(Note that you use any of these thoughts at your own risk. As always, You are responsible for keeping people and property safe.)

In at least one other post here, I noted the trick of using a ziplock bag to keep an iPad safe around wet conditions.  I’ve recently tried using a ziplock bag with a digital camera and felt a need to post an update.

You can still damage your electronics even with a ziplock protecting them from water.

If you attempt to use an electronic device in conditions that will make it cold, or just a little colder than it was when put into the bag,  then water can condense from the air already inside the device.

Even more water will be available for condensation when you take the device out of the bag. This is especially true in humid places.

I decided to try the ziplock trick on a recent family vacation to the Florida keys. We were snorkeling in very warm, shallow water. I used my cheap digital camera in a thick ziplock I had and it worked great. We took photos and videos of everything we saw.  The water was so warm, I never thought about the camera getting cold enough for condensation.

When we finished and returned to the beach, someone took the camera out of the bag.  Water condensed visibly under the glass of the screen and the camera quickly stopped working.  I found later that the memory card also stopped working.  My computer could not even tell that one had been put in the reader.

After drying under a fan overnight, both the camera and card started working.  I was very thankful to have our family pictures back as well as the camera.

Notes compiled since:

  • Some of my clever friends suggested drying the camera and card in a bag of dry rice.  Apparently this is a cheap and available alternative to desiccant.
  • Some of my cleverer friends suggested putting the dry rice into the bag with the camera BEFORE going into cold conditions.
  • I realized later that it might have been better if the camera had stayed in the bag until it warmed up. (No way to know now.)
  • I don’t know if water could have penetrated the plastic bag over a long term. I have given no thought to any long-term use of a ziplock bag for anything important.
  • The bag contained enough air to make the camera float. I thought this was a good idea at the time since some of the water was deeper than safe for pressure or deeper than I wanted to swim to retrieve a sunken camera. Now I know I was trading off with more water vapor.
  • I note that I did NOT go very deep in the water.  I have little doubt that water pressure could easily damage a fragile electronics and their cases. In the case of my camera, I was a bit worried about the motor and gears in the lens that pops out when the camera is on.  The pressure could have forced it backward into the case and stripped the gears.
  • The picture quality was also lowered by the bag in a few ways:
    • the bag did not stay flat above the lens. It got bunched up in the front lens a few times.
    • The bag also had moisture condense on it from the inside. Basically it got dew in front of the lens.  (This should have been my first clue to leave the camera in the bag after getting out of the water.)
    • The bag could, and probably did, put scratches, fingerprints or printed letters in front of the lens.
    • The flash probably bounced around inside the bag.  I can’t really tell that it did anything positive while in the bag.
    • Water drops on the outside were held in front of the lens when I tried to take pictures back in the air.
  • My bag was really too big for the job of holding the camera.  It was a thick, 5-gallon bag that I was intending to hold a whole laptop. (No, I didn’t take a laptop to the beach.)  The camera moved around inside the bag too much and the unused part of the bag made everything more difficult.
  • The blue tint of the bag probably changed the color of all the pictures, but I did not find it noticeable.
  • Depending on the bag used, the place and people around, the effort to protect electronics may appear to be an effort to be sneaky. Some people do feel less safe or less comfortable in the presence of hidden or partly-hidden electronic devices.  Such devices may be perceived as invasive or as a sign of something inappropriate or dangerous happening.  This would be especially true near more sensitive spaces like changing rooms, bathrooms or showers. Think about your surroundings.