The Best Camera Lineup for Your Photography Projects

The Best Camera Lineup for Your Photography Projects

There are so many camera options when considering a primary camera and a secondary backup, so there’s quite a bit to take into consideration. As the saying goes, two is one, one is none, so for big trips and always for professional work, a backup is a must. If you are looking for a second camera, how do you know what to choose? Rather than looking at specific brands, here’s a look at which gear combinations might be the best for your still photography projects.

Two Identical Cameras

For many years, I’ve worked with two identical cameras. There are pros and cons to every combination of options but having two matching cameras with crop, including micro 4/3s, or full-frame sensors in your arsenal might be one of the simplest options.

  • Identical sensors mean there’s little reason to change lenses from one camera to another.
  • Button configurations and focal lengths line up across cameras for easy transitions between two cameras with different lenses.
  • The image quality in your final edit will be completely cohesive.
  • Color corrections are super.
  • Shared chargers, batteries, and memory cards for redundancy. This is especially great for travel.
  • Easy copy and import settings from one camera to another.
  • Fewer software drivers need to be updated.

Crop Sensor Plus Full-Frame Sensor

For how I work, this combination has been the most challenging. All of my Nikkor lenses are FX and there are gaps in focal lengths when transitioning from one camera to another. I often find that I need to swap lenses from one camera to another when working with cameras of two different sizes, but there are plenty of advantages in doing so.

  • Complimentary configurations and options for added utility and a greater range of applications.
  • Extended zoom available on a crop-sensor camera. This alone is a deciding factor for many uses.
  • Easier to photograph wide angle perspectives in narrower spaces with a full frame.
  • Full-frame sensors typically offer better dynamic range and low light performance.
  • A smaller camera will be more compact, and offer a lighter weight option useful on the go or in more discrete situations.
  • Typically choosing a crop-sensor camera will be less expensive.
  • Button configurations and image quality esthetic may vary.
  • Chargers, batteries, cards are potentially different.

Two Cameras From the Same Manufacturer

Most photographers probably stick to one brand, but not always. There are advantages and disadvantages of course, here's a look at some reasons why you might want to use one camera manufacturer.

  • Professional level service and support is easier to obtain from a camera manufacturer. One of the primary considerations of CPS and NPS is the quantity of gear you use from a given manufacturer.
  • Lens mounts match up for swapping lenses, getting more utility out of all that expensive glass.
  • Image files are the same type, which is easy for software upgrades, and more importantly, the color and visual feel will more closely match.

Film Cameras With Digital Cameras

Another curve ball is photographing digital with film cameras. 35mm film shares essentially an identical size with a full-frame digital sensor. Adding in a crop (DX or APS-C) DSLR or micro 4/3 will look more different through the viewfinder. Medium format (120) film in square or 645 does the same thing, and this can be an advantage (more on that below).  Here's a few helpful tips on working side by side with film and digital formats:

  • Match ISO and film speed for faster f-stop and shutter speed conversions in consistent or shared lighting situations.
  • Pay attention to the metering mode set on both cameras. I tend to use spot metering and manual exposure but it’s certainly a preference.
  • Don't forget to charge your film cameras regularly. My digital cameras get far more use and are charged after each project, whereas my film cameras often are not. This is especially true if the same roll of film has been in the camera for a while.

Gaining Added Perspectives

If you are using different image sensors, you can also use the shift as a challenge in seeing differently. I love photographing with a 645 or square crop medium-format camera because it forces a change in the way I see and compose. It tends to be a slower (and more expensive) process, so I tend to be more intentional about composition, exposure, focus, and so forth. If you want a similar exercise in the digital world, try photographing at the same focal length with a fixed prime or a zoom lens without changing the focal length.

My Camera Setup and Thoughts

I've been in all of the situations above over time, and my current camera lineup uses three full-frame cameras, none of which are identical. One of which has plenty of resolution to crop in if needed for additional reach. The other two are more rugged machines, with larger buffer capacities for continuous shooting and built-in grips. None of my cameras share identical batteries and chargers, so that means I need to carry at least three chargers and six total batteries for redundancy. The only shared memory card format across all three of my cameras is Compact Flash. I keep a second, dedicated Think Tank memory card holder full of smaller capacity (older) CF cards in my primary camera case at all times as another means of being prepared. There are times I miss having the added reach of a crop sensor, but I prioritize the ease of transition across full-frame cameras.

Regardless of what you’re using, cameras are just another tool in your toolbox, and different tools serve different uses and folks differently. This post is centered on DSLRs but there’s no one option that wins in every scenario. From mobile phone cameras to medium format monsters, there are additional benefits to gain from a camera other than sensor size and even image quality. Portability, button configurations, frame rate, video capabilities, and internal backups to two cards are all additional factors that you might want to consider. Hopefully this helps you in choosing your camera lineup.

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Jørgen Guldmann's picture

Cool to see the love for these camera (before the brand goes out of business)

Anonymous's picture

Do you know something that nobody else does or was that just your opinion? :-/

Jørgen Guldmann's picture

Sadly .. howevery hated the fact is.. then it seems to be the truth.

Anonymous's picture

I don't know how old you are but I'm old. Really old. These kinds of financial trends come and go. Maybe they'll go out of business but it's far from certain. It wasn't that long ago, a lot of folks thought Chrysler wasn't long for this world.

Jørgen Guldmann's picture

True, if the product is evolving, they seem to be at a standstill. I am willing to bet good money on that there will be a take over (possibly by sony)


Anonymous's picture

If I thought you were serious, I'd take you up on that bet. Unfortunately, unless you assigned a time limit, I could never win.

I have no idea what that means. The only other language I know is Japanese and that isn't Japanese.

Jørgen Guldmann's picture

Google will be of much help :)

I think we will see it happening within the next 2 years, it would be damaging to the market if Nikon would stop producing cameras.

Tomas Ramoska's picture

"Cool to see the love for these camera (before the brand goes out of business)" Like he only one who's nikon user. Dude please grow up.

Reginald Walton's picture

I think you meant to title this "My Favorite Camera Lineup for Your Photography Projects"

Reginald Walton's picture


Anonymous's picture

He discusses most options before identifying what works for him.

Marius Pettersen's picture

Ahhh! The M645 1000s <3

Scott Sowa's picture

I really wish people would stop saying that crop sensor cameras have a longer "zoom". They don't zoom, they crop. 50mm on a crop sensor is the same as 50mm on a full frame. You just loose the edges of the shot on a crop sensor. People only think of the edge to edge frame, they don't think of the perspective of depth. The laws of physics don't change between sensor sizes.

David Mawson's picture

>> People only think of the edge to edge frame, they don't think of the perspective of depth. The laws of physics don't change between sensor sizes.

The laws of physics don't change with focal length either, Scott - focal length and perspective are NOT, despite what you think, connected...

A smaller sensor is going to see a narrower field of view with the same lens. This is the only definition of "zoom" that isn't ridiculous, everyone understands it, and it expose anyone to the sort of awful errors that your claim does, so the author might as well use it.

Indy Thomas's picture

Charge your film cameras?
I used to put a CR2 battery or ms76 depending on what camera I was using. Neither was rechargeable.
Of course back in the early days we didn't even need no stinkin' batteries. ;)

aaronbratkovics's picture

I purchase a Canon 1D every ten years and call it good. So much thinking haha.