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Leaking camera housing

Discussion in 'Repairing your own Gear' started by stepfen, May 18, 2019.

  1. stepfen

    stepfen Barracuda

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Greece
    361
    160
    43
    Hello,
    I have a Sony A5100 camera with the Meikon housing and I've got about 100 dives with it.

    Few days ago while preparing it for a dive I noticed salt crystals inside of the housing's o-ring, although during the previous dive I haven't noticed any water inside it. I cleaned the salt and as an extra precaution I removed and carefully inspected the o-ring. It was good so I cleared it, lubed it and put it back. I didn't give much more attention to it and went diving.

    At the end of the next dive on the surface I could hear the moisture alarm beeping (underwater the beep was so weak that I couldn't hear it) and I could clearly see water in the housing.

    These are the bad news. The good news is that the amount of water was not enough to reach the camera hence the camera survived!

    After the incident I removed the moisture detection circuit and rinsed the (open) housing inside and outside with fresh water and then let it soak in a light vinegar/water solution to remove any salt deposits.

    The question is what's next? Is there any neat ways to detect where the leak is? Dive was a shallow one (15m/50ft) for 75 minutes and judging by the amount of water inside the housing (maybe 3-4 teaspoons) I guess the leak is too small to detect it by submerging the case in a bucket of water and wait for bubbles. Any other ways?

    Since the main o-ring looks good (although to be sure I'm thinking to change it anyway) I am suspecting the buttons. There are 14 buttons in the case including 2 rotary ones, most of which use tiny e-clips to be held in place. Does it worth the risk to disassemble the buttons to clean/inspect/lubricate their o-rings? Given their large number I'm worried that if I don't do perfectly well even a single one the case will be still leaking.

    BTW apart from soaking the whole thing in water after every dive, what is the standard maintenance procedure for this kind of buttons? Keep using them until they fail or are they serviceable?

    Any other suggestions?

    Thanks in advance for any info
     
  2. aviator8

    aviator8 Photographer

    # of Dives: 0 - 24
    Location: Georgia
    243
    87
    28
    The fingers are the most sensitive instrument for detecting problems on the o ring. I also use a 10x loupe to make SURE there are no hairs, lint or debris on the o ring both before and after install. Personally I would not attempt to take apart and reassemble all the button orings. If there is a Meikon dealer I would take it to them for that. Before doing that I'd do the thorough cleaning you talked about then dive it with no camera. If it leaked again get it serviced.
     
  3. stepfen

    stepfen Barracuda

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Greece
    361
    160
    43
    Thanks for the reply. I did check the o-ring again and it looks fine.
    I haven't heard/seen any servicing for Meikon. Taking into consideration the price of the case (~150$) I doubt sending it for service abroad will make financial sense - that's why I'm posting in the DIY forum :wink:
    Right now I have the case (without camera of course) submerged in a bucket of water - I plan to leave it there for long (24-48hours) checking now and then for bubbles.

    Needless to say that my camera won't go underwater in this case until I positively locate and rectify the problem followed by testing the case (bring it filled with tissue to a deep-ish dive ).
     
  4. Searcaigh

    Searcaigh Chromodoris gordonii Staff Member ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Dubai, UAE
    5,407
    3,978
    113
    $150 for an UW housing?

    The camera is worth around $500

    Throw the housing away and get a new housing.
     
  5. stepfen

    stepfen Barracuda

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Greece
    361
    160
    43
    Small mistake in currency conversion, when I bought it was actually ~180euros hence ~200$. Now it sells for 240$.

    Still not much for a new housing but I prefer to repair it other than get a new one.
     
  6. Searcaigh

    Searcaigh Chromodoris gordonii Staff Member ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Dubai, UAE
    5,407
    3,978
    113
    You'll need to figure out where it's leaking from first

    if it's one of the buttons that operate the camera system try working them (without the camera in the housing) in a container of water you might be able to identify which one it is and possibly change the O-ring.

    I'm not familiar with the make of housing.

    New Housing is less than the cost of a New Camera + New Housing
     
  7. fmerkel

    fmerkel Loggerhead Turtle

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Salish Sea (Seattle)
    1,473
    504
    113
    It actually is not necessarily a big deal to remove, clean, lube and re-install the components. Some of the buttons may be 'tricky' when they are not a straight push trying to figure how to get it out.
    You need to be REALLY careful of those little clips. They can do an amazing disappearing act taking them off and getting back on. A LARGE clean well lit working surface is really important. Take photos as you go.

    A dive with tissue won't tell you anything except [wet/not wet]. Best way to find out the location of the leak I came up with is to construct a mock camera out of gray thin cardboard, the kind cereal may come in. It needs to make an obvious color change when it gets wet. Hopefully that gets you the general leak area.
    FWIW I've NEVER found a button O-ring to be the culprit even though I've often suspected them.

    What I have found: micro cracks in the case where the latches were held on (Nikon PnS). Overhauled and replaced EVERY O-ring 2x before I figured this one out.
    Molding irregularities in the main O-ring groove (Canon PnS - known common issue on this line). Showed up after the O-ring got some cycles on it. Removed with very fine sandpaper and the problem went away. A brand new O-ring would cure it for awhile.
    Compressed 'burp disk' (part of the closure latch), for lack of a better term (Canon PnS). Shimmed it out a tad and problem was fixed.
     
  8. stepfen

    stepfen Barracuda

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Greece
    361
    160
    43
    I think I fount a strong suspect. After careful inspection I can see that the latch is not as tight as it used to be. Hence the door doesn't close uniformly.
    On the side of the hinge the two parts (door and main body) come very close (there is a gap but it is less than a mm). On the side of the latch they leave a larger gap (~2mm) and I can actually see part of the o-ring.
    upload_2019-5-19_22-16-58.png

    When I press with my hands the two parts together the door closes properly:
    upload_2019-5-19_22-17-36.jpeg

    Makes me wonder: underwater won't the pressure difference do the same (i.e. press the door to the body)?

    In the bucket I had it closed improperly but it didn't leak a single drop for about 24 hours.

    Next thing I need to do a test dive to check if this is the problem indeed. If it is (looks quite probable), I need to find a way to ensure that I won't forget closing the door properly again :S
     
  9. Compressor

    Compressor ScubaBoard Supporter Staff Member ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: NYS
    2,667
    1,139
    113
    Here's what I would do @stepfen: I would call them and ask for advice.
    With the latch closed, there should be a positive lock and no gaps or irregularities.

    Since they are based overseas, where would you get the o ring?

    Ultimately, take it on another dive without the camera inside and be meticulous as always. If it leaks, then the problem is not solved and you need to move to step 2.
     
  10. fmerkel

    fmerkel Loggerhead Turtle

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Salish Sea (Seattle)
    1,473
    504
    113
    A bucket is not much of a pressure test. I had a camera housing fail at 40' in minutes that sat in a foot deep bucket for an hour.

    That latch certainly is highly suspect. What's changed? Wear on the pivot, latching parts, other?
    The Nikon mentioned above had 4 compression latches, not clamshell like you have. Over time the screws holding the latch on formed minute stress cracks. The screw tips were close to the main O-ring channel. These cracks allowed a small amount of water through to the O-ring channel. The only reason it did not flood worse is the O-ring covered the cracks and kind of damned up the flow. Turned out this was a common failure in this housing.

    I pulled the latches, filled the screw holes with high grade, slow kick epoxy, and put the screws back in. It's been holding for years that way with no leak. This is the housing I rebuilt 2x with all new O-rings on all buttons before I found the cracks. It wasn't the buttons. A used replacement housing had the same problem.

    If you can't fix the latch, you may be able to press it completely closed by hand, then secure it with several strong rubber bands. Once submerged water pressure will help but I wouldn't trust it to hold during the distractions of surface preparation. This is assuming it IS the latch.
     

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