On buying my first DSLR, during the time I began to take photography seriously, many people urged me to immediately buy a dry cabinet to store my new camera equipment in. Some of you probably know exactly what this is and why it’s so essential; but the rest of you, like me back then, might have two questions: what is a dry cabinet and why is it so important that I have to buy one along with my first ‘real’ camera? Alright, those are the questions I’ll be trying to answer in this very quick post today
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What Is A Dry Cabinet?
Think of a dry cabinet like a little refrigerator. It’s a fridge-like cabinet, but where a fridge controls the temperature inside of it, a dry cabinet controls the humidity. Quite simply, that is what it is: a cabinet that contains a humidity-controlled environment for you to store your camera equipment in
NOTE: The temperature inside a dry cabinet remains approximately the same as room temperature
Why Is A Dry Cabinet So Important?
Like I said, many people recommended I buy a dry cabinet along with my first camera, my first DSLR, and that’s what I did. I bought both camera and dry cabinet on the same day – and if you were to ask me if you should do the same, I’d probably advise you to, yes. But why would you need such a cabinet to store your camera? One word: fungus
Fungus is a feared word in photography, whispered among photographers with dread and terror. Alright, what am I talking about? In humid environments, fungus tends to grow on your camera – more specifically, on the glass of your lens. Naturally, this doesn’t happen overnight, but if your camera is stored for long periods of time in consistently humid environments, this can happen. And once it does, it can be very hard to remove; even if you spot it early enough so that it can be removed, cleaning it up can often damage the special coatings that your lens is coated with. Fungus also spreads very fast, so if you store an ‘infected’ lens with a clean one, in a similarly humid environment, that second lens will rapidly get ‘infected’ too. As you can imagine, the fungus itself, or the damage caused by removing it (if you were lucky!) can ruin the image quality that your expensive lens can produce, and you obviously do not want this to ever happen to any of your cameras/lenses
To avoid this, store your camera gear in a dry cabinet! As this cabinet maintains a controlled level of humidity inside, it is perfect for storing your equipment, and you can put your mind at ease knowing fully well that your stuff will be as safe as they can be. Fungus will never grow in this sort of ‘dry’ environment. It’s a simple and wonderful solution, really. A dry cab also gives you a single good place to store all your camera stuff, so nothing gets lost, and you get to keep all this gear organized in one place. It might not sound like much, but it really helps. I keep my cameras, lenses, film thermometers, filters, flash units, light meter, headphones, and all that in my large dry cab. A smaller one is also there, for day-to-day gear
Should I Buy A Dry Cabinet?
Alright, so I said that if I had to recommend you buy one, I probably would. Right. But why probably? If it’s so important, I should advise you all to get one, right? Yeah, but there’s the little factor that you should take into account, and that is which part of the world you live in. Over here in Asia, where humidity is high year-round, a dry cabinet is absolutely essential, and I’d strongly advise you to get one. Even in other parts of the world, I doubt humidity would be low throughout the entire year; but if you happen to live in a country where every day of the month is pretty dry, it would be rather pointless to get one
Yeah, just take your local weather into account – that’s the only factor you need to think of. If you live in a part of the world that’s humid during some part of the year, get one!
Dry Cabinets: The Right Humidity
A dry cabinet should ideally be set to maintain a relative humidity (RH) level of 40-45%. It’s as simple as that. You obviously don’t want to leave it too high, as this is the reason you bought one in the first place – but you don’t want to keep it too low either. Your camera body has rubber seals and stuff like that which can dry up and start to crumble if you keep it for extended periods of time in an environment that’s too dry
An RH level of 40-45% is generally considered ideal. Never go for less than 30% if you ask me. I’ve been maintaining 40-45% for a long time now, and it’s worked great
A Dry Cabinet Is Important but It’s Not THAT Important!
So yeah, that’s the reason why I recommend a dry cabinet to most of you. However, do not obsess over fungus growing on your lenses, and overthink the entire dry cab thing. I know some people who worry when taking the camera out to shoot, and are fearful, almost paranoid, to take the camera on a two-week vacation, as the dry cabinet cannot come along. They think of taking a portable dry cabinet, or stuffing their bag with Thirsty Hippos and whatnot, to keep the camera ‘dry’ during every second of its lifetime, and this is not necessary at all. Cameras are much tougher than that. I suggest a dry cabinet simply when storing your camera, especially when it’s stored and not being used for weeks at a stretch. If you shoot with it every day or so, like you would when you’re on vacation, you’re fine
Choosing A Dry Cabinet
Brands don’t matter when it comes to dry cabs. It’s a very simple device, with very little fancy tech involved, so there’s nothing to think of when buying one. A dry cab is a dry cab. If your camera store has one, it should be good enough. I’ve got one branded DigiCabi – yeah, I hate the name too – and it’s been working for nearly 4 years now, and is good enough for me. When buying yours, just make sure it’s got a digital display, and some easy way to control the RH level, and you’re good to go
Oh, and when choosing a size, don’t go for a tiny little one that can just about fit the equipment you have today. No matter what you say, if you’re in the photography business for more than a few months, you’re going to be thinking of adding on gear, and after a year (or less), you’ll have a lot more equipment to stuff in there. And a large dry cabinet is cheaper than two small ones – so go for one as large as you think you need, as you can afford, and as large as you can fit in your home!
Alright, then. That’s what a dry cabinet is, what it does, and why you should get one for your camera, ideally before or right as you buy your first camera. There are many things that a photographer needs to buy – it’s a super expensive hobby – but while things like filters, tripods, external flashes, and even the all-important monitor calibration device are very important, these can wait a short while. A dry cabinet protects the most important thing of all, your main photo-taking device without which you can’t make photographs: your camera! Get your camera, and get a dry cabinet along with it, and store it in there from Day 1. Get your colorimeter, your tripod, your filters, your flashes afterwards. In my book, a dry cabinet should always come ahead of all that. Yeah, that’s all I have for you today. Please leave a comment if you have any thoughts/questions/criticisms/rants! And thanks for reading
Oh, and as always, if you’re buying something that I’ve mentioned in a post – in this case, a dry cab – please use the links posted at the beginning and end of this post. Thanks! Until next time
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By Heshan Jayakody All content posted here is my own
- Is Your Gadget Happy? (itmashable.com)