Thursday, March 10, 2011

Form Follows Function - LX3 Water Resistant Housing

I am a firm believer in the age old epithet that "form follows function." And since I'm barely functional when it comes to all things ingenuitive, form not only takes a backseat, it rarely makes it into the same vehicle.

In fact, only once have I actually been successful in the creating of a thing. But that once made has made me immensely proud. Due to my kayaking activities, I was in need of an inexpensive method of waterproofing my Panasonic LX3.

So I took my generic waterproof plastic box (small size, purchased at Dick's Sporting Goods), that I normally used to keep my keys, phone, emergency first aid kit, etc., in and cut out a 60mm hole in the bottom of it with my hole saw. (I wish I'd taken in-progress photos, but only have the finished product to show for my labor.) I then glued a 58mm UV filter into that hole, using Gorilla Glue. (Gorilla Glue works really well, but if I were to do this again, I'd use a glue that doesn't expand as it dries.)

I then painted the interior, except for the lid, matte black, so that I would be able to see the LCD on the camera more easily. Unfortunately, due to the obvious rigidity of the housing, the only camera function I was able to maintain control over was the shutter button. This was done by drilling a hole into the box immediately above the camera's shutter button. I then glued a standard shutter remote into place in that hole, using a couple of nuts and washers to stabilize it.

I then used some large washers and nuts to create a "seat" for the camera. This would relieve any stress that might otherwise be placed on the cameras structure by having it screwed to the filter. The camera was further held in place (as alluded to above) by screwing the camera to the filter. The LX3 has an extension tube (46mm in diameter) that attaches to the camera and allows for the use of filters. Additionally, I got a 46mm-58mm step-up ring for two reasons: 1) I had several 58mm filters already; and 2) I wanted to have some more surface area on the filter in case I got messy with the glue. Also, I ended up gluing in the step-up ring rather than the filter so that I could change to a Polarizing filter if I wanted.

The camera has to already be attached to the extension tube when I go to screw the extension tube to the step-up ring. As you can see below, the space inside there is pretty tight, so this maneuver is not for those with large or less-than-nimble fingers.

This setup would be entirely waterproof except that the filter is not completely sealed, where the glass meets the metal. Also I could use Loctite or something on the threads where the filter threads meet the step-up ring threads, but I haven't done that either. In testing it, the allow time that water enter the housing was when I submerged it and held it under. 

Then came the field test. There is a swamp, called North Lake, tucked away into a corner of northeast Birmingham, that I had been wanting to photograph for some time. But it was definitely going to require my being in my kayak in order to get the photographs I wanted. North Lake is the only cypress gum grove in this part of Alabama.

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