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Author Topic: Back up camera gear? Is it necessary?  (Read 6298 times)
Frodo
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« on: August 27, 2010, 05:06:53 AM »
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Photographic gear fails, so you need a back up.  This seems to be generally accepted.  But how often does gear fail?

I've had a Canon 300D, 20D and 5D and shot thousands of images and never had a camera failure (other than a flat battery).  I've never had a CF card failure.  And I've never had a lense or flash fail.  I have had Canon point-and-shoots fail.

Previously my shots were mainly for (1) my pleasure, (2) non-critical events or (3) subjects that could be reshot.  I'm now starting to do photo shoots where gear failure would be an issue.  For example, I shot a high school ball last weekend and next week I'm doing a corporate event for work.  I have redundancy in lenses, flashes, cards and batteries.  I have my 5D and I have a Canon G11 as an emergency. Until I earn serious money, its hard to justify a second body.  The benefits of a second camera around my neck, don't outweigh the extra clutter.

So my first question is: how often do digital SLRs fail?

My second question is: how often do CF cards fail?  I have two 8GB cards and generally find that the 500 RAW files I get per card is about as much as I tend to shoot in a session.  I have thought about swapping cards through a shoot, but feel that there is a greater risk of losing the card that's not in the camera.

Thoughts appreciated.
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brianrybolt
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« Reply #1 on: August 27, 2010, 05:15:24 AM »
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My 5D has never failed but I GUARANTEE you that when mine does (and yours) it will be at the worst time possible.  That is the way of photography. . .

Have never had media card failure and the above holds true.

ALWAYS have a back up when doing commercial work.

good luck,

Brian
www.brianryboltphotographty.com
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k bennett
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« Reply #2 on: August 27, 2010, 06:41:04 AM »
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I've had a camera die on the job. Just grabbed a backup and kept shooting. If you're shooting for money, then you need a backup camera, it's one of the differences between a true professional and some guy with a camera. (Other differences include having a written contract and liability insurance.)

I've read several instances of Compact Flash cards somehow bending the pins inside the camera, so that *both* items fail at the same time. Not a big deal if you're shooting for personal pleasure (aside from the repair cost), but if you're on a job, at the very least it means losing that job and the client. Around here the client might sue you for non-performance, depending on the job.

A used 20D is currently $254 at www.keh.com. Cheap insurance.
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Harold Clark
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« Reply #3 on: August 27, 2010, 07:07:31 AM »
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My 1DS11 shutter failed @ 50,000 frames ( rated for 300,000 ) right in the middle of a corporate shoot. I grabbed the 5D and carried on. I have never had a card fail, but I nearly always use 2 cards simultaneously ( the 5D doesn't permit this ). The only problem with writing to 2 cards is that processing slows down, which can be a problem with sports photography etc.
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Rob C
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« Reply #4 on: August 27, 2010, 08:53:01 AM »
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Photographic gear fails, so you need a back up.  This seems to be generally accepted.  But how often does gear fail?



When you need it most. Sod's First Law.

Rob C
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Paul Sumi
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« Reply #5 on: August 27, 2010, 09:07:13 AM »
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I had a Canon 1D2 fry a circuit board in the middle of shooting a surfing competition - the camera wouldn't talk to the lens. It was the first, last and only time I haven't carried backup in a non-repeatable situation.

I was photographing with a workshop in Monument Valley a few years back, and a gentleman from the UK had his camera fail.  He didn't have a backup camera.  But someone who DID loaned it to him and saved the trip for him.

One other backup a lot of people don't think about is spare battery packs.  Sure, you can recharge back at home/hotel room, but that doesn't help in the middle of a shoot.

Paul
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feppe
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« Reply #6 on: August 27, 2010, 10:37:59 AM »
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I haven't had any camera or lens failures in 10+ years of shooting. But if I was shooting commercially I would acquire a backup body as it's your paycheck and reputation at stake when catastrophy happens.

I'm going on a backpacking trip to Central America in November, and am considering either getting a Canon S95, Panasonic LX5 or one of the Ricoh compacts as backup, or risking it and buying whatever's available locally if my camera fails.

I had a Lexar card fail on me and it took with it irreplaceable images. A digital recovery service was only able to recover a few of them. I'm never buying another Lexar card again.
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englishm
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« Reply #7 on: August 27, 2010, 11:44:07 AM »
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Let's see... been shooting for more than 30 years.  In that time I've had two bodies fail in the field, dropped a third from a tripod as I hoisted the whole unit over my shoulder; heard the sickening thud as it hit the pavement.  Stupid mistake on my part, but glad I had a backup body then, or I that trip to Europe would been a very sad experience.  Had several lenses fail, from the minor inconvenience of failed auto-focus, to front elements coming adrift (constant high frequency vibration from too many airline trips caused that one, or so I was later told).

Gear is probably more reliable than it has ever been, but bad stuff does happen, and when it does... well let's just say that Murphy was an optimist.

Also not to be discounted, depending on what and how you shoot, is the utility of having two bodies on the go... put a wide zoom on one, your tele-zoom on the other (or a fast wide and medium tele, if that is your pleasure) and shoot faster and more intuitively, lessening the chance of a missed shot while you fumble around with changing lenses.  For me at least, I feel severely hampered with only one body.
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DarkPenguin
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« Reply #8 on: August 27, 2010, 01:03:52 PM »
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I bounced a minolta off a curb, tried to catch a canon lens on my foot and punted it down a flight of stairs, tomahawked a canon into a hillside as I fell down it, watched my tripod leg get kicked out and my 20D and Tamron lens break up at gooseberry, had a minolta P&S simply fail, watched in horror as my fuji P&S tried to open when it was face down and destroy the lens (not entirely certain why that decided to power itself on), bounced a G9 (still works) down a flight of stairs, and I've left a fair amount of gear in the field.

The use of straps would help a lot.
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joedecker
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« Reply #9 on: August 27, 2010, 01:05:12 PM »
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Over the years:

I've had a two film SLRs fail (shutter, Canon A2E control dial) but never a DSLR. I've had two lens failures due to the lenses being dropped (unclosed camera bag in one case, tripped over a tripod another). Never once had a memory card fail. I've had a lens and a flash unit stolen from checked baggage (same flight). I've had the power brick for a laptop fried in Patagonia by a short in the wiring at the hosteria I was staying in (the laptop was fine, but I couldn't recharge it until I got home). I've had hard disk errors on one of the Epson viewer gadgets (I think it was a P-2000.) on the same trip as the power brick failure. I've had a tripod leg jam and break in very cold weather. And I had an Arca-Swiss B1 jam up in very cold weather during an amazing sunrise.

I believe in backup gear.

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Joe Decker
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kpmedia
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« Reply #10 on: August 27, 2010, 01:06:17 PM »
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In the film days, once in a while I'd get an internal jam that had to be sorted in a darkroom closet. Always carried a backup. For a while there, my D1 was my backup to my F5, because digital had a lot of limitations in those early years. With digital bodies, I've seen settings get "locked" via glitches.

Nothing was ever broken, just a minor snafu that had to be worked out back at the office, or back at the house. Sometimes it was darkroom work (film SLR), other times it was resetting the camera to default and re-inputting all the custom settings (digital SLR).

So it's not necessarily about dying gear, just something happening that makes it suddenly (and temporarily) unavailable.
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JeanMichel
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« Reply #11 on: August 27, 2010, 01:12:05 PM »
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I second the motion!
In film days, I carried the three M's I own; never had a problem but...
In digital days, in 2009 I went to France with a 5D (now 5D2) and a G10 as spousal/backup unit. No problems but: the Digital Foci backup drive failed after two days and I had to scramble to find a replacement in Paris, ended up buying an Epson viewer which was a very good choice. This year I went with a 5D2, spousal/backup G10 and both a replaced Foci and the Epson... film was easier!

Ah! And don't forget that anyone who has not yet lost all his or her computer files without a backup, will.

Jean-Michel
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Rob C
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« Reply #12 on: August 27, 2010, 01:43:50 PM »
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Actual damage?

I had a 500C lock up in Malta; the concierge sent me to see a Mr Zamit, a watchmaker in Valletta, who took the side leather off, looked at me and told me I was worried, wasn’t I? He then replaced a broken plastic circlip with a wire one that he made up on the spot. The ‘blad functioned flawlessly ever after. I did have a spare, though.

An F2 that I was using seized up solid. Weeks later it came back from the Nikon agency people in Madrid, still very stiff to wind on – I traded it in. Plenty of spare bodies in the kit.

In ‘blad-and-one-lens days, a Mamiya C33(?) with a 180mm on it fell into the sand on a Scottish beach. I instantly blew away all I could see, stuck it back in the camera case, cleaned it properly at home and then sold it as soon as I could afford a 150mm for the ‘blad. If they had made their 180mm then, I’d have gone for one of those instead – beautiful focal length on 6x6, and nice on 35mm too.

A Rowi tripod leg more or less fell off in the Bahamas, just as I was using a 500 mirror (the b/w shot in the website), victim of awful baggage handling in London, Miami or Nassau. That’s when I learned how to use a duopod… No alternative tripod with me – several at home ;-(

Just as important is insurance. That tripod was the only claim I ever had to make!

Rob C

 

« Last Edit: August 27, 2010, 01:45:37 PM by Rob C » Logged

langier
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« Reply #13 on: August 27, 2010, 02:37:44 PM »
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General rule of thumb for backup: If you don't have you wish you did.

It's not just equipment failure, it includes theft, dropping the camera or lens, a tripod lifting a leg, loosing a CF card... the list goes on.

For each of the last ten years, I've had at least one card go bad (but nearly all the images recovered), batteries die at the wrong time, dropped lenses, had tripods go over, lenses lock up and more. It isn't a question of if, it's always when and "when" is usually when you are the least prepared...

Three years ago, I was shooting an annual cattle drive in the high Sierra Range. Though I have multiple lenses covering the 70-200mm range, this day I simply took one.

At the second place I started shooting, the lens locked-up focus at 6 feet. I had wider and I had longer. At this point, the needed lens was at that focal length. As I drop to the next point to shoot, I started taking the lens apart to see if I could coax it back to working. I was lucky and pulled it off, but it's tough to drive, fix a lens and get to the next photo site all at once...Had I simply put my 80-200 in the car with me...
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Larry Angier
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Dick Roadnight
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« Reply #14 on: August 27, 2010, 04:48:48 PM »
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I hope to soon have a complete 39Mpx backup system, including Flexbody, H2f, ELD, Sinar P2 etc. ...and I would not feel happy doing critical work without a spare system.

As I had some compatible kit, I could put together a spare MF system for less than a DSLR system would have cost me.

I have acquired kit over the years, and only have to buy an H2f and a CF39.

But you need spares of everything, especially firewire cables, but you can usually finish a shoot without a laptop or a firewire cable.
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Frodo
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« Reply #15 on: August 28, 2010, 02:18:03 PM »
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Well those messages came in loud and clear!  I guess I have been lucky to date!  The question that I face is to upgrade my 28-135 to a 24-105 that I use all the time and will visibly improve the images, or purchase a second body that I will use rarely.  But as has been noted, the 24-105 won't take great images on a camera that has just failed.  I guess I will start looking for a good 40D.
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kpmedia
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« Reply #16 on: September 01, 2010, 05:16:46 AM »
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to upgrade my 28-135 to a 24-105 that I use all the time and will visibly improve the images,

Are you really, really sure that's the case?

I have this line of thought, too, but always back away from ditching my 28-105 f/2.8 Tamron. (I can hear some of you now: Eww, yucky Tamron! Well, the lens was a grand and rivals primes at f/7 in sharpness! So enough anti-Tamronism!) Fall-off starts at f/5.6 instead of f/4, compared to Nikkor zooms, but the f/2.8 performance on the Tamron is not a whole lot different from the Nikkor on a full-frame D3/D3s -- i.e., a bit soft (most noticed in daylight shots). Only on D200 crop sensor do I really notice softness noise, and not the D3 line. I've looked at the new 24-135 f/4 Nikkor specs (same as Canon L, pretty much), and used Canon L 24-105 on 5D, and can't say it's worth the $1K for what I'd consider a marginal increase in quality, at certain wide apertures, just on the crop bodies. I'd rather spent the $,$$$ on something else I don't already have.

It sounds like you're questioning several needs!!

I'd suggest a good used body for your backup. That will help on the budget. Smiley
« Last Edit: September 01, 2010, 05:20:25 AM by kpmedia » Logged

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feppe
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« Reply #17 on: September 01, 2010, 12:14:27 PM »
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Are you really, really sure that's the case?

I have this line of thought, too, but always back away from ditching my 28-105 f/2.8 Tamron. (I can hear some of you now: Eww, yucky Tamron! Well, the lens was a grand and rivals primes at f/7 in sharpness! So enough anti-Tamronism!) Fall-off starts at f/5.6 instead of f/4, compared to Nikkor zooms, but the f/2.8 performance on the Tamron is not a whole lot different from the Nikkor on a full-frame D3/D3s -- i.e., a bit soft (most noticed in daylight shots). Only on D200 crop sensor do I really notice softness noise, and not the D3 line. I've looked at the new 24-135 f/4 Nikkor specs (same as Canon L, pretty much), and used Canon L 24-105 on 5D, and can't say it's worth the $1K for what I'd consider a marginal increase in quality, at certain wide apertures, just on the crop bodies. I'd rather spent the $,$$$ on something else I don't already have.

It sounds like you're questioning several needs!!

I'd suggest a good used body for your backup. That will help on the budget. Smiley

Off-topic, but here goes: I had the 24-105mm L on an APSC body, and was sorely disappointed in IQ. I posted some test shots here to see if it was the fault of my copy of the lens, but it appeared to be normal. Sold it in disgust and moved to all-prime kit and have never looked back. I can pick a lens in the focal lengths I shoot at, get wider apertures (if I need it) and better IQ.
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geesbert
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« Reply #18 on: September 01, 2010, 01:38:08 PM »
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As a professional photographer there is only one piece of kit that I don't carry as a backup, that is myself. everything else is at least doubled on set. I can't afford to interrupt a shooting which easily costes 10.000€ or more because I don't carry a spare cable/camera/flash head or what ever. the only time equipment fails is when you are using it. it won't when your safe at home on your sofa.
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kpmedia
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« Reply #19 on: September 01, 2010, 04:32:48 PM »
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Off-topic, but here goes: I had the 24-105mm L on an APSC body, and was sorely disappointed in IQ. I posted some test shots here to see if it was the fault of my copy of the lens, but it appeared to be normal. Sold it in disgust and moved to all-prime kit and have never looked back. I can pick a lens in the focal lengths I shoot at, get wider apertures (if I need it) and better IQ.

Nah, I think it's on-topic. Always good to know about backup lenses, too! (Or limitations of the backup bodies.)

I think the APS-C bodies that have 10MP+ (maybe even 8MP+) just show too many flaws on glass, even great zooms. Primes and stellar lenses are the only ones that look good. Tokina 12-24 and Nikkor 80-200 are gorgeous on my D200, while most other zooms, even $1-2K lenses from Nikon, Tamron and Tokina, are not. I had also added more primes to my bag in recent years. If nothing else, primes tend to be cheaper! (With Nikon, huge number of lenses to pick from, too.)

On the 5D, the 24-105 is a nice lens. Not much different from my Tamron being excellent on the D3/D3s vs the D200.

So you're not alone in these observations.  Wink

Carry a backup flash, too! I never thought about a backup hotshoe flash until it was too late, lesson learned the hard way. I didn't even own a backup until that incident. Oops.
« Last Edit: September 01, 2010, 04:35:25 PM by kpmedia » Logged

Long time Nikon user. Currently using D200 + D3s for sports photography.
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