Saturday, April 27, 2013

Do I Need Two Camera Bodies?

Short answer: Yes, if you're a pro, no if you're not. But things aren't of course that simple, and the only honest answer is "it depends". Let's see a bit more about the pros and cons of using two camera bodies, and whether you need them.

We often use the term "backup body" to describe a second camera body, but I believe this term is a bit misleading. Surely, one of the functions of a second camera body is to have a backup in case your camera fails during an important assignment. If you're taking photos at a wedding, you can't say "Oops, sorry, the camera isn't functioning, could we please have the wedding next weekend, after I have it serviced?" - now, that would be funny if it could happen, wouldn't it?

But beyond simple backup, a second camera should be one that could perform the duties of the first one as or as near as well. Ultimately, a second camera is exactly that: a second camera, to be used in addition with the first one.

One body might be all most of us need. But could we benefit from a second one?

Why would you want to drag a second camera with you? Or why not? Here is a short list with the pros and cons:

+ Having two cameras is extra security. If the one fails, the other will allow you to keep taking photos
+ You could attach one kind of lens to one (say, a tele), and an other kind to the other (say, an ultrawide). This saves you time swapping lenses.
+ If you need specialized things from different cameras, it's cheaper to have two separate bodies instead of getting one expensive that includes all the features you want

- DSLRs are chunky as they are, carrying two isn't the best possible solution when, say, hiking
- More things to lose or have stolen while traveling
- Price considerations, of course

I have been using two bodies for my assignments (mostly a D300 and a D2x, although now I'm in the process of switching to a DX/FX combo). I would say that the usage has been around 70%-30%, but that's only because the kind of photos I take (portraits) don't require multiple lenses or things like that. In other words, I usually have the luxury of using only one body. Which takes us to the most important issue of them all: Do you need two camera bodies for your kind of photos?

I obviously can't answer this for you, but I could try to help you decide for yourself. In the past year, how many times did you:

- miss a shot because you didn't have the "right" lens on the camera?
- have to swap between lenses many times during a single session?
- miss a shot because you were fiddling with settings?

If the answer is "none" or "very few", then probably you won't need another camera. If the answer is "quite many", and you don't mind carrying extra weight, then maybe a second camera would help you - although, you must also analyze why you missed those shots and why you didn't have the right lens, and why you were fiddling with settings. Otherwise, you might as well "need" 10 camera bodies with 10 lenses hanging around your neck ;)

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