Photography Shooting

You Need to Get that Backup Camera

huntington beach early morning copyright Aloha Lavina

I was shooting surfers on Huntington Beach this morning. After I changed from the 50mm to the 70-200mm, I looked through the viewfinder and found to my horror that the mirror of the 5DMkII had somehow gotten loose and was now obscuring a large part of the viewfinder. I quickly ran off a shot of the HB pier: the image was clear. But imagine composing a shot with a big black blob covering a large part of the view.

Because I was shooting handheld and did not want to lug my entire equipment inventory down to the beach, I only brought the one camera body and a couple lenses.

But it’s my first shooting day on assignment here in California, and my Nikons are back home in Bangkok. I am supposed to shoot this assignment with Canon equipment.

Luckily, I have a backup Canon body, courtesy of my editor. (Thanks, D!)

huntington beach early morning copyright Aloha Lavina
Copyright Aloha Lavina.

It’s been my luck that I’ve had mirror problems on important jobs. In 2008 while shooting in Malaysia with my then-new Nikon D3, my mirror locked up and I couldn’t see through my viewfinder. So I did the shoot like a film shooter would—paid attention to my settings rather than rely on the LCD, and thankfully the images came out OK.

Then in 2009 while riding a horse to the Musi Wada in Jordan, I had the Nikon D300 around my neck on a galloping horse. You guessed it, a particularly big jolt knocked the D300 to the saddle horn and jarred the mirror out of place. I didn’t have a backup then, either, so I composed by guessing what the lens could see.

You may not be riding horses through rocky landscapes, or changing lenses on a windy beach, or have my luck, luckily. But there are times when that backup camera body will save your skin.

If you do get that extra body for backup, here are some options you might consider.

1. Get the same camera body.

This is the option if you have the money to splurge on two of the same super duper bodies. Hopefully both will not have mirror problems or other problems, at the same time.

2. Get a less costly body, but make sure it’s compatible with your lenses.

I am fortunate that the EF lenses are compatible with the Canon my editor sent. If the 5DMkII has to be in the repair shop for a few days, I can still meet my deadline with the backup body.

junior lifeguards training copyright Aloha Lavina
Copyright Aloha Lavina.

3. Get another platform, and an adapter that can mount your lenses to it.

Some people cringe when this mixing up is mentioned. But I’m not a ‘purist’ because I don’t like spending money needlessly, so I do mix up my Nikon equipment with my Canon stuff. For instance, I use the SB-900s with the MkII on portrait shoots. If I had my Nikon D3 right now, I would use the EF lenses on it. I would lose autofocus, but I’d get great full frame performance with the Nikon D3 plus enjoy the beauty of the lenses from Canon.

I am still a little p****** off that the MkII’s mirror couldn’t survive traveling to three countries in six weeks. After all, it’s supposed to be the camera of choice for photogs that trek Antartica and other extreme terrains. But the assignment must go on, and I’m glad I got this backup camera.

It’s going to save me.


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