Weather Sealing is not a necessity for the Outdoor photographer but it’s certainly a desirable option when choosing a new camera or lens. When i was shooting with film cameras my Pentax gear was not sealed and there wasn’t many of them that were sealed at that time. I was using plastic bags when it was raining, not the best thing but it gets the job done, i’m still using plastic bags and/or raincover for my gear with no weather sealing.
Camera and lens makers are including Sealing into more of their products now and it’s a good thing for the Outdoor photographers (Wildlife, Landscape , sports …..). Even Fuji with their new X-T1 and some WR lenses coming later this year is joining the party. Unfortunately not all manufacturers indicates clearly which lenses are sealed and to which degree they are. Canon L series of lenses are not all sealed, some not at all, some partially (they require a filter with a gasket to complete the sealing) and some are fully weather sealed. Nikon is also vague on this point, i’m not too familiar with their lenses and which ones are sealed.
Olympus and Pentax have a very good reputation for working in bad weather. I’ve been shooting with some Pentax WR and DA* lenses for some years now and i can attest that they can be used in any bad weather that we have here in Canada.
Pentax is clear on which lenses are weather sealed and to which level:
Recently i bought a Tamron 90mm Macro VC for my Canon kit and it is equipped with a rubber gasket around the lens mount but no other seal in the lens. I don’t know if the Tamron seal will be as good as the Pentax or if it will still work well after some years in the field, but it’s good to see a third party lens makers adding this feature to their lenses.
I did a short Video to show the difference between the Pentax and Tamron gasket around the lens mount:
The camera is also important, not all cameras have the same degree of protection against rain and dust. The Card and battery doors of my Canon 7D doesn’t have any gasket even if the camera is said to be weather sealed, however there are seals in other parts of the camera, compared to my Pentax K20D which have the best doors i have used with rubber gaskets and a very good locking mechanism.
All in all weather sealing is now part of the choices you have to make when choosing a new camera, lens or system, when i have choices i will buy a sealed lens over another one if all things are similar. It’s not a necessity but it certainly makes your life easier in the field and gives you a worry free experience while concentrating on getting the best shots you can.
I’ve always been a Pentax shooter for over 25 years, i like Pentax because they makes such great prime lenses and have a good choice of Weather Resistant cameras and lenses at different price levels. Last year at the same date my kit was (all Pentax lenses) :
– Pentax K20D and K-01
– DA35mm/2.8 Macro Limited
– DFA100mm Macro WR
– Pentax-67 M*400mm/4 EDIF
– TC 1.4X (Tamron AF and Pentax 1.4X-S)
– Extension tubes set
In 2013 i wanted to cut the number of lenses and weight in my camera bag, at the same time i decided to be a dual systems user (Pentax and Canon), Pentax for their WR, small metal lenses (DA 20-40mm Ltd and DFA 100mm Macro WR) , Canon for their long lenses and Zoom lenses choices for wildlife.
I sold some of my Pentax lenses, even my DA35mm Macro Limited ! In December 2013 i added a Canon 70-200mm/4 L (price was too good) and a Pentax DA 20-40mm/2.8-4 Limited WR. So now i have 2 zoom lenses for each system, the Canon zooms covers more range but are heavier and not weather resistant.The Pentax zooms are both weather resistant, smaller, lighter and of high built quality. Lets not forget that ALL my lenses are stabilized with Pentax SR. Here is my complete kit for each system:
– Canon 7D and T3i
– Canon 15-85mm/3.5-5.6 IS (575 gr.) (Filter: 72mm) (great for travelling and vacation)
– Canon 70-200mm/4 L (705 gr.) (Filter: 67mm) (will be used for landscape, wildlife and Frogs)
– Canon 400mm/5.6L (1250 gr.)
– TC 1.4X II (220 gr.)
– Extension tubes set
– Pentax K20D and K-01
– Pentax DA 14mm/2.8 (420 gr.) (nothing like this lens in the Canon line-up, that wide which can focus so close)
– Pentax HD DA 20-40mm/2.8-4.0 WR Limited (283 gr.) (Filter: 55mm)
– Pentax DA*50-135mm/2.8 (685 gr.) (Filter: 67mm)
– DFA 100mm Macro WR (340 gr.) (nearly half the weight of the smallest 100mm Macro of Canon, ALL FF)
– Tc 1.4 X (Tamron AF and Pentax 1.4X-S)
– Extension tubes set
From left to right:
Canon 15-85mm/3.5-5.6 IS, Pentax HD DA 20-40mm/2.8-4.0 WR Limited, Pentax DA*50-135mm/2.8, Canon 70-200mm/4 L
As you can see, those 4 zooms are a big part of my kit now. Those 4 zooms are very good to excellent, the 15-85mm is the “weakest” one of the group but it’s still in the very good territory, it’s not perfect but if you know how to use that lens it will produce very good photos. In fact, last August during our family vacation in New Brunswick and PEI i took 90% of my photos with the 15-85mm even the photos for my Stock Photo Agency. They replaces many of my good primes i had, they certainly delivers the IQ i need.
There is more to a lens than being THE sharpest lens … versatility, weight and FUN are certainly high on the list, but you also have to consider Bokeh, contrast and distorsion. Zoom lenses tend to have more distorsion than a Prime lens, especially the WA zooms. Now my camera bag is lighter and i change lenses less often in the field, especially useful in bad weather, even more when i’m using my Pentax Weather sealed lenses.
Do i take all those lenses with me every time ….. never, but i have choices now and take the lenses i need to do the job and i know they will all deliver great photos for me. I bought the Canon 70-200mm/4 L because i already owned the TC 1.4X II and i knew that it would work well together and it’s true after using this combo i can attest it still deliver very good IQ when used properly. Next summer i will use it with that TC1.4XII and also with my Extension tubes for photographing frogs, it will be a great addition for that kind of subjects. Another plus for that lens is that it takes the same filter size as my Pentax DA*50-135mm.
Taken with my T3i and 15-85mm IS, it was really useful for taking this photo, i was able to change focal length quickly to capture the action.
Snowy Owl taken at a local Zoo (Ecomuseum of Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue), my first subject with my 70-200mm/4 L with the TC 1.4X II.
I really like my Pentax DA*50-135mm/2.8, sharp and weather sealed, my favorite lens for landscape photography especially when it’s raining. I took that shot in autumn during a light rain, i didn’t protected my K20D + DA*50-135 at all, i was able to continue shooting without worrying about my gear.
Old Canal on a cold morning, i like that place when the nights are cold, in the morning everything around is frosted. My Canon 70-200mm/4 L was perfect for that shot and also for taking close-ups of the old canal.
Another one on a cold foggy morning at -23C with the Pentax DA*50-135mm, i was able to fine tune my composition with a zoom since i couldn’t get closer since i was already standing at the edge of the river.
One of the reason i switched to Canon for my wildlife photography was the choices in long lenses.The 400mm/5.6 L is also very useful when i’m photographing frogs from a distance, or i can add a TC-1.4X or Extension tubes to get closer.
Taken during a light rain, Canon 7D with 400mm/5.6L protected with a rain cover.
I think that i now have 2 systems that works well together and fits my needs and shooting style, i’m satisfied with what i have and can cover all i need to shoot. The only thing i will maybe change in 2014 is trying to update my K20D to a newer Pentax camera, i dropped it 4 times up to now and i had to put duct tape on it to keep it Weather Reasistant …. a very tough camera. The 7D is very tough also, i dropped it last summer in a pond while photographing frogs with my 400mm attached and they both survived after some drying time with rice !
The Canon gear is more a working set-up while the Pentax is more based on fun and high quality built metal and WR lenses. They both can be used to produce great photos and i will continue using both unless Pentax comes up with many choices in long prime and zoom lenses that are WR. An excellent DA* 400mm/5.6 or a DA* 100-400mm would probably be enough for me to come back a full time Pentax users, especially now that the K3 is a better choice for fast action photography.
The Canon 18 Mp sensor is good but still not on the same level as the Sony 16 Mp EXMOR sensor found in many Pentax cameras and the new 24 Mp sensor in the K3 looks very good also. Canon needs to come up with a better crop sensor, maybe in the 7D MK II ?