Water bottles, pockets and cameras: a sorry tale

Last October (2015), I wrote about my experience with my new Canon Powershot G7X compact camera, which I bought to replace my broken Sony RX-100. Primarily, this was a camera to take on walks, so I wanted a compromise between quality, durability, weight and size. I was pretty happy with the quality of photos from this camera and I envisaged keeping it for several years.

Liz on the summit of Cranalt Crag
Liz on the summit of Cranalt Crag

Today, my new Powershot G7X Mark II arrived. So, what happened?

Over the Christmas holidays, my daughter Jane and I decided to have a walk up Bennachie, a wee hill in Aberdeenshire that’s ideal for a short walk on a winter’s day.  Jane is a believer in hydration and rarely travels anywhere without a bottle of water and, sure enough, along came the water for this walk. Normally, this is kept in a  handbag that cost more than my rucksack and sometimes seems to be nearly as big. But, stupidly, I dissuaded here from carrying this up the hill and we set off with the water in hand.

We walked uneventfully up the hill. The weather was sunny but very cold and windy and we had some fine views from the summit.  It was actually too cold to take many photos but I took the obligatory summit photo. No water was consumed on the ascent.

Jane on Bennachie
Jane on the summit of Bennachie

Jane had, by now, tired of carrying the undrunk water and asked me to put it in my pocket. I had a Paramo smock with a pouch pocket (where I had my camera) so I shoved the bottle in there and thought no more about it. That is, until I decided to take a photo on the way down. In went my hand to the chest pocket and out came a wet camera – the water bottle top wasn’t on properly and water had leaked into the pocket. Of course, it being a waterproof (sort of) jacket, the pockets were (sort of) waterproof. There was nowhere for thee water to go and my camera had been sitting in a pool of water for 20 minutes.

Do not try this at home! I dried off the camera and with some hesitation, turned it on.  It seemed to start up OK but then made a strange warring noise and wouldn’t take a picture.

I got home, dried out the camera more thoroughly and, if anything, things were worse. The camera started, the lens zoomed then retracted with strange zig zag patterns on the screen then everything shut down.  Donald Ducked!

The usual advice with wet electronics is to leave them to dry out slowly in something that absorbs water, such as rice. So, it went into a plastic box with a kilo of basmati rice and I left it for a couple of weeks. I tried it again and things were better but not right so back into the rice it went. By the end of January, things looked a lot better. The camera started OK, most functions seemed to be working and the photos taken looked fine. However, the flash did not work. As I rarely use flash, I wasn’t too worried about this and, in fact, had never tried it. Somewhat hopefully,  I wondered if it had ever worked so,  I sent it back for a repair under guarantee.

I didn’t get away with this. Back came the rather curt report ‘Damaged beyond economic repair by water or humidity’. No big deal I thought – it’s still fine as a hill-walking camera. But it wasn’t fine at all. Everything apart from the flash worked but the battery life (which was never great) had gone down from about 220 shots per charge to less than 50 per charge. This is OK for a day out but useless for a multi-day backpack. I hummed and hawed about what to do and my wife got fed up with me talking about it. ‘Just get a new one’ she said with some exasperation. Permission granted,  I saw a new model of the camera was imminent so when it was released this month, I bit the bullet and bought a replacement.

So – lessons learned. As a parent, carrying stuff for your children is normal when they are small; when they grow up – be brutal and tell them to carry it themselves; and never put a water bottle in the same pocket as anything else. Rice works as a way of drying out electronics and it’s always worth a try – but sometimes things are just too bad for recovery. But you can always eat the rice later.

4 thoughts on “Water bottles, pockets and cameras: a sorry tale

  • May 4, 2016 at 1:07 pm

    What a shame Ian. I must admit i was in two minds when you bought this model. However you have proved my thinking wrong because your images are superb. Good luck with the new one and the waterproof case.

  • May 4, 2016 at 1:46 pm

    I made the critical mistake when my RX-100 got waterlogged on last year’s TGOC. Placed it on top of a radiator, then in front of a hot air blower in a drying room. The screen never worked again. It would still take photos perfectly but without a normal viewfinder it was useless. A very costly error, second only to the daft idea of trying to take photos in that torrential rain on day 3.

  • May 4, 2016 at 3:51 pm

    Bad luck Ian. This is where my over cautious approach to life comes in. I always keep my camera in a showerproof case and if there is any chance at all of rain it is fiest put in a plastic food bag. And on multi-day trips I would also smear a small quantity of Primula Cheese over the screen, all controls and around the zoom mechanism. It is both an excellent water repellant and general lubricant.

  • May 5, 2016 at 6:59 am

    Top tip David, not thought of that. Have you also tried the faintest of smearing on the lens to create a very pleasing soft focus effect.


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