Nikon’s solution to prevent condensation in underwater camera housings

Nikon currently doesn't have any underwater housings in their product line. Here a is a patent* (2010-197939) for an underwater housing that can connect to an external tank of compressed air in order to prevent condensation inside the camera housing:

"The compressed air of the tank 60 supplied from one vent 27 scavenges the inside of the housing 1, and is exhausted outside from the vent 29 of another side. The air supplied from the tank 60 passes along the circumference of the lens (graphic display abbreviation) of a camera, and goes to the vent 29 for exhaust air through the crevice between a camera and housing 1 inner surface. Usually, the compressed air in the tank 60 is dehumidified in order to prevent generating in which tank 60 inner surface rusts. Since the inside of the housing 1 is scavenged with this air currently dehumidified, the humidity of housing 1 inside can be lowered. As a result, dew condensation of housing 1 inner surface can be prevented. Since the air in the tank 60 has the high pressure, the air of housing 1 inside interchanges for a short time, and the quick work of it is attained."

*Patents do not necessary mean that a commercial version of a given product will follow.

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  • They probably dumped this idea shortly after patenting it as most underwater photographers just use the little packs of silica gel to deal with condensation in the housing.

    Bonus about the silica gel is that it often comes in the box FREE with many electronic products as well as cool accessories like camera bags etc.

    • PAG

      As long as you can keep your silica packets dry in a tropical climate with no air conditioning and 90% humidity!

      • Heard about plastic bags?

        • Global

          Condensation happens on the inside, not just from the outside air, due to the warmer air “condensing” into cooler droplets. No air has to be exchanged — only heat needs to be exchanged.

          That’s why plastic bags and even waterproof containers have these kinds of problems. Since regular air contains a lot of vaporized moisture, including the air in your camera, the only solution is to absorb moisture while its free-floating (salts, etc), regulate the pressure (force it to not condense), or regulate the temperature (so it doesn’t have a reason to condense in the first place).

          Moisture will always condense on many surfaces, but usually wind or heat or pressure conditions cause it to vaporize just as quickly. Sort of like exhaling in the cold air and then watching your breathe vaporize away almost immediately. The bigger the temperature difference between you and the air, and under the right pressure and humidity, the more breath you will see.

          • suprchunk

            But the air inside the bag had to of had moisture in it to begin with. Eliminate that WITH DESSICANT in the bag like was suggested.

    • ben

      silica gel also makes a tasty snack 😉

      • iamlucky13

        You apparently missed the “Do not” written in front of “eat” on the packet.

        But yeah. Keep a supply of fresh packets (I’m told you can redry silica gel packets in the oven at home) in a ziplock bag, then when you’re gearing up for a dive, stuff them in the waterproof housing with the camera.

  • Jabs

    I wonder if Nikon is bring back the Nikonos series but now in digital?

    • dave

      I would love to see that happen. One of the Nikon VPs hinted at that possibility in an interview last spring, I think. After the problems they had with the RS and the popularity of the Nikonos V, I would hope they would keep the Nikonos V body style. There are plenty of folks out there with Nikonos lenses and strobes. I think a Digital Nikonos VI would sell like hotcakes.

  • PAG

    The air would be free since the diver already has the tank on their back. You’d not only have very dry air keeping the housing and camera dry, but you’d also have positive pressure just in case a seal started to leak.

    • DSLRMania

      I do not think it pressurizes the housing. You open the upper valve and let the air out (see the pic). I wonder if they require a minimum number of characters/words in the patent application or is it the possibility that what you can express in Japanese with a few words translates into English as a long paragraph? 🙂

      • Actually, I used to deal with software translations and the general rule of thumb is that it can take up to 50% more space to convey a particular concept when it’s translated no matter from what language into what language.

        • Global

          Asian languages can be particularly condensed when they are short run phrases.

          Japanese and Chinese especially do this through the use of glyphs — Chinese characters/Kanji — where an entire word is expressed in one character. Chinese is difficult to draw, but space efficient. Korean sometimes does this through Hanja, but rarely. Japanese alphabet is written out long, but the Kanji do help shorten things slightly. Korean, by contrast, is written in blocks of 2-3 characters, contracting the space considerably. So for every Korean “character” you see, its actually 2-3 letters. Assuming words, on average, are about the same length in Korean as in English, that would make Korean more space efficient by a good margin. Of course, legibility issues come into play, as do line spacing, so its not so exaggerated.

    • To presurize the camera housing seems to me a very good idea to prevent water flowing in, maybe this is the main goal of the device.

    • dave

      Yeah, that was my first thought. Since pressure in the housing is equalized, it greatly reduces the chance for water intrusion through a seal. However, to vent expanding air requires a relief valve (as shown in the diagram, 37A) and anytime a valve opens to let air out, a little water can get in. I’ve seen it happen any number of times.

  • Eric Pepin

    I say just bring on the new nikonos, a d300 or d700 sensor in the latest nikonos body, re-release the basic set of lenses and the strobe unit and be done with it, pros will thank you.

  • this may be the most boring post i have ever seen on, and i have seen some really boring stuff.

  • Thomas Fredrickson

    Now that there arent any obvious rumors floating around you could easily reproduce this sites prooves every day anew how lost it is lacking real sources…

    better stop filling the gaps with might be future patents and wait for news.
    those desperate attempts to produce any content are ridicolous…

    • Ken

      I like NR the way it is, you can go back to dpreview where trolls are welcome.

    • Nicam

      Why are you commenting on a site you don’t like – get a life and don’t come back here!

    • Zorro

      If you don’t like it Thomas, pretend you’re a duck and duck off.

  • Rosco

    Maybe it’s an underwater housing suitable for the rumoured mirrorless camera?

    • dave

      Will the rumored mirrorless camera have a strobe built right into the camera body? The plate identified as item 25 is either a flash diffuser, or more likely a flash block. A flash so close to the lens of an underwater camera is just going to light up all the little particles directly in front of the camera.

  • Bo

    This would make even more sense if this was not air but a inert gas, Nikon could sell cans of it, insert the camera and press for 10 sec to flush the housing with inert gass holding no moisture at all. NICE.

    a new Nikonos D series with a fullframe D3s sensor… nice.


  • Steven Sinski

    compressed air by itself has moisture content. dry nitrogen is the preferred product.

    • Grumpy Smurf

      Exactly, unless you dive shop has a dryer on the outlet of their compressor (I don’t know, is that standard?) simple compressed air is not perfectly dry.

      Do dive compressors use a tank? Much of the moisture should “fall out” during compression and be drained from the tank (if any) before expansion.

      If there is a tank inline compressed air will be significantly dryer than ambient, which likely means “dry enough”.

      • Shawn

        Dive shops dry their air before (or while) they compress it. If there were moisture in the tanks, they would rust from the inside, which would be bad for obvious reasons. Dive shop air is not the same as “compressed air”.

        • Grumpy Smurf

          They use steel tanks?
          I have an uncertified dive tank I picked up at a county auction from the S&R team, and it’s spun aluminum and composite.

          • suprchunk

            Yes, yes they do.

          • dave

            The first Dive tanks were all steel. Aluminum is quite popular now. the composite tanks have only recently been approved for scuba use in the USA. If you got one from your S&R team it is most likely an SCBA tank used by a fire department or hazmat team.

            Scuba air is compressed air, but as Shawn says they remove the moisture. They also filter it to remove carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and lots of other things that it is normally safe to breath at 1 ATM

            We use Argon for our dry suits. How would that work for a camera housing gas?

    • Grumpy Smurf

      Not to mention the bloody patent itself mentions the expectation of dried air.

      Next time I’ll RTFA.

    • randini

      The compressors used to fill SCUBA tanks do have filters on them to remove most of the water and dehumidify the air before it goes into the tank. If memory serves I think the standard for SCUBA grade air is around 25ppm water, which translates to less than 1% relative humidity at room temperature (that’s the air coming out of the compressor, once pressurized in the tank the RH increases). For comparison the one of the driest places in the US is Las Vegas with an average daytime humidity of about 20%. Most scuba diving is done in places with much higher humidity than that – usually tropical/subtropical and almost always coastal areas.

      Yes there are also steel tanks. They are usually preferred by divers for better buoyancy (they don’t get as floaty as the Al ones as the air gets low), better longevity (able to resist more pressureize-depressurize cycles) and some of the “newer” ones can be filled to higher pressures than the Al ones giving the diver more time underwater to take pictures.

      Coming back on topic, I’m excited to at least see interest by nikon in underwater photog. When I close my housing on the boat I do usually give it a shot of air from my reg (compressed air coming out of the tank) in conjunction with silica gel tabs and it’s worked great, as long as I keep the sealed housing cool and out of the sun when on the boat. I don’t think this valve is really necessary, but I’d love to see some results as to how well it works.

      • Grumpy Smurf

        Thanks for some facts.

  • zzddrr

    I guess at Nikon they cannot do better to kill time … 🙂

  • The invisible wife

    I can’t swim, I have seizures 🙁
    But I could use a D800/900 with no problems at all !

  • Mock Kenwell

    Great, now that the D4 and D800 are built and solved, it’s great to see Nikon engineers putting their talents toward something useful.

    How about they work on a patent for a machine that makes sensors that go higher than 12MP?

    • The invisible wife

      yes, Nikon’s sensors are already 12.4 megapixels !

  • DaveyJ

    There is a lot more interest in underwater photography than you might think. The last Nikon RS was a leak prone camera. The use of Nikon D7000 in UW housing is growing fast and we use them. And yes condensation inside the housing is a real issue. Dive shop air is almost always dry. I for one look forward to a new Nikonos in digital that is darn near foolproof!

  • PAG

    My brother is a diver and as he pointed out, the underwater housings can easily cost more than the digital camera it protects. The cheapest one I saw on B&H was over $1,300. I suspect that this is a niche but high markup market.

    I also suspect that the engineers who are designing waterproof housings aren’t the same ones designing the new sensors, processing units, autofocus systems, etc. for the camera bodies.

  • Anonymous

    NR Admin, please post something new.

  • Another solution to the problem of condensation within the housing (which frankly never happens to me), that doesn’t involve adding at least 2 more failure/leak points, is to simply load the camera into the housing in an air-conditioned room.

  • Anonymous

    Look guys and gals, don’t get me wrong but if that’s Nikon’s biggest problem then we are in trouble. 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Hey, we can start bashing Nikon! NR Admin is gone for two days now 😮

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