Some great photos can be taken in bad weather, but how do you keep your gear safe? Most cameras can take a splash or two, but there are two things you must always avoid; driving rain and seawater. Cue the Peak Design Shell Cover, an attempt at creating a waterproof jacket for DSLR and mirrorless cameras and, crucially, any long lenses you might want to attach to them.
Why can’t you just use a plastic bag? You can, but try not to. Although it’s sometimes a good idea to have a plastic bag nearby to quickly stow a camera during a downpour, they can tear easily and become useless. Worse, the wind can take them and deposit them in the sea/river/stuck to the branches of a tree. That’s why plastic covers are banned in some locations, such as on expedition cruise ships in Antarctica.
Can the Peak Design Shell Cover improve over a plastic bag without being just another over-engineered accessory you don’t need? We took it out with a variety of cameras and lenses to find out how it performs in the real world.
It’s designed to protect cameras and lenses from water, snow dust and slight knocks, but how can a cover cater for all kinds of cameras and lenses? It can’t, which is why the Peak Design Shell Cover comes in three sizes; small, medium and large.
The small is meant for mirrorless cameras, the medium size is primarily for crop-sensor DSLRs and the large is for full-frame and flagship pro-level DLRs. There’s some overlap. For example, the Sony A7 ii with the Sony 70-200 FE lens requires the medium size, as do full-frame DSLRs with lenses up to 24-70 mm) so use the sizing guide provided to help you decide, though the size of the lens you use is almost irrelevant, according to Peak Design.
Prices start from $39.95/£29.95/AU$84, so it’s not a huge investment, though that’s obviously way more than a plastic bag.
Loosely L-shaped, the product itself is lightweight and, rather ingeniously, packs-up into a tiny mesh bag stitched to its own lining. There are two openings. The front opening sits around the lens, of course, and has a slight overhanging peak to keep the rain off. It’s tensioned using a cinch cord. At the back there’s a bigger opening that fits over the rear, but it’s designed to curl over the entire back of a camera and be tensioned, again with a cinch cord.
It works particularly well with Peak Design’s Capture Clip system, which keeps a camera easily accessible by securely attaching it to a backpack strap, belt or bag (it uses an Arca tripod-compatible plate that also works with the brand’s Peak Design Travel Tripod.) You can also feed through a camera strap on each side, thanks to a couple of flaps in the corners.
The Peak Design Shell Camera Covers are made to be snug. The fabric used has quite a bit of stretch in it and fits over and around some surprisingly varied setups. We tried the large size with a Canon M6 Mk II mirrorless camera sporting a 400mm lens and it fitted well, as it did for a Canon EOS 6D full-frame DSLR fitted with the same lens. Used on that lens the Peak Design Shell Camera Cover had to be more or less stretched as far as it would go. It provided a snug though relaxed fit, though when used with smaller lenses you can just ruck it up a little.
Either way it’s not easy to manually extend or withdraw a zoom lens while the Peak Design Shell Cover is in place. Nor, sadly, is it easy to use your camera while it’s wearing this cover. It’s designed to protect your camera during downpours, not to make it easy to carry on shooting in the rain. You can lift-up the cover at the back to access the controls, but that defeats the object. Still, it works well as a lens cover, and if you’re using a long telephoto in wet conditions or while at sea where splashes are a possibility, that’s worth something.
When it does get soaked the fabric used is tough stuff, repelling most of it and drying-off quickly. It’s an impressively durable fabric and we like the way it packs-up into a small pouch for storing in a camera backpack during clear weather.
We weren’t too fussed about the slots for threading through a camera strap. Although threading a camera strap through the slots works well if you want to use a shoulder strap, it’s a bit of a faff to re-thread everything (unless, of course, you use quick-release Peak Design Anchor Links).
Easy to use, durable and with some nice design flourishes the Peak Design Shell Cover adds peace of mind during downpours, but it doesn’t help much if you want to carry on taking photographs in the rain. That said, it works well as a lens cover and protector in drizzle. In the dry and when traveling.