How to Protect Your Digital Camera

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How to Protect Your Digital Camera




The two major things that digital cameras need protecting against are loss and damage. Loss can occur through carelessness on behalf of the owner or theft. Damage can happen because the camera is not treated with care when in use or at rest or when the owner attempts to use it in unusual or extreme conditions but fails to take suitable precautions. While 100 per cent security and safety are never possible, the average digital camera user can maintain their peace of mind by following a few common sense procedures.





Preventing the Loss of a Digital Camera

Carelessness
 

Provide the camera with a permanent home, such as a drawer or shelf in a cupboard, so it can always be found. Do not leave it lying around on surfaces, as it may get moved by another person or knocked under a piece of furniture by a household pet. Always return the camera to the same place after use. When using the camera outside the home, never put it down between shots or sessions, but return it to a zipped pocket or a dedicated carrying case, which should be attached to the photographer by a shoulder- or wrist-strap.

 

Theft
 

When at home, keep the camera in a locked drawer or cupboard. Never leave it unattended when shooting outside. After each session, return it to its carrying case and be sure to keep hold of the case with a security strap. Alternatively, conceal it inside a zipped pocket. Use an ultra-violet marking pen to write a distinctive personalised code word on the camera; in the event of the camera being stolen, there is a greater chance of having it returned.

 

Preventing Damage to a Digital Camera

Dirt, dust, and sand             

These are big enemies of digital cameras, especially at the cheaper end of the market, where the camera might not have been sealed correctly, allowing the dirt and microscopic sand particles to enter. Once inside, they can damage the sensor and scratch the mirror, and there is little the user can do other than to take the camera for repair. On the outside, the minute particles of debris can interfere with the zoom, as well as lying in wait to scratch the LCD and the lens if not cleaned correctly. Never use pressurised or canned air to clean the camera because that might just force particles inside the casing. Instead, gently blow the offending specks away. If possible, avoid taking pictures on windy days at places like the beach, and only ever change the battery or memory card indoors or on a calm day.

Liquids
 

Keep all liquids well away from the camera, unless it is in a waterproof case. Electronic equipment and excessive moisture do not mix.

Finger oils

Even though the hands may be clean, they still excrete finger oils that can play havoc with the lens if accidentally touched. Never touch the lens with a naked finger, and take particular care on the beach if suntan lotions and other creams are being used.

Sun and heat

Do not point the camera lens directly at the sun for any period of time because the sunlight could damage the image sensor or even set the camera insides on fire. If shooting outside in very hot temperatures, try to shield the camera with a sunshade or cover it with a lightweight towel. If the heat is really wilting, the photographer should take frequent breaks because the sensor cannot deal with such extremes. Additionally, the heat could cause seals to dry out, exposing the insides of the camera to the danger of dirt, dust, and moisture. When cooling the camera down, do not move quickly from an excessively hot temperature to a cool one, as that could damage both electronic and mechanical components of the camera.

Rain and water
 

Water and digital cameras do not make good bedfellows, so if a camera shoot is planned to take place in the rain, or even under water, make sure the camera has been waterproofed first. This can be done easily by fitting it with a special waterproof casing, or Plexiglas housing, although the latter is probably more suited to underwater photography. These casings also provide good protection against the salt in sea spray, which can lead to some rather unpleasant corrosion.

Cold weather

Cold weather is no friend of the camera. The majority of cameras are designed to work at moderate temperatures, and the colder it gets, the more likely they are to suffer damage. Cold weather can severely deplete battery power, so spare ones need to be carried in a warm environment, such as an inside jacket pocket. The depleted one will also gain some more life if placed there after the swap. However, the biggest problem caused by cold weather is condensation, which is caused when moving from warm air to cold air, and vice versa. Condensation can cause damage to electrical parts as well as leaving watery marks on the inside of the lens. To prevent condensation forming, make the change from the warm inside to the cold outside gradually. Try to move the camera to a location halfway between the two, such as a porch or a garage. Leaving the camera there for about an hour helps it adjust to the new situation, thereby reducing the shock and possibility of condensation. At the same time as doing this, it is strongly recommended that the battery is removed and kept warm in order to extend its life. Sometimes, however, condensation may still occur. If it does, place the camera in an airtight bag with a small sachet of silica gel, and it will soon dry out.

Carrying case

Always use the carrying case, or the camera may get accidentally knocked or bumped around during transportation. A case with padding is preferable, particularly in cold weather, when the outside temperature will cause the plastic and glass used in the construction of the camera to become more brittle and more prone to damage. Also, be sure to vacuum the inside of the carrying case regularly, as dirt and sand can accumulate there and cause the camera problems, as previously noted.

Cleaning fluids
 

These should be used with great caution, and only if it is not possible to wipe the camera clean with a dry microfibre cloth. Always apply the fluids to the cloth and not directly onto the camera. Use sparingly, and if none is available, try a damp microfibre cloth.

Dropping the camera

Dropping the camera could well sound its death knell. When using the camera, ensure that it is attached to the body via a wrist- or neck-strap, so it will not fall, even if the user is jogged unexpectedly while taking a shot, or wearing gloves during cold weather. Also, make sure that the hands are clean and dry, and free of any oils etc. that could cause the camera to slip from the photographer’s grip while taking pictures. Between shoots, keep the camera safe in its carrying case, and at home, in its cupboard or drawer.

Batteries

Only use the AC adapter or battery charger that came with the camera when it was originally bought. Failure to do so could damage the camera and short-circuit the battery, as well as voiding any warranty. Furthermore, only use the type of battery recommended by the manufacturer, or the same problems could arise. If the camera is going to remain unused for an extended period of time, remove the batteries to prevent them discharging and leaking. Only remove the batteries when the camera is turned off. Doing so while the camera is powered on could cause a loss of data and damage to both the battery and the camera’s circuitry. For similar reasons, the same degree of caution should be applied when removing the memory card.

Storage
 

Avoid areas where they may be strong magnetic fields or electromagnetic radiation as they could damage the circuitry and the LCD. Similarly, do not store the camera in a room which experiences extreme heat or cold.

Conclusion

Digital cameras are delicate electronic instruments, requiring care and attention if they are to give of their best over a long period of time. By exercising a little foresight and anticipation, the owner can guard against the major headaches of loss, theft, and damage. Taking care not to put the camera down without thinking or storing it in a secure place at home; do not leaving it unattended when out and about, nor expose it to extremes of temperature or other weather conditions, and take care when transporting it from place to place. These are all measures that can easily be put in place without any disruption to the photographer’s day, but ensure that the camera works well for the whole of its life.

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