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Camera gear and humidity in Vietnam

Manuel Gonzalez ViƱas , May 20, 2009; 04:37 p.m.

I'm travelling to Vietnam and I`m a little bit worried about weather conditions. I know it's not the best time to go there, is the monzoon time, but with a good "raincoat" I think it would be nice. But what about humidity and how will it act on my camera gear? Am I going to have any problems with condensation?
I own a 40d with a 100 400l is and a 5DMII with a 24 70L and 17 40L.
Thanks for your answers and comments.
PD. I've read the travel piece of info about Vietnam in the learning tab but it's from de film age...

Responses


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Marios Forsos , May 20, 2009; 05:50 p.m.

I travelled through Vietnam last year (albeit not during the monsoon season) and it must be said that, depending on where you stay, humidity can indeed be a problem. Let me explain: if you stay in air-conditioned rooms, coming out from them in the morning will cause your lenses to fog up pretty quickly and it can take upwards of an hour for the fogging to go away (plus the unknown effects all the dissipating condensation may have on the lenses themselves). The bigger the temperature difference between the outside and your room, the more severe the problem.

Having said that, if you simply adopt the simple: stick the camera in a sealed plastic bag before you go into the room (and the vice verse of course) and wait for temperatures to equalise, should solve most of your problems. However, there is another piece of advice for you:

Even though I've never gone to Vietnam during the monsoon season, I have travelled through Thailand, Malaysia and Laos during the summer months and let me tell you, a raincoat is NOT enough. Not by a long shot, not if you want to shoot when it's raining (or even carry your camera relatively accessible and not buried in some case and sealed against the rains - which are heavy and prolonged!) You would be wise to invest in a rain-sleeve for your camera because, let me tell you, the sealing in the Canon leaves a LOT to be desired. I was lucky enough to have my trusty Nikons with me which handled the rain admirably well. I read quite a few tests of people taking the 5D Mk II into wet environments and having the camera go belly-up on them in pretty short order. A rain-sleeve costs around 10 bucks and will keep you shooting even in torrential rains

JDM von Weinberg , May 20, 2009; 06:22 p.m.

There is one piece of equipment that has had a long history of working in Vietnam -- the Nikon F

Remember all those brassed Fs hanging around the correspondents' necks in the 70s?

Vietnam War was not only a war, but also a testing field to make Nikon F legendary. The manufacturing standard, high precision and robustness made it capable in being hand it hand with photojournalists to complete the job well under extreme condition. It was sometimes quoted as the 'indestructible camera'.

(link ).

j falth , May 20, 2009; 07:08 p.m.

Consider that there are two states of humidity in the rice paddy and jungle areas of Vietnam, high, and highest...

Humidity is almost unbearable every day of the year when you are working outside in the sun, and worse during the monsoon season when you're outside working during the pouring-driving rains which start just after noon, and last until about 5:00 pm, but the camera equipment seemed to fair better than the human body.

In Vietnam during the mid '60's, I carried and used almost daily, a canon ft-ql in a rather open canon camera case.

Lenses were carried about in their own leather case and somewhat sealed from rain and dust.

Most of us never had a bit of trouble, rain or shine, but we never had air conditioning to give us condensation problems.

During the dry season, dust was hard to contend with, since we didn't have things like plastic baggies, or anything remotely dust proof.

Sweaty bodies, and sweaty hands coupled with blowing dust, always made handling a camera and lens somewhat troublesome whenever we had to change film or change lenses.

Jennifer Spencer , May 20, 2009; 07:51 p.m.

If you have never been in monsoon rain, well, it's an experience. You go from dry to absolutely bone-drenched wringing wet in less than three seconds, when the rain begins. Less if it's already started and you walk out into it. It's that much water. And sometimes it's sideways instead of coming straight down. Even a big and sturdy umbrella does very little to protect against it. That was my experience of it in Singapore & Malaysia.

Jeff Spirer , May 20, 2009; 10:05 p.m.

When I was in Vietnam, the humidity caused a major accident for me. I was climbing up a mountain in the Central Highlands jungle, not really a mountain but a very big hill and was dripping sweat. At the top, I got my camera out and it slid right out of my hands and the baseplate cracked. When I sent it in on my return, it turned out my lens had damage too.

However, nothing seemed to suffer from the humidity directly on the camera. I usually laid my equipment out in the evening and it dried out eventually.

I do think two camera bodies is too much in Vietnam. If you really want to see places, you will need to rent a scooter and you don't want that much with you, and you may not want to leave a camera in your hotel room.

Dave L. , May 21, 2009; 12:04 a.m.

I'm travelling in Vietnam as I write this. In fact, I've been in southeast asia for three months. I'm traveling with a Nikon D40x and I intentionally left my weathersealed body at home. I have had no problems whatsoever with camera humidity, other than fogging the lens up from walking out of an aircon room into the heat of the day. I've been jungle trekking among other things without any problems, I think you'll be fine.
The comment about losing your grip on the camera is a good one. That's a lot more likely than humidity damage.
And as Jeff said, GO LIGHT. The humidity and heat make carrying loads of equipment around very difficult. Scooters are without question the best way to see this country, especially for photographers. I would not take a camera kit that I wouldn't feel comfortable riding on the back of a motorcycle with (might affect the type of bag you bring, too).

Dave Perkes , May 21, 2009; 02:59 a.m.

Having lived in SE Asia, Cambodia for six years ; Ive traveled widely in SE Asia . I do not keep cameras in a/c room; the only humidity problem I have has been a Nikon 18-200 which had treatable mould after being used extensively in humid conditions (not what it was designed for).
All my pro lenses and Fuji S2 and S5 (D200) have been fine. I have had mild corrosion on battery and flash contacts; but my usage is not normal tourist use.
As mentioned earlier keep camera dry, avoid changes in temperature and take some silica gel packs.
I do not favour sealed plastic bags as they can seal moisture in unless you have silica gel. A Canon 5d is robust but not weather sealed (nor was my Fuji S2 which survived 4 years out here).
enjoy your trip
Dave

John Vandehei , May 21, 2009; 03:53 p.m.

I spent 2 weeks in China in August of 2004. One week of that was spend in Guanghzou, about 50 miles north of Hong Kong. That's still north of Vietnam, but I can't imagine the humidity in Vietnam is too much worse than what I experienced in China. I had a Canon G2 digital and a Canon Elan II film camera. The humidity wasn't too much of a factor with the cameras (although there were a few days I though I was going to keel over from the heat). Going inside to an air-conditioned isn't a problem. When that happens, the camera is WARMER than the inside air temperature. Condensation only occured on objects that are COOLER than the air termperture. Think of it this way, your cold beer will sweat on a hot humid day, but a hot cup of coffee wont. Now, taking a camera outside from an air conditioned building is another story. Now the camera is COOLER than the outside air temperature. This will cause it to fog up. You can either put your equipment in a plastic bag and let it warm up before opening the bag, or speed up the warming process by gently heating up your camera and lenses with a hair dryer before stepping outside. I've used the hair dry method several times and it worked well for me.

Larry Kincaid , May 22, 2009; 12:35 a.m.

I used zip lock bags on my Leica M8 while in Viet Nam to prevent condensation moving in and out of air conditioned hotels and cars. Never had a problem. Someone here once suggested using women's shower caps when it rains. I actually brought back a couple of hotel shower caps with me from Viet Nam this years and then actually used one in the Galapagos Islands during a brief drizzle (not a tropical downpour). The shower cap entirely covered the M8. In a pinch. In a real rain I suspect the rain sleevewwould be better, but the shower caps are free and take up no space. Humidity is outrageous in Viet Nam. Seriously consider investing in UnderArmor type shirts, shorts/slacks, and even underwear. The problem with such humidity is that once wet, the air is too humid to let you dry out. The only worse place for humidity I've experienced was the Atitlan jungle in Guatemala. In the morning coming in there was a spot of pavement with a very shallow puddle of water . . . it was still there on the way out in the afternoon, sunshine all day. And yes, I came out wet as well. But I loved it. And Viet Nam is a great place to visit. The Vietnamese will tell you that the best weather for a visit is in November. P.S. You take the zip lock bags off as soon as the temperature equalizes, so I don't see what the worry would be about moister being trapped inside the bag. Once out back in the hotel you can wipe off the camera and let it dry out.


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