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October 19th, 2013
Photography has always been enormously popular not only with the tourists but with many ex-pats living here in Costa Rica. It is one of my favorite pastimes. I have had and used several excellent film and digital cameras here in Costa Rica including an Olympus, a Mamiya, and my current cameras, Nikons). What I am going to discuss in this post is probably more directed to ex-pats who live here full time, but may be of interest to those staying here for shorter periods.
The topic is humidity and its affect on cameras in the tropics.
If this topic is of interest, read on….
Recently, I went several months without taking my cameras out of their cases (located in a closet). I had been using a point and shoot cheapie because I had no events that required real quality. After living here for 12+ years, you would think I would know better… Guess not.
I took out my Nikon SLR digital to check it out, clean the lenses and make sure it had a fresh battery.
All was fine until I looked through the viewfinder. There were spots. Maybe 5 or 6 almost like blemishes, but clearly there. More cleaning… no help. I was not really worried because I thought the camera just needed a professional cleaning. That was before I discovered there are no Nikon repair facilities here in Costa Rica. I did what I could which was pretty much limited to removing the lenses, cleaning the glass, checking out and cleaning the mirror, etc.
No joy. I still has the spots.
Then, I realized that I had not taken any pictures. Maybe this was just an annoyance and would not affect the photos. I was wrong. All the photos contained not only the spots I saw, but several more “lurkers”, and I had a fiesta the next day with a wife who expected photos. No time to fly to Florida, Mexico City or Panama, the only locations with authorized Nikon repair facilities. I used the Olympus and while it was fine, had not the flexibility of my Nikon.
Using my resources, I attempted to get the name of anyone who supposedly knew and did professional work on Nikons. Yeah right. Any of you who live here know that this might well be impossible. Whether a digital camera or a washing machine, half the “fun” of living the ex-pat lifestyle is just locating anyone who can fix anything the first time at a reasonable price and that stays fixed more than 45 minutes.
Anyway, about that same time, a reporter and a photographer from La Nación came to my home to interview me. A PHOTOGRAPHER!! If anyone might know a place to get a quality camera repaired, it would surely be this guy… and it was!
He referred me to a Tico near Moravia. I called the gentleman and made an appointment. He examined my camera and told me in Spanish, “Tiene hongos“. Translated? You have mushrooms! Only kidding. In restaurants here, hongos means mushrooms, but in this case, it meant mold. The bad news did not end there. He showed me that I had mold not only in the camera’s internals parts but also INSIDE each of my lenses. It had been growing for years unbeknownst to me. Oh crap. It mean not only disassembling the camera but also each lens. Dis-assembly of a Nikon long or short lens is incredibly hard and time consuming. My mental cash register was cha-chinging.
Then, from behind me came the voices of two professional photographers telling me that my problem is not at all unique and will affect all cameras if you live here. Living at the beach with its 75-90% humidity is far worse, but even photographers in the Valley need take precautions… and here is what they taught me.
1. Cameras bags are useless for protecting cameras against humidity.
2. Cameras should be placed in an airtight container protected against humidity.
3. Cameras should be returned to that container whenever not in use.
First, I purchased a plastic box that sealed quite well. I then made a trip to a small town outside Ciudad Colon to buy bags of desiccant (desicante in Spanish).
The camera, lenses, spare batteries were placed in a soft cloth and surrounded by the bags of desiccant. See photo.
This is how all professional photographers here protect their investment.
The camera repair guy turned out to be excellent. He fixed, cleaned and “de-mushroomed” my camera and lenses. Took him six hours and cost me $100.00. A fair price IMHO for quality work.
However, the smart thing is to not let the mold get in there in the first place.
Filed under Cameras & Photography, Costa Rica, Costa Rica Tourism, Expatriate Life, Humidity Costa Rica, Living in Costa Rica, Tourism, Travel, Travel to Costa Rica | Comments (11)