Hair Dryer ~ Your Camera’s Best Friend?

Who would think something as common (and personal-hygiene related) as a hair dryer could be a life saver for your camera?

In a previous video, I’ve talked about the dryer’s ability to warm photography gear to help prevent condensation, which will fog up all glass camera elements including the lens. This works great in warm humid climates prior to heading outside from an air-conditioned space. It also works well when coming inside from a cold dry environment, such as when you’re outside shooting polar bears in Churchill, Canada. Both of these examples use the hair dryer to warm the camera body and lens over the course of a few minutes.

Something new regarding hair dryers and cameras came up recently. This week I was contacted by a loyal follower of my blog who happens to also be attending my workshop in Vermont this fall. She was very upset and somewhat panicked. While on vacation her Nikon D7000 got wet and stopped functioning. She was riding in a boat and another boat passed by close enough to provide a pretty good soaking. At first thought, I was relieved to learn the camera was not fully submerged, but it did receive a fair amount of water across the camera body. In an attempt to dry the camera, she had let the camera sit for some time, but it still wasn’t functioning. Hm?

I needed more info to go on, so here’s what I asked. 

  • Q: Was it fresh or salt water? A: fresh (salt water can be nasty)
  • Q: Was it wet long? A: No, it was wiped off quickly.
  • Q: Was there water inside the mirror box, behind the lens? A: No.
  • Q: What was happening? A: I took a picture and it sounded like the shutter stuck and froze.

As the information was coming in, I was thinking of a ceiling fan remote control. I know, silly right? Funny how our brains work. My in-laws have a little remote control for their ceiling fan in the kitchen and it stopped working. They were about to give up on it, when my electronically inclined son stepped in. A screw here and a screw there and everything was laying all over the kitchen table. “Oh, there’s the problem,” he explained pointing to grease on the circuit board. Some oil had spilled in through the push buttons and was shorting out the circuit board. I quick wipe and it was as good as new.

I found it interesting to see all the buttons were actually printed exposed metal strips on a thin sheet of flexible rubber. The plastic button controls actually hover over this rubber sheet and activate the circuit when pressure is applied. The days of each switch being hard wired individually are gone, replaced by cheaper, thinner, more flexible, sometimes exposed circuits that short out when a liquid comes in contact. That’s it!

There had to be water still inside the camera causing a short circuit. Here’s what I recommended to solve the problem:

  • Remove all the plastic covers (LCD cover, plastic cap on the flash hot shoe, etc.)
  • Open the pop-up flash (if your camera has one)
  • Remove the battery and leave the door open
  • Remove the memory card and leave that door open
  • Remove the lens and make sure the lens/body contacts are dry (use a Q-tip, if they are wet)
  • Replace the lens on the camera body (this will help keep junk off the sensor)
  • Use the hair dryer on medium or low all around the camera to dry every crevice (careful not to heat the rubber parts too much)
  • Replace the battery
  • Replace the memory card

Guess what? It worked! There was some pesky little film of water somewhere shorting out a circuit and disabling the entire camera.

File this away in the back of your head for just such an emergency. You never know when your hair dryer could save the day! 🙂