Troubleshooting Underwater Cameras

Learn to Fix an Underwater Camera That Has Water Damage


As you probably already know -- and hopefully you haven’t discovered it the hard way -- water and electronics don’t mix. Digital cameras follow this rule, too, unless you’re using a model specifically designed for underwater photography. Even if you own or are looking to buy an underwater camera, the last thing you want is to end up with water inside the case itself, which will force you to learn about troubleshooting underwater cameras.

If you end up with water inside the camera, chances are high that the camera will no longer work. After all, the exterior of an underwater camera is waterproof; the interior and the electronics are not. Water damage is almost always permanent. Use these tips to avoid problems with water damage for your underwater camera ... and, hopefully, to fix an underwater camera that has water damage.


  • Flexible O-rings. If you’re using a special underwater case for your camera, make sure you always inspect the O-rings used in the case. The O-rings must be flexible and free of dirt or other particles, or they will not protect your camera.


  • Follow recommendations. If you’re using an underwater camera that doesn’t require a case, make sure you follow the manufacturer’s rules for the distance underwater the camera is safe to use. Don’t exceed the recommended water depth.


  • Look for signs. Some clues that water may be leaking into the case include: Bubbles coming from the camera, a malfunctioning strobe light (as if it has shorted out), condensation in the viewfinder, or any malfunctioning buttons.


  • Take your time with repairs. If you fear that water has leaked into the camera case, don’t panic. Take your time to dry the outside of the camera case before you open any parts of the case. You’d feel pretty silly if you open the camera case, find that it’s dry, but then realize you forgot to dry the case first, allowing that water to leak into the area of the case that you just opened.


  • First steps to try. Once you have water inside your underwater camera, you can take a few steps to try to avoid permanent damage to the camera. First, remove the camera from the water immediately. Less time exposed to the water gives you a better chance of avoiding damage. Turn off the power immediately, both to the camera and to any strobe light or external flash attached to the camera. Always keep the underwater camera upright, which will -- hopefully -- keep any water at the bottom of the case. Don’t turn or flip the camera, which may introduce water to other parts of the camera.
  • Check battery compartment. Next, remove the battery and memory card, checking for any water or moisture that has leaked into this area of the camera’s interior. If you see water inside the battery compartment, leave the compartment door open to allow the water to evaporate.


  • Use drying techniques. You also can gently use a hair dryer to try to speed the evaporation process. However, don’t use excessive heat or high air pressure, which could spread the moisture inside the camera. Drying the camera with a hair dryer should be a slow process on the lowest heat setting possible.


  • Long-term drying options. If you have plenty of time to dry the interior of the underwater camera, place it in a sealed plastic bag with a packet of silica gel or even rice. Keep the battery and USB compartments open while the camera is in the plastic bag, which will give you a better chance of having the entire camera dry properly. Once this is completed, you can reinsert the battery and memory card to see whether the camera will be operational.


  • Consider a repair center. Keep in mind that there’s a chance that the camera won’t turn on, despite all of your work. Even if the camera does seem to be working properly, you may want to have it checked out by a camera repair center, just to make sure that it’s OK. Water damage may not show up immediately.
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