A camera rain cover is an essential part of any photographer’s kit. Some of the best photographic opportunities occur in less than ideal weather conditions, and if you have spent both time and money getting yourself in place, then I’m sure you’ll want to come away with a shot or two.
When shooting landscapes, the most dramatic skies often come in those brief moments before and after a storm. If you’re shooting wildlife, you might search all day for your subject, only for it to appear right as the snow or rain begins to fall. If you’re covering a sporting event for a commercial client, you have to keep shooting, no matter what the weather is.
Or perhaps you are on that once-in-a-lifetime family vacation, and weather luck isn’t on your side. You’ve spent hundreds, possibly even thousands of dollars on your camera gear… you don’t need to ruin your chances of getting the shot because you didn’t spend an extra few dollars on a camera rain cover!
After much research and years of testing covers during my professional career, I will walk you through the best camera rain covers on the market. We will look at various styles of camera rain cover to suit different sizes of cameras and various price points; then, I’ll make some recommendations for the best camera rain cover for specific types of photographers.
Table of Contents
- In a Hurry? Quick Pick
- Best Rain Cover for Your Camera
- A Note for Gimbal Users
In a Hurry?
If you’re in a hurry and need a quick solution that’s cheap, packable and twenty times better than a garbage bag, you can’t go wrong with the Think Tank Emergency Rain Cover. Available in Small, Medium and Large sizes, these covers work with DSLR or mirrorless cameras and don’t require the purchase of an additional eyepiece. I keep one of these in my camera bag at all times!
Best Rain Covers for Your Camera
Think Tank Hydrophobia V3 Series
The Hydrophobia series from Think Tank Photo is seriously impressive and I’ve had some of these in my gear closet for over a decade as they have worked through the V1, V2 and now V3 iterations of the product. With the V3 series of rain covers they have expanded the number of sizing options so there are now five different sizes, including ones that are designed specifically for the smaller body size of mirrorless cameras:
- Hydrophobia DM 300-600 V3 – For DSLR or mirrorless cameras with a lens size between a 300mm f/2.8 and a 600mm f/4 (an 800mm f/5.6 also fits).
- Hydrophobia D 70-200 V3 – For DSLR with a 70-200, 80-400, 100-400, 24-70
- Hydrophobia D 24-70 V3 – For DSLR with 24-70, 24-105, 16-35, 14-24
- Hydrophobia M 70-200 V3 – For mirrorless cameras with a 70-200, 80-400, 100-400, 24-70
- Hydrophobia M 24-70 V3 – For mirrorless cameras with 24-70, 24-105, 16-35, 14-24
All of the Hydrophobia covers come with a front element cover that is tethered to the main cover and can be used to stop water getting onto the front of your lens when you’re waiting to shoot, or walking around. I’ve always found that to be useful, and it surprises me that none of the other rain covers on the market offer this simple feature.
Another cool feature that is unique to the Hydrophobia series is that all of the covers except for the 300-600 version come with an integrated camera strap. Inside the rain cover is a nylon loop that wraps around the lens to support the lens and body with the strap. That means that the weight of your camera isn’t hanging directly off the strap attachment point on the cover. Ingenious stuff! Don’t worry, if you have a favourite camera strap that you want to use instead of the supplied Think Tank one, you can attach it just as you would to a camera. Personally I like to use the Peak Design Slide straps (review) with their quick release system so I can quickly remove the strap from the camera and attach it to the rain cover.
As well as the lengthy feature list, you also get Think Tank’s famed build quality and friendly customer service should you ever need it. All the zippers are seam sealed, and all the stitched seams in the durable 3-ply nylon are taped just like a waterproof hiking jacket would be. These covers are built for long-term professional usage so they do have price points that somewhat reflect that, but they certainly aren’t overpriced when you consider the quality of the construction, and features that other covers don’t have such as front covers and shoulder straps.
The 300-600 V3 also has a neat trick to deploy the cover quickly. Rather than storing it in your bag, you can store it on the lens hood of your super telephoto lens by strapping it on and then folding the cover up into a pouch that wraps around the lens hood. This feature is designed for sports photographers who can’t afford to spend a lot of time attaching the cover if a rain storm strikes midway through a game. If you think you might have rain during your game/match/race, pre-install the cover onto the lens hood and then you can pull it over the camera in just a couple of seconds when the skies open. A quick scan of the sidelines at a major sporting event on a day with questionable weather will reveal a large number of these Think Tank Hydrophobia covers.
One thing to be aware of is the need to buy a special eyepiece for your camera when you purchase the rain cover. This eyepiece is important because it’s needed to properly seal with the rubber gasket on the back of the cover. When you are weighing up your purchasing decisions, make sure you factor in the additional cost of the eyepiece which is $20. That extra cost might seem like an annoyance, but the same thing is also required with the Aquatech Sport Shield which is the only other cover on this list that’s on the same level as the Hydrophobia in terms of features, build and high-end materials.
Note: As always with Think Tank products, you can get yourself a free gift if you spend more than $50 in their online store having clicked through one of my links, like this one. For more details on this offer, you can head here.
Think Tank Emergency Rain Cover
Vortex Media Pro Storm Jacket
These rain covers are a simple tubular design with elasticated cords at both ends to cinch tight around the lens hood and the back of the camera. There’s plenty of room to slide your right hand under the cover to get to the camera and once you push your eye up to the viewfinder the cover has enough excess material that it still generally keeps the rain off the back of the camera. That said, you are a bit more limited if you are moving around a lot with the cover on. With something like the Hydrophobia, that has a fully enclosed back, you can really just carry it however you like and the rain won’t get to the camera. With the Storm Jacket, you have to think it a bit more carefully, and there’s no option to use a shoulder strap either. If I was planning on shooting prolonged outdoor events in the rain, I’d want to stick to one of the pro options like the Hydrophobia or the Aquatech Sport Shield, but for all other scenarios the Storm Jackets do a fine job at a nice low price.
The Storm Jackets come in two variations: Standard and Pro. The only difference between the two is that the Pro version has a hook and loop closure along the bottom of the cover that can be used to poke a tripod or monopod though to the camera. As you can see in the photo above, it’s also handy for a gimbal head. To find the right length for your needs, combine the length of your camera and your lens and then add 2 or 3 inches to the total. The covers are highly compressible so it’s possible to buy one for your largest lens and still make it work with a much shorter lens.
- Small — 11″
- Medium — 17″
- Large — 23″
- X-Large — 27″
- XX-Large — 31″
The thing I love about these covers is that they are so light that you can carry it in your bag all the time “just in case”. Some other rain covers are so big and bulky that you’d simply never take them with you unless you really thought there was a good chance of rain. With the Storm Jacket, you can stash it in a tiny pocket in your bag and you’ll just forget its there until the moment you need it.
Ruggard P18 Rain Cover
There are several cheap, clear plastic camera rain covers on the market, but the Ruggard P18 stands out from this crowd by offering enough additional plastic at the back of the cover to protect your hands from the rain. A single cover is available for under $7, and the P18 is available in a selection of different sizes to suit different cameras and flash combinations.
If your budget is constrained, this is certainly better than nothing and better than a garbage bag. Personally, I think it’s worth spending $40 on something far more robust like the Think Tank Emergency Rain Cover, but I wanted to include a super cheap option on the list as I know some people will appreciate that. If you’re going for the affordable plastic solution, I think this is the best.
Aquatech Sports Shield
These are the covers that I most often choose to protect my gear while I’m working. In terms of quality feel, the Aquatech Sport Shield series stands out above the rest of the products on this list. The materials are light but rugged, and the taped seams and seam sealed zippers just look and feel like they’re on a higher level than even the Think Tank products. This looks and feels just like a very high end waterproof jacket from a top brand such as Arcteryx, The North Face or Patagonia. Impressive when the price is so similar to it’s main competitor, the Hydrophobia series.
The Sport Shield has a fully enclosed back to it so you can carry your camera over your shoulder or on a monopod and not worry about rain getting in. It also has a small hood that extends out over the eyepiece and the back of the camera to minimize the amount of rain drops that gather on the clear back of the cover when you are stopped and waiting to shoot. When you’re not shooting, there’s a an additional nylon cover that can be used to cover the clear plastic back and the eyepiece.
Similar to the Think Tank Hydrophobia, you need to order an additional eye piece for your camera to complete the fully watertight setup. I much prefer the comfort of the Aquatech eyepieces over the Think Tank ones, in fact I simply leave mine on the camera all the time!
The downside to the Aquatech Sports Shield is that the sizing is more specific than it’s main competitor, the Think Tank Hydrophobia. If you use a large selection of lens sizes then you may well find that one cover isn’t enough. Carrying two covers is quite a lot of additional bulk to put in your camera bag though(and expensive to buy), so my usual solution is to pick the large Sport Shield to cover my tele zooms (70-200, 100-400) and my 400mm super telephoto lens, then pack a small Vortex Storm Jacket for use with short zooms.
LensCoat RainCoat RS (Camo)
LensCoat has an extensive and somewhat confusing range of camera rain covers. I have tested them, and I think there are two worth considering. The first is the LensCoat RainCoat RS (rain sleeve). This is the most straightforward rain cover they make. It has the same open-backed design as the Vortex Media Storm Jacket or the Think Tank Emergency Rain Cover but is made from much thicker materials.
Since the RainCoat RS uses a much heavier material than the Vortex or Think Tank options, it’s bulkier and heavier to carry. That’s a definite disadvantage for a more expensive cover, and it doesn’t offer any more protection from the rain to compensate for that.
LensCoat RainCoat 2 Standard (Camo)
The LensCoat RainCoat 2 Standard is a beefed-up version of the RainCoat RS with two arm holes to reach the camera body and the lens barrel. Unlike other big covers such as the Think Tank Hydrophobia or the Aquatech Sports Shield, the RainCoat 2 Standard has an open-back design that some people find easier to use. The more straightforward design also keeps the price point a little lower.
Peak Design Shell
The Shell rain cover from Peak Design is an excellent little cover for anyone using the Peak Design Capture Clip. The Capture Clip allows you to carry your camera on a belt or the strap of your backpack, but of course, this exposes it to the weather. The Shell rain cover is designed to slip quickly on and off the camera while it’s attached to the Capture Clip.
It’s important to note that this cover is designed to protect the camera while you walk around with it attached to your body or bag. It is not intended to protect your camera while you are shooting. You cannot keep the Shell rain cover on the camera while you are shooting because it doesn’t have an eyepiece to look through. This makes its protection a bit more limited than most of the other covers on this list because it means your camera will get wet if you’re shooting in the rain or snow. Whether that’s ok with you will largely depend on how much weather sealing your camera and lens has.
Altura Photo Professional Rain Cover
The Altura Professional Rain Cover is the best value camera cover on this list, selling for not much more than $10. From an environmental standpoint, I’d love to see people spending a few dollars more on this cover than the plastic ones that won’t last as long. This is one of the most popular rain covers, with a 4/5 rating on Amazon after well over 1000 reviews.
When you handle the cover, there’s very clearly a difference in quality between the Altura rain cover and the more expensive options. Still, with care, it will be acceptable for occasional emergency use. It’s undoubtedly a significant step up from the clear plastic covers! You need to be aware that there is no eye hole in the back of the cover. If you want to use the viewfinder, you must peer through the plastic cover. For emergency use, it works; alternatively, you could use live view and look at the screen through the cover instead.
The cover is available in just one size, and only from Amazon, which is a bit of a limitation since it feels pretty big if you use it with a small prime lens or a wide-angle zoom. It’s large enough to fit a 70-200mm f/2.8 or 100-400mm zoom.
A Note for Side-Arm Gimbal Users
Most rain covers have an opening in the bottom of that that allows you to use them with a tripod. If you use a side-arm gimbal such as the Wimberley Sidekick or an RRS PG-01 without the cradle (my personal gimbal choice – see photo), this can narrow your rain cover options because you actually need an opening on the side of the cover and not the bottom. There are no rain covers on the market that are designed with this in mind, but you can make do by using a rain cover that has two arm holes in it. In this setup, you simply put the gimbal attachment through the left-hand arm hole, and if you need to control a zoom ring, you put your left hand up through the hole on the bottom of the cover that is meant for the tripod. This solution works very well with the Think Tank Hydrophobia 300-600, so that would be my pick for side-arm gimbal users.
The assumption has to be that if you are using a gimbal then you must be using a large super telephoto lens, and that in itself narrows your choice to the Hydrophobia or the Aquatech Sports Shield. The Sports Shield only has one arm hole on the right-hand side though, and if you used that as a gimbal mount hole you wouldn’t be able to adequately reach the primary camera controls.
Note that certain LensCoat covers also have two arm holes, so these can be options as well if you need the camouflage. You may also have noticed that the photo of the Vortex rain cover also shows a side-arm gimbal setup. This is possible because without back cover and without a right-hand arm hole, you can simply rotate the whole cover 90 degrees and use the usual tripod entry point.