powering down immediately and removing the battery prior to getting it to a service facility.



Steve

* The rational is partly for convenience and partly due to my lack of experience with sealed lenses (yes, I shoot in the rain without such and have done so for decades).

** Yes, I wrote ice chest and yes, I did see this and no, it was not my camera


Last edited by stevebrot; 08-21-2017 at 05:00 PM.
08-20-2017, 10:04 PM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote
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Perfect where it is Steve. Excellent information given. Thanks
08-20-2017, 10:28 PM - 1 Like   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote
Sloshing sounds from within the camera


Love the attention drawn to rouge waves. Good analogy. Stand in the wrong place for too long and you had better know the fine print when things go wrong.
08-20-2017, 10:30 PM - 1 Like   #4
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Wow , there's a lot of valuable information in this post.

The thing to be aware of about weather sealing is that it has limitations when using zoom lenses, and there is a pin hole at the back of the camera camera bodies to allow air to come in and out of the zoom lens when zooming in and out.

Practically, it can happen that rain comes suddenly, and it that case, it may happen that the camera and lens gets a bit of rain. I put the camera out of the rain and wipe the water if there is much of it.
I usually have at least a plastic bag or two in my backpack, and often keep a poncho in my backpack, it's inexpensive, light weight, compact and it can cover the photographer camera and lens all together.
When shooting wildlife with the DFA150450, I happened to stay about 3 hours under the rain with only the plastic hood of the DFA150-450 popping out of the poncho.

4 Pentax DSLR bodies over 15 years, and no issue with weather sealing.

08-20-2017, 10:41 PM - 2 Likes   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Wild Mark Quote


Love the attention drawn to rouge waves. Good analogy. Stand in the wrong place for too long and you had better know the fine print when things go wrong.
I was actually looking for a different video shot several years ago from near where I live. I guy was shooting end of day video near Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach, Oregon when a sneaker wave hit him and his tripod. What you see on the video is the sunset, the water rising suddenly, the tripod legs in the air and muddy water...fade to black. The Canon 5DII was a complete loss, but the card was salvaged.


Steve
08-20-2017, 11:00 PM - 3 Likes   #6
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Your mentioning of a camera in an ice chest is kind of funny to me because I actually use a medium sized hard sided ice chest for storing my gear in the car. I have a breathable cloth bag in the bottom containing a pound or two of silica bead dessicant to suck away humidity. In addition to keeping the gear dry, the cooler 1) provides insulation which dampens temperature extremes (especially heat) otherwise present in a car, 2) visually conceals the fact that I have valuable gear in the car, and 3) provides physical protection against getting knocked around.

Daryl
08-20-2017, 11:09 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by biz-engineer Quote
Practically, it can happen that rain comes suddenly, and it that case, it may happen that the camera and lens gets a bit of rain. I put the camera out of the rain and wipe the water if there is much of it.
Indeed! It was just this last weekend that I was hiking with a friend to a local waterfall when a downpour swept in unexpectedly. I had a Gortex jacket and was able to shield camera and lens with that and was happy for the camera seals. It was raining hard enough to affect the AF on the camera and to soften the results. Below is a full-resolution crop where the rain is quite visible at a distance of about 70m.


Were it not for my jacket, I am fairly certain that the seals may well have been compromised by the time we made the 20 minute walk back to the car.


Steve
08-21-2017, 12:48 AM - 3 Likes   #8
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Excellent information, Steve! Thanks for posting this

In addition to doors and port covers being properly seated, they need to be clean. One or two tiny bits of grit, lint, or other contaminant between surfaces can be all it takes to significantly compromise a seal's effectiveness. The same goes for the mount gasket on WR and AR lenses. To that end, best practice (for me) includes periodically cleaning doors and ports on the camera, and the mount area of my lenses. I use a cotton bud and isopropyl alcohol (or pre-packed alcohol lens wipe if I'm out and about), followed up with a rocket blower to get rid of any fibres left behind.

@Adam - could we make Steve's post a sticky?

08-21-2017, 03:43 AM - 1 Like   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by BigMackCam Quote
Excellent information, Steve! Thanks for posting this

In addition to doors and port covers being properly seated, they need to be clean. One or two tiny bits of grit, lint, or other contaminant between surfaces can be all it takes to significantly compromise a seal's effectiveness. The same goes for the mount gasket on WR and AR lenses. To that end, best practice (for me) includes periodically cleaning doors and ports on the camera, and the mount area of my lenses. I use a cotton bud and isopropyl alcohol (or pre-packed alcohol lens wipe if I'm out and about), followed up with a rocket blower to get rid of any fibres left behind.

@Adam - could we make Steve's post a sticky?
The @ thing does not work too well. I've stickied it.
08-21-2017, 04:45 AM - 2 Likes   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by biz-engineer Quote
Wow , there's a lot of valuable information in this post.
I agree.

It's something of this sort that should be included by Pentax in the box of any WR gear, as a helpful leaflet guide about WR, and followed by their warranty disclaimer. It would be useful information for all to read, and particularly for those who do not appreciate the difference between 'weather-proof' and 'weather-resistant'. Also, although it seems improbable that anything can be made 'fool-proof', it might be prudent of Pentax at least to aim for 'fool-resistant'.

Philip
08-21-2017, 05:00 AM - 2 Likes   #11
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A host of valuable information, delivered in an excellent, even fun-to-read educational post, Steve. And Mike's additional remark about the importance of keeping the seals clean is dead on, of course.

I was sure naive when I subjected my K-7 with the DA WR kit zoom to what must have been half an hour's worth of heavy November rain on a school event shoot back in 2010, before taking it inside to shoot the concluding indoor bits of that St. Martin procession. (I did wipe it down on going inside, but some of the early indoor shots show tell-tale signs of condensation on the front lens, and hopefully only there! Even back then, I had enough sense let the camera and lens dry out completely after the occasion.) I was lucky: both K-7 and kit zoom survived without perceivable damage.

I also admit having rinsed my K-3 for thorough clean with the said WR zoom on several occasions - but only after checking all the movable seals were in place, and only with a brief gentle trickle of room-temperature water. Again, without incurring any obvious damage or malfunction, but since then a slightly damped microfibre cloth has served me almost equally well, and at significantly reduced risk, I guess.

Some of the drastic early user reports, basically only following what Hoya was doing in its own marketing efforts, must have boosted Pentax sales quite a bit and helped to establish that Pentax reputation of being rugged field cameras (which they are). I specifically recall a Pentax minisite devoted to the K-7, when it came out, featuring a mud-covered K-7 with an AW lens. Camera abuse, everything from rinsing to deliberately tossing cameras into the mud, seems to have become a standard proceedure whenever weather-sealed Pentax bodies are reviewed on YouTube.

Unfortunately, this has also invited a lot of gear-bragging. I remember meeting this rich guy on a party who, within minutes of understanding that I was shooting Pentax too, proudly related that story of him daring different-brand camera owners to do the same as him, namely throwing (or, heck, hurling?) his K-5 with one of his many DA* lenses into a snow field high up the Alps and recovering it in doubtlessly mint condition! My innocent pleasure of having met another Pentaxian took a serious blow on the spot, and I guess I ended that conversation soon after, claiming I wanted a refill for my wine glass, needed to go to the john, or something. Needless to say, a quick online search for that guy's photographic output on the next day revealed little of particular interest. Well, he could have hundreds of killer mountaineering images on his harddrive, who knows, but frankly I doubt it.

Last edited by Madaboutpix; 08-21-2017 at 06:27 AM.
08-21-2017, 07:04 AM   #12
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One thing I think that should be brought up is that internal condensation due to moving from a warm to cold environment is to be expected, and is not a failing of the seals. Humidity levels inside and outside of the camera is the same regardless of seals or not - and temperature changes will condense the latent humidity.
08-21-2017, 11:22 AM   #13
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Great post! I've moved it to the DSLR forum as a sticky, since it applies to all Pentax DSLRs. Might be a candidate for moving/copying into the articles forum in the future.

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08-21-2017, 11:25 AM - 2 Likes   #14
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Good information. I must be pretty lucky though. With my K-5 II & 18-135 lens I've had it out in the rain for over an hour at my granddaughter's rugby games. Another time on a motorcycle/sidecar trip to Yellowstone there was a lot of rain & fog but I still took pictures. I had other lens on that trip, but the 18-135 was the only WR lens with me. No problems either time. Then with my K5 I was photographing a church picnic and got into the middle of a water balloon fight. The camera took a direct hit, again no problems afterward. My KS-2 also has seen it's share of wet environments.

08-21-2017, 03:32 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by BigMackCam Quote
In addition to doors and port covers being properly seated, they need to be clean.
I will add this.

Steve
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