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This month, Paul Duxfield looks at how to make sure your camera, housing and accessories remain in tip-top condition
and lubricate it
I try to get away on a couple of dive trips a year, and high on my list of priorities is the wellbeing of my beloved camera kit.
Before a trip, I make a checklist of all my bits and pieces, including mains adaptor and travel plug, enough memory cards, spare O-ring (don’t forget the O-ring for your strobe and torches) and also a cleaning kit. When I’m happy that I have everything, I check that it is working okay. I have a dry run – I put the camera in its housing and attach the accessories, such as a strobe and a wide-angle lens. This ensures that I don’t overlook something vital.
I then take the O-ring out of the housing, clean it, lubricate it and place it into a small sealable plastic bag, which I then put into the housing and close it. I usually store any O-rings this way so I know where they are – it also prevents the housing from jamming shut as a result of changes in aeroplane cabin pressure, making it awkward to reopen.
A real benefit of a compact camera is that, even with all your accessories, it fits easily into your hand luggage. I bubble-wrap the housing and any lenses and strobes to make sure they don’t knock together during the journey – most of this stuff is quite robust, but it’s best to be on the safe side.
If, on the other hand, you decide to stow your camera gear with your hold luggage, it’s best to purchase a dedicated hard case. I use a Peli case and it has proven to keep everything safe and sound – even against aggressive baggage handling.
WHAT DO YOU KEEP IN YOUR CLEANING KIT?
I keep two microfibre lens cloths: one plain and one brightly coloured. The plain one is for lenses and other optical surfaces, and my coloured one is just for the O-rings, because it ends up getting quite greasy and dirty. I also keep some of those small sponge-tipped sticks that my girlfriend uses for eye-makeup removal. I prefer them to cotton buds for cleaning O-ring grooves as they don’t leave any fibres behind – I have yet to find anything better.
SO HOW DO I PREPARE THE CAMERA AND HOUSING PRE-DIVE?
If you have never taken the housing underwater before, it’s a good idea to use it on its own – perhaps on the obligatory check-dive – to find out if there are any manufacturing defects that could lead to your camera getting a soaking.
If you’re on a liveaboard, the first dive is usually at the crack of dawn, so I get into the habit of prepping the housing the night before. At the same time, I charge the batteries and insert a fresh memory card. This is because, like many people, I am not at my best first thing in the morning, and it reduces unnecessary task-loading and potential mistakes.
Remove the O-ring from the main housing, using the tool that came with your housing or a credit card – just don’t use anything with a sharp edge. Put it aside on a clean, lint-free surface. Clean the groove it sits in and ensure there isn’t any residual grease or fine particulate in there. Run the O-ring through your fingertips to see if there are any cracks or if it is misshapen in any way. If there’s an imperfection, don’t take a chance: replace it with a new one. If all is well, clean any old lubricant from ring, using the cloth put aside for this task.
Apply a tiny amount of lubricant to the ring. You must use the correct grease for the type of O-ring you are using, so check with your housing supplier. Apply just enough to make the O-ring shiny: it is not to make it waterproof, but simply to keep it in good condition.
Place your camera back into the housing and close it, making sure you have no hairs or similar trapped in the seal. I normally then put it into my dive crate and secure it so that if it gets rough, it doesn’t get knocked around.
HOW DO I GET IT IN AND OUT OF THE WATER SAFELY?
You need to take care that your kit doesn’t get damaged, so get it handed down to you, and try to keep it on your person during a ride on a RIB.
Post-dive, I give it a good rinse in fresh water. Don’t leave it in the boat’s dip tank for any length of time – they can get very hot, which isn’t good for your camera. If the battery still has a healthy charge and there is plenty of space left on your card, there is no reason to open your housing. I usually go through the cleaning procedure only once at the end of the day.
HOW SHOULD I STORE MY HOUSING BETWEEN TRIPS?
On your return, give your housing and accessories a good long soaking in tepid fresh water. Let it all dry naturally, and store it with the O-rings bagged up and lubricated. This should keep it in good condition ready for your next trip.
• Paul Duxfield (www.paulduxfield.co.uk)
• Keep kit secure during transit
• Test a new housing underwater before using with a camera
• Use separate cloths for lenses and O-rings
• Prep up the night before a morning dive
• Keep O-rings in bags and lubed