A Custom Camera Cover
The need is obvious. As it happens, my camera — a Pentax 200D — boasts a weather‑sealed body. And for once the real‑world performance lives up to the advertising copy. But the camera body isn't totally waterproof, and none of my lenses is either. Nor do clear UV filters do much to keep grit or moisture from doing mischief to lenses' inner workings. Something more is required.
It's easy enough to protect my camera kit under way, of course. All I have to do is keep it in a waterproof ammo can. But this leaves a lot to be desired. My camera and lenses may be safe from harm in their steel vault, but as long as they stay boxed up, they're just ballast. What chance do I have of catching a soaring eagle on the wing, or capturing the one moment when sunlight turns the mist from a falls into a golden halo? Little or none, that's what. And that's frustrating. What I needed, I decided recently, was a sort of halfway house for my camera. Something that would shield body and lens from swirling mist and windblown dust, but still allow me to snap off a shot in an instant. A rain shell, in other words. I'm not the only person to have this idea, obviously, and there's no shortage of commercial solutions on offer. But none of them really appealed to me. I wanted something simple and cheap, and many of the commercial lens jackets were gimmicky and pricey. The colors were often wrong, too. What paddler in her right mind wants to wave a white sleeve around in the autumn woods, for instance? Not me, at any rate.
The upshot? I figured I'd have to make my own. So I sat down with pencil and paper, and began to …
Scribble and Sketch
Actually, I began by sketching. That was a mistake. It's hard to draw a good plan for something if you haven't specified what you want it to do. So I stopped sketching and started scribbling. The ideal rain gear for my camera, I concluded, had to …
- Be shower‑proof and dust‑proof.
- Do nothing to slow me down when I was framing, focusing, or snapping a shot.
- Allow me to use a tripod.
- Fit all my lenses, even my longest telephoto zoom.
- Protect the lens‑camera junction.
- Be small enough and light enough to stuff in a pocket.
- Be a suitable color.
It didn't have to be waterproof, however. Don't get me wrong. Waterproof would be good, but if the fabric protected the lens and body from blowing mist and light rain, I'd be happy. Choosing a color was trickier. White was out. I spend a lot of time in places frequented by deer hunters. Many don't pay very close attention to the calendar, and a few are inclined to shoot first and identify their target afterward. Brown, black, blue, and khaki were out of the running, as well. Camouflage is good, but only in its place. I knew I'd drop my camera's raincoat sooner or later, and I've already spent too much of my life searching forest floors and tannin‑stained waters for drably colored objects. And anyway, I didn't need something inconspicuous. I wanted a raincoat for my camera so I wouldn't miss snap shots and once‑in‑a‑lifetime opportunities. If I'm staking out a particular, elusive subject, I'll take time to set up a tarp or poncho blind to use as a hide. That's why bright was best for my camera's new raincoat, and the brighter the color the better.
Then I had a eureka moment. I have a closet full of windbreakers, parkas, and anoraks, and many of them are overdue for honorable retirement. So why not cut off a sleeve from a tired garment and use that as the body for my camera's raincoat? Why not, indeed? And here's …
How I Did It
It took me no time at all to find a suitable candidate. From deep in the recesses of a closet I unearthed an old North Face shell parka. I got it cheap. Very cheap. But the first time I wore it, I learned why I'd paid so little. True, it did its job well, especially for a jacket that hadn't been advertised as waterproof. It kept me dry even in moderately heavy rain. That is, it kept the water on the outside from getting in. Unfortunately, it also kept the water on the inside from getting out. In other words, the parka was impossibly hot, and there were no pit zips to vent any of the superheated steam produced by my sweaty body. Which is why the parka went to the back of the closet, never to see the light of day again. Until now. I was losing an arm — well, my old parka was losing an arm, anyway — but my camera was gaining a raincoat. It seemed like a good trade.
I began by measuring the sleeve against my longest lens, not once, but twice.
I pulled the sleeve's elastic wristband around the lens's filter ring, then smoothed the fabric down along the bodies of both lens and camera. I was in luck. It was just wide enough, so I used a laundry marker to indicate the place where I thought the cut should come, before removing the camera and flattening the sleeve on my work table. Next, I placed my camera on the sleeve, checked the length again, and drew a final guideline across the fabric, making a generous allowance for a hem — and the possibility that I might someday buy a longer telephoto lens. Why do the job over again if I didn't have to?