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The importance of having access to a backup camera

Last year, on my trip to India I took the Pentax 645D, a 35mm wide-angle lens and the new 90mm macro.   I also packed a Pentax K5-IIs with a 40mm pancake lens for low-light  street photography. The K5-IIs would also be my backup camera in the unlikely event that the 645D was stolen or had problems.

The K5 takes the same batteries, charger and SD cards as the 645D. The body and pancake lens combined weigh about 800 grams so it didn’t t take up much space or weight if it wasn’t used. The image quality from the K5 is excellent, obviously not on a par with the 645D, but I would still be able to use the images for commercial purposes.

It's not a matter of if, but when problems are going to occur.

It’s not a matter of if, but when problems are going to occur.

While in Agra, shooting the Taj Mahal at dawn, the 645D suddenly stopped working. The shutter seemed to open for a couple of seconds then the screen showed just a black image. I turned it off and on, removed and replaced the battery, the lens, the SD cards, but the problem was still there.  I wasn’t sure why it had stopped working. It could have been a piece of debris had floated in while changing lenses in Varanasi. It could have been general wear and tear.  What it meant was that I wouldn’t be using the 645D for the rest of the trip.

Obviously this was a little frustrating, but things like this happen.  Cameras sometimes stop working.  If you use them frequently, and treat them as a tool rather than objet d’art, it’s a matter of when not if you’ll have a problem.

Pentax Japan couriered a replacement body out to me in India, but it got snarled up in red tape while in Jaipur as customs officials couldn’t comprehend that the camera was a loaner that I would return, and that I wasn’t importing it into India. The replacement eventually made it’s way back to Tokyo many weeks later, I never got to use it.

Nonetheless, the Pentax K5IIs and a tiny pancake lens allowed me to carry on shooting.

Jodhpur, Rajashtan, India

Man at castle walls, Jodhpur, Rajashtan, India

It didn’t really lighten my load as I continued to carry my 645D with me rather than leaving at the hostel or hotel, but I was able to keep working.

Maha Mandir Temple dedicated to Aayas Deonath. Now used as a school - Jodhpur, Rajashtan, India

Woman at Maha Mandir Temple dedicated to Aayas Deonath.  Jodhpur, Rajashtan, India

In fact, when posting the photographs on the web many people commented on how good images look from the Pentax 645D unaware that I’d had to switch cameras mid trip.

Astronomical Devices at Jantar Mantar Observatory - Jaipur, Rajasthan, India

Astronomical Devices at Jantar Mantar Observatory – Jaipur, Rajasthan, India

The K5 was a better choice during Holi when the air was filled with powdered paint. It still shows signs of the encounters.

Holi, Festival of Colors, a Hindu Festival - Jaipur, Rajasthan, India

Holi, Festival of Colors, a Hindu Festival – Jaipur, Rajasthan, India

With the arrival of the 645Z the Pentax 645D (which was fixed by Pentax on my return to Tokyo) has become my backup camera.

Holi, Festival of Colors, a Hindu Festival - Jaipur, Rajasthan, India

Holi, Festival of Colors, a Hindu Festival – Jaipur, Rajasthan, India

As they say in the military, “Two is one, and one is none.” If you rely on a particular piece of equipment you need redundancies in the event of failure.

So if Santa just visited your house with a sparkly new camera, don’t sell your old one just yet. Keep it as a backup, and when the going gets tough, you’ll still be shooting.

Amber ( Amer ) Fort / Palace - Jaipur, Rajasthan, India

Amber ( Amer ) Fort / Palace – Jaipur, Rajasthan, India

 

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