The Waterproof Rugged Camera Dilemma

by Mr. Sung on

waterproof camera

Who in their right mind wants to replace their camera every year?  Unfortunately, many owners of waterproof or “ruggedized” cameras find themselves in this situation. The reason for this is that the manufacturer’s warranty expires after a year.  Despite your frustrations, it isn’t due to poor quality or a built-in flaw by the manufacturers; it’s the nature of the product and the way it is perceived by consumers. If you want to avoid buying a new camera annually and continue to take pictures in extreme conditions, keep reading.

The “compact yet rugged” camera product is fairly new to the industry and didn’t really exist before the digital age (at least not like it does now). What many don’t realize about these cameras is that they are not that different from your average compact digital camera; they just happen to have a shock-resistant and water-resistant shell around it. They are rated to withstand measured impacts of force and a specific depth or pressure, but when they fail there is usually no way for the manufacturer to verify if they were taken beyond those limits. If the housing fails to do its job, the results are usually catastrophic; large drops and water exposure are the two worst things you can do with a camera.  If the camera is under warranty, it isn’t a big deal; it will be repaired or replaced by the manufacturer. The real problem lies when it is outside of warranty; many owners of these cameras get used to abusing the camera because it’s “designed to take it” and that behavior inevitably results with a broken camera.

If you are involved with the scuba community, you’ll learn quickly that care and maintenance of your rubber seals is the single most important factor in the long-term usability of any underwater equipment. Before the waterproof rugged compact style of camera came to be, the only way to do underwater photography was to get an underwater housing for your camera (which sometimes would cost about as much as the camera itself). ALWAYS check the seal before closing any latch or compartment. The biggest thing to watch out for is debris on the seals; all it takes is a small piece of sand or a hair and your waterproofing is compromised. Believe it or not, those seals eventually wear out too and typically should be replaced once a year to ensure the camera will be watertight. Another thing to watch out for is the latch locks; if a lock on a latch isn’t engaging properly, there is a very good chance it will open up under water.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Richard Slijk April 11, 2012 at

I was quoted a price of $180/year to do this for a dmc ts4
can you not use Vaseline to prolong the life of the seal?

How can this be?!!!!!!!!


camerarepair April 13, 2012 at

Today, manufacturers of waterproof or weather resistant cameras use materials designed to properly seal their products without any additional compound, liquids or lubricants. Vaseline is actually a petroleum based product and while it is insoluble in water it is not recommended to be used on this type of seal or O-Rings as in time it may breakdown the original materials. Using any lubricant on the seals of a battery door or memory card door will only assist in attracting small particles of dirt, dust and sand presenting a better chance of the seal being disrupted and causing leakage.

Each manufacturer has their own recommendation for the care of the seals on their respective products and if you are concerned for the integrity of your product we recommend that you follow their guidelines. Some manufacturers of underwater housings that are used in depths beyond those of the current batch of waterproof digital compact cameras do use specific silicone based lubricants for their O-Rings. We however would not recommend using any greases or liquids to rejuvenate the seals on any waterproof or weather resistant camera or lens unless specifically directed by the manufacturer of that product.


Richard Slijk May 12, 2012 at

5/8/2011 UPDATE..regarding the TS4…Panasonic parts department says you can buy the “water packing” kit for about $32. Part number VUMG 1978.. call 1-800-833-9626 to buy this part. They say this is the part that needs to be replaced each year to keep the watertight integrity of the camera.


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