Two Cameras vs One

photo by Nathan Watkins

I never thought I would write a blog post on the use of two cameras. To me it is a no brainer, two are better than one. For many of you , it is the same. Some of you will not have thought about it, as I found out this past workshop. On the Tibet workshop two people said they were actually surprised to see me shooting two cameras at a time, meaning carrying two cameras through out the day. When they looked at my packing list, they assumed I listed the “extra” camera body as a backup. So to see me carrying and shooting both cameras was new to them. I guess I made the assumption that everybody knew why I take two bodies on a trip. Well, you know what they say about assuming?

I know for many of you shooting two camera bodies is a dream. You are doing well just to have the one DSLR camera, let alone a second body. I know this because I used to be in the same place. The first time I had two camera bodies was after I inherited my father’s old EOS SLR (film). I used to take it on trips as a standby in case my first camera failed. This certainly is one of the reasons to have two bodies. It was only a year or two back when David duChemin and I were leading a Lumen Dei in Ladakh when one of his 5Ds quit working. It just bricked up and became a paper weight. Fortunately for him he had a second body he was shooting with. This happens more often than one would imagine. And given Murphy’s timing, it always happens at the worst possible opportunity, like on a workshop or an assignment. However, by having a second body on-hand I am assured of being able to keep shooting without a hic-up.

There are a myriad of other reasons to shoot two bodies, not the least of which is dust. In the days when we shot film, there was less of a problem with dust entering the camera when we switched out lenses. It happened, but generally it was not the issue that it is today. Today, when we take a lens off the body it exposes the sensor to the elements. Sensors get a slight electrostatic build up on them so that if dust comes anywhere near it, it seems to be sucked in and glued to it, making it almost impossible to blow off. When I find myself shooting in deserts like Ladakh or the Tibetan plateau dust is always an issue. By shooting two bodies with a varied lens option makes changing lenses less needed and minimizes the chance of dust on the sensors. This is not to say that you won’t change a lens, and when you do, that it won’t be in the dusty desert. It is just that you will do it less often. Making less opportunities for dust to come into contact with your sensors.

Dust can make the best photographer look sloppy and unprofessional. Rollover the dusty image below. Fortunately Lightroom’s clone tool can be a huge help.

 


Two cameras don’t only help with dust. There are countless stories by countless photographers of shots that they have lost while switching lenses. When I carry two bodies throughout the day my general setup is to have on my right side my camera with my 16-35 mm 2.8 attached and on the left side a lens that will be a little longer. Usually it is either my 85 mm 1.2 or my 70–200 mm 2.8. This set up allows me to have quite a variety of focal length to choose from. If you are an avid reader of this blog you might think the 85 mm is my go to lens. In fact it is not, the 16–35 2.8 is that lens. By having a wide and a mid-range telephoto on each camera I’m ready for just about anything that I run across.

 

Ruggedly handsome but reassuringly self-deprecating international travel photographer Gavin Gough covered in coloured powder during Holi Festival Celebrations, India.
Copyright © Lesley Fisher

So how the heck do you shoot with two cameras…realistically? Don’t they crash into each other? Some folks use a traditional strap and put one camera around their neck and the other on their left or right shoulder. This has worked for years and many people are quite comfortable with it. My good friend, Gavin Gough for one. Gavin has shot like this for years. Above you see him shooting with a camera on each shoulder. You need strong broad manly shoulders like Gavin’s to pull this off or they will keep falling off. I guess I have too bad of a posture for this set up. So I have gone with the easy route. I use the Blackrapid R-Strap Double.

Me, my R-Strap Double and my Think Tank Photo MM Wired Up 20.
photo by Marco Ryan, Cairo Photo School

This setup insures the cameras stay put, right where they belong, on my shoulders. They are a little shorter than arms length to keep them from touching the ground when I squat or kneel down to shoot. They only real downsides I have found to this system are two things. One is the strap connector screws into the tripod socket on the camera. Thus making uses of the tripod socket useless for what it was intended for. This is a pain when you want to use both the strap and later shoot on a tripod. So I have gone back, yet again, to using a small piece of sheathed climbing rope to connect the straps to the locking clip on the strap (unlike in the photo above, where I am using the connector in the socket). The other is they are a pain to put on and take off at times. Like going to lunch or getting in and out of a car or taxi. But, outside of those small things, I find the R-Strap Double to be a huge asset when shooting two cameras. I can’t recommend them enough.

So when it come to shooting one camera body or two, I say, two is always better than one!

Save

About Matt Brandon

Matt is a Malaysia based humanitarian and travel photographer. Well known as a photographer and international workshop instructor, Matt’s images have been used by business and organizations around the globe. Matt also on the design board for Think Tank Photo, a camera bag manufacturer.

In 2013 Matt founded the On Field Media Project to train the staff of non-profits to use appropriate technology to produce timely as well as quality images.

View All Posts

Learn more about these fantastic workshop opportunities:

 

Your Name*

Your Email*

Your Website

Subject

Your Message

CAPTCHA: Please enter these characters in the text field.
captcha

*Required

FaceBook Comments

comments

12 thoughts on “Two Cameras vs One

  1. Matt thanks for the article and I can clearly see you’re a fan of the dual-camera approach. I think perhaps it’s also worth noting the ‘time and a place’ concept should and can come into the decision-making process though- for example, some situations may require more of a ‘softly softly’ approach to shooting, or may be restricted due to space. Then there are situations where you as the photographer need to minimise cutting an imposing figure on your subjects. So there is definitely a good arguement that ‘less is more’, and to be honest I have also actually felt very liberated when I have ditched the zooms and just used one prime with me whilst out shooting. Having said that, when ‘getting the shot matters’ (especially for a client) I can clearly see that you need to make the best preparation to do so. As long as you’re prepared and able to carry the weight, then 2 cameras clearly have some advantages!

    Talking about a time and a place, I was recently on holiday in San Francisco, and whilst visiting Alcatraz I saw a guy there with his family and wearing 2 x Nikon D3, 1 with 70-200mm, 1 with 24-70mm incl attached flash and external battery pack strapped to him. He was actually struggling walking! And the funniest thing was I observed him for a bit and he only took a cpl of posed family snapshots

    • Mark, you make some really valuable points here. You’ve nail the real issue, it is like anything, the right tool for the right job. If you don’t need two cameras, then for heaven’s sake shoot one! If I was at Alcatraz with my wife and child, I would be shooting the
      Micro Four Thirds system camera and leave the big guns at home.

  2. I always carry two bodies with me but despite having three D-SLR bodies (Canon 5DMII, 40D, Nikon D80) I always stick to one D-SLR and nearly always one lens. Quite often a prime. The second body recently has been a small Konica rangefinder with a fixed 35mm lens and a couple of rolls of film. That way I have my 5DMII and all it’s glory and an old film camera to mix it up and make me think. I love it.

    But if I’m doing a paid job I’ll have the 40D in a bag somewhere near on standby.

  3. interesting post. I would never do paid work without a back-up body, and I definitely see the advantage in not having to switch lenses when shooting in dusty conditions. I would take a second digital body if I were travelling somewhere very remote, but usually I just use my (lighter) film camera for back-up. I haven’t tried that strap, but I’m petite and not-brawny and hauling around too much gear just takes the fun out of it for me.

  4. Matt, huge fan of the 2 bodies setup. I also got the new Connectors from Black Rapid, that replace the Manfrotto pins on the tripod plates. This means you can hang a body (with plateattached) from the R-strap and then flick off straight onto the tripod. Easy.

    • Peter, this new Connector from Black Rapid seems to be exactly what I was missing 🙂 I’m going to get one ASAP. I didn’t know that BR is making them, thanks for the info!

  5. Interesting solution to getting access to your tripod sockets.  Can you give us a photo of what your small piece of sheathed climbing rope connecting to your straps looks like?

    • DaudR – Here is a link to an image of what the rope looks like and how it is connected. It is very secure. Certainly as much as a camera strap. To answer Stan, Yes, this is a drawback of the R-Strap when shooting in portrait orientation and certainly even more so with the cord strung here. It would work better connected to the corner of a L-bracket as that would put it on the left side of the camera for right handed shooters like me, and it sounds like you. Realistically there is not a perfect system out quite yet. The whole over the shoulder approach scares me. I just know I am going to have it slide off or snatched.

  6.  Matt, I agree with DaudR, I’d like to see a photo of how you modified the BlackRapid connection to fit. I find the system awkward to use in portrait orientation with gripped bodies.

  7. Hi Matt…I will be participating a photo tour at Ladhak covering Nubra, Pangong and Tso Moriri. I have two bodies 7D and 6D. I am planiing to carry only 17-40 with Canon 6D FF for ladscape and Cannon 100mm f2.8 L IS with Canon 7D for portrait and tele. Do you think I might face trouble in certain situations.

    • I think this is a really good combo. The only other combination might be shooting the 85mm f1.8 as it is a little faster. BTW is that 100mm a 2.8 or a f2?

Comments are closed.