I've long wanted a camouflage rain cover for my big lenses. Rain covers in general are very useful (and this review covers many colors and patterns), but camouflage, aside from its aesthetic value, is meant to make your camera and lens unseen, or at least appear less threatening by breaking up the large shape. Being unseen requires what is not seeing you or your camera to have eyes and from a photographical perspective, that usually means wildlife. However, there are many reasons to remain unseen by people, including for law enforcement purposes and to avoid revealing your strategic wildlife opportunity to other photographers and wildlife watchers.
Another reason to go with a camouflage cover for wildlife photography is to simply fit in with the rest of the wildlife photography crowd. Most wildlife photographers wear camo clothing and have camo covers for their lenses. Walking around with a black lens cover (or no lens cover at all) can make you appear at least somewhat unusual. While I like black photo gear, an issue with this color in some of the locations I photograph in is that black bears are the primary predator, making black a potentially alarming color to the non-predators.
While I often photograph in national parks where the wildlife is acclimated to people and using camouflage to hide from them is not so important, that is not always the case and this has been one of the primary reasons for my rain cover search.
Another driving factor stemmed from a recent elk photo trip to Rocky Mountain National Park. While traversing the challenging terrain in the large Moraine Park meadow, I twice fell while carrying my Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM Lens on a monopod. Both times, I was able to avoid impact to the camera and lens, but the tall grasses were very wet and dirty and the lens became the same. This lens is well sealed and I wasn't too worried about it getting wet, but ... I still didn't want the water on it and especially didn't want it to be dirty from both aesthetic and functionality reasons.
I also photographed in light rain for long periods of time on this trip. I kept wiping the weather-sealed lens down, but ... it would have been better to have a rain cover. Note that manufacturers are not going to cover any water-caused damage even if the gear is "weather-sealed" and under warranty. And, weather-sealed does not protect against the corrosiveness of salt spray and similar.
Upon returning from RMNP and with a trip to Shenandoah National Park planned less than 2 months later, I carved out the time to research the available rain covers. My search quickly narrowed to the LensCoat RainCoat lineup. LensCoat has been making products for wildlife photographers for a long time and has a very good reputation.
A mature product lineup usually means that any flaws have been worked out and it also often means that many product variations are available. LensCoat's rain covers are both well-designed and have many model variations available as seen in the chart below.
Many design principles are shared throughout the LensCoat RainCoat lineup and I'll start with the material. A rain cover by definition must be waterproof and all RainCoats share a waterproof breathable poly tricot material with tape-sealed seams fulfilling that requirement. The RS Small lacks the sealed seams, but ... lacking a cinch strap, it does not have any seams.
This material is lightweight, durable, very flexible and easily cleaned. It is also quiet, an especially important aspect when stalking wildlife. All LensCoat RainCoats are available in an extensive variety of colors and patterns, including Black, Green, Navy, Realtree Max-4, Realtree Max-5, Realtree AP Snow, Digital Camo, and Forest Green camouflage pattern. The Realtree-licensed Max-5 pattern I opted for looks great and has plenty of contrast in the pattern to break up the shape of the lens. LensCoat RainCovers are not solely for wildlife photography use and you might find one of the non-camouflage patterns better suited for the sidelines of a sports field or other outing. Getting covers in more than one color or pattern, even within the camouflage pattern options, is a good idea for those with varying needs.
A great RainCoat shared feature is that no dedicated eyepiece is required and that nearly all cameras are supported. The rear of the RainCoats feature an elastic draw cord with a cinch that can be adjusted as desired. For maximum coverage, draw it tight around the viewfinder. For minimal camera coverage, draw it tight around the mount end of the lens or simply leave it open. Many in between options also work well.
All RainCoats except the small Rain Sleeve have at least one hook and loop cinch strap, permitting the size of the cover to be quickly and simply adjusted, avoiding bagginess. A hook & loop bottom closure running near-full-length of the cover features easy-to-grasp pull tabs. It permits access to the lens and also accommodates a tripod, monopod or other support. This large opening also makes the RainCoats easy to install or remove. Note that if you pull the hook and loop cinch strap apart when sensitive wildlife is nearby ... it will no longer be nearby.
The camera can be directly accessed through the rear opening of all models and basic functions including shutter release and focus/zoom adjustments can also be made externally, through the material.
All RainCoat models come with a material-matching storage pouch with a mesh bottom that helps facilitate drying and a loop for attaching or hanging.
Starting at the bottom of the chart, the LensCoat RainCoat RS (Rain Sleeve) is a simple rain cover featuring elastic draw cords on both ends. The RainCoat RS is available in three sizes: Small (for camera body and lens up to 10"), Medium (for camera body and lens up to 15") and Large (for camera body and lens up to 21").
The LensCoat RainCoat Standard is designed for DSLRs with telephoto lenses sized up to 100-400mm f/5.6. The big advantage of this model is the fold out arm sleeve providing direct access to the camera controls. The arm sleeve can be stored inside the RainCoat with a hook and loop closure on a small flap creating an integrated pocket. The arm sleeve itself has a draw cord and cinch for adjustability, allowing it to be snugged over your rain jacket's sleeve, letting water shed to the ground instead of down into your jacket sleeve. Note that, with one hand in the sleeve, you might need to use your teeth to pull the cord while your other hand operates the cinch.
Having used the RainCoat in temperatures in the low 20°s F (-7° C), I can tell you another benefit of arm sleeves – they block the wind, which helps keep your hands warm. Another advantage the RainCoat Standard along with the models listed above it in the chart is the non-slip rubber and hook-and-loop-adjustable closure, helping it to stay in place on the lens hood.
The LensCoat RainCoat Pro is very similar to the Standard with an increased size designed for lenses ranging from 200-400/300mm f/2.8 up to 800mm f/5.6. This model includes a secondary hood extension piece to cover the hood of the largest lenses. Like the primary RainCoat, the extension has non-slip rubber around the front along with a hook-and-loop-adjustable closure, helping it to stay in place. The rear of the extension piece has an elastic draw cord with a cinch to hold it tight.
The LensCoat RainCoat 2 Standard and 2 Pro are the same as the non-2 Standard and Pro variants with the exception of an additional arm sleeve provided on the left side for direct access to the lens. This arm sleeve also has the self-storage pocket feature and a cinch cord, though it would probably take the help of a friend to cinch both arm sleeves ... unless you could somehow work both tight from the inside.
Primarily, I wanted the rain cover to fit my Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM Lens and I wanted the arm sleeve for camera access. In addition, I wanted to cover the Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Lens. The size of the 600 f/4 indicated that one of the Pro models were required. I thought that I wanted internal access to the zoom ring, but I questioned if the 200-400's zoom ring could simply be accessed through the material with the Pro.
A great way to begin vetting a company is to ask them questions via their public contact information. My email inquiry was promptly answered by Scott Elowitz, the owner of LensCoat. Turns out that Scott is a frequent TDP site visitor and after a brief email conversation, Scott sent me a box of his cool products. It was like Christmas in October, but the included RainCoat 2 Pro, his recommendation and personal model choice, captured my primary interest.
Part of the discussion Scott and I had was in regards to the viewfinder remaining exposed in the RainCoats design. Not having to deal with an accessory eyepiece makes installation/removal faster, having the covers compatible with essentially all camera models is another big advantage and not peering through a piece of plastic retains a clearer view, but I questioned whether or not the exposed viewfinder was a weather risk. Scott indicated that he has photographed in all kinds of weather, including downpours that made the viewfinder wet, without an issue. In addition, no customers have reported this problem over the many years this product has been available.
To get a more-technical answer, I turned to the amazingly-knowledgeable Rudy Winston at Canon USA. How well weather-sealed are camera viewfinders? Here is Rudy's response:
"Interesting question, and honestly one that hasn't crossed my desk (at least, not that I can recall!) ... and I just passed my 21st anniversary of working here at Canon USA! [I'm not sure what that says about my mind]
I took a look at some schematic illustrations from Canon engineers of recent EOS DSLRs, and predictably, all of Canon's entries from the EOS 80D-class upward (7D series, 6D series, 5D series, and of course the top-of-the-line EOS-1D X series) are gasketed around the eyepiece area, to resist input of moisture, dust and so on. This gasketing is around the peripheral area of the eyepiece, and not necessarily precisely around the outer-most optical glass element of the finder itself.
While I have to stop short of making any absolute, all-encompassing statements or certainly making any guarantees, it's pretty apparent that as long as users exercise reasonable care in inclement weather, the eyepiece and viewfinder area of any of Canon's recent mid-range and high-end digital SLRs don't appear particularly vulnerable to rain and so on. There's always a limit of what any such weather-resistance can achieve, and our mid-range cameras in particular are not designed for continuous, unprotected exposure to truly heavy rain or similar wet conditions... EOS-1D X models will have an advantage here, for prolonged use in truly horrible environments.
But the fact that this is the first time I can recall even hearing about this as an inquiry seems to support that damage via the viewfinder is not something the average user probably needs to be concerned about, especially if he or she takes any reasonable steps to minimize direct exposure to rain, snow and so on.
EOS Rebel models, of course, don't have the same level of sealing and gasketing to protect from environmental problems, so I'd certainly give an edge in this regard to anything in our current line-up from the EOS 70D/80D class upward."
Rudy obviously can't guarantee anything (and that was a fun tangent), but the information he and Scott provided certainly helps us make our own determinations and my comfort level was such that I moved past that concern.
With the plastic cinch piece ending up against the viewfinder when tight, I expected it to be an annoyance. Fortuantely, that expectation was not met – the cinch didn't bother me.
What goes with a RainCoat? A RainCap of course. Scott thoughtfully included a LensCoat RainCap sample in my gift box. Made of the same material as the RainCoat, the LensCap slips over the end of the lens and cinches tight with an elastic draw cord and cinch. While the cap wasn't on my shopping list, it makes a lot of sense. The opening of the lens must stay clear to be functional, but keeping it dry when not photographing is imperative. Even if the end of the lens is weather-sealed, rain drops and other obstructions will negatively impact image quality. The RainCap has a tether for attaching to the RainCoat, though care should be used to keep the inside dry.
LensCoat is most famous for their namesake LensCoats, neoprene-padded sections that fit over a lens. Like RainCoats, LensCoats are available in a variety of colors and patterns, ranging from camouflage to, get this, neon pink for those high-visibility needs, for when you want attention. Direct access to most lens functions remains available and while the LensCoats provide protection from scratches and light impact, a differentiator is that LensCoats are not waterproof. Scott also included some of LensCoats in my box and I'll try to assemble a more-detailed review of them at some point.
Check out all of the other LensCoat products here.
A final thought to share is that a covered lens should remain in better condition and thus is likely to carry a higher resale value, an amount potentially covering the complete cost of the rain cover and potentially much more.
This buck only cared about protecting the doe it was with from rivals, but my camera was looking good. And, it was protected from the brush you see in the photo.
I've revealed much about the LensCoat RainCovers through the detailed description just provided and don't have a lot more to add. I've spent days in the field with this product and the LensCoat RainCoat 2 Pro Camera Cover is exactly what I was looking for. This product is well made and well designed. It does what it is supposed to do and does not get in the way while doing it and that is ideal. I liked it so much that, not long later, I purchased a LensCoat RainCoat 2 Standard Camera Cover for my smaller telephoto lenses.
Do you avoid taking your valuable camera and lens to the beach for fear of salt spray? Do you sit inside looking out on rainy days? Or on days when you fear that it might rain? Do you want to blend into your surroundings, including the other wildlife photographers around you? If so, one of the LensCoat RainCovers has your name on it.
Right now, a LensCoat RainCoat 2 Standard has my name on it. I plan to get one for my Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens to round out my typical wildlife gear coverage needs.
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Where you buy your gear matters. You expect to get what you ordered and you want to pay a low price for it. The retailers I recommend below are the ones I trust for my own purchases. Get your LensCoat RainCoat 2 Pro Camera Cover now from:B&H Photo