SportShield: You may start to look forward to rain!

David's SS-600 decked out with flash fill
(Review of Flash Cover TBD)
Shooting in the rain is always awkward. Keeping your gear functioning, getting everything to the location and back without mishap, and even trying to keep your vehicle dry enough to pack things away afterwards are all difficult. But the biggest issue is operating your camera without letting it get drenched. This is particularly important with digital. After years of shooting with seemingly impervious film SLRs, I learned the hard way--with an $800 repair bill and a ruined set of wolf images--that D-SLRs are just not as hardy.
Ever since then I've paid more attention to the variety of rain protection devices on the market. I have a shelf full of various attempts to find the perfect rain cover. I'd almost given up when I found the Aquatech SportShield at PMA. It is an outrageously well designed and well made cover. It easily accomplishes both keeping your camera and lens dry while allowing you to operate as many of the controls as you need for your style of shooting.

SportShields come in either
Blue or Camo
Photo by B. Moose Peterson
Copyright B. Moose Peterson

The unit I'm using is for 400f/2.8-600f/4 lenses, but Aquatech also make ones for shorter lenses. They'll be sending me one of those to review, but for now I'll talk about how the long cover worked on my D1H (and D1X) and 600f/4. And the answer is, nearly perfectly. The SportsShield zips open enough to make it reasonably simple to fit to the end of your lens hood and then pull over your camera. There is an adjustable cutout for your tripod, so you can adapt the cover to your particular head and style of adjusting your tripod.

This Yellow-rumped Warbler wasn't put off by 
the rain--and neither was I with my SportShield
From there you attach the specially designed eyepiece to your camera by screwing it in in place of your eye cup (or just poke your eyecup through the hole in the SportShield. When you order the SportShield you need to specify whether you have a Nikon or Canon camera so you get the correct screw-in adapter. This 'perfect' fit is another piece of great design. It gives you both a shielded camera and a usable eyepiece. The cover has a variety of see through panels with Velcro closures and an opening on the bottom which make operating your camera as simple as possible given that it is under a waterproof cover.

And the waterproofing is the best part. After a long shooting session in the rain, I left my camera and lens set up inside the SportShield for another several hours while the rain got harder. After almost a day of steady downpour the camera and lens were snug as a bug in a rug. The only water on the gear was from my wet hands reaching in to operate it. When I put on my nice Gortex raingear and use the SportShield I really feel like I can shoot in the rain indefinitely without worrying about it. What a relief! There are several bird species that are only seen locally during winter storms. Being able to photograph them with confidence is worth the price of the SportShield by itself. Then there are all those times that I'm stuck in the sputtering rain trying to get shots of animals or athletes.

Frankly, I also think the SportShield would be excellent for some of the very dusty conditions I find myself shooting in, but I haven't had a chance to try it out. The SportShield comes in Blue and Camo. I don't find Camo all that helpful when photographing wildlife, so Blue is fine with me, but if you're into the 'look' of Camo Aquatech has done a nice job of designing a tasteful and effective Camo version.

Aquatech themselves are headquartered in Australia--with only a small US office--which may be why you haven't heard of them too often yet, but I'm sure you will. The SportShield was initially distributed only by Roberts Imaging in the US, and by Cameras Underwater in UK (also handling European distribution), but National Graphic Supply and Kirk Photo are now also distributing them.  If you are in Australia you can contact Aquatech directly to order.


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