How to Protect Your Cameras From Winter Weather on the Cheap

How to Protect Your Cameras From Winter Weather on the Cheap

Winter is almost upon us, and that also means the opportunity for beautiful photos of falling snow is about to happen.

Unfortunately, to do that, you have to actually go out in the snow. So, what do you do to keep your gear safe and snowflake-free?

First things first, it’s always a good bet to take out your “weather resistant” gear in the snow. A Fujifilm X-T3 or something Pentax-flavored probably might survive better than cameras that aren’t billed as weather resistant. When it snows, I usually reach for my X-T1 and a weather-resistant lens such as a Fujifilm XF 90mm f/2 R LM WR lens or Fujifilm XF 35mm f/2 R WR lens. While both of these types of lenses have a “WR” designation for the company’s weather resistant line of lenses, I never trust that designation from any company. I’ve been lucky and caught in downpours and blizzards where my Fujis (and Canons and Nikons) have all survived without protection, but it’s never a sure thing.

For one, the word “resistant” isn’t “proof,” but even in the case where something is billed as “weatherproof,” aside from not believing it, I don’t want to risk it anyway. All it takes is water getting into just the right spot to cause a camera to fail.

That’s where the humble plastic bag comes in. Yes, I’m talking about the kind you probably pack your groceries in. If you don’t believe me, here’s some picture proof:

Bag your cameras with cheap plastic bags to keep them safe from all sorts of weather.

It doesn’t look sexy, but it does the job. In addition to always keeping a plastic bag with me, I also carry gaffer tape and rubber bands with me. I usually poke a small hole in the bottom of the bag, push the lens through, then use the lens hood to secure the bag If I’m feeling nervous or the weather is a little more severe, I’ll use the rubber bands and tape to secure things down even more. I can then poke my head through what was the top of the bag to operate the controls and see through the viewfinder.

If you’re worried about looking professional, you can spend a little bit more for see-through plastic bags with drawstrings attached, the kind you see on the Nikon with the larger lens in the photo above. I’ve used these, and no one’s ever said anything about it, and my gear has survived all manner of downpours while shooting sports.

Finally, you can go all out and get high-end protective gear, such as the Think Tank Photo Hydrophobia series, and while when my employers at the newspaper were paying for similarly high-end rain covers, that was fine, it didn’t make sense as a freelancer, and I’ve never felt hamstrung with my clear plastic covers or shopping bags.

Just because the precipitation starts, don’t stop shooting! Sometimes, the best pictures come out of bad weather.

Wasim Ahmad's picture

Wasim Ahmad is an assistant teaching professor teaching journalism at Quinnipiac University. He's worked at newspapers in Minnesota, Florida and upstate New York, and has previously taught multimedia journalism at Stony Brook University and Syracuse University. He's also worked as a technical specialist at Canon USA for Still/Cinema EOS cameras.

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That's helpful. Too bad I won't be going anywhere cold anytime soon!

A big issue for me from an engineering viewpoint with all camera models that i know is that they are not IP certified (such as other electronics are).
That means you have no claim whatsoever if something happens.

Also notice how on the official website they never use the words "waterproof" "water resistant" or anything like that for cameras. Nikon says for the D7500: "comprehensive weather sealed [...] to prevent dust and water droplets from damaging the electronics". I could not find a corresponding phrase on the Z7 or D850.
Canon says on the 5D 4: "dust and spray water protection - yes" - no certification.

If it was certified that would mean IP51 (if taken literally) or IP54 with a bit more freedom.
That's a joke. An iPhone 7 is certified for IP67 and i don't even trust that one around water.