I suffered a photographer’s nightmare on this trip, the loss of an expensive camera system because of an equipment failure. I was snorkeling off of Key West when I noticed some weird behavior by my Olympus E-5. It sounded like the shutter button was locked in the firing position and blasting a stream of images. The camera then stopped responding. I swam back to the boat and handed my gear up to one of the crew.
“Is this camera waterproof?” he asked.
“No. It’s supposed to be water resistant,” I answered. (The E-5, like other “pro” cameras is supposed to be weather sealed to provide some protection against the elements.)
Once on the boat, I checked the camera expecting the worst. Sure enough, I could see water inside the LCD display and the lens. My flash and battery pack were also toast. Sea water is the absolutely worst thing for a camera and I had no doubt my gear was wrecked.
What happened? I was using an Ewa Marine UAXP soft housing. While I didn’t have a lot faith in it as a dive housing, I was confident it would be safe for simple snorkeling, especially since I’d wet tested it in my sink at home and then in the hotel pool the day before this excursion. I never had it more than two feet below the surface while snorkeling. Somehow it just didn’t get the job done.
I’m now hoping my homeowner’s insurance will cover at least some of the loss. If not, well, I was aware of the risk I was taking and knew there was a chance things could go terribly wrong. I did have a backup camera with me and still have a Canon DSLR system to fall back on (plus photography is not my job anymore, I just do it for fun these days). I can eat the loss if I have to, but I guarantee I’ll never trust Ewa Marine (or any soft housing) ever again. If I do decide to go beyond a cheap underwater point and shoot (like the SeaLife point and shoot I ended up using) I’ll go with some kind of hard camera housing.