Why You Should Buy Two of That Camera You’re Looking At

Sometimes two is better than one when it comes to buying gear.

From time to time, I feel the need to state the obvious. It’s not that I’m repetitive by nature. But it’s usually the result of a seemingly innocuous moment in my day leading to a deep, albeit logical realization. Achievement today? It can be very good if your backup camera is the same as your main camera.

Now, I’m sure many of you reading this just let out a collective “duhhhh” after reading that last sentence. And, basically, it’s not like it’s knowledge that I don’t already have. But, as circumstances had dictated, in my nearly twenty-year career, I have never found myself in possession of two identical bodies at the same time.

I had backup cameras. I’ve always had a rear view camera. As a professional photographer, going out in the field without a plan B is like going to Las Vegas without saving a little money to pay for your ticket home. Of course, you could go home. But, if the chips don’t fall on you, you could have a long night. If you’ve taken on the responsibility of shooting a big ad campaign for your client, try explaining to him that you suddenly have to stop filming and that the tens of thousands of dollars he’s spending on casting, crew, and location will be wasted because your camera isn’t working is the type of conversation you might want to avoid. So, having a rear view camera is non-negotiable.

What I’ve always done, though, is buy one camera at a time and use the previous box as a backup. As much as we like to argue about it, if we’re being honest, technology doesn’t usually change much from generation to generation. Of course, the new camera comes with all the bells and whistles. But, assuming your old camera was made anytime in the last five to ten years, chances are it’s not a heap. The old body might not look quite as good, but it can probably get the job done in a pinch. And for a spare body, which will likely spend a lot of time in the bag, that may be more than enough.

So up until now my strategy has always been to buy the new body when needed to achieve my goals, keep the previous body as a save of the new body, and sell the previous save to collect funds. I kept things like megapixel count and basic features in mind. But put little responsibility on the bodies being identical. Sometimes even going so far as to have entirely different brands as backups. And it worked for me. It has always worked for me. So why am I here today to tell you how great it is to have identical bodies?

Well, I was lucky enough to get one of the first Nikon Z 9 cameras. I pre-ordered mine early on and have been absolutely in love with the camera ever since it arrived. In addition to making me believe in love at first sight again, the camera reminded me of something else. With the camera functionality perfectly suited to my personal use case, I realized that, despite the high price, I really wish I had ordered two. Not just to say I had two. But more because I realized that if I had two I could literally sell every other body in my possession because the Z 9 was able to do all the work I had previously spread across multiple bodies with certain talents .

Getting two bodies of a much-requested camera wasn’t easy. But once I was able to get my hands on an identical backup, my workflow took a dramatic turn for the better. So what exactly are the advantages of having two identical bodies rather than an assortment of disparate tools?

Well, the first reason is pretty obvious. They can support each other. If your primary camera fails, you can grab the second one and keep riding. You can still do this if your backup is not identical. But the benefit of having your save identical is that you don’t lose any of the creature comforts that often come with familiarity with your main body. Your brain doesn’t have to go through the often-required mental gymnastics of trying to remember the different button locations between bodies. There is no change in the ergonomic feel of the body in your hands. Even the viewfinder and the pressure needed to activate the shutter should be the same. These may seem like small things. But, let’s face it, if you have to turn to your backup body in the middle of a high-pressure shoot, chances are you’re stressed enough as it is. Having to deal with that stress while remembering how to change menu items on a body you rarely use won’t be the end of the world, but it won’t make your life much easier.

But one of the main reasons I love having identical bodies is that while they can certainly support each other, they can also complement each other. I’ve mentioned this before, but an increasing part of my work, if not the majority of my work these days, comes as a director/cinematographer rather than as a still photographer. Even tasks primarily focused on still images almost always include some form of motion component. Modern mirrorless cameras make switching to better photography and video as easy as flipping a switch. Thus, it is quite possible to do a complete job, both photo and video, with a single box.

But although the basic principles of stillness and movement are fundamentally the same, in practice they are two entirely different art forms. There are considerations you need to take into account to create the best video content that you simply don’t need to take into account for stills, and vice versa. There’s a reason motion picture cameras look like multi-tentacled robots from a futuristic alien movie and still cameras can sometimes slip into the pocket of an oversized coat. Each art form simply requires a different approach.

So if you’re looking to maximize both art forms, you’ll probably want to use both different camera settings and a different physical setup of your rig. You can keep building your camera in video configuration and then break it down to still configuration between shots. But, depending on your production, this may not be the most efficient method. What having two identical bodies allows you to do is leave one body permanently installed in a fixed configuration while leaving the other permanently in its rig for video. This way, if you find yourself in a job where you frequently have to go back and forth between everyone, you can save a lot of time and be more productive. At the same time, since the cameras are identical, they can still serve as backups. So if your camera, for example, breaks down, you’ll still have an identical backup. All you have to do is change the configuration. The same would happen if the video camera was the one that fell by the wayside.

Of course, there are even more practical benefits to having twin bodies. In my case, having identical bodies allowed me to reduce the weight of my camera bag by about a third. Previously, my backup solution was an entirely different brand of camera. This meant that I not only had to carry two different bodies, but also two different sets of lenses and accessories. Even when I had the same brand as a backup, but one was a DSLR and the other a mirrorless, there were extra adapters and goodies needed to take up space in my bag. By having both bodies identical now, I can use the same lenses and accessories for either. So there is no need to have multiple sets of everything. Two sets will suffice. Of course, because I’m a glutton for punishment and can’t get used to the idea that I don’t have to fill absolutely every nook and cranny of my camera bag, I just filled the vacant space with more equipment that previously had to be left at home. But that’s a problem for another day.

Having two identical bodies is not absolutely essential. As I mentioned up top, I haven’t had this setup in years and was fine. So as long as you have adequate backup to get the job done, don’t feel like you have to rush out and buy a second camera. Even being able to afford to have identical bodies is a privilege I don’t take lightly. But now that after all these years I’ve finally found myself able to have an identical backup, I can see firsthand the benefits of having two to tango.

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