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Tips to Protect Your Camera in Humid Conditions

When I go to very humid locations for photography, like rainforests and swamps, keeping my camera gear protected from the humidity is one of my top concerns. Lens fogging, fungal growth, and water damage are all risks to your camera equipment in the tropics and similar environments. It’s not unusual for gear to cease functioning after prolonged exposure to humidity. In this article, I’ll give you the run-down on how to take care of your camera gear in humid conditions.

DC-G9 + OLYMPUS M.60mm F2.8 Macro @ 60mm, ISO 500, 1/1600, f/3.5

Will the Humidity Damage Your Camera Gear?

Humidity itself will not harm photography equipment directly, but it’s still a problem to deal with. The most obvious reason is that mold/fungus can grow on your equipment, especially in your lens, if you store your gear in humid conditions for long periods of time.

Another concern (less of a long-term issue) is that your lens or viewfinder can fog up if it’s very humid outside, becoming momentarily inoperable.

Fog accumulation on a camera lens
Fog accumulation on a camera lens

f you’re taking a trip to humid regions like the tropics, especially the rainforest, you have reason to be concerned about the wellbeing of your gear. Luckily, there are practices which reduce the risk of issues associated with humidity.

Camera and Lens Fogging

Imagine that you’re in the rainforest. You see a jaguar that just captured its next meal, and you raise your camera to document this incredible moment. But the camera’s autofocus searches, and all you see through your viewfinder is a low-contrast blur. You realize your lens has fogged up. Even though you desperately wipe away the fog, it returns within seconds – it’s inside your lens, too. The opportunity passes, and the jaguar returns to the trees with its meal.

Trust me, you never want to be in this situation. Sometimes, the air is so wet that condensation is very hard to avoid. Let’s try to understand why condensation occurs on your lens, and what you can do about it.

1. Why Does Fog Condense on Camera Lenses?

A camera lens fogs up when the lens itself is at a temperature below the climate’s dew point. Dew point is the atmospheric temperature at which condensation will occur on a surface. The more humidity in the air, the higher the dew point, and the higher the risk for lens fogging. This is why camera fogging is prevalent in the tropics, or hot and humid summer days.

DC-G9 + LUMIX G VARIO 100-300mm F4-5.6 @ 300mm, ISO 640, 1/125, f/5.6
DC-G9 + LUMIX G VARIO 100-300mm F4-5.6 @ 300mm, ISO 640, 1/125, f/5.6

2. Avoid Air Conditioning

One of the most common ways photographers fall victim to lens fogging is to go from an air-conditioned space to a hot, humid environment. In this situation the camera is much cooler than the dew point outside, so condensation rapidly accumulates on the lens and camera. Even if you wipe it off, it will continue to accumulate until the camera warms up to be above the dew point.

To avoid fogging when you leave an air-conditioned space, you can keep your camera in a Ziploc bag until the camera warms up to the outside temperature. Once acclimated to the surrounding temperature, you can open the bag, because fogging won’t be an issue.

3. Persistent Fogging

There are times when there is no temperature change, but your camera may seem to spontaneously fog up. In my experience, this occurs when