Taking Apart a $10,000 Mirrorless Fuji Camera Damaged by Saltwater

Taking Apart a $10,000 Mirrorless Fuji Camera Damaged by Saltwater

LensRentals has shared a number of images of the inside of a Fuji camera after staff took it apart when it died without obvious explanation. The customer had used it underwater within dive housing, and despite appearing fine on the outside, LensRentals discovered that inside, there was evidence of saltwater damage.

The Fuji GFX 100 medium format mirrorless camera in question, worth around $10,000, recently landed in the care of LensRentals after it was concluded by Fuji that there was no way of saving it. The customer it came from reported it had died unexpectedly and without justification.

LensRentals founder Roger Cicala tells PetaPixel how removing 4-8 screws on the camera body allows for removal of the tripod plate:

If there has been water, you’ll almost always see corrosion under it; water tends to wick up along metal, often traveling a good way from where it originally entered.

The condition of the I/O ports is the usual giveaway as to whether the camera is beyond help or not. Cicala explains:

Once you’ve seen that it’s considered not repairable for very good reason – replace the corroded stuff you see, and something that looks OK fails in another month or so […] That’s the general rule of water damage; it’s always worse on the inside. This should be a great example of what even a little saltwater does inside a camera. Seriously, everything we know about the incident indicates there was just a tiny bit of salt water that got the camera wet. It wasn’t immersed or anything. The camera worked for a couple of hours after that before going belly up.

Upon investigating the inside of the camera, Cicala found corrosion throughout the body and wires. He pinpoints a noticeable gap around the command dials that would allow water in  — perhaps the culprit.

Cicala’s incredibly detailed guide to taking apart the Fuji, complete with images, is definitely worth checking out, and you can find it here.

All images courtesy LensRentals.com and used with permission.

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microteck's picture

Heartbreaking. But when you use a camera in a way it wasn't intended you should be ready to pay the price if anything goes wrong. Hopefully the photographs taken were worth the cost. I once strapped a video camera to a gas powered remote controlled toy car. That little car moved like a rocket and I wanted to get video really bad. I knew there was a very good chance the car would flip, roll over and damage my camera beyond repair. But if I got the video it would be insanely great. So I took the chance and did it. Fortunately the camera survived and I still have the video 15 years later. I went on to do more daring stunts and the camera finally bit the bullet.

David Butterell's picture

I skydived for many years with various canon cameras (mostly the 100 or 10 range) and often kit zoom lenses that were open to the elements and often run through clouds at 120mph. Never had an issue with moisture related problems (nor damage caused by parachute opening shock). I’ve never been too concerned about weather sealing since. Most people use GoPro types for stills now.

Brave person who takes a 10k camera underwater though!

Ivan Lantsov's picture

it wet and died expected!

Ken Carver's picture

Even a little water around the seals, maybe from changing batteries in a multiple dive shoot, will be forced into the camera under the increased pressure in the housing.

Joe Sandrin's picture

Everyone who dives a lot will eventually lose a camera. Even doing things right, there will, at one time or another, be a pinpoint leak or other event that lets moisture into the case. Many people shoot expensive rigs where the total setup - camera, lens, housing, ports, tray and arms, lights or flash, etc. can cost $20K. My rig is a Nikon1 J3 inside a WP-N2 housing with a Sola light. I have drowned one camera caused by a small particle trapped on the seal. Cost of replacement about $100 for another used J3. My expensive gear stays topside and not at the beach.