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How to Quickly Destroy Your Camera Gear

Don't do this if you want your cameras and lenses to have a long and happy life
Photo of a damaged lens

Our friends at Lensrentals have seen their fair share of damaged camera gear. That’s just an occupational hazard when you rent out tons of cameras and lenses to photographers who might use the gear for everything from covering a muddy car race to capturing a rocket launch.

Consequently, not every piece of equipment Lensrentals rents out comes back in one piece. Sometimes it’s in a few broken pieces actually. Which is why Zach Sutton of Lensrentals decided to craft a recent blog post on “how to quickly ruin your camera and lens” to help prevent these accidents from happening in the future.

“Typically, this blog stands on the idea of ‘Please protect your gear, and if it’s our gear you’re renting from us, please absolutely protect the gear,'” Sutton writes. “However, mistakes happen, and things break. When you have an inventory as large and diverse as ours, that reality happens way more than we’d care to admit. So, after seeing thousands of broken cameras and lenses over the years, I figured we could write a pretty good guide on how to break your gear.”

What follows are the four main ways that cameras and lenses can be damaged. So, if you own or rent fancy camera gear, really try to avoid doing this.

Photo of a melted camera

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#1 Water Damage

“The first one is probably the most obvious, water damage destroys cameras and lenses,” Sutton explains. “Though technically, water isn’t really the problem here – water is a poor conductor of electricity, and generally wouldn’t damage your camera or lens. To be clear, that’s when we’re talking about pure distilled water. Most water, however, has minerals, salts, and dirt in it – as do most electronics.

Photo of a camera damaged by salt water
Salt buildup from a returned Sony A7S II which was submerged in the ocean.

So, when you pour (non-distilled) water on electronics, the minerals, salts, dirt, and debris in that water will help short out the electricity, and effectively destroy electronics. Saltwater, in particular, is much more conductive and is one of the leading causes for a lot of our gear being destroyed over time.”

#2 Sand Damage

“Next on the list of effective ways to destroy your photo gear, is sand. Sand can do damage to camera bodies but destroys lenses with ease. To put it simply, no rubber gasket is perfect, and those little imperfect gaskets line just about every seal in your lenses. A quick drop in the sand and just about every lens will suddenly have a crunchy focus ring, no matter how ‘weather-proofed’ the lens claims to be. Though not all sands are equal, and the problem generally comes with the finer grains of sand. The art experience known as Burning Man was just a few weeks ago, and despite our old pleas, we of course got some gear back that ventured out to its first and last burning man.”

#3 Color Runs

“While easy to classify as sand, Color Runs in particular always leave gear destroyed because of the fine powder used at the runs. A Color Run is a style of a marathon that encourages spectators to throw colored powder at the participants of the race.

Photo of a lens damaged by a color run
Lens returned after a Color Run. Don’t do this. Please.

The results are a great photo opportunity to capture bright colors coating the faces and bodies of runners, but almost always at the expense of the gear used. While Color Runs have seemed to drop in popularity in recent years (or maybe people finally learned not to photograph them), we’ve had several cameras come back coated in pink and blue powders over the past decade.”

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#4 Dropping Your Camera

“Finally, the last way to destroy your camera or lens in just a few seconds is the most common and obvious – gravity. Whereas sand, water, and Color Runs can be marked as intentional negligence, everyone is prone to dropping their camera once or twice. And from my personal experience, most cameras and lenses can take a fall or two before failing. I admittingly beat up some of my gear, and watched my camera and lens take a 3-4ft fall on more than one occasion. However, depending on the height and landing angle, falls can destroy your gear pretty quickly, and make for a costly repair.

There is no surefire preventative way to avoid dropping your gear, but there are a few things that can help. All of our cameras rented come with their straps attached to them. Sure, camera straps aren’t cool, but they work well at keeping your gear attached to your body.”

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