Folks who acutely dig into this website might know that I have been taking more pictures recently, as I got a new camera since January 2018: a beautiful Fujifilm X-T2 that I really like. Recently, I went out on a photo shoot in the rain. It was intermittent, light rain when I left so I figured the "weather proofing" (dpreview.com calls this "environmentally sealed") would keep the camera secure. After an hour of walking outside, however, rain intensified and I was just quickly becoming more and more soaked. Still trusting the camera would function, I carried on. But after about 90 minutes of dutiful work, the camera just turned off and wouldn't power back on.

It had drowned.

I couldn't believe it; "but this is supposed to be waterproof! This can't be happening!", I thought. I tried swapping out the battery for a fresh one, which was probably a bad idea (even if I was smart enough to do this under cover): still no luck, yet I could still not believe it was dead, so I figured I would look at it later when I was home. I still eventually removed the battery after a while, remembering that it mattered.

Turns out the camera was really dead. Even at home, it wouldn't power up, even with fresh batteries. After closer inspection, the camera was as soaked as I was...

Two Sandisk memory cards with
water droplets on them
...even the SD cards were wet!

I was filled with despair! My precious camera! I had been waiting for litterally decades to find the right digital camera that was as close to the good old film cameras I was used to. I was even working on black and white "film" to get back to basics, which turned into a project to witness the impact of the coronavirus on city life! All that was lost, or at least stopped: amazingly, the SD cards were just absolutely fine and survived the flooding without problem.

A one-way sign broken, fallen on the side
in a gray cityscape
The last photo my camera took before it died

A good photographer friend told me that this was actually fairly common: "if you shoot outside, get used to this, it will happen". So I tried "the rice trick": plunge your camera in a pile of rice and let it rest there for a long time. It didn't work so well: I didn't have a big enough container to hold the camera and the rice. I was also worried about rice particles inserting themselves into the camera holes, as I had opened all the ports to let it dry.

I could also not keep myself from inserting a battery and trying it out again: amazingly, it powered up, only once, and died again. After shopping in desperation for dessicators (who would have thought you should keep those little bags from the stuff you order online!), I ended up buying silica gel dehumidifier from Lee Valley (13$, the small one!) which comes in a neat little metal box. But that never arrived in time so I had to find another solution.

My partner threw the idea out in jest, but the actual solution worked, and it was surprisingly simple!

My camera and lens drying in a
food dehydrator, at 30°C with 22 hours left
Tada! Turns out you can dehydrate hardware too!

We have a food dehydrator at home (a Sedna Express if you really want to know) since we do a lot of backpacking and canot-camping, but I never thought I would put electronics in there. Turns out a food dehydrator is perfect: it has a per degree temperature control that can go very low and a timer. I set it to 30°C for 24 hours. (I originally set it to 40°C but it smelled like plastic after a while so my partner turned it off thinking it was melting the camera.)

And now the camera is back! I was so happy! There is probably some permanent damage to the delicate circuitry in the camera. And I will probably not go back out in heavy rain again with the camera, or at least not without a rainjacket (35$USD at B&H) on the camera. And I am now in a position to tell other people what to do if they suffer the same fate...

Tips for dealing with electronic liquid damage

So, lessons learned...

  1. when you have a liquid spill over your electronics: IMMEDIATELY REMOVE ALL ELECTRIC POWER, including the battery! (this is another reason why all batteries should be removable)

  2. if the spill is "sticky" (e.g. coffee, beer, maple syrup, etc) or "salty", do try to wash it with water, yet without flooding it any further (delicate balance, I know) some devices are especially well adapted to this: I have washed a keyboard with a shower head and drowned the thing completely, it worked fine after drying.

  3. do NOT power it back on until you are certain the equipment is dry

  4. let the electronics device dry for 24 to 48 hours with all ports open in a humidity-absorbing environment: a bag of rice works, but a food dehydrator is best. make sure the rice doesn't get stuck inside the machine: use a small mesh bag if necessary

  5. once you are confident the device has dried, fiddle with the controls and see if water comes out: it might not have dried because it was stuck inside a button or dial. if dry, try powering it back on and watch the symptoms. if it's still weird, try drying it for another day.

  6. if you get tired of waiting and the machine doesn't come back up, you will have to send it to the repair shop or open it up yourself to see if there is soldering damage you can fix.

I hope it might help careless people who dropped their coffee or ran out in the rain, believing the hype of waterproof cameras. Amateur tip: waterproof cameras are not waterproof...

Created . Edited .