Cameras went swimming - treatment mostly failed - lessons learned?

One day at the beach three digicams in a camera bag hung over a beach chair got knocked into the surf by what Mrs. Napier is calling a “rogue wave”. The three people there almost did, too, and didn’t notice the bag in the water for perhaps 1/2 to 2 minutes. When we did, and retrieved it, there was water and sand in there with the cameras.

The cameras, a Panasonic Lumix, a HP PhotoSmart, and an Olympus (an older clamshell model), were all wet. We pulled the batteries out immediately and noticed water and sand in all the battery compartments. We pulled the memory cards and opened all the little doors we could find and rinsed them with seltzer water (the least complicated liquid we had with us). As soon as we could, which was about a half hour later, I gave them each a bath in 70% isopropanol, the least conductive and least corrosive liquid I could think of that was miscible with water, would dry quickly, and was available on the island (anything better would have required hours of boating and hours of driving). I shook them out and left them in the sun to dry for a few hours, then indoors where the humidity was low for several days. I didn’t want to put the batteries in until I thought they were probably as good as they’d get.

The result? All of them would turn on. One would show its menu and ask me to set the time, but seconds later would ask to be turned off. Another would wake up in picture taking mode and show whatever it saw on its LCD screen, which was faded looking and had many light and dark bands superimposed on the image. The third did something disappointing to its owner (I can’t remember what now).

How should this have turned out? What’s the best we could have hoped for? Does it surprise anybody else here that they would do anything, let alone boot and show menus and in one case capture and display images on its screen?

FWIW somehow I wound up buying four cameras today. An extra one got in there somehow…

I’d say you got the best you could hope for, and your methods for recover seem spot on to me, though admittedly I’ve never gone through such a nightmare, the alcohol bath is supposed to be a good remedy. Trouble is, it’s the salt that’s going to be the real bugaboo in the weeks to come.

But since you’ve replaced them, I’d still keep them. When they’ve thoroughly dried out see what happens. I remember a story about a guy who dropped a Nikon 990 in the drink; after drying out his pictures were quite remarkable.

Found the link!

If the battery was inside and the immersion was over a minute, you’ve got buckley’s really.

Most saving routines Im aware of involve removing the battery, then immediately dunking the camera entirely in fresh water and swishing it a fair bit, then sending it in for diagnosis/repair if its a DSLR or drying it out and praying if its not worth doing that. If you dont dunk it thoroghly in fresh water immediately, salt in nasty places is basically inevitable. The next important bit is to dry it out thoroughly before trying to turn it on, as in warm drying cupboard or the like (not too hot) over 24 hours or more. Dont know if isopropyl hurt or just dont add much, but its not usually what Ive seen suggested.

This info is from underwater photography, any manufacturer will simply advise to send it in rather than advise you to do things that might be construed as further damaging it.

With compacts its generally not going to be worth it, but my understanding is the freshwater dunk has been known to work, but not your high odds even with immediate action.


Is this sort of thing covered by your insurance? But really, the pictures are vastly more important than the cameras anyway.

I’d say you got about what was expected, even after doing the right stuff. In addition to the problems of salt water, any sand that got in the the lens mechanism might have killed the camera too. The only other thing I’ve heard people use is desiccant packages in a plastic bag with the camera.

Thanks, all.

More details - one of the cameras that we tried taking pictues with did actually take pictures and store them on a memory card. However, the pictures have lots of bars across them. I think droplets or their remnants or grains of salt must have stuck on the surface of the CCD chip itself, causing the little islands of charge to change as they were marched past them. Or something like that. I don’t actually know whether the bars in the LCD screen were the same bars or an additional injury. That camera’s owner really liked the replacement, tho…

>pictures are vastly more important than the cameras anyway

True enough! And they appear intact.

Though, one of us bought several disposable film cameras, including some underwater ones, to use on the rest of the vacation. And we took them to the nearby photolab, who returned to us prints and negatives with such severe odd lines and rectangles all over them that they’re unuseable, unrecognizeable really. I can’t imagine how to create such weird artifacts while taking pictures. The photolab, however, insisted it was something we did wrong, in spite of the fact that the pictures came from several cameras of different type and manufacturer, used by several different photographers, on several different days, in several different settings, and in spite of the fact that the previous day they had had a repairman in to work on their developing equipment. Sheesh…