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How to Protect Your Camera Against Nearly Anything

The phrase “dust and water resistant” has become so pervasive in the camera industry that it nearly comes as a given with any new camera or lens. Nobody wants to invest a considerable chunk of money on a camera only to have it melt in the rain like the Wicked Witch of the West. The same goes for dust, dirt, and sand—all of which share an unwavering attraction to camera equipment. But what does “dust and water resistant” mean? Each manufacturer has varying approaches to protecting its camera equipment depending on how it is expected to be used. That a top-of-the-line telephoto lens designed for sports and wildlife photographers is going to be more thoroughly sealed than a kit lens should come as no surprise. Most cameras can survive light rain, but what if you end up caught in a downpour or plan on shooting in the desert? Here are some tips to prepare your camera for nearly anything.

Planning for undesirable environmental conditions involves creating layers of protection. Start with your camera bag. This is your camera’s last retreat, so you want to make sure that it’s a fortress. How resistant to water is its exterior material? How does it close? Are you able to completely seal it shut if needed? Does it come with a rain cover? When choosing a bag for working in wet environments, pay attention to its bottom panel. Look for additional reinforcement or weatherproofing so that you can set it down on something wet without worrying about water soaking through into the bag.

Look to see if your bag or its materials have an IP (Ingress Protection) Code rating. The IP Code criteria correspond to industrial tests to which items are subjected to determine their resistance to water. For the sake of practical consideration, items in Class 1 can tolerate light rain, Class 2 heavy rain, and Class 3 brief submersion.

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