Canon WP-DC8

Canon WP Housing

Canon WP-DC8

Gear : "Affordable Housing"
It has been said that experience is the best teacher and most people learn from their mistakes. True words, of course, unless your nickname happens to be Coolwetdude or Sunboyfun. In such a case, it takes multiple mistakes, made repeatedly, before the learning curve even slightly skews towards the positive. For CWD & SBF, taking proactive measures against future foul-ups is like having to take out the garbage – and that “garbage" happens to be the rusted remains of water-logged cameras.

Since we began dipping our toes into wetlook photography, CWD and I have lost at least seven digital cameras to sea and stream. We have become the laughing stock of turtles and seagulls everywhere. Thanks to woeful wind and waves, toppled tripods and the dreaded pull of gravity, many of our point-and-shoot partners have swan-dived their way into oblivion. Some cameras are now doubling as condos for clams, while others remain duly dissected but not resurrected.

Indeed, Davy Jones’ locker would be a few cameras shy if only CWD and I had employed one of the many wonderful waterproof housings available for Canon , and other brands of cameras. Ironically, my Canon A-95 pulled a “Captain Nemo” on me and dove to the bottom of the sea, all while its recently-purchased waterproof case slept comfortably at home. A gust of wind, which would have made Dorothy and Toto run for cover, pushed my camera into Cousteau Country in a matter of seconds. I was so angry at myself that like an aquatic quarterback, I tossed the camera as far as I could throw it!

Waterproof housings are translucent, air-tight plastic casings, custom-fitted for the camera which it contains. The cases allow the user to take underwater photos with all camera functions usually intact and accessible. Waterproof housings are expensive, often costing as much, if not more, than the cameras themselves. However, any photographer shooting in and around water will instantly reap the benefits and piece of mind knowing the camera is protected. Our photos are shot above the water’s surface, but the risk of a dunking is just a clumsy stumble away. A waterproof case enables the user to operate the camera’s features and controls without worrying about wet fingers touching the shutter button. I used to tie a washcloth to my tripod to dry my hands between self-timed shots. It was a chore to wait for dry hands between shooting and viewing my photos.

There are a few cons to consider in the camera case equation, but they are far outweighed by the pros. Because waterproof housings are custom-fitted to a particular model and size, the cases don’t usually account for the use of attachments or extra lenses. I would love to use my circular polarizing lens and hood for the Canon A-640 in the waterproof case but there is simply no houseroom. In the grand scheme of things, I will still opt for protecting the camera and sacrifice a little flexibility.

Condensation is another consideration. It is important, especially on hot days, to frequently check the lens and casing for moisture buildup. The case may be waterproof, but little droplets of “dew” can form inside the housing, creating a fog on the lens. This fog can go undetected in the heat of a photo session and can ruin otherwise perfect shots. Many times I have returned from a great day of picture-taking, only to realize, upon reviewing my work that a spritz of condensation turned a day’s hard work into a “mist” opportunity! My Canon WP-DC8 waterproof housing has a front window made of a similar glass to that used in scuba diving masks. Despite its high-quality construction, the glass can still be spotted with saltwater deposits, leaving subsequent photos with a case of virtual chicken pox! A good periodic wiping off between shots is recommended.

It’s a good idea to give your camera a bit of a breather by letting it cool off outside the case for awhile. After hours in the sun, no camera deserves to be kept in waterproof purgatory until it goes into heat stroke. That being said, it is equally important to maintain a good air-tight seal, especially when using the camera underwater. Silicon gel is usually provided when the case is purchased, and is easy to apply to the removable rubber seal. After using the housing in saltwater, it can be rinsed with fresh water and left to air-dry. If needed, let it soak in a bucket of fresh water (closed and sans camera, of course).

It may take a little time to get used to the added bulk of a waterproof housing. Your camera’s once familiar features may seem slightly obscured by the spring-loaded buttons and controls of the housing. The controls themselves may seem a tad slow in response but this disconcerting sensation fades with practice and experience.

I am happy to report that both CWD and I have not lost a single camera during the 2007 season. It seems we may have learned from our mistakes after all. Well, I admit that the bulk of our new photos from Florida, 2008 were captured without the “Camera Condom”, by CWD’s naked and unprotected Canon S-5. My A-640, clad in its crystalline confines, remained benched on the beach. I think a few more seagulls and turtles might still get the last laugh yet!

(Ok, in CWD’s defense, as of this writing, Canon has yet to issue a waterproof housing for its S-5 camera. A third-party company does make a beautiful case for the S-5 and S-3 but one would have to mortgage the farm to buy one. I think it was in the ballpark of $800 retail last I checked.)