Waterproof/Rugged Protective Camera Case for Small Digital Cameras




Adapting an easily obtainable off-the-shelf storage case for use as a highly protective camera case, in this case, fitting a Canon SD-500, SD-400, or SD-550 perfectly.

The resulting case is waterproof and protects the delicate camera from scratches and mild shocks (i.e. knocking over on table, banging around in your backpack/daypack). The case is lexan (polycarbonate), a pretty tough material, but still, dropping it onto a concrete floor will probably break the *internal* mechanics and glass of the camera due to momentum, even if the exterior will be largely protected.

A friend cracked the glass of the LCD screen on his camera, which would not have happened if he had it in this case.

Step 1: Buy a Witz Brand 'Keep-It' Case, Clear Style

This can be had for $8 at REI stores or REI.com product page and lots of other online retailers.

Or, just google "Witz Keep-It Clear". If you have an REI store nearby, you can order online and have it delivered to the store for pick-up with no shipping charges.

Description of the case, from Witz' website

Size: 2.7" wide x 4.3" high x 1.3" deep
Features: Translucent color / Nylon lanyard with breakaway clip (or carabiner) / Portable size / 250% larger than See-It Safe® / 7 colors


In revision 0 of my case, I used some off-brand clone of the Witz case, which turned out to be slightly too small to hold my SD-500, but which might have held a slimmer SD-400 perfectly fine.

I used the type with a lanyard (which I later shortened to function as an extra locking strap); the carabiner style might also be useful.

Clear (colored or not) is nice, but not essential. The padding you'll put inside will obscure most of the view anyway.

Step 2: Line the Case

Line the case with protective material.

I used what I had laying around the house--
- some adhesive-backed self-stick velcro (the soft loop side only)
- a suede leather elbow patch

basically, any soft, non-scratching materials that have some cushioning value. If your camera is small and there is a lot of slop inside the case, you'll want thicker, cushier materials. If your camera is tight fitting, you'll need thinner materials. Note: avoid using no liner- I did this on revision 0 of my case, and the case plastic rubbing directly on the camera body left small scratches on the camer, and did nothing to protect the camera from shock (in case of dropping, for example).

Basically, choose materials for their softness yet sturdiness, with a cushion backing. Woven fabrics are probably not the best since little dirt and sand particles might get lodged easily and scratch the camera.

Loop-side velcro is great because it is easy to mount (just stick to the case). See the white materials I used.

The suede I used was harder to mount-- I used double-sided foam tape at the rim (where the case was slightly larger due to the tapering of the case. I left the bottom edge of the suede unfastened; its own rigidity, plus the slab of foam I inserted at the bottom of the case, are sufficient to hold it in place... plus the fit is smooth so there is very little friction between suede and camera anyway.

Another easily obtainable material you could use-- Moleskin (flannel, really, used to treat foot blisters). It is good because it's soft, has some thickness, is self-adhesive, and can be layered easily for thickness. And you can buy it at drugstores or maybe even REI.

Depending on the length of your camera, you may nee a small piece of soft urethane foam to stuff in the foot of the case to take up space (i.e. from an old pillow or camping pad). I also stuck, under the foam, a dessicant packet from a bottle of vitamins, to absorb any excess moisture that gets inside the case.

The camera should 'just fit' and slide in, with no slop or play that might cause vibrational damage in case of shock. It should not be tight or require force to insert or remove; you don't want pressure on the camera, especially on movable parts like sliding shutters, buttons. When fitting your lining, check your lining material for tell-tale signs of pressure points where bulgy parts of the camera (for example, the frame around the LCD, dials, and knobs) are getting extra pressure and compressing the lining material. Try to minimize these.

Note: for my camera and my case, I had to remove the wrist strap from the camera itself, for two reasons. One, there is not enough room in the top of the case, and it interferes with getting a nice fit. Two, more importantly, the strap has to be carefully bunched up in order to close the case, and that interfered with one of my goals of quick in, quick out (if this sort of protective case is not quick and convenient to use, then there is a tendency to not use it all the time, leaving the camera unprotected). A friend who built one of these with a smaller camera had plenty of space and chose to keep the strap attached.

Step 3: Trim the Lanyard

I removed the break-away fitting on the lanyard (it is there to keep you from getting strangled in case the lanyard gets entangled, but I am more worried about it breaking open and my $600 camera dropping over a cliff than I am expecting to get it entangled.

I also shortened the lanyard to fit exactly around the case, acting as a sort of 'safety' closure in case the main latch breaks or is opened accidentally.

Step 4: Add Latch Protector

I discovered during a backpacking trip that the latch that these boxes use has a tendency to get caught on things and get popped open. Especially when I was reaching around to stick it into a pocket of my backpack.

So I fashioned a giant rubber band out of a cut-up old bicycle inner tube (useful material!).

A previous revision of this, I used a large broccoli band. But without a handle to pull the band away from the latch, it became annoying to use. The knot in the inner tube provides a convenient and quick handle to pull the band away from the latch, making it very quick and easy to double-lock and unlock the latch.

This case is all about protection without reducing usability or making it slow or inconvenient to access my camera.

Step 5: Protect LCD From Scratches

This is not stricktly a part of this Instructable, but I recommend covering your LCD screen with a piece of sacraficial screen protector film (the kind sold for PDAs), to protect it from scratches.

I bought some cut-to-size PDA screen protectors from Fellowes at a local store. The ones customized for a particular PDA may work if you can cut them down to the size needed.



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    11 Discussions


    5 years ago on Introduction

    I just inherited a Canon Power Shot A3400 that I want to use as a relatively decent take anywhere pocket camera, and started looking for a truly heavy-duty cost effective case after killing 2 other similar sized point and shoot models due to dust, snow, high humidity and the like. This looks to be a near perfect solution to my quest! Thanks for taking the time to share.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    This looks like a nice case. It is good idea to have something like this as part of your camping equipment. I found a similar case at www.patriotprovisions.com.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    This clear camera case looks awesome and the variety of bright colors makes it easy to keep track of when traveling. The sturdiness and waterproofing of the case makes it really effective. Do they make similar products for dakota 20 gps devices? It is fun to take these when traveling as well and they could also benefit from a water and shock proof cover.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Really Useful Boxes as a wide range of products, appropriate for storing all those CDs ripped to my iPod to small ones that snugly hold my coolpix. Not so much DIY, but really useful.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    i got the same exact case (just different color) for $3.50 at the local surplus store. I love those things


    Reply 12 years ago

    Of course those premade padded cases are relatively HUGE (to accomodate a wide range of camera sizes). This one is the same shape as the camera (Canon SD series), and only about 1/4 inch bigger on all sides (which makes the encased camera considerably larger than the tiny naked camera, but the encased package still fits into most coat and back pockets).

    Eric Stanton

    12 years ago

    I can't wait for some creative people that have time and money on their side to turn one of these into a dive case. I am sure it can be done and I know there are several other methods but these aren't far off from how expensive dive cases are constructed.

    1 reply
    jaime9999Eric Stanton

    Reply 12 years ago

    I've been wanting that for a while.. not for diving but for action photography when snowboarding. the problem is that most digital cameras (except the new style of "flat" ones with folded optics) have a motorized lens that pops out about an inch and a half, requiring the case to be huge. FYI, there is an Instructable here somewhere on making a watertight camcorder case plus remote control for diving. search for it.


    12 years ago

    very cool -> i have almost the same idea, 4 weeks ago...to get my canon ixus 50 clean and save from water and dirt on my trip to sweden (http://www.pixelklecks.de/Schweden2006)

    Pic from my type of case :