We shoot in a harsh environment. We are often near or in sea water. We are often out on hot lava with acid and steam in the air. We have to shoot in the rain from time to time. When we travel we are often in areas where there is a lot of dust. Our equipment takes a beating.
We also use high end and expensive equipment…and like 99% of the other photographers we meet…we do NOT have unlimited funds for replacing equipment we have ruined. So, we take good care of what we do have.
Specifically, salt water is the killer of cameras. If you get salt water on your camera and do not carefully get it all off immediately, it will corrode that camera in no time at all. And when you send it in to the manufacturer for your expensive repair, you will get a letter back stating that the camera and/or lens has salt water damage and is now only good as a door stop or paper weight…they will not even fix it. I know…oh, do I know.
So, if you get splashed by a wave or water coming over the rail and into the boat…stop what you are doing, move to a dry location, use whatever you have to get that salt water off of there right now…not when you get home. I take my camera apart…remove the lens, open all the little compartments, take out the battery and the memory card and look for salt water everywhere I can find it. If all I have to clean it is my tee shirt…I use my tee shirt. Better to have some micro fiber clothes with you and maybe some KimTech Wipes to do the work…but do something.
If your camera gets submerged or drowned in salt water…like dropped in the surf or completely soaked by a wave or a leak in your water housing…get that camera and lens into a container or uncooked white rice and let it set while you go online to B&H Photo to buy your replacement for those items. You may think that a disiccate or rice or blow drying will solve the problem…false hope. It will not. That unit is done or soon will be.
Cameras that get sea water on them may look ok and may even still work for time. However, over the next few weeks you will begin to see some odd looking white substance emerging around the tiny screws on the camera and around the dials and around any opening. That is corrosion. Once it has started…it will win the day and you will lose.
Get the dust off your camera right away as well. This is especially true for lenses…especially zoom lenses. If that zoom starts to be hard to zoom, suspect it is dust in the mechanism. Good news, the manufacturer can usually fix that problem for a few hundred bucks…much cheaper than a new lens.
Rain water or any other non-salt water…much less dangerous than sea water and as long as you have not drowned the camera so bad that it has experienced an electrical short, clean it up and it will probably be ok. If it gets inside a lens…that is a problem and it needs to go in for repair.
One other odd problem…if you live in an area like we do…an area where conditions are tropical all year or long parts of the year…you can get mould inside of your lenses. It looks a bit like smoke in the lens and will ruin it if not addressed. You normally need to send that in for repair. Better yet…avoid getting that mould by storing your camera bodies and lenses in a dry setting…either a locker designed to keep them appropriately dry or with some desiccates around them or whatever you can come up with to protect them. Might want to spend some time online checking that situation out if you have expensive equipment in tropical areas.
One other thought…self repair of broken or injured cameras or lenses…way beyond my capabilities and I highly discourage it. Send it into the manufacturer, get a quote on what it will take to fix it and then weigh whether you want to upgrade that item right now and forgo the fix. Some companies, like Canon, often offer you a big discount on an item that is fully ruined…a discount on a new or refurbished one from their stock. I drowned a Canon 7D Mark 2 recently, sent it in for repair, estimate came back more than the cost of new camera, I asked if they could help me out on buying a new one and they did…in fact, I upgraded it to a Canon 5D Mark4 and ended up a happy camper rather than feeling like I had suffered a big loss (I lie to myself from time to time).