Twins Are Even Better

If you’re in the market for another camera but already have one that you love, my recommendation is simple. Get another copy of what you’re happy with.

Get a twin.

When camera shopping, a common urge is to explore and try different things. And this is a good urge to have; it indicates curiosity and passion for growth. But this can sometimes lead to chasing the horizon for an imaginary perfect camera, which I find can be a distraction from learning to use what we already have, more effectively.

If your goal is to collect cameras, go buy whatever moves you. But if your goal is to improve your photography, consider a twin.

Twin Nikon FM2n’s, one with a 35mm 1.4 AIS and one with a 180mm 2.8 AIS ED

When you take two identical cameras out on a shoot, you can load each with a different film and mount a different lens. Two rolls of film allows you to keep shooting if you hit the end of one roll, as well as to change between two ISO’s without waiting to to finish the first roll. And two lenses allow you to “zoom” between shorter and longer lenses. This is how professional film photographers work. Wearing two bodies can make all the difference.

Sure, you don’t need “twin” cameras to do what I’m describing. Two completely different bodies can do that too. And I often do wear two different bodies at the same time for various reasons also. Such as when shooting two different film formats or type of camera. But for developing and maintaining muscle memory that is critical to operating most film cameras, nothing beats twins.

It may not seem like a big deal but when you can seamlessly transition from one body to another, with a different lens or different exposure settings and just keep on going without thinking about the different location of the shutter speed dial, what your shutter speed range is, where your light meter switch is located and how sensitive it is, or anything like that like, you’ll see how beneficial this set-up can be.

Having two identical bodies frees your mind up to think about the shot instead of the arbitrary differences in controls and features.

Two Leica III’s, one with a 9cm Elmar and 90mm finder, one with a 5cm Elmar and 50mm finder.

There is also an economy to buying cameras in pairs. Any other accessories that you use, such as motor drives, flashes, viewfinders, shutter releases, and of course, lenses, can all be shared effortlessly between the two cameras. No need to buy multiple versions of what amounts to the same product just because one is compatible with one body and one is not.

If you find that one of your twin cameras is in need of service, sending it out for repair is that much less disruptive when you have another example on standby. When you only have one of something, there is no true back-up to it, and for me, I find that I’m more reluctant to send a camera out when I only have one copy of it.

Particularly when dealing with used/vintage cameras, trying multiple copies of the same camera will help you discern which is a good copy and which may be excessively worn, by differences in operation and feel.

Two Pentax K1000’s – one is an SE model with an SMC 50mm 1.2, the other a standard with 28mm 2.8

I’ve owned and used enough screw mount Leica, Pentax K1000’s, Olympus OM-1’s, Nikon FM and Nikkormat series bodies that I just need a few moments with one to tell if I click with it or not. Do the controls feel too lose? Too tight? Is the meter as responsive as its designed to be? Is the viewfinder as bright as it should be? Things that you accept as normal when you’ve only ever used one copy of a camera, you will learn are just variable character traits after you’ve handled several examples. I think people sometimes buy rangefinders with dim or flare-prone finders, for example, and then assume all copies of that model are like this.

If you want some variety, you can always get one black paint copy and one chrome copy!

Two Nikkormat FTn’s – one in black paint with a 50mm 1.4 and one in chrome with a 135mm 2.8

So listen, I’m not trying to encourage anyone to buy any more than what they really need or want, but having a back-up to anything that’s important to you just makes sense. To me, what doesn’t make sense is buying dozens of different cameras that do the same things in different ways – though, admittedly the reason I know that doesn’t make sense is because I’ve already been down that road! It’s fun to explore all the different ways we can take photos, but at some point, I’ve found it more useful to find something that I love, that speaks to me, and double down. Get a twin!

Thanks for reading, happy shooting!

*Photos taken with my one and only Nikon F2sb and 55mm f2.8 Micro AIS on Kodak Tri-X

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8 thoughts on “Twins Are Even Better

  1. As usual, another thoughtful and informative article.
    I agree with your premise; I’m a believer in redundancy. We live in a rural part of Connecticut – I have a house sized backup generator to provide heat and water when we lose power. On the camera side, I take a slightly different approach than you advocate. I have two Leitz-Minolta CL cameras, both fitted with 40mm lenses. They back up my two Leica M bodies. The M’s are fitted with 35mm lenses. Some may consider this unneeded duplication, but I arrived at this point after 52 years of photography using all sorts of equipment. This is what I need to do my kind of work.
    I had the 180 f/2.8. One of the best lenses Nikon ever made. It was sweet to shoot with and sharp as a tack! Same with the 135 f/2.8 – just good lenses that still will give you great photos.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve pretty much gotten there already! Had an F2 and an F for a couple years but have ended picking up multiple copies of each now…it’s good to have backups and I’ve experienced all the things you’ve listed…dunno where I’d be without redundancy and backups!

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  3. I like this approach! But as someone who’s only two and a half years back into film, I don’t know if I’m there yet when it comes to getting duplicate cameras. Though I have sort of done it, twice:

    1) My first SLR was a Minolta SR-T 101. I love that camera, but still wanted another SLR, one that was smaller and had some automatic exposure capabilities. So I got a Minolta XD5. I like that camera a lot, and since it uses the SR/MC/MD mount like the SR-T 101, I don’t need to invest in new glass. (I did get an XD5 that included an MD 50mm f/1.7. While I feel that my MC 50mm f/1.4 is better, the MD lens means I can take advantage of the shutter priority of the XD5.)

    2) I usually have a compact camera with me as the “take anywhere” camera which fits easily in a bag or on the bike. I was gifted an Olympus XA2 early into my film addiction and that has become the “everyday” camera. I tried a few other 90’s-00’s compacts. While they all produced adequate images, many of them were bulkier than an XA series, and they all flashed more than I wanted. And the rich prices of the “premium compacts” scared me away from trying them. I realized that the XA series was my ideal compact, but they are getting scarcer, and electronics can go. So I decided to get another XA series, this time going with the original XA. I found one at a good price that was listed as “working”, but it really wasn’t. Thankfully the seller refunded my cash. I got the camera to remedially work (battery check, shutter, etc) so I decided to repair/overhaul it. I’m still waiting to get that one back.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yep! While I have a number of different cameras, the ones that I use all the time are the Contax 139Q, which I have loved since buying the first one new in 1984. I always have two bodies in my bag now, and my wife uses them also, so there are four in regular rotation. Makes it worth investing in the system, so I have acquired a number of useful accessories and lenses over the past few years, and I now have a really good setup that I know like the back of my hand. In medium format, which I do less of, I was given a Mamiya RZ67 and a couple of lenses three or four years ago. Then I had the opportunity to purchase another, with five more lenses, at a very reasonable price after a photographer friend of mine passed. Some of the lenses needed servicing, and with that done I really don’t feel the need to look for anything more. More recently I have decided to concentrate on the Lee 100 filter system, as I do a lot of landscape photography where good filters can make a huge difference. Same reasoning, good filters are expensive but I only need one set, and an adapter ring for each diameter of lens I own.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve been doing that since the mid 1970s when I had two Canon F1s with motor drives. My first professional set. Since then, I’ve always had two identical or nearly so cameras when shooting film. Both have the same film stock loaded. When shooting news, even in a very small town and surrounding rural areas, it’s easy to run out of film in one body just as something interesting happens. Although I now mainly shoot digital for work, I always have a pair of film bodies with me for when I can go that route. As usual, an insightful article. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Your comment on muscle memory is absolutely right. I have been down the road of trying different 35mm cameras from different companies, and each one takes some time to feel natural and instinctive. It’s time to have another thin the herd exercise (Jim Grey’s term) and pick up a second Leica thread mount camera. Maybe a IIIG this time.

    Liked by 1 person

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