When Weather Sealed Cameras Matter

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Cold Cargo – Salt Lake City, UT – Fujifilm X-T1

I’ve always felt that, for me, a weather sealed camera isn’t essential. It’s certainly a nice feature, but not something I just have to have. Cameras that aren’t weather sealed can handle the elements to an extent, and oftentimes there are easy steps to mitigate the weather conditions (such as an umbrella), so I haven’t found it to be a limiting factor to my photography. Yet, there have been times that having a weather sealed camera has allowed me to “get the shot” when I might not have otherwise.

Fujifilm has a few cameras with weather sealing. The X-T0, X-Pro, and X-H series are all weather sealed, while the X-T00, X-T000, X-A, X-M, XF, X-E, X100, and X00 series (am I missing any?) are not. I’ve owned a few of these non-weather-sealed cameras, and I’ve used them with success in conditions that might warrant weather sealing. Take a look at the pictures below:

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Monte Cristo Mountain Snow – Monte Cristo Mountains, UT – Fujifilm X-E1

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Out In The Cold – Cedar City, UT – Fujifilm X-T30

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Umbrella Overpass – Edmonds, WA – Fujifilm X100F

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Dust In The Wind – Bonneville Salt Flats, UT – Fujifilm X-E1

The photographs above were all captured in conditions where a weather sealed camera would have been nice, but I got along just fine without it. The X-E1, X100F and X-T30, which are the cameras that I used for those pictures, are not weather sealed; despite that, I was able to get the picture that I wanted. I didn’t allow it limit my photography.

A weather sealed camera allows you to photograph with confidence in more extreme conditions, such as cold, rain, snow and dust. While non-weather-sealed cameras might get the job done, a weather sealed camera definitely will. Each time that I pushed the envelope on what my camera was designed to handle, it worked fine, but I worried about it. I hoped that I wasn’t ruining an expensive photographic tool.

There was one situation where I know that if I hadn’t used a weather sealed camera, I would have ruined the camera, or at least would have had to have it serviced. More likely, I wouldn’t have photographed at all, knowing that the camera couldn’t handle it, and I would have missed some great pictures. But I did have a weather sealed camera, and I have the shots that I wanted. Those pictures, which were captured on a windy day at Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado using an X-Pro2, are below:

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From Dust To Dust – Great Sand Dunes NP, CO – Fujifilm X-Pro2

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Sandal – Great Sand Dunes NP, CO – Fujifilm X-Pro2

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Passerby – Great Sand Dunes NP, CO – Fujifilm X-Pro2

The conclusion is this: you don’t need a weather sealed camera until you do. Almost always your non-weather-sealed camera will suffice, especially if you take action to mitigate the conditions, but occasionally you might run into a situation where you really do need weather sealed gear. In those circumstances, you’ll either get the shot because of your camera, you’ll get the shot in spite of your camera (and you might find yourself in the market for a new one), or you won’t get the shot because of your camera. I do think those situations are rare for most people, and whether or not you have weather sealed gear is unimportant for most, but it’s sure nice to have it when you need it.

X100F & Weather Sealing

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The Fujifilm X100F isn’t “weather sealed” and isn’t designed to take on harsh conditions. Is this a big deal? How important is weather sealing?

I recently took my X100F to Yellowstone National Park and inadvertently put it to the weather sealing test. It rained all day, pretty heavily at times, and the mineral-rich steam surrounded myself and my camera a number of times.

I did my best to keep the camera dry. I kept it in my pocket whenever I wasn’t using it and wiped the water off whenever I could. It still got fairly soaked at times.

At the Midway Geyser Basin the steam created a thick fog. I didn’t even realize how wet the camera had gotten until I saw that my wife’s eyeglasses were unusable. I looked down in horror to see water literally dripping from the camera. This mineral-rich moisture can ruin a lens if not wiped off completely before drying.

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Disappearing Walkway РYellowstone NP, WY РFujifilm X100F

The rain was coming down pretty heavy at a few places we stopped, such as Kepler Cascades, Isa Lake, Yellowstone Lake, Mud Volcano, etc. The camera got more wet than I ever wanted it to.

The X100F survived all of this. It works 100% perfectly fine as if it never got wet. I’m not sure exactly how much water it can handle, and I imagine that fine dust might be a bigger issue, but it handled the elements well despite no weather sealing.

This begs the question: how important is weather sealing? Is it overrated? I think most cameras are designed in such a way that they can handle casual use in some adverse conditions. If it’s a little hot, cold, wet, or dusty, your camera should survive no worse for the wear. But if you are in more extreme circumstances, weather sealing could be the difference between shooting tomorrow or not.

If the conditions you shoot in aren’t terribly bad, you don’t likely need weather sealing, just take some appropriate precautions. If you shoot in particularly rough conditions, be sure to have weather sealed gear or else you risk ruining your camera. The X100F can take some weather, but there’s a limit, and you don’t really want to find out exactly what that limit is.