Monday, July 22, 2013

Tough cameras exist: Why did I dunk a $160 camera?

Woops. There went $150.

A few years back, I was tasked with going into a bunch of streams for work. Not too surprisingly, I wanted to document part of my experience -- pretty rare that I get to hang around in the country. What better way than to bring a camera along?

Not much of a story
There really isn't much to tell, unfortunately. First thing I want to note though is that I didn't drop the camera in the water. I'm a clutz, but still smart enough to hold a delicate camera device properly and to use the lanyard. Also, I did not fall into the water -- the first time at least. So, if I didn't drop it in and I didn't fall in, what happened?

The day before I went into my first stream, there were record rainfall levels. Even though I had chest waders that went up to my upper chest, they weren't enough in some areas. This problem was encountered at the very first location. What I had to do in the streams and ponds was pick things out of them, which meant bending over a lot.

Bending over
My tools and camera were placed in a pouch located at the top, front interior of the chest wader. Being an idiot and completely inexperienced to using chest waders and moving around in high water, I completely forgot about all of those things in there. At some point, I bent over to try to fish something out of the bed of the stream and the water came gushing in. It was cold. This -- the water and getting wet part -- was expected and done sacrificially because I was a young go-getter who wanted to get the job done. Ruining the camera I forgot was in there wasn't. Worst of all, the pouch kept a nice pool inside to let the water soak in. It didn't just get water poured over it.

Some quick thinking by my coworker to remove the batteries and memory card later, and I had a squeaky but somewhat working camera a week of drying later. Too bad I didn't know about the coin battery and that thing started leaking battery acid. The time and settings never saved again despite a new battery.

Rinse and repeat
Being an absolute genius, I took my "now working again" camera out again to finish up the job. This was over a week later and the 34 C (~90 F) weather and lack of rain had caused water levels to drop. I was smart enough to be extra careful with the camera this time by hanging it up on branches and even keeping it inside a lunch bag. Then I had to bend down and dig for something inside a stream, completely forgot what happened the last time, placed the camera in the pouch, and got it soaked. Rinse and repeat, it dried out and worked again.

Should have, would have, could have
As a more mature and experienced person, I now realize that I should have waited a week until the water receded. Living in the city my entire life, the words "heavy rain" and "high water levels in water bodies" never meant much to me despite the constant reminders throughout elementary school. Also, having a willingness to give up easier would not have been a bad trait to have. The maps and directions we used were plain shit and I should have quit in protest. It didn't seem like the person who wanted it done cared that we did miss a few.

Waterproof and shockproof cameras exist?
Otherwise, maybe I should have bought a camera that was waterproof. I wasn't much into cameras then and didn't even know these things existed for relatively cheap. Well, it turns out that Olympus, Nikon, and some other brands produce "tough" cameras that can be shockproof to a few feet, waterproof to up to 50 feet, and crushproof to over 200 lb -- only the most expensive models have some of these features. A few of them have the ability to geotag photos too. There's also the GoPro line that works minus an LCD screen and designed for different purposes.

Not sure if all of these features were around back then during my excursion around 2010. I would guess yes, but with fewer features. These camera would probably be pretty good for storing in a bag. With the way I trash my bags, an unprotected camera might stop working properly after a few throws or storms.

Check out the Olympus TG-xxx, Fujifilm FinePix XPxx, Canon PowerShot Dxx, Sony Cybershot TXxx and Nikon COOLPIX AWxxx series for more details -- may have screwed up some of those model codes. Might pick one up myself in the near future.

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