Nikon User Weather-Related Experiences


Real users, real experiences.

The article that provoked these reader comments is now in the Archived 2009 byThom Comments and News page--search for March 20th. To submit your own weather related experience about Nikon gear, send an email here.

April 2009


I bought a D3 in February of 2008. I used it for the 2008 year shooting freelance, which for me is mostly sports and often for the local newspaper. In November, 2008 I noticed that the rear screen of the D3 was becoming discolored in the upper left corner. Only on the very edge and it was more visible in sunlight. I had not gotten the camera wet up to that point, but I thought it was from moisture trapped inside. The only time the camera got wet was later, during a playoff high school football game. I was into the first quarter of the first playoff game of the season and a quick moving front was coming through. When the rain started I ran under the bleachers to shoot people getting out of the rain. I didn’t have a rain coat myself and I knew the showers were going to pass through quickly. I needed to stay the whole game and knew I had plenty of time to get game action. When I made it underneath the bleachers, I checked the camera and only had to wipe off a little moisture. The camera hadn’t gotten wet enough to bother wiping it, but it still felt new to me and I babied it.
Having never really getting it wet and it being new and under warranty, I wanted to get the screen fixed so it was still perfect. Both of my D2H bodies had been rained on several times in the past and nothing like this screen discoloration had happened. I was certain it should be covered under warranty.
In January, right after the Christmas season, I brought the camera into the dealer where I bought it and asked them to send the camera off to Nikon (California is their service center) for warranty work before the year was up. Nikon looked at the camera and said I owed $480.00 because I had gotten it wet. I effect, they cancelled my warranty. I asked the camera store to plead for them to repair it under warranty, but they said they told them no again. So much for buying from real people who can help you when you need it. I was going to the Tour of California in a week, so I had them return the camera. I am deeply disillusioned with Nikon and their service department. I will never send anything to them for any kind of repair of any kind as long as I can help it.  The highest estimate to repair this camera at several reputable repair facilities is $75.00, and that’s only if the glass breaks when they take it off. (cd)

[Thom's response: it seems pretty clear to me that Nikon has some sort of an LCD sealing problem that they're not owning up to. It happens with both the top and rear LCDs, where moisture gets below the protective glass but above the visible display. The fact that this DOESN'T happen to most of us, even when we're using the product in very wet situations, seems to indicate that it is a variability in manufacturing. Nikon can (and probably is) claiming that they don't specify that the displays are weatherproofed, but I think there's an implied expectation here: it's not worth weatherproofing the camera insides itself and making marketing claims based upon that if you are going to leave crucial aspects of the camera unprotected. In fact, I'd guess that in some states in the US, state laws would assert a suitability for intended purposes breach by Nikon and hold that the warranty can't be disclaimed. Even more curious, Nikon does not provide a protective cover for the D3 rear LCD, even though the camera is set up for one. This, too, could be construed as a suitability of purpose indicator.]


I think I read your weather related article two days before my worst experience, or maybe the day after, I’m not sure since I was out shooting in the snow that weekend from Friday to Sunday.

In any event, I thought it was very informative and one that I could relate too.  I’ve used my D200 at temperatures lower than –25C, and in heavy snow that accumulated on the camera and lens, but until March 22nd, I really had never had a soaking like I did...

If you want to see a video, visit facebook or youtube and key in Mansfield Puddle Jump 2009.  While I appear near the beginning, my moment of fame is closer to the end when I was drenched by one of the snowboarders.

The close up action can be seen here:  http://www.pbase.com/markb56/image/110573187.jpg, just before this happened... http://www.pbase.com/markb56/image/110573188.jpg.

I shot the next jumper before I turned the camera off and went inside to hand dry it.  I also took advantage of an air compressor to blow water under the dials and what not.

Despite a major blast of water, the Nikon “took a lickin’ and kept on tickin’. (mb)


As part of our business we do equestrian event photography in England every weekend and, as is well known, England can be wet! I started this business with a D200 in 2006 and a Sigma 70-200 F2.8 Lens. This combination has been my bread and butter earner even to this day and at the last service my little beauty had just under 200k clicks under its belt and now would be nearer 230k. This camera and lens combination has been out in drizzle & light rain on too many occasions to mention and hard rain at least 5 times. The definition of hard rain to me is constant, persistent rain with little break during the day. The camera has not been covered as this is impractical to us when covering X-country events as the camera has to be ready to shoot at any time. The only precautions we take are to keep the camera pointing downwards to keep water off the front element and to try and avoid ingress at the lens mount. I also keep my thumb over the eyepiece for no better reason than to be able to see through it when brought to the eye.
 
On several occasions it has been so wet that the lens has misted up and needed to be taken off and left upside down inside our jackets until clear and then remounted! The lens has become so wet also for so long a period that the surface finish on the metal part of the lens has softened and now peeled off, replaced once under Sigma’s 2yr warranty but now just left as we are not bothered by this as long as the lens works, which it has flawlessly, a point of interest I will come to later. Also if the lens is twisted slightly at the mount I receive an F7 warning and a corresponding slow shutter release. This has been a constant problem with this lens and camera combination for the last two years with both manufactures finding no problems with their own product but obviously unwilling to look at the other manufactures product in conjunction! I’ve learned to live with this and by cleaning the contacts between lens and body it has helped alleviate the problem to some degree. At the end of a wet day I do nothing more than leave the lens and camera in a normal temperature room facing upwards with a clean handkerchief covering the lens openings to avoid dust falling in and allow them to dry at a slow rate.
 
The problems the camera has experienced so far is the replacement of the rubber grips twice, once under warranty and then a paid for repair. A broken catch that holds the battery in place on the battery grip and the same CHA warning that one of your readers experienced with a D3 but his only appeared whenever we used a Lexar CF card but was ok with SanDisk. We therefore just used the SanDisk cards and got on with it until two weeks ago when it stopped working with these as well showing the same CHG message even after formatting them on the computer. I tried my own unscientific approach to repairing this problem by using an old Fuji CF and pushing it repeatedly into the CF slot in the camera with a fair amount of force. Result? Oddly the camera is now working perfectly with both types of CF card! I can only conclude that there must have been dirt lodged on the pins inside the camera that my ‘repair’ had managed to dislodge.
 
We also have the Nikon 70-200 F2.8 which has not seen even half the action of the Sigma or been subjected to as much rain yet, just out of it’s 1yr warranty, the rubber on the zoom ring became loose after a wet days shooting and needed replacing along with the rubber grips on the D200 which had been working loose again. Nikon assured me that they were now using stronger glue and this would not happen so frequently from now on! Having pointed out how my 3 ∏ year old Sigma grips were still as well stuck down today as they were the day I purchased the lens, I was handed a bill for £170.00! Oh, sorry, in fairness to Nikon that did also include replacing a £00.0002p catch on the battery grip which, when I think of it, goes some way to explaining the cost! Annoyingly I attended a NPS event not long after where we could bring our cameras along for a sensor clean and minor repairs were undertaken for free and one chap had his grips replaced as well, typical!!!!
 
I should point out that we have a D2Xs that has undergone similar ‘wet’ treatment and a D3 which has got wet but is mainly used for indoor events and neither of these cameras has suffered any problems. I think the poor chap in Australia with his D3 has been mugged by Nikon as these cameras can take a lot of abuse moisture wise as our business proves.
 
I should point out that Nikon UK have been faultless in carrying out all my services and repairs as an NPS member apart from charging me for the grips. (cp)


I have been using a D70 with DX18-70 and VR80-400 since 2004 over here in Southern Africa, often in very hot, humid, dusty or changing conditions (temperatures can go from -7 to 25 degrees Celcius on some days in certain places). This with a lot of carrying around in a small backpack (with a home made inset) and often lying around unprotected in the back of a Landrover with the windows open on very dusty, bumpy roads.

The DX18-70 also once got showered in orange juice. Zoom is sometimes a bit sticky and creaking, but it still seems to work (travel insurance paid for a clean, but I never had a chance to send it in - that was in 2006).

The VR18-200 doesn't manual focus any more and the D70 is over-exposing and obviously most of the sensor is covered by dust and specks. Still, I reckon a professional clean should sort both camera and lenses out. Not bad for 5 years of moderate use in unfriendly territory. (dg)


A couple of summers ago I was driving my cousin’s ski-boat with my friend.  He was shooting pics of his brother water-skiing with my D2X and 70-200F2.8G lens attached.  The brother wiped out and I swung the boat around to pick him up.  I miss-judged the ski-boat’s bow/wave performance, going too slow I sent a wall of water over the bow and into the cockpit when I crossed my own wake.  We were drenched, and so was the Nikon.  My friend panicked, but I shrugged my shoulders and figured the camera was not hurt.  
 
The camera and lens were fine, and I shot another 2000 frames later that week. I still use the camera today for all sports applications.  I’m impressed with Nikon’s build quality and I have also upgraded to the D700. (bw)


You may remember that you were kind enough to advise me before my trip to Nepal last year.  While there, I carried a D3 and my main lens while trekking was a Nikon 24-85mm.
 
As you probably know, wind velocity there increases with altitude, and erosion supplies a steady supply of fine granite dust that is carried along by the wind.  I did not have any cover for the lens and camera, which were strapped to my shoulders and chest and I walked so that I could be ready to capture images of people that we passed, etc.
 
As we approached Everest Base Camp, I noticed that the lens was not focusing property and, very soon, refused to focus at all, although the focus confirmation light continued to function.  I suspected that the lens is not sealed well enough for such conditions and wish that there was a professional equivalent for this range (and maybe just a bit longer).
 
After I returned, I sent the lens to Nikon and it rebuilt the lens, but it did not zoom smoothly, and I sent it back, both times at no cost.  Interestingly, when Nikon returned the lens the second time, along with my D3 (which needed to have an electronic bug fixed), they were both shipped loose in the same box, shielded only with Styrofoam peanuts. Fortunately, it appears that no harm was done.
(wc)


I live in Southeast Alaska - a boreal rain forest with over 100 inches of precipitation per year. Although I try to go an take pictures on drier days, much of my travel, and in fact, much of my photography is in the wet. I've used three Nikon cameras over the past 5 years - a D100, D2x and D300. All of them have spent hours in the rain and mist although I do keep them covered whenever possible. I've actually used Thom's theory of weather protection during this time - if you can't see the viewfinder or if the lens gets wet, cover the thing. Otherwise they stay out in the open.

I've only had one water related failure - that was with the D100 and the 28-105 lens. I grabbed the camera on the way out the door for an impromptu business meeting in Anchorage. I didn't take any support equipment (Kata bags, backpacks, plastic bags). Of course, the hastily thrown together meeting got delayed by 48 hours and I rented a car and drove north to the real Alaska.

After hiking in a couple of places, I managed to walk through an hour long downpour to an old gold mine. The camera was visibly soaked and sort of worked, but it would not focus and would not always fire off a picture. When I got back the hotel, I broke the camera down and noticed water in the mirror box and of course around the lens mount. After wiping everything off carefully, I left the lens off and turned the hotel supplied hair dryer on air, left the arrangement on a towel and went to bed.

The next day, I again wiped the camera down and put it back together. Both camera and lens have worked well ever since. My D2x had a similar experience and survived with similar treatment. The camera went back to Nikon to fix a stuck control wheel and replace ever popular pebble grip issue. They made no mention of internal corrosion.

The problem with this, of course, is that the plural of anecdote isn't data - obviously there is some level of water entry that will trash a camera and I've taken to be more careful with the things. But sometimes you get an unexpected result. Apparently the D100 has a secret multiple exposure mode: (rg)


I shot for two years with a D80. I know this camera is not weather proof so I usually try to keep it out of the rain but I pushed its limits a couple times. One time was in very light rain for about 45-60 minutes. I forget what lens I was using at the time—probably the 18-135 kit lens. I was constantly drying off the camera and it held up the entire time until I got on the train home. At this time I noticed the viewfinder flickering strangely and I attempted to take a picture. The shutter was caught in the image (half the exposure was black from the curtain) and I was a bit concerned. I removed the battery immediately and took it home and let it dry a couple days. It continued to function once it was dry. My conclusion is that I had allowed some water to seep into the flash housing toward the end of my day knowing I would soon be in a dry spot and this is what caused the problems.

The second time I was out in light snow. I did not think much because I was able to avoid snow building up on the camera. I was using the 50/1.4D at the time so there was very little surface for the camera to collect snow and I was trying to keep my arm over the camera when I had it at my side. Again I was out maybe 45-60 minutes in the snow and once I got indoors it started flickering again. This time I did not test it, I immediately removed the battery and let it dry for about a day in a very dry location.

Overall I'm impressed with how well a non-weathersealed digital camera performed in somewhat damp conditions, despite having two close calls. I've had it out on other rainy occasions but with an umbrella in hand to keep the rain off. (ss)


As for the water proof-ness of Nikon stuff, I had an accident recently with my D700 and the older 85mm pc lens. I was shooting some barn sides at a friends house for background images on a project, when one of my friends suggested a smaller shed sized barn across a little creek might have better wood. We went over there but because I was just going to be there for a few shots I didn't take anything but my camera, lens, and tripod. On the way back my friend suggested I cross at a different place where there were bigger rocks to use as a path. The creek was probably only 8' wide, and only a few inches deep. The first step up on one of those 'nice' rocks was the end of that. The rock rolled out from under me and I went in. So much for flat looking rocks. Instead of putting my hand out to land on, which had my D700, I decided to do a slight roll and land on my side keeping the camera from being dunked. However, in the ensuing splashing and thrashing, the camera came out of it completely covered in water. It looked like I may have well dunked it after all. After limping off into the sunset, I dabbed off all the water, and air dried everything overnight. Everything has been working great since. No water got in the lens mount, but I did find a little water inside the battery cover near the cover and not up inside. There was water around all the other covers, but no water got beyond the edge seals. The lens was also quite wet and I spent more time dabbing it off as more kept coming out when I worked the focus. It too survived quite nicely and is still in heavey use. As an aside, I had a gitzo tripod with a RRS BH-55 head which went submarine on me. I called RRS and they suggested just letting it dry out which is what I did and it too is working perfectly. Moral of the story? Pack things up better to cross a creek, (Still not likely with the creek I crossed.) and follow my own path. After all the one I chose the first time worked very well. (cc)


On two occasions I have experienced the loss of autofocus on two AF-S lenses while two AF lenses continued to work fine. The weather was very high humidity with occasional showers in a tropical rainforest.
 
The camera was a D200 and the lenses  AF-S 12-24, AF-S 24-120VR, AF 50mm f1.8 and AFD 80-200 f2.8. Cleaning the camera and lens contacts did nothing but a day or so after the humid conditions eased, the problem went away. The camera has since been serviced and revisiting similar conditions has not seen a repeat of the problem. (jl)

[Thom's comment: not surprising. Humidity in the focus box at the bottom of the camera can be a real issue. The tolerances in the AF system are so fine that it doesn't take much dust, dirt, moisture, etc., to compromise the phase detection system. It's one of the reasons why I have my cameras professionally cleaned every year or so.]

March 2009


After purchasing the D3 in June last year, in November, I had experienced a problem after downloading photos from the CF card to my computer, after formatting the card in the computer and then the camera the error message CHA appeared in the monitor.
 
After speaking to the Nikon Tech Service in Sydney, Australia, and after being advised if not a damaged/faulty card and the pins were not bent that I should send the camera to their Service Dept.
 
After forwarding the camera on the 16 December via registered mail and later being advised by Nikon staff after repeated phone calls between 29 December 08 and 19 January 09, I was advised that the camera has not arrived or log into their system for repairs at their service centre, that I should contact Australia Post, as they may have lost the camera in transit.  A subsequent check with the postal authority revealed that Nikon received and signed for the parcel on the 23 December.

My beef with Nikon is that they had the camera in their possession for almost a month, and after receiving an email on the 20th January stating that they located the camera, a further email on the 21st that it needed parts from Hong Kong, and then on the 28th an email advising that the fault was not a warranty claim because the camera had suffered some sort of “liquid penetration” which caused most of the electronic and internal cables to burn out.
 
The most likely cause appeared to be exposure to excessive condensation, causing an internal short circuit.  The cost of repairs would be $1422A.  Pro sales manager had never heard of any similar problem I have experienced.

After receiving an apology from the Nikon Service supervisor for their mistake, they advise that they would reduce the repair costs to $790A.
 
Not being happy with the Australian service centre, I had the camera returned unrepaired and forwarded to Nikon in Japan for their evaluation.

Japan more or less had communications with their counter parts in Australia stating that they were sorry to hear about the trouble I had with the camera, further stating they checked the camera and found a few corroded parts and damaged PCB, however would reduced the repair charge by half together with postal costs a total of $691A.  Neither party appeared to be interested in that I wasn’t the root cause of the problem in the first instant.

Thom, I live in Darwin the northern part of Australia, where we only have 2 seasons, a wet and dry season.  The wet season is mainly between October and May.  It is not that tropical, not like I in live in the jungles of Brazil.  I am a retired Police Officer having worked as a forensic science crime scene photographer for many years, an advocate of Nikon equipment still owning a F4 and F5 and know how to look after my equipment

After only using the D3 on approximately 5 occasions since purchasing the camera (part time wedding photographer), I know these cameras are not water proof but the D3 has never exposed to any liquid (rain) whatsoever or any high levels of humidity or any sudden changes in temperatures that would cause any internal condensation.  I would have had have kept the camera in my kitchen refrigerator to cause the condensation they allege happened.

Nikon advertise in their brochure that the D3 goes the extra mile to protect against moisture, dust etc with a comprehensive series of O rings and specialized seals.  Have I bought a Lemon? (cp)


My experience with a D700 was a direct hit by champagne spray shooting the podium at an AMA SuperBike event at VIR last year.  I know a couple of the riders personally and they look for me during/after a podium appearance.  After the initial hit, I was able to turn my back and protect the equipment, but it still took a full frontal blast.  Photographers with multi-thousand dollar rigs make excellent targets for these guys since we have to stay and shoot in order to get the celebration.
 
I received a few pity glances from other shooters and at first I was afraid to look down and check the camera.
 
My D700 and lens smelled like a wino but I wiped it clean with a damp rag afterwards, dried it thoroughly, and it still works fine.  I would compare the hit with a quick blast from a water hose from 5 feet away.   (jd)


I read with interest your recent blog post "How Sealed is Weather Sealed?" I thought you might be interested in my experiences with my D200 and Nikon 18-200 lens.

On several occasions, I have stood out in the rain to capture the shot I wanted. For example, I remember one particular occasion when I was shooting for a small competition at work, with the theme "wet." I spent about an hour outside during a storm with at times extreme rainfall. My camera and lens got thoroughly drenched in the rain. I wiped it dry.

The shoot ended when a wave caught me be surprise and soaked me, my camera and lens in salt water. I took my camera to the showers at the beach. I extended the lens fully, then rinsed the salt water off the camera and lens by holding it under the shower and rotating it to shower all the surfaces. I dried it off with a towel and left it to air dry completely, without opening anything. You can see from the photos that this happened in July 2007. The performance of my camera and lens are still as rock solid as the day I bought them.

There is one effect I have noticed on the lens, which is probably a result of the number of times I have got it wet. The lens has two rubber grip rings, one for the focus and one for the zoom. The glue holding these to the lens barrel is failing. However, there is no evidence of water ingress into the lens itself.

I don't advocate that people go out and intentionally get their cameras wet - I have a friend who had to spend over a thousand dollars to repair his Canon 5D after he slipped and dropped it into a creek. I would also note that a zoom lens such as my 18-200, where the length of the lens changes as you zoom, is inherently not waterproof. The volume of air inside the lens changes as you zoom, so there must be a path for air to enter and leave the lens - meaning that zooming the lens when wet is a good way to get water inside. When I have got the lens wet, I have always taken care to dry the barrel before zooming. (jl)

[Thom's comment: how well a lens will do with a moderate exposure to water is a bit dependent upon the design and materials. It used to be that many of the internal components of lenses were metal, and corrosion becomes a real issue, even with fresh water exposure. Today--and especially for the consumer lenses--polycarbonates are used in many critical moving parts, such as the focus cam, and a little bit of water isn't necessarily death for the lens. However, if you live in a humid climate, the issue becomes fungus. Once fungus hits a lens element, there is no choice except to replace the element.]


Greetings from Eastern Canada. I'd just like to point out, my kit is optimized for lightweight travel - it's currently a D40, AF-S DX 18-55mm, AF 50mm f/1.8, Sigma DG 70-300mm f/4-5.6G, 2 old Nikon strobes and some other doo-dads. Anyhow, to the point; even considering this gear is certainly mostly plastic and not weather sealed, it takes quite a beating in our harsh weather:

The D40 has been abused, but in bad weather it's been heavily rained on last spring, the mirror box has been filled with snow(!), sleet and snow has gotten all over the camera, and it happily survived -43.5 celsius (air temperature, not including wind chill), and other sub -30 blizzards. Not bad for something rated for 0 celsius and no significant moisture ingress.

Same deal with the cheapo-kit lens - filled with snow, buried in the snow, sleeted and rained on, still works great (actually, there is a very slight grinding noise when zooming. And it's cosmetically dinged in a few places, mind you the important things, optics, zoom and focus are working well.)

The Sigma suffered from the same torture, and it still works well (except it's a bad lens, but that's nothing that didn't come out of the box). (kg)

 

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