Even Better Twins – Johnny Martyr Thought & Photography

If you’re looking for a different camera but already have one you like, my recommendation is simple. Get another copy of what you love.

Get a twin.

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

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

Nikon FM2n twins, one with 35mm 1.4 AIS and another with 180mm 2.8 AIS ED

When you take out two identical cameras for a shoot, you can load each with different film and attach different lenses. The two film reels allow you to continue shooting if you reach the end of one roll, as well as to switch between the two ISOs without waiting to finish the first roll. And two lenses allow you to “zoom in” between shorter and longer lenses. This is how professional film photographers work. Wearing two bodies can make all the difference.

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

This might not seem like a big deal but when you can seamlessly switch from one body to another, with different lenses or different exposure settings and keep going without thinking about the different shutter speed button locations, what your shutter speed range is, at whichever switch your light meter is on and how sensitive it is, or something like that, you’ll see how useful this setting can be.

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

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

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

If you find that one of your twin cameras needs servicing, sending it in for repair will be much less intrusive if you have another instance on standby. When you only own one of something, there’s no actual backup for it, and for me, I feel more reluctant to ship the camera when I only have one copy.

Especially when dealing with used/vintage cameras, trying multiple copies of the same camera will help you distinguish which copies are good and which may be outdated, based on differences in operation and nuance.

Two Pentax K1000s – one is a SE model with a 50mm 1.2 SMC, the other is standard with a 28mm 2.8

I’ve owned and used enough Leica, Pentax K1000, Olympus OM-1, Nikon FM and Nikkormat series screw mounts that it only takes me a few moments with one to tell if I’m clicking it or not. Does the control feel too beaten? Too tight? Is the meter responsive as designed? Is the viewfinder as bright as it should be? Things you take for granted when you’ve only ever used one camera copy, all you’ll learn are the variable character traits once you tackle a few 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 variety, you can always get one black paint copy and one chrome copy!

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

So listen up, I’m not trying to encourage anyone to buy more than what they really need or want, but having a backup for whatever is important to you makes sense. What doesn’t make sense to me is buying dozens of different cameras that do the same thing in different ways – although, admittedly the reason I know it doesn’t make sense is because I’ve already gone down that road! It’s fun to explore all the different ways we can take photos, but at some point, I found it more useful to find something I like, that speaks to me, and multiply it. Get a twin!

Thanks for reading, happy shooting!

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

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