7 Digital Camera Predators and How to Keep them at Bay

7 Digital Camera Predators and How to Keep them at Bay

The Digital Camera has a number of natural predators – things that in just a few seconds could snuff out it’s life and render you camera-less. Learn to identify your camera’s predators and take a few simple precautions and exercise a little care and you can keep your camera operating at it’s potential for years to come (well at least until it’s time for an upgrade). You really can never do enough digital camera maintenance.

Here are 7 natural predators of the digital camera and how to avoid them:

1. Sunscreen and Insect Repellent

It is important to protect yourself from the elements of sun and insect bites when shooting outdoors, however some of the things that you’ll use to do it can cause your camera harm. Sunscreen is generally oily and insect repellent often contains chemicals that you wouldn’t want to get in touch with the more delicate parts of your camera.

The way to limit the impact that these things have on your camera is pretty obvious and largely involves keeping those parts of your body that come into contact with these things clean. Wash your hands in fresh water after applying sunscreen and repellent and you’ll go a long way to keeping your camera clean. If you do get your camera greasy make sure you clean it off as quickly as you can.

Lastly – don’t fall into the temptation of putting sunscreen and repellent into your camera bag. I know it’s tempting so that you don’t have to carry another bag – but it’s really not worth the risk as a leak could end your camera’s life. If you do travel with them together make sure you have a sealed bag for the liquids.

2. Sand

There is nothing that frightens me more than the thought of sand getting into my camera. Cameras have moving parts and to get something as gritty and abrasive as sand into them can quickly put your camera out of action or at least damage it so that you end up with scratches through it.

Ultimately the only protection against sand is not taking your camera to sandy places. Of course this is not particularly feasible and you’ll need to do what you can to keep sand and your camera separate.

Sealable bags are great to travel with, cleaning brushes to get those stray grains off your camera can be useful and cleaning clothes are helpful.

Always be particularly aware of your surrounds and things like wind or people kicking balls or throwing Frisbees when you’re changing lenses, memory cards and batteries as these are high risk moments that sand just loves to swoop in. Also – learn to think ahead about what lens you might need so that you can change it inside in a more stable environment before hitting the beach.

3. Dust

Like sand, dust is a natural enemy of the digital camera. It’s a more subtle attacker in that it generally won’t scratch your moving parts – but it is just as damaging, particularly when it works its way into your camera’s inner parts and settles on your image sensor.

Once again – wipe your camera down each day, be careful of when and where you change lenses and travel with your camera in a sealed bag.

Also if you have a DSLR consider getting it’s image sensor professionally cleaned (or learn to do it yourself – with care) every now and again if you do find marks on your sensor (you’ll notice them most at small apertures – to test it, set your camera to it’s smallest aperture and shoot at a white wall or ceiling).

4. Moisture/Water

Moisture attacks cameras in numerous ways. At it’s most extreme it attacks as water which has the ability to quickly end the life of your camera (I regularly get emails from digital camera owners who’ve dropped cameras in all kinds of liquids including the ocean, baths, rivers and even toilets). Use you camera’s wrist or neck straps to keep your cameras out of water and always be aware of where you put it an how it can be knocked.

A more subtle attacker when it comes to moisture is condensation. Particularly noticeable is when you move from one temperature to another with your camera (for example from air-conditioning to humid ones). Investing in silica gel packs is one way to help with this as they absorb moisture in your camera bag. Some people suggest putting it in a sealed plastic bag when moving between temperatures – this might work well but is not particularly practical in many situations, especially when you have a large camera. Ideally you want to warm your camera up naturally and slowly – it’s definitely a challenge. Other than that – wipe off your camera regularly when in humid environments.

5. Salt

While the beach presents photographers with wonderful photographic opportunities it also can be a dangerous place with many digital camera predators – not the least of which is salt which has a habit of getting into your camera and lenses and causing all kinds of problems (including corrosion).

Fight the impact that salt has on your camera by wiping it clean at least once per day while shooting in salty places.

If you have a DSLR use UV filters on your lenses to give an extra level of protection and avoid opening your camera up (to change batteries, memory cards or lenses) as much as possible. When not shooting, keep your camera safely in your camera bag and be particularly aware of positioning yourself in sea spray on windy days.

6. Thieves

Another natural predator of expensive photographic equipment is the thief when you least expect it will swoop in and steal your gear away from you – leaving you feeling frustrated, violated and wondering what you did to deserve it.

Always be aware of where your gear is and how accessible it is to others. Get yourself a camera bag that doesn’t scream ‘I’ve got a camera in here’ if you can (there are some great brands on the market – I use this Crumpler bag for this reason).

Keep your cameras on your body if in a risky environment, keep your bags zipped up and well fastened, consider having your bag on your front rather than your back in high risk situations, insure your gear and try to be selective and not every travel with too much of it at any one time.

7. Bumps and Drops

The downfall of many cameras comes quite literally when they are dropped or bumped into other hard objects. While some cameras now come with shock proof casings the majority of cameras do not and need to be treated as delicate objects.

Use a padded camera bag or casing (and use it when your camera is not in use, be aware of where you put your camera, be careful when passing it from one person to another etc. Also check your house and contents insurance to see whether it covers accidental damage (many do). It’s just common sense really but I’m quite amazed at how often silly accidents end the lives of expensive pieces of equipment.

Good Gear

Hopefully you’re feeling a little more prepared to venture out with your digital camera feeling confident at your ability to keep it’s natural predators away.

If you’re looking for some gear to help you with some of the above you might like to check out some of the camera cleaning products at Amazon and their range of Crumpler Camera Bags which I’m a big fan of.

This post was originally published in September 2006 but was updated and republished in September 2007

Read more from our Cameras & Equipment category

Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

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  • Javid August 14, 2012 06:52 pm

    the most deadly enemy that my camera ever experienced are the people around me, not the thieves but my best friends and family. who will touch the lens and LCD, put liquid and food near the camera and a do a lot of other horrible and creative things to harm the dear machine.
    one of my friends once trow stones at the lens just because he was having to much fun.

  • Evening January 29, 2012 02:13 am

    Vacuum clean the inside of your camera bag frequently as dust sand dirt etc from your camera will end up in the bag. Clean your camera clothes too. I keep a clean dust free large carrier bag in my camera bag so I can use it as a 'clean room' if I absolutely have to change anything on camera.

  • Kyle Sheppard January 11, 2012 10:06 am

    Great article. A lot of good tips to keep in mind.

    Another great brand of bags that don't necessarily look like camera bags is Timbuk2. I have the Snoop Camera Messenger and I love it!

  • shontay ward May 6, 2011 01:58 am

    i think that this is alot of stuff that needs to be done for a little camara am just saying

  • Noob Mommy February 3, 2011 04:05 am

    Thanks for these tips! We just got our first Nikon DSLR yesterday, and I'm now learning the nuts and bolts. I was wondering about the sand + beach scenario, since I envision taking our new gem to the beach this summer to get some shots of our 2-yr-old. If I'm not changing lenses or doing anything "too risque", will I be ok with the sand factor? I imagine I'll just have it around my neck or in the bag, but inevitablly, some sand will land on/around the camera. Can I just wipe it off with a microfiber cloth? Is this kind of "surface sand" going to really harm my camera if I'm not opening it up?

  • Yaira January 29, 2011 04:03 am

    Great article. It now makes me very weary of taking my DSLR to the beach, I hadn't quite thought about the sand.. figures! It also reminds me of my college photography class back in '93, my professor would always say the two cardinal rules to take care of your camera are:

    1. Always tuck in the camera strap.. if you leave it hanging down when it's on a table or bag the easiest thing is to get snagged on it while walking by and make the camera take a plunge

    2. Never leave the camera in the car, it will so happen to be stolen that day

  • mattoau January 21, 2011 08:59 pm

    DEET, which is the most common active in insect repellent is also a good paint stripper. It doesn't just have to leak in a bag or enter the body to be a problem, as a fine mist from usage will quite happily strip coatings from lenses and sunglasses. If you must apply when shooting then stand downwind or some distance away from the camera.

  • Nate Griffin January 14, 2011 02:27 am

    Theft is probably the most realistic threat on this list. I have never had trouble with dust in my lens or camera despite never once using a lens cap!

  • Elyse January 1, 2011 01:26 am

    I keep a filter and lens hood on my lenses at all times. The one time when I was in a studio setting and was told to remove my lens hood, I hardly knew how to move around without it. I use a Black Rapid strap, which keeps the camera near my hand, and I recently got Lowepro's new Passport Sling, which looks remarkably like a real purse, although it is a bit of a tight fit for a 7D. When I'm going somewhere in NYC with my flash equipment and want to look inconspicuous, I put my extra gear in a 24-can Thermos insulated shoulder tote.
    Thanks for the info about sunscreen and repellent; I wouldn't have considered that a danger. I do also keep those silica bags in my camera bag and lens cases. So far, so good.

  • Joe December 29, 2010 09:43 pm

    One method I've employed to help prevent against moister is through the use of Silica Gel. If you have ever purchased electronic equipment, they usually come with little, white, 1 oz bags of Silica Gel. I keep one of these in my camera bag at all times.

  • H. December 9, 2010 10:45 pm

    Silly typo in the first sentence of the "good gear" section. It should read "keep its natural predators away". The apostrophe in it's is incorrect :)

  • Thomas November 25, 2010 09:35 am

    I think mildew is deserving of a place on this list - All my lenses have faced ruin form spider-web like growth on all glass surfaces.

  • Michelle September 29, 2010 03:11 pm

    Can I keep my DSLR on top of a shelf where just below the shelf is my TV?
    I read that the magnetic field may damage the camera.

  • Ellie July 27, 2010 03:58 pm

    Hi - I love the website and have learned a lot. My biggest predator is sand and dust.

    I live in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and go to the desert, or out of town/outdoors at least, regularly. We have "static dusty" days when the dust/sand just sits in the air, typically after a sand/dust storm and there is no wind, and we have "dynmanic dusty" days when the wind suddenly gusts, from any direction, just as you get the camera out to take THAT shot.

    My poor little P&S camera only lasts me about 6 months (I don't want to ruin a DSLR every 6 months!) once the dust gets hold of it. Someone suggested an underwater casing for my P&S but I haven't tried this yet. Once the dust/sand gets into the lens area, the covers don't close, then the whole thing slowly goes out of focus and you have to bin it. The camera sales guys love me :-D

  • Sincerelyhelen July 6, 2010 11:54 pm

    Being one of the begininingest of beginners, these tips were very helpful. When you get your first camera all you think about is taking pictures...learning from experience is not a good thing when it comes to these 7 preditors.
    Thank you for sharing.[eimg url='undefined' title='undefined']

  • Excalibur February 27, 2010 06:11 am

    Most of those tips I have never thought of before. Thanks for sharing.

  • Digital Cameras On Sale November 12, 2009 11:56 am

    Is it not second-nature for any photography aficionado to properly pack his equipment? Especially if you consider the cost of these high tech machines nowadays!I never tell anyone how to carry their gear since I have enough to worry about with my own digital camera equipment, but once you buy a good thick (light weight) foam padded carrying back that has rubber-rolled lined corners and edges, these kinds of carriers will serve you well. You'd simply have to be brain-dead to leave or even temporarily set something like this in beach sand or leave on a dusty / windy picnic table or lawn! Think! Good reading though . . . .

  • Jill November 11, 2009 07:26 am

    Hal Mooney, that is a brilliant idea! I often see old hard-shell suitcases at thrift stores for just a few bucks. I bet I could pad one up nicely and convert it into a camera case for considerably less than what an actual camera bag costs, and fool anyone with a mind to swipe it!

    I took my Rebel to the beach this summer and kept it sand-free by keeping it in my bag when I wasn't shooting, zipped, in the seat of my youngest child's stroller with a towel over it. I kept the bag zipped and towel in place when my camera wasn't in there as well to keep sand out of the bag itself. This also worked to hide my camera from thieves when my back was turned or I was down in the water with my little ones.

  • lucky October 31, 2009 02:18 am

    I was shooting at the Niagara Falls Cave of the Winds

  • Katzenbach Zoltan October 23, 2009 05:59 am

    Simple advice: use Pentax, even several of cheap bodies and lenses are weather sealed, not just the high end.

  • Mike Minick October 21, 2009 10:54 pm

    I learned my lesson with regards insect repellant when I spilled a bottle of the stuff in the (plastic) glove box of my car. IIt is extremely corrosive and ate halfway through the plastic and welded some of the papers right into the resultant plastic puddle. Beware!!!

    On another tack, how do other photogs cope with the insects and bugs while on ourdoor shoots. Where I live, insects and bugs are a constant problem even on the beach. Many models don't want to apply insect repellant and the stuff is often shiney, so how do others cope with this problem? MM

  • Renee October 21, 2009 10:00 am

    I have a Tenba messenger bag that I cannot recommend any higher to someone who wants an incognito camera bag. Walking around I look like just a student - mine is brown and has a few cutesy buttons on it - and it has a zipper on the top that you can undo and reach inside to the bag without having to undo the clasps and really noisy velcro. Very handy for getting my camera out in just a few seconds, instead of having to sling it around or set it down or open a flap. This bag plus a springy neoprene shoulder strap is a winning combination, I walked around for three hours today without setting it down once.
    Seeing as how I'm in Europe for a month, I have been incredibly paranoid about thieves. I'm traveling with my aunt and mom and I haven't brought out the camera without one of them around to watch my back. I also walk with it in front of me which gets a bit tricky when navigating tiny shops or crowded streets... this one guy was walking around with his Nikon dangling from his fist at his side. I gawked at him, I couldn't believe someone would just let a thousand dollars swing around so freely.
    I think another predator that can be added to this list is inexperienced users... although perhaps all of these dangers are a result of inexperience... I didn't really know how to use my camera until well over a year after I had gotten it. I treated it like crap before I realized the worth of the images I was getting out of it once I learned how to operate it.

  • Dan October 19, 2009 11:58 pm

    While I haven't read all of the comments, I wonder about static & excessive electrical charges from older flash units. I'm trhing to figure out a way to use my old Vivitar 3900 "head & Handle" unit with my Nikon D40x. I purchased a hot shoe surge surpersser (Wein) but it apparently restricts current flow too much. So far, I haven't been able to get round that.

    I'm also wondering about static electricity. This is the time of the year when furnaces come on and static charges seem to increas on carpeted floors, etc. I'm not sure that passing that kind of charge through a digital camera would be the best course of action. Thoughts anyone?


  • MrJackson October 17, 2009 02:35 am

    RE: #4, A weather sealed camera is great for this, I was shooting at the Niagara Falls Cave of the Winds (tons of spray) and wasn't worried at all about the water.

    RE: #6, I have a which doesn't allow any access while it's on your back and 2 levels of zippers if someone does manage to get in.

  • Jimmy October 17, 2009 01:39 am

    My cousin carries his camera in a beat-up brown paper bag. You'd never know there is a Canon DSLR in it.

  • jean October 17, 2009 12:29 am

    i am new to the dSLR world and my canon EOS rebel has a self-cleaning sensor...do you still recommend trying to clean it myself??

    great tips and advice in these comments, thank you!!!!!


  • cheryl October 16, 2009 11:46 pm

    Thanks for such great information each week. I am an amateur and I look forward to all the valuable stuff you cover and truly appreciate your efforts.
    Thanks again and keep up the 'great' work.

  • vincent October 16, 2009 10:48 pm

    Well, there are good points to know.

    But the problem is I just went to sandy place before I read this article.
    The consequences, my 24-70/f2.8L has about 2 small dust particle inside the lens. I think it's happen due to the zoom in and zoom out. I thought L series is really dust proof.
    It's not affecting the shot result but still I'm quite annoying with this.
    Should I leave it as is or take it to local distributor to fix it? Because I'm afraid the quality is not good anymore if local distributor already fix it since the QC must be differnt compare with factory QC.

    On the other hand, 70-200/f2.8L IS is really dust proof. I took it at the same time when my 24-70 got a dust particle inside.

  • Hal Mooney October 16, 2009 09:53 pm

    I had a friend who once lost his pencils, legal pad, and lunch, just because they were in a cool aluminum Halliburton briefcase!
    I carried all my expensive equipment for years in a couple of old, nondescript suitcases (tricked out inside with custom foam inserts).
    Even in hotels and airports, nobody ever bothered them, because they looked like po' man's luggage!

  • Stratman October 16, 2009 05:25 pm

    Great article, Darren!

    I'm glad that I'm not the only one who's paranoid about keeping my dSLR and my compact digicams clean. I never set my camera on the beach even if there's a mat on top of the sand. The tip about sea water spray is interesting - I never gave much thought about minuscule salty water droplets getting onto the camera in strong wind.

    It's going to look and feel weird shooting pics with my camera in a very large zip lock clear plastic bag with holes cut out for the lens and viewfinder, but I think it's worth a try in potentially risky situations near salt water.

    Tip #6 (on theft) reminds me of a true account at a local Starbucks outlet some years ago. I knew a guy whose family was well off but he was either eccentric or "one f-stop short of a functional f/1.2 lens". I wasn't really into dSLRs yet back then, but he was showing off his (then) brand new Nikon D200 with a super long zoom lens that looked like a 500 or 600mm. The body and lens must have cost a fortune.

    This idiot actually mounted it on a tripod at the entrance to Starbucks, in plain sight of passersby next to the main street and it was around 9 pm. He fiddled with the camera and took test shots for a short while and then simply went inside (presumably to the men's room), leaving his camera gear and all exposed to opportunist thieves!

    Although he wasn't exactly my friend, I felt horrified to see this moron's total lack of common sense so I quickly rushed to his camera, gently lifted the tripod (and the Nikon D200 and zoom lens) and brought it next to my table for safety. Having used to the weight of my (then) Canon PowerShot S2is on a cheap aluminum tripod, that Nikon gear on a professional tripod was surprisingly heavier then I assumed.

    When he returned, he wasn't the least surprised to see his camera had shifted position to where I was sitting. I don't remember him buying me another cup of coffee or at least thanking me - he just told me if someone nicked it, he'll buy another one. Good grief.

    This person wasn't really a friend of mine although I've spoken to him two or three times. He was notorious for dozing off on the sofa and leaving his laptop unattended inside Starbucks, and the store manager (whom I knew as a friend) finally ticked him off for being careless with his valuables.

    Honestly, at the time I didn't know which would make me feel embarrassed - rescuing his Nikon from potential theft or being apathetic and watching some thief run off with his camera gear in 1/8th of a second.

    Well, I never saw this guy again - ever, thank goodness.

    As for me, I feel uncomfortable if I have to place my EOS 450D even with a cheap EF 50mm f/1.8 prime on the table outside at Starbucks in plain public view. The safest place for my camera and lenses is in my camera bag, under the table and tucked between my feet.

  • joe sesto October 16, 2009 04:04 pm

    Years ago I was in a major LA camera store waiting next to an "Animal" (like) shooter for the LA Times. (Animal was a TV character around the time.)

    He carried his Nikon gear in a canvas >>US Army gas mask<< shoulder bag. I'd never seen that before, or since.

    I owe a double apology to Garlic Capital Grandpa:

    a) I thought he was from somewhere other than Gilroy...confused my 'chokes with garlic.
    b) The $90 pocket GPS "return to home" device was sold by Bushnell.

    Until this thread came back to life...I forgot where I had posted my earlier comment.

    PS In the old 1990's days I read that a shooter packed his gear in a hard Pelican case adorned on each side by the yellow & black RADIOACTIVE warning labels...might be an urban legend. Today it would empty out an airport .

  • Jimmy October 16, 2009 02:31 pm

    1 more to add :

    The well-meaning or rude people who wanted to point out something on your LCD screen and poke their oily & dirty fingers / pen / pencil / chop sticks / fork / screw driver at it.

    1 more to add : to avoid the "I have an expensive camera with me" bag, i will use a normal day pack and place the camera & lenses inside using the dividers and bags from older camera bags.

  • Greg October 16, 2009 01:01 pm

    @Joan Marie:

    There is a new range of semi-ruggedised cameras, for example the Canon PowerShot D10 which are waterproof to 10m, dustproof, shockproof, and even sound like they might be relatively childproof (depending on the child, of course.)

    While they don't offer all the features of my beloved SLR, they certainly do sound appealing to me, who recently killed a compact camera with a grain of sand. :(

  • Doc Holliday October 16, 2009 04:01 am

    There is a more insidious threat from dust. If you photograph in a high dust environment, just wiping off your cameral won't, necessarily, keep enough dust out. It gets everywhere.

    Get a waterproof case that is sealed with a gasket. Not only will it protect your camera if it gets dropped in the water or rained on, (most float, as well as keeping water out), it will keep the dust out, too. Most of this type of case are anti-crush, as well, and protect your camera from being dropped, stepped on, kicked, et cetera. I think I could, probably, drive my ATV over mine without damaging it.

    I shoot off an ATV in extremely dusty conditions and use an SKB case. In the three years that I have had it, I have never opened it to find any significant amount of dust on my cameras. SKB's cases are a little expensive - they start at $100 - but they have saved me, at least, five or six pro cleanings at min. $50 each.

  • Michael VanDeWalker October 15, 2009 11:52 pm

    Don't leave your camera sitting on the front seat while driving and don't leave your camera bag laying on the seat un zipped. If you are in an accident your gear will all become flying objects. Trust me on this one. I found out the hard way when I put an Explorer on it's side a couple of years ago.

    I now keep the bag zipped closed and the camera strap goes over the head rest.

  • Mei Teng October 15, 2009 04:07 pm

    Very good article. Thanks for sharing. I just had my camera cleaned up recently when I noticed small black specks when viewing through the viewfinder. Thankfully, those black specks were not visible in the images I took.

  • Elena October 15, 2009 02:53 pm

    Very good tips. #3 reminded me of when I took my dogs to the dog beach. I became distracted and got sand in my lens. I would up having a zoom that had to be turned on and turned off more than once to get it to work. It wasn't until I hit gently the side of the camera and wiped the grooves for the lense that it got back to normal. Does forced air work well for something like that?

  • michael October 15, 2009 12:41 pm

    That last photo made me wince. Good thing only the filter was damaged

  • Mike October 15, 2009 12:37 pm

    Sure, this is the DIGITAL Photography School, but those tips are just a relevant when talking about [classic] film cameras too.

  • JP October 15, 2009 11:34 am

    hahaha, great article. I've dropped my cameras before. my 17-55 on my 30d and my 70-200 on my 5d... both were very sad days. I will say that the L lenses stand up to more abuse. The focus motor on the 70-200 was bumped out of place where as the 17-55 just straight up broke the zoom ring, AF system and the front lens element.

  • Peter October 15, 2009 10:38 am

    This is a very good article indeed. We pay so much for our equipment, and not taking the right precautions can get expensive fast. Another well rounded article from DPS. Thanks for your hard work, and for the recent videos on your postings...

  • joe sesto June 17, 2009 10:51 am

    You must be in Castroville. My reply has nothing to do with cameras. Last month's Motorhome mag (June 2009 issue) had an article on portable GPS units. Sorry can't put my hand on it right now. But your forest episode brought to mind a pocket GPS unit that MH mag featured. It sort of looks like a compass...but it is a GPS, of sorts. You lock in your departure point and when requested it will give you the correct heading to return to that departure point on its circular dial. IIRC it just points in the direction of the departure point setting with a digital heading. Don't recall if it also gave distance, but there was a provision for a waypoint. Don't recall the dimensions, but it couldn't be much bigger than a pocket watch...which it vaguely resembles. There are times when I could have used it at NASCAR track to find my car in the pkg. lot or at concerts with lousy lot signs. I'll post more when I find that issue...think it was about $90.

  • Garlic Capital Grandpa June 17, 2009 10:11 am

    When I was forced to work in security until I got a better job, I found many people assumed that since they were in an "upscale" shopping mall in the "better" part of town with security guards that their valuables including cameras and related equipment were safe, so they were left out in plain sight. Subsequently, our officers took more than a few reports of auto break-ins involving theft of expensive camera equipment. I have found a good method is to always keep your head in the game, that is, be aware of where you are and who is nearby. Setting down a camera bag with your lenses, monopod, etc, then turning your back to take that shot is an invitation to disaster if you don't know what's going on around you.

    Letting someone know where you are going is also something I do. If I'm going to take photos in a wooded area, say a state park, I leave a note on the dash of my car as to where I am going (approximately), and when I expect to return. At the very least, this gives someone an idea of where to start looking if I'm overdue. I also carry an LED flashlight with me. They're small, but very powerful and don't drink up battery power like a regular incandescent bulb flashlight does. You may never need it, but when you do, you'll be glad of it, as I was 2 years ago, when I lost track of time (another no-no) and was miles from where I parked, and had to navigate my way through a forest on the trails with the sun starting to set (a GPS unit would have been useful here).

  • TSPhoenix March 30, 2009 04:11 pm

    Really the biggest threat to your camera is people. Be it children grabbing it when you aren't looking, trying navigating through a crowd, yourself own inattentiveness when you are getting tired, or worst of all any kind of nightlife photography.

  • Mark Jeronimu January 15, 2009 04:13 am

    There is an 8th predator that I'm missing here: Pets and small children

    Small children and pets, especially cats, pups, parrots, and probably a handful other animals, can pull your camera from a table and drop it on the ground. This is typically the case if the camera is an SLR and has a neck strap that bungles down from the edge of the table, shouting "I'm a toy, pay with me!" (at least to cats).

    I've realized this since the first day I had my camera, and I prevent this from happening by placing the strap on the camera or the camera on the strap, while putting it on the table. Here's an additional tip if you do this: I noticed that if I put the strap on the camera, after the camera was already placed on the table, then the strap tends to twist around, wile if I lower the camera to the table with the strap underneath it, it won't twist.

  • George October 5, 2008 04:04 pm

    Another tip to help avoid damage from bumps is to use a lens hood on an SLR lens. (Some point-and-shoot cameras can use hoods, too, with an adapter tube.) The hood is longer and wider than the lens and will usually be the first thing that contacts a post, tree, ground, etc.

  • Joan Marie October 3, 2007 12:14 pm

    I have a soldier son in Afghanistan. He has a digital camera but is struggling with the sand there that he says isnt sand at all but is "talcom powder"! I am wanting to get him another camera. Can anyone tell me what features would be best in his environment?


  • Kevin Broderick September 19, 2007 04:46 am

    Although it's important to be aware of these issues, it's far more conducive to picture-taking to acknowledge that your gear is a set of tools, not a museum display. I've used my camera in rain (sometimes with an appropriately-sized clear garbage bag over it and a small hole just big enough for the lens hood cut in the bottom of the bag), significant dust (at a car rally after dry conditions, also using a garbage bag), snow, and a variety of other conditions.

    Sensor dust, in particular, is a near-negligible issue--with ten minutes, a clean workspace, a blower bulb and a set of lenspens, you can have it clean. There's no reason to not switch lenses unless you're in particularly hostile conditions (e.g. high levels of dust or water in the air), and I wouldn't hesitate to shoot in dusty conditions due to fear of dust getting on the image sensor.

  • Muralidharan Jayaram September 14, 2007 08:02 pm

    How about fungus? I live in Mumbai, India. It is highly humid here, rains continuously for months during the monsoon and fungus attacks every thing. Any preventive measures. I have a Nikon D 80

  • Adam September 12, 2007 11:25 am

    For those with a moisture problem - a good way to a good way to dry out your camera ( and lenses ) is to store it all at the end of the day in a ziploc (or similar) bag with a couple of silica dry packs. I used this on a recent trip to Borneo and it really dries everything out.

    If you get the silica packs with the indicator crystals (they turn pink when the are all used up) you can dry them back out again for reuse later - though they are so cheap it isn't really necessary. but for those with limited access to them it is a handy way to extend your supply.

  • Allan Harris September 12, 2007 02:18 am

    Dust - I've been reviewing some photos taken in March and the dust is horrendous. It is Photoshoppable but what a pain. If you switch off the camera when changing lenses there is less static to attract dust than if the camera is left on. It is impossible not to get some spots on the sensor filter so learning how to clean the sensor with safety is an essential skill but I still find it worrying. Professional cleaning is probably worth doing annually but then you have no camera!

  • omri September 10, 2007 01:05 pm

    Dear Mark,

    my exeperience teach me to keep my camera in a closed compartment and have a tungsten bulb light turn on all the time to control the humidity. Have a try

  • Joe Sesto September 8, 2007 07:18 pm

    RE: Sondan posted; "Now that I have a digital camera the neck strap is metal!"

    That sounds like a good idea for camera security...in fact it was fairly common in the film era.

    Now I'm not so sure the injury potential is worth the risk. Having something around your neck that may be stronger than your neck is not that worthwhile IMO.

    Cameras are frequently stolen in "distract-snatch/grab-run" scenarios and also by pairs on scooters and m/cycles. (It was "reported" recently that this was so common in Brazil...that it is now illegal to ride 2 on a scooter/m-cycle there...truth/fiction?)

    I would not risk injury from a fall, or worse, that might result from these tactics just to protect a camera. That's why they are insured.

    As a suggestion...just carry it over your neck...across your body...under your dominate arm on a padded non-slip strap that does not advertise the brand. If you have ever carried a heavy body/heavy lens combo all day...you would know this is a more comfortable and secure way to protect the camera/lens. The camera is at your side and your hand is right against it. When the combo weighs around 5-6+ lbs. you will never carry it just over your neck again.

    You give common street thieves a lot of credit believing that a cable (possibly hidden) will deter them. They aren't that smart or they wouldn't have to steal for a living.

    I've been in the insurance business for nearly 50 years and also have owned a camera store. Trust me...that is really not a good idea.

    I've used a Tamrac Boomerang strap for 4 years from the 20D to the 1DIII all over the world...comfortably and securely. I'm no spring chicken, either.

  • Mark Butler September 8, 2007 10:11 am

    My wife & I are missionaries in Liberia, West Africa. We have an orphanage there and need to take plenty of pics for our newsletters. The problem is with the humidity during the rainy season and the dust during the dry season. It looks like I've got a fungus or mold growing inside my lens and I would like to know of a good way to store and carry my camera that will help me to avoid this problem. Currently I have a soft camera bag with lots of silica paks inside that are supposed to absorb moisture, but then where did this fungus come from?

  • Gerry September 7, 2007 01:38 pm

    A well designed Crumpler bag is the way to go. The one I purchased is very slick. It looks like a back pack but with a single strap which slings across the neck. This allows me to have it on my back for traveling and yet at a moments notice I can sling it in front giving me access to the camera and any accessories. Because of it's design, I never have to lay it or the camera down. It has a great water pro bag stored at the bottom in case of rain.
    One BIG tip that I like to pass on. If you are in a public area, "NEVER" put your equipment in your car/trunk if you are about leave your vehicle un-attended. Only do it when you are about to drive off. Learned from experience.

  • Joe Sesto September 7, 2007 12:42 pm


    My comments were intended for the US market...I have no knowledge about any other country's policies.

    (Forgot you were in Australia.)

  • Joe Sesto September 7, 2007 12:14 pm

    Re: Home policies - accidental damage to photo equipment coverage

    Your comment "see whether it covers accidental damage (many do)" is misleading. All policies cover accidental damage of some sort...none cover deliberate damage, obviously.

    The standard home policy _does not_ cover the damage implied by the image of the dinged L lens...as that damage was likely caused by dropping it, not due to the fire, lightning, windstorm, water damage (not flood or accidental dunking), vehicle collision, vandalism, theft and a few other obscure perils provided in standard home contracts, incl. renter and condo policies.

    Also, the policies are normally subject to a deductible per claim. The home policy is world-wide respecting amateur (non-income generating) equipment but there are limitations.

    It is a good idea to check the policies, but few know how to read them and nothing beats calling an insurance professional (not some 800# CSR) and asking them to show you exactly where it is covered and for what (there are typically 16 +/- perils on Broad Form Contents contracts) and if your equipment is covered if you derive income from it.

    Do not take my word for anything...the details vary by state and carrier.

    *Few* policies cover the damage implied...not *many*...all scheduled floaters should if the correct use of the equipment is known to the carrier.

  • mw September 7, 2007 11:52 am

    re: thieves. I've often wondered about the camera serial number metadata. If it isn't already, the camera and software makers should make sure that this field stays with the file thru all copies and modifications. Then publicize the fact that anyone who shares a picture from a stolen camera risks being discovered as the possessor of stolen goods. This could dry up the market for using or reselling stolen digital cameras.

  • NYMarv September 7, 2007 10:48 am

    I found long ago that Saranwrap as we call it in the US, or clear plastic wrap in any language made for a great protective skin over the lens, viewfinder, etc. Any oils, greases, sand, excessive dust conditions and the like were fended off with no visible impact on focus or exposure. And, of course, it could be peeled off and replaced often, easily and a almost no cost.

  • d b September 6, 2007 05:20 pm

    Quite ironic that Canon is currently airing an EOS advertisement (in Singapore at least), which shows a guy with a EOS 400D stomping on the ground creating dust in search of a photo opportunity… I hope no one actually tries that!

  • rickl September 6, 2007 12:22 pm

    I used to shoot with a Leica R3. One time I was hiking, bugs were heavy, and I was using some heavy duty Deet. I forgot to wash it off my hands, and it melted the black coating on the camera, leaving my thumbprint deeply placed on the back of the camera. I guess that's one way to "personalize" you camera.

  • Sondan September 6, 2007 05:23 am

    Decades ago I went to a traditional Ethiopian wedding in Boston. I took lots of photos(this was a 35mm film camera:yes I am not a young chick anymore). Since this was my first trip to Boston I was taking pics of other things on the trip as well and had my camera around my neck when I arrived at the airport to frop off the rental gar and catach the plane home.

    When I got on the plane I wanted to take a pic and my camera was GONE!. Apparently someone had cut my neck strap and I was totally unaware! My camera and those great photos were never recovered.

    Now that I have a digital camera the neck strap is metal!

  • AC September 6, 2007 12:40 am

    Great article. I'm generally careful with my camera, but there are times when I risk the elements to get a snap.

    I would suggest a good carry case and a set of sealable plastic bags when shooting in bad conditions.

  • Carol Browne September 6, 2007 12:08 am

    I dropped my new SLR the second day I had it. I didn't have the neck strap done up properly and it fell off my neck. I took it to the camera hospital (Black's Photography) and luckily, the camera was okay after they checked it out. The person there suggested I get a lens protector - a class cover for the end of the lens just in case it gets dropped again, the $20 protector would break and not the lens. I now treat my camera like a baby. That was a bad day. I felt sick to my stomach every time I thought about it.

  • chriss September 5, 2007 11:23 pm

    Good stuff, one tip I would add - if putting your camera in a nice padded bag, remember to do up the bag and not send the camera hurtling out of the bag onto the floor like I did :(

    Doing up one zip could have saved me nearly £200!

  • Olivier H September 5, 2007 05:03 pm

    Wow, a posts that somehow frightens me. All that can happen...
    Great reminder, nevertheless!

  • Darren September 5, 2007 12:38 pm

    no way - you're right on that - although I still maintain that they're a little less camera bag-ish than a lot of others on the market out there. At least with crumpler they make other types of bags too - for example I also have a crumpler backpack (not made for anything electronic).

  • no way September 5, 2007 10:39 am

    one major flaw on this article. #6 Crumpler bags...
    As Crumpler bags get so popular, thieves know that the crumpler bags are for the cameras. Don't treat thieves as stupid. They maybe to stupid enough to be a thief but not stupid enough to know what crumpler bags are.

  • Sondan September 5, 2007 04:17 am

    Great summary/reminder that I have just shared with my sister: we are both relatively new digital camera photographers.
    I intend to print it out and keep it in my camera bag.
    Thank You

  • Paolo September 5, 2007 04:09 am

    This is an helpful article :)
    Just a question: to avoid dust what is the best way to keep the camera when you're at home? Is always a sealed bag the best method? And the body may be without lens?
    Thanks in advance and sorry for my bad english ;D

  • Phil September 5, 2007 02:19 am

    This is a nice and informative article. Great job!

  • John September 5, 2007 12:45 am

    what about security guards?