Weather sealing test kills Sony A7RIII but not Nikon, Canon or Olympus

Jan 10, 2018

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Weather sealing test kills Sony A7RIII but not Nikon, Canon or Olympus

Jan 10, 2018

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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People seem to have been switching over to the Sony A7RIII faster than I can blink. I’ve seen quite a few switching from both Nikon and Canon since its announcement. But it seems there’s one area where Sony still falls somewhat short. Weather sealing. It’s always been their Achilles heel, but people had been hoping it’s improved with the A7RIII. As this weather sealing test from Imaging Resource shows, it hasn’t.

YouTube video

The team at Imaging Resource put four cameras against each other in these tests to see just how well they hold up to wet conditions. Two newcomers, and two of the top tier professional cameras from their 2016 awards.

Two tests are shown in the video that simulate natural weather phenomenon. The first being some rather substantial direct rain – a situation that’s quite common for those of us in the UK. And while the “rain” comes pouring down, they test out the camera’s features to check that they still work while wet. After all, if you’re out shooting in these conditions, you’re shooting. Your camera isn’t just sitting there getting wet. So, they focus, shoot, switch around the dials, sift through the menus, etc.

Both cameras were initially operable after completion of the test, which looked promising. After taking them back to the dry indoors, though, the situation was very different. The Nikon D850 got off almost completely unscathed, with just a single drop of water working its way inside the eyepiece. This was easy to fix by simply removing the eyepiece and giving it a wipe.

The Sony A7RIII, on the other hand, did not fare so well. Although still operational, and no water got into the sensor through the lens mount, water did get inside. Of particular note was the battery. Upon opening the battery slot door, they noticed that the underside of the battery was wet, which was odd considering all the rain came from above.

Given that the camera wasn’t actually sitting in water, and there was little on the underside of the camera, the only conclusion was that the water came from inside, above the battery. And upon removing the battery, their suspicion was confirmed, stating that there was a “moderate amount of water” contained within.

After drying the cameras both still worked so it was off for test #2, the “heavy mist” test. And this is where the A7RIII really failed miserably. Ironically, this was supposed to be the gentler of the two tests, with much less water and less force. After the second test was completed, they heard a rapid clicking noise coming from the table.

The Sony was, apparently, shooting as fast as it could. Very odd considering they say that the camera was turned off at the time. The only way they could get it to stop was to remove the battery. Removing the lens showed that there was rain on the shutter blades themselves, this time.

They do say that the A7RIII was fully dried out and back to its normal self the following day. It’s working just fine and has no signs of lingering issues from the water exposure. But, you don’t really want to risk your camera dying if it starts raining in the middle of a shoot. As with the first test, the Nikon D850 survived just fine, and so did the Canon 5D Mark IV and the Olympus E-M1 Mark II.

This is one of the reasons why I haven’t really considered Sony myself yet. Yeah, they’ve got lots of flashy performance numbers, but without good weather sealing, they’re no good to me here in the UK.

I’ve shot countless times in the rain with my Nikons, for up to 4-5 hours at a time, and never had any issues at all doing so in the past 16 years I’ve been using Nikon DSLRs. And, well, if it ain’t broke, why try to fix it?

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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27 responses to “Weather sealing test kills Sony A7RIII but not Nikon, Canon or Olympus”

  1. Sergi Yavorski Avatar
    Sergi Yavorski

    That and Sony makes the ugliest cams in the industry.

    1. Tarron Bell Avatar
      Tarron Bell

      No way! I think they look the best in the industry!

    2. Justin Prim Avatar
      Justin Prim

      does the look actually matter?? I thought the performance did

    3. Sergi Yavorski Avatar
      Sergi Yavorski

      Justin Prim For me, both do

  2. David Clark Avatar
    David Clark

    Speaking as a Sony user, it’s incredibly frustrating that Sony’s E mount bodies relentlessly pursue unreasonable compactness at the expense of strength, durability, weather resistance, heat tolerance, and ergonomics! They’re choice asinine. The simple solution is to keep the entry-level bodies tiny and make the prosumer and pro bodies sufficiently sized so as to negate all the above frustrations.

  3. Zygmunt Zarzecki Avatar
    Zygmunt Zarzecki

    And Pentax?

    1. dracphelan Avatar
      dracphelan

      They knew Pentax would come out on top in this kind of test.

  4. Andrew Lee Avatar
    Andrew Lee

    So Only Now You know this gurl when wet doesn’t make her perform her best and catches a cold easily after all the big investment on hers and all that gizmo jammed into her. ???. My Cannon is an all weather Can on thingy that I love.

  5. Mike Downey Avatar
    Mike Downey

    My Olympus E-M1 fears no weather.

  6. Alexander L. Harris Avatar
    Alexander L. Harris

    Is the sony marketed as being weather sealed?

    1. Duncan Dimanche Avatar
      Duncan Dimanche

      Yep

    2. Alexander L. Harris Avatar
      Alexander L. Harris

      Oops

  7. steve simmer Avatar
    steve simmer

    Too bad he didn’t include a Pentax. Mine has been bullet-proof for hears.

  8. Del Robertson Somerville Avatar
    Del Robertson Somerville

    Get the sandwich bags out…

  9. Paul Monaghan Avatar
    Paul Monaghan

    Pentax and Sigma would do well in these tests too, I once half submerged one of my Pentax body’s with water halfway up the lens and rear lcd… took some shots then washed it under a tap to remove the smell from the canal water.

    It still works fine. That was on a well used k5 body so if anything it ahould have been more likely to fail than a new body.

    My even older k10d was left in a car for 5 days with nothing but a lens cap (backup body… I forgot) It was covered in water droplets from condensation, a quick wipe.. slapped on a lens and went on shooting.

  10. Federico Ciapi Avatar
    Federico Ciapi

    fujifilm?

    1. Pablo Ferrufino Avatar
      Pablo Ferrufino

      Hey man, did you notice any moisture in the ISO window? saw that’s the only problem related to weather in the XP2

  11. Liam Avatar
    Liam

    Some time ago while considering the budget priced 16-35 ƒ4 Nikkor, I came across a youtube video during my research of someone that sat a Nikon D700 with the aforementioned 16-35 ƒ4 Nikkor in a fully running shower for well over 10 minutes all while firing the shutter in high continuous mode ( approx. 8 frames per second ) – I immediately decided that the weather sealing of the budget Nikkor was ‘good enough’ and purchased the lens. I still have a D700 and that 16-35 Nikkor and can report that Nikon can truly take a tremendous amount of abuse. When I watched my D700 and the 16-35 roll down a muddy mountain side ( it took me a good 2 hours to just clean off the mud ) I felt pretty good about my purchase.

  12. R1Law Avatar
    R1Law

    And the choice to switch gear comes to a screeching halt. Love the data/images/sensor/size/and video of the Sony…but that is a very poor outcome from what I feel was a reasonably light test. Now back on the fence and sticking with Canon for now.

  13. Paddy Avatar
    Paddy

    Well if you shoot in the pouring rain bring an umbrella, works for me

    1. RobUr Avatar
      RobUr

      does your umbrella works against mist? because mine isn’t.

  14. Andy C. Avatar
    Andy C.

    Where’s Pentax?

  15. Jay L Avatar
    Jay L

    Paying a few grand for a camera body does not make you a better photographer. To each their own! As far as I’m concerned, Olympus makes incredible lenses and cameras! Go Olympus! http://www.getolympus.com/us/en/visionaries

  16. rolfen Avatar
    rolfen

    Sony cameras seem quite sturdy. I have read many many reports of water seeping inside, but in every one of them, the camera just works as usual once the water is dried, so it seems that the electronics are quite durable.

  17. sanch Avatar
    sanch

    Knowing the culture of Sony, I am pretty sure they will listen to the professionals and both the next A7 and the A9 bodies will address the problems of the current users. Weather sealing against adverse situations need to done. I think they will bring new A9 and A7 models because they reduced the price of the current iterations of both the bodies.

  18. Andy Roy Avatar
    Andy Roy

    Weather sealing is the only reason why I (and I’m sure many others) have not switched over. If they actually addressed that, their sales will probably skyrocket. The one thing I love with my Nikon is how sturdy and rugged yet (somewhat compact) it is. I’ve been through snow storms, rain storms, gotten sand thrown on it, taken it on boats, etc. It’s been through so many crazy weather on my travels, and still looks brand new and hasn’t gotten any water or sand inside (except for maybe a little dust when keeping the lens off for a while). I really want to switch to Sony, but as someone who travels and photographs in all these weather conditions, it’s the only thing holding me back (though the button controls on the Sony annoy me too, but I can comprise with that).