Cameras are delicate devices that require proper care and maintenance to function properly. They’re susceptible to damage from various sources, including drops, spills, extreme temperatures, and environmental factors like sand, dust, and moisture. When a camera is damaged, it can impact the quality of the images it produces and render it inoperable.
For a photographer, camera damage can be a significant setback. It can disrupt her workflow, prevent her from capturing important moments, and potentially cost her a lot of money to repair or replace the camera. In some cases, the aftermath of a damaged camera can even affect a photographer’s livelihood, especially for professional photographers who rely on their cameras to make a living.
Camera Damage & its Causes
Damage to a camera can occur in many ways, such as dropping it, exposing it to water or extreme temperatures, or using it in harsh environments.
Impact damage is one of the most common types of camera damage, and occurs when the camera is dropped or bumped. This type of damage can range from minor cosmetic damage to permanent malfunctions that render the camera inoperable. Some common examples of impact damage include cracks in the camera body, dents in the lens hood, or lens misalignment due to a bumped lens mechanism. If a heavy lens is attached when the camera falls, you might end up damaging the lens mount.
Impact damage can occur in a variety of situations, including while the camera is in use, while it is being transported, or while it is being stored. For example, a photographer might drop their camera while taking photos in the field, bump it while carrying it in a camera bag, or accidentally knock it off a table or shelf. So you have to be careful in all situations.
To minimise the risk of impact damage, handle the camera carefully, use a protective case or cover when not in use, and avoid placing heavy objects on the camera. Additionally, use a neck, wrist or sling strap to help prevent accidental drops while using the camera. And use a good one, please. One of us almost lost our Sony A7R2 camera when the sling strap’s screw just detached from the strap – so the camera just fell to the floor. Another foot to the right, and it would have fallen into mangrove water. So learn from our mistakes, and don’t try to protect your 1-lakh-plus camera with a 600-rupee strap. Sold by an Amazon seller called QRWRF or something.
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Extreme temperatures, both high and low, can cause damage to cameras. Extremely high temperatures can cause warping or cracking of the camera body, and damage internal components such as the battery, display screen, and lens elements. Meanwhile, low temperatures can cause condensation to form inside the camera, leading to corrosion of the internal components. Low temperatures can also cause slow response times, reduced battery life, and other camera performance issues.
In general, temperatures above 40°C (104°F) and below 0°C (32°F) can cause damage to a camera. It is important to avoid exposing the camera to these extreme temperatures for extended periods, as the damage can be permanent and may affect the camera’s performance and image quality.
At the very least, low temperatures will degrade your battery’s performance – so if you’re on a cold-weather trek, keep your spare batteries in a warm place to ensure that they last longer.
All genres of photographers can be affected by water damage to their cameras, but outdoor photographers, such as landscape and wildlife photographers, are particularly vulnerable. They often work in wet and humid conditions, which can be hard on their equipment.
In India, the monsoon season can be tough on cameras. The high rain and humidity levels can cause significant damage, especially if the camera is not adequately protected. Photographers in coastal regions, such as Goa and Kerala, are also at risk due to salt spray from the sea, which can be particularly corrosive. This corrosion can lead to electrical malfunctions that can render the camera inoperable. Additionally, water can seep into the lens and cause the lens to fog up, affecting the clarity of images. To minimise damage, it’s important to use waterproof cases and to take steps to prevent moisture from entering the camera, such as using silica gel packets to absorb excess moisture. A camera rain cover and lens hood can also help protect the camera from moisture damage during heavy rainfall.
To prevent humidity and temperature-related damage, you should store the camera in a dry, temperature-controlled environment (such as a dry cabinet) when it’s not in use, and avoid exposure to extreme temperatures or humidity levels for extended periods .
In India, photographers working in regions with high humidity levels, such as coastal and tropical regions, are at a higher risk of experiencing damage to their cameras due to humidity. When the relative humidity level exceeds 60-70%, it can cause condensation to form inside the camera, leading to corrosion of the internal components, such as the circuit board and lens mechanism.
In India, photographers working in desert areas like the Thar Desert in Rajasthan or the Great Rann of Kutch in Gujarat, as well as those shooting in beach locations like Goa or the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, are at risk of sand damage to their cameras.
Sand is abrasive and can easily scratch the lens, viewfinder, lens mechanism, and camera body. It can also get into the crevices of the camera and cause internal damage to the electronic components. Sand can also get into the camera’s moving parts, such as the zoom and focus mechanisms, causing them to jam or become sluggish.
Sand particles can also cause corrosion of the camera’s electrical components, especially if they contain salt or other corrosive materials.
To minimise the risk of sand damage, protect the camera with a dust-proof or sand-proof case and take care when cleaning the camera to avoid scratching the lens or sensor. Additionally, it’s a good idea to take steps to keep sand and dust out of the camera, such as using lens caps and camera body covers, and keeping the camera in a protective bag when not in use.
Other factors that can cause damage to cameras include chemicals, oils, and colours. Chemicals such as cleaning solutions, solvents, and other harsh substances, can cause damage to the camera body and lens elements, as well as the internal components. For example, if a camera is accidentally exposed to a chemical spill, the chemical can seep into the camera and cause corrosion, affecting performance and image quality.
Oils, including those from skin contact, can also cause damage to cameras. If oils or other contaminants come into contact with the lens elements, they can cause smudging or other optical problems affecting image quality. It is important to clean the lens elements and camera body regularly, and to handle the camera with clean hands to reduce the risk of damage from oils.
Colours, such as dyes and other pigments, can also cause damage to cameras. If a camera is accidentally exposed to paint or other coloured substances, the colour can seep into the camera and cause staining or other damage. Additionally, if a camera is used to photograph brightly-coloured objects or events, such as a colourful parade or festival, the colours can reflect or refract in the lens elements and cause optical problems.
To protect the camera from these types of damage, it is vital to handle the camera carefully and avoid exposing it to chemicals, oils, and colours whenever possible. When working with chemicals or coloured substances, it is important to take precautions to protect the camera and to clean it thoroughly after use. Additionally, by using lens filters, hoods, and other protective accessories, photographers can help reduce the risk of damage from environmental factors such as chemicals, oils, and colours.
In conclusion, cameras are delicate instruments that can be damaged by a variety of environmental factors, including extreme temperatures, chemicals, oils, colours, impact, and more. To protect your camera and ensure that it continues to perform optimally, it is important to handle it with care and to take steps to protect it from harm. This can include using protective accessories, cleaning the camera regularly, avoiding exposure to harmful substances, and being mindful of your surroundings when using the camera. By taking these steps, photographers can help extend the lifespan of their cameras and ensure that they continue to produce high-quality images for years to come.