Removing water drops off camera lens

Specifically I have a Canon waterproof case. Water drops tend to form on the view port. (I know, it’s probably not technically a lens.) Recommendations on best way to remove the drops?

I’m thinking something I carry in my dry suit pocket and can wring out and then use to blot the drop. The material would need to be absorbent even when damp. A couple ideas are a piece of lens cloth like used to clean eye glasses (not as absorbent) or a good quality chami. I have the lens cloth so will try that first. I know sand can get embedded in chami material, and then scratch a surface, but if I’m careful with it and just blot, I think it may work well.

I could also carry a Kwik Tek dry pack on the deck to house a drying cloth. They’re about $10. Could be a hassle to open and close on the water though and one more thing on the deck. So not starting there.

Other ideas?

Side question: Is water drops on the lens often a problem with waterproof cameras, or mostly just with the view ports on water proof cases?


Distilled water and something lintfree

– Last Updated: Jan-01-10 8:27 PM EST –

Put some distilled water into a squeeze bottle with small tip. You'll want to rinse the water drops with that first, then blot gently with lens tissue or other clean, lint-free, scratch-free material.

Distilled water won't hurt anything, whereas some fluids advertised for cleaning lenses might harm whatever your view port is made of.

Alternatively, Zeiss and Nikon made individual wipes that I've found useful for regular (glass) lenses. Check to make sure they'd be OK for polycarbonate or whatever. But I'd still rinse with distilled water first, especially since you paddle in salt water.

Might try Rain-X

get it wet
With my Pentax Optio W20, I dunk the camera and then give it a light shake while holding the camera so the lens is upright or upside down.

If the water is messy, I spray some water out of my Camelbak on the lens.

side question
"Side question: Is water drops on the lens often a problem with waterproof cameras, or mostly just with the view ports on water proof cases?"

I’ve never had a problem with water on the lens of my olympus stylus 550 WP, and it’s frequently in the water. I’m not sure how they do it, because the lens is recessed, and looks like it would collect drops. But it doesn’t.

similar problem
"Side question: Is water drops on the lens often a problem with waterproof cameras, or mostly just with the view ports on water proof cases?"

I have the same problem with my Pentax waterproof camera. Water droplets, once got on the lens, means no picture for quite a while, until I get a chance to wipe it dry with something clean.

However, I learn to reduce the chance of water getting on the lens by keeping the camera face away from the water between shots. When I store (however temporary) the camera with the lens exposed, I quickly got water on the lens. But now I keep the camera face away from water, basically facing backward or downward, I often manage to avoid the problem in an entire trip. I just need to get into a habit of it so I don’t have to THINK about where to put the camera between shots.

Pentax Optio Water Spotting
Both my WPi and Chris’ 43wr lenses collect water spots like magnets - we’ve lost a lot of good shots due to this. Several things can help. A piece of a real chamois, tied to the PFD shoulder, is useful, but not foolproof, as you have to keep it fairly dry or else wring it out. Even then, salt water tends to leave a deposit that can cause blurring, especially after it has a chance to dry. Sometimes, a vigorous puff across the lens will clear water droplets. In a pinch, I’ve also dunked the camera - sometimes it works, sometimes not. And finally, in desperation, I admit that I’ve licked the lens cover plate - and it seems to work most of the time.

The best tactic is to keep the lens cover dry - I use a slide-in case from a cell phone, with the neck lanyard projecting thru the case bottom - as long as I can keep that case dry, spotting isn’t a problem - BUT - keeping it dry is easier said than done…

NOT RAIN X. The cover lens on the
Canon water proof case is optically coated. RainX may destroy the coating, and RainX leaves a film which subtly fuzzes light passage.

I’ve been using RainX for many years on auto windshields. It has shortcomings there too.

Anyway, one does not put anything on an optically coated lens except a mild solution approved for lens cleaning.

Not RainX, but mild surfactant.
I read the same thing about rainX.

Saliva or mild surfactant like Johnson’s baby shampoo, then rinse, is said to help. Though maybe better on the inside against fogging than on the outside against water drops. The saliva application certainly works on the inside of diving masks.

Brainstorming is good though. The best ideas will bubble to the top.


bilge sponge
wring it out and it absorbs

Just so that bilge sponge hasn’t picked
up grease and grunge.

Chamois and certain chamois-like stuff like Sham-Wow might be cut down and carried in a PFD pocket for wiping duty. But my bilge sponge gets too dirty for wiping lenses (we’re talking about an optically coated lens here) after the first trip. I do use the sponge for making the paddle shaft less slippery.

RainX is not intended to be used on plastic, it’ll eventually cloud the material to the point you can’t see thru it.

Bill H.

I do the same as g2.
I dip the camera back in the water (non salt) and blow on the lens. Simple and I don’t have to search for a wipe.

give it the finger

– Last Updated: Jan-02-10 4:47 AM EST –

I just drag the drops away with the tip of my finger.

For me, wiping the lens with something dry seems impractical in rapids or waves or rain whereas lightly dragging a finger across the lens takes no time and clears the lens good enough. If I were trying for perfection I would use a cloth.

Can’t see how to do that with a Canon
waterproof camera case. I can get my finger into the well holding the optically coated lens plate, but there is no place to which I can drag the water droplets. This was also true on my old Weathermatic 35. Blowing water off the lens plate works up to a point, though it may leave a thin film of fine droplets that needs air drying.

Maybe some day Canon will include a tiny fan and heater to blow the lens plate clear and give it a final drying.

You’ll never keep it dry…
…so you’re better off to use alternative methods. Two that work well (we have two Cannons with housings) are:

  • Lick/spit/shoot - Lick the lens cover, spit out the salt (I’m assuming salt water here) and shoot. If you’re in fresh water that may be polluted, this is probably not the best technique.

  • Dunk & Shoot - Dunk the camera to get an even film of water on the lens cover, then shoot before it runs off. You usually have a few seconds to do this.

    I’ve tried different ways of keeping things dry and they all were more trouble than they were worth, unless your sole purpose for paddling is photography and you’re willing to make significant sacrifices toward that end. For us, paddling is the primary goal and photography is just a way of documenting it. You can see some examples of on-water shots we took in Shetland here:

    None of these is “National Geographic” quality, but they tell the story of the trip pretty well.

Yeah, most shots are clear of water
drops, and very good shots too.

One reason I switched from kayak/c-1 to open canoe is that the camera usually stays splash free with the high seating, at least up through class 1-2. My failing is that often I forget to check the camera case lens before I start shooting, because of the drier ride. Later I find some water drop spoilation I easily could have avoided.

Your tongue doesn’t get all pickled-wrinkly from all that salt water, does it?

It can be hard on the tongue
After a 10-12 hour day of paddling and shooting (it basically never gets dark in early July in Shetland, so long days just sorta happened), my tongue would be feeling the wrath of the salt, but a pint or two would fix that. :wink:

I had a lot more shots of our first weekend on Papa Stour that were ruined by water drops. Once I figured out the two techniques I mentioned, the results were much better, with relatively few ruined shots.

Smears windshields
I tried Rain-X on the windshield one time. Never again.

Removing water drops from photos.
Loosely on topic, I found that when water drops do get in the picture, the self healing tool in photoshop may remove them with mixed results. Works best on small drops over complex textures like trees or grass, where the exact reconstruction is not critical. Set the brush diameter to just bigger than the area of image distortion, one click over each drop, done.

Worked nice on scenic pics of trees. Didn’t work on large distortions over tug boats and fishing vessels. Bummer. Would require more photoshop expertise for that.