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Do You Store Your Camera In A Dry Cabinet?


Do You Store Your Camera In A Dry Cabinet?

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

My dry cabinet that stores my film cameras

My dry cabinet that stores my film cameras

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

A dry cabinet's RH level always varies, but it usually fluctuates within a 5% range - try to get that range so that it fluctuates between 40% and 45%

A dry cabinet’s RH level always varies, but it usually fluctuates within a 5% range – try to get that range so that it fluctuates between 40% and 45%

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


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Discussion

44 Responses to “Do You Store Your Camera In A Dry Cabinet?”

  1. I had NO idea these things even existed. Of course north european climate does not advocate one, at least not in the summer. But perhaps in the winter: Bring your gear inside the house from -10 — -20 C outside temperature and the lenses immediately fog up. A low-RH cabinet would perhaps stop this at once?

    Posted by jabcam | April 19, 2013, 16:31
    • I’m not very sure if a dry cabinet would help prevent the lens from fogging up when you bring it from the cold into a warm house; especially since you wouldn’t be able to pop it in the cabinet the instant you step indoors. However, I’ve read that people in colder countries pop their gear in large ziplock bags when moving the camera from cold to warm environments, and leave it sealed until the gear slowly adjusts itself to the new room temperature, with the fog forming on the outside of the ziplock bag only. That may work for you

      But unless you never experience humid conditions (higher than 50% RH) for more than a month, I still recommend a dry cabinet!

      Posted by pixelogist | April 19, 2013, 20:26
    • The way to handle this fogging is to avoid it which is quite easy. When going in from the cold (or from an air-conditioned area out into a humid warm day), keep the camera in its bag and the bag well closed until it has reached the ambient temperature. Another way is to wrap your camera tightly in a plastic bag or cling film. The condensation will then form on the outside of the bag instead of inside your camera. Recurring condensation on your cameras delicate electronics will, in the long term, kill it.

      Posted by Hans | June 28, 2013, 18:26
      • Thanks for the great tip, Hans – makes a lot of sense!

        Posted by pixelogist | June 28, 2013, 22:21
  2. Oh, i’ve been hearing a lot about this dry cabinet business too. After years of messing around for years, i finally decided on getting serious and buying a new ‘high-end’ camera, and everyone on forums and my friends too all suggest i get a dry cabinet. Thanks for sharing this great post – I live in a fairly humid part of the world (for at least half the year, at least) so I guess I know now that it’s definitely a must!

    Posted by Kevin | April 20, 2013, 08:22
    • Yes, I’d definitely recommend you get a dry cab for your new camera/lens – protect it right from the beginning :) Especially if your country experiences even a couple of months of humid weather (RH 50% or more) per year

      Posted by pixelogist | April 20, 2013, 10:30
  3. Most interesting, most interesting! I wasn’t very much aware of this sort of thing, but I now feel a bit guilty, as I haven’t been taking care of my cameras, it seems! I live in rather humid conditions, and have not kept my camera (a Canon Powershot S95) in a dry cab for a couple of years! Do you think it’s alright?

    Posted by Antone | April 30, 2013, 10:32
    • Hmm, I’d be a bit worried if I were you. Fungus spores land on any product the moment you open the package – and just wait for the right time to grow. If you’ve been living in humid conditions for a few years, it might have started to grow already. I’d get your camera checked out by a camera technician, if I were you; and hope you got lucky! If you happen to buy any new cameras, try to avoid storing it near your current Powershot (which might be infected) and get a dry cab asap!

      Posted by pixelogist | April 30, 2013, 11:24
  4. I always wondered how ‘dry’ I should go. I could never get a proper answer on this. I’ve ended up going pretty dry, around 30%. I wonder if that’s bad? Thanks for the info here, I have now set mine to be in the 40s

    Posted by Robert | May 1, 2013, 15:38
    • Hmm, I know some people who’ve stored their gear in a dry cab set at 30% RH and have had no issues (and continue to do so) – but yeah, I’d recommend you turn it down to around 40-45% :) And if you own any film cameras, you might want to get the light seals checked, as rubber tends to dry and crumble when stored in too dry conditions. Your digital gear should be fine

      Posted by pixelogist | May 1, 2013, 15:59
      • is there a danger in getting the system too dry? can dessication damage any parts of the camera? i read somewhere that a variety of fungus thrives at very low humidity levels, any sense in that?

        Posted by Feroze Omardeen | October 5, 2013, 03:13
      • I’m not sure about the kinds of fungus that thrive at low humidity levels, but I guess that’s possible. Setting your dry cabinet too low can cause some parts, especially the rubber parts, to dry up and crumble; film camera doors with their rubber seals etc. and even digital gear can be affected if you set things too dry. So yeah, try to keep it around 40-45% – if there’s fungus growing in these conditions too, then I guess it’s impossible to protect your gear! But I doubt it, 40-45% has been proven to be ideal over many years – and I know some people who have stored gear in 30% RH and still have had no problem, either with fungus or with gear damage. Hope this helps! :)

        Posted by pixelogist | October 5, 2013, 10:25
  5. I’ve been using a dry cab since the day I bought my first DSLR. I, of course, bought the smallest (cheapest) one, and had to sell it off and buy a new, larger one, very soon – so take note of the tip made in the post, everybody: DO NOT buy the smallest one there is

    Posted by Xavier | May 8, 2013, 15:24
  6. Good point here – I was wondering if I should get a dry cabinet, but now I’m convinced. Ive not yet bought my DSLR (getting a 650D most probably) but i’ll get a dry cabinet along with it

    Posted by Kieron | May 10, 2013, 16:27
  7. I just bought the SAME cabinet as yours but the size is 30L and the branding is DIFFERENT. Brand namded Everone. The design, looks and even the Dry-Cabinet wordings are the same! The bad thing is.. I learned the hard way. My camera and lens are now in the service centre and I have to wait 3-4 weeks to get rid of them “FUNGUS” and clean up the whole kit I have :( I wished I had bought it as soon as I bought my DSLR! Thanks for your post sir!

    Posted by Art | June 6, 2013, 15:13
    • Sorry to hear about that! Hope your gear isn’t affected too badly, or else you can’t ever get completely rid of it (not without damaging your lens, at least) – Thanks for stopping by :)

      Posted by pixelogist | June 10, 2013, 07:32
  8. Nice post – I’ve been using one, like you, since the day I bought my first DSLR, and have had perfectly clean, un-fungus’ed (?!) gear ever since. Very important bit of gear, take note, guys

    Posted by Kalvin | June 24, 2013, 07:02
  9. Oh yes – I was lucky enough to get this advice before I bought my first pro camera (my Nikon DSLR) and my gear has been in perfect condition since!

    Posted by Ben | July 30, 2013, 09:29
  10. How do I know if we have high humidity? living here in maryland..

    Posted by Saly | September 1, 2013, 17:46
    • Well, you could check your local weather report for starters :) Look for the ‘humidity’ or ‘relative humidity’ number – if it’s over 50-60%, a dry cab will do your camera gear a lot of good!

      Posted by pixelogist | September 1, 2013, 19:37
  11. I heard we still follow initially recommended RH level for camera(40~45%) by Japanese Photonics Industry in 1960s and 70s.(fungus thrives when RH level is over than 60.) In fact, there’s no problem if you keep your camera under 40% and as I know, even when you store CCD alone, under 10% RH would be good. Our company manufactures dry cabinet too

    Posted by Allie | October 28, 2013, 14:10
    • That makes sense :) I didn’t really think that fungus grows at low RH levels, but I did assume it might do damage to your gear, having it in too dry conditions. Maybe I was wrong. Thanks for sharing that info!

      Posted by pixelogist | October 28, 2013, 20:42
  12. HI I HAVE A QUESTION, DO I NEED TO TAKE MY BATTERIES OUT OF CAMERA OR FLASH BEFORE PUTTING IT INTO A DRY CABINET,ALSO DO THE LENS CAPS NEED TO BE ON OR OFF AND CAN I PUT MY GEAR STRAIGHT IN AFTER BEING OUTSIDE IN THE ELEMENTS.I JUST BOUGHT A DRY CABI AND WANT TO DO THINGS RIGHT FROM DAY ONE

    Posted by JO | November 12, 2013, 10:31
    • Keep your lens cap at all times when you’re not shooting. I’d take off the flash unit too, as it’s cumbersome and bulky and difficult to store with it attached. You can leave your batteries in your camera unless you’re storing it for months without use

      As for putting your gear straight in the dry cab after outdoor use, what matters here is the temperature. And this depends on where you live and what the elements are like in your country. Over here, the climate is warm, and there’s not much difference between indoors and outdoors. So I shoot outdoors, take it in immediately, and put it in my dry cab, no problems. If the weather is really cold, and you bring it into a heated room, that could cause condensation to form if the difference is great. So you might want to think about wrapping your gear in a plastic bag and let it warm slowly, allowing the condensation to form on the plastic bag and not on your camera. But this is in rather extreme cases, and has nothing to do with your dry cabinet

      Posted by pixelogist | November 12, 2013, 16:33
      • thankyou so much I just wasn’t sure because when I see pictures of drying cabinets the lenses have the caps off. I haven’t put my stuff in it yet as im having a bit of fun trying to get it to the right temperature.the dial has no numbers so its a bit of hit and miss or in my case miss and miss. thanks so much again for your advice its greatly appreciated im in Melbourne Australia so weather is something different every day. yesterday I was reaching for the sunscreen today im dressed like an eskimo.

        Posted by jo | November 14, 2013, 09:23
      • Haha yeah, my dry cab has no markers on the dial either. It’ll take a day or two for it to adjust to the right humidity. But you can put it in as long as it’s under 60% or 55%

        Posted by pixelogist | November 14, 2013, 10:29
  13. I bought one myself after I got my cam infected with fungus not just on d lens bt sensor,focusing assmbly and almost everything inside d body ..lesson learned
    ..now I know how important dry cabinet is to a camera…

    Posted by rowena | January 27, 2014, 07:58
    • Ah yeah, lesson learned the hard way. A lot of people don’t realize how important this dry cab is. You’re right, it can get in everywhere, nto just on your lens, but all over the body as well. At least you now know how to store your camera :)

      Posted by pixelogist | January 27, 2014, 15:59
  14. Hi. Just stumbled on this site and want to share some thoughts. I have been a professional photographer in a gov. agency for thirty years here in the Philippines. Climate is wet and dry.

    Even before I was employed, shooting gears were always stored inside big steel cabinets, mainly for security. Air-conditioning unit is mostly operational five times a week, eight hours a day inside the studio and lab. Not once have we had a problem with fungus on any equipment since the 1970′s.

    If you’re willing to spend, you can get an electronically powered dehumidifying cabinet.

    On a tight budget, here are some suggestions:

    1. Get a translucent plastic box with a tight lid and put newspaper at the bottom.
    2. Line the sides with several packs of silica gel; which changes color when saturated with moisture. (You can put these in an oven for about an hour or so, @ 250 to 300 deg. F to use again).
    3. Put in a reliable digital humidity meter (available on eBay or amazon).
    4. Place the box where there is circulating air and reflected sunlight if possible.
    5. Replace newspapers when they change color also.

    DO NOT store your gears inside closets, cupboards or bags for very long periods. Fungus and molds thrive in dark and moist environments, and therefore hate sunlight and heat.

    Important: Fungus and molds are also dangerous health hazards to people, especially those with weak or sensitive lungs, i.e. young children and old people.

    I hope these information helps. Thank you.

    Posted by Toni | February 8, 2014, 00:30
  15. Hi, i had some problem in the past with fungus on a Canon lense twice. Right now, i’m about to move into the Indian Ocean to lice for a few years. I want to buy a dry cabinet too.

    But actually i don’t know which brand to buy (i saw eureka, digi Cabi, edry).

    For now, i only have 3 lenses and one camera. Might be some more in the future. What capacity do you think it’s the best for let’s say 4/5 lenses and 1 camera. Around 50L is enough i think?

    Hope you can help me.

    Sylvain

    Thanks for this great review.

    Posted by sylvain | March 6, 2014, 05:00
    • Hi. Don’t worry about brands. Any dry cabinet will do, just make sure it has a clear digital display – and that’s about it. Size is more important. 50L is fine for 4/5 lenses, I’d say – but it depends on the size of your lenses. And always leave room for expansion. Best to check one in a store and see if you feel it’s enough for your current kit plus a few more that you might add along the way

      Cheers

      Posted by pixelogist | March 6, 2014, 07:32
      • Hi,

        Thanks for your answer. It’ll help a lot.

        The problem is, I actually live in France, but i’ll move soon on a tropical Island where i plan to live for a while. I had some problem in the past with fungus on this island.

        So i want to buy a Dry box/Dry Cabinet to store my Photography equipement.

        The problem is i cannot found a website in Europe who is selling and shipping here. I found a lot in Asia (Singapore, Philipines) but the shipping is very expensive.

        Any advice, idea, website, who might help me? (shipping in France or directly on the island)

        Thanks a lot

        Sylvain

        Posted by sylvain | March 12, 2014, 00:34
      • I’m sorry but I cannot help you there. Shipping such a large item like a dry cabinet (it’s like a mini fridge) is going to be very expensive no matter where you buy it from. Your best bet would be to look at a local electronics store/photography store and get it before you move :)

        Posted by pixelogist | March 12, 2014, 07:44
  16. Yes, it’s the best solution, but nobody here sell dry cabinet, as we’re not on a tropical island. I’ll try to found a shop anyway. Thanks ;-)

    Posted by sylvain | March 12, 2014, 16:07
    • Oh, you’re mistaken there :) All professional photographers in France would need a dry cabinet. France, like other countries in Europe, also has a relative humidity level of more than 60% for most of the year – and in winter, it’s usually over 80%. This is high. In European summers, the warm temperature, with RH of 60-70%, means that fungus can easily grow over your lenses. In winter too
      It’s not only tropical countries that require a dry cabinet. I’m quite surprised you cannot find it there

      Posted by pixelogist | March 12, 2014, 16:14
      • Hi, sorry about the mistake but you’re right about the RH in France most of the year. Right now, i have found 2 store that might help me. I will see.

        Thanks for the answers.

        Regards

        Posted by sylvain | March 17, 2014, 20:36
      • Good to hear you’ve had better luck :) Hope you find what you’re looking for. Cheers

        Posted by pixelogist | March 19, 2014, 07:30
  17. Does anyone have any thoughts on buying a second hand cabinet with regards to it possible being filled with mould spores before you get it?

    Perhaps the previous owner had bought it hoping it would save their infected gear only to contaminate the desiccant and interior of the cabinet?

    Would you just leave it in the sun for a day to try and kill off any of the spores?

    Posted by Roger | April 19, 2014, 21:10
    • Well, as far as I know, spores are everywhere…even on your camera right now. Storing it in a dry cabinet (which also will contain plenty of spores) will prevent fungus from actually growing from these spores. The time that you spend outside, shooting with the camera, even a couple of days, is usually not long enough (and the conditions not favorable enough) to allow fungus to grow. It’s the time that the camera spends in storage – weeks or months in a dark place – that fungus can tend to grow. And that’s why its important to store the camera in a dry cabinet. A used dry cab being full of spores is not really a problem to worry about – although I’d probably spend the $50 more and get a brand new one for peace of mind :)

      Posted by pixelogist | April 21, 2014, 15:54

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