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Shooting With More Than One Camera

As prices come down and time goes by, the number of shooters finding themselves with more than one camera body increases. Actually using both cameras though brings with it some new complications to work through.

Sooner or later, if you haven't done so already, you are likely to buy a new camera. Falling prices and rising megapixel counts create a strong incentive, even without delving into more subjective attributes regarding image quality and functionality. Once you do, you be faced with the decision of what to do with your old camera. You may consider selling it, but if you do you'll no doubt find that its value has gone down considerably from what you paid for it new. Compared against newer wizz-bang models, it just doesn't measure up anymore. One of the main reasons you were tempted to upgrade forms the same basis motivating potential buyers to prefer newer alternatives to your old one.

Back in the days of film bodies, camera bodies retained their value more than they do in this digital era. Newer bodies had more to do with improved metering and autofocus, ruggedness, and so forth. At its core, it was still a light tight box. The image quality that came out, had more to do with the film you loaded into it than the body that the body itself. Buying a new digital camera though is the equivalent of upgrading both camera and film to a new generation of each. The sensor is part of the camera.

There are a lot of advantages though in carrying more than one camera body on photography outings. In addition to all the same moving parts as later vintage film cameras, cameras today are computers. And anyone who's had their computer start acting up knows they don't want the same thing happening to their camera. This would be inconvenient even at the best of times, but if your camera malfunctions when you're on a once in a decade trip to some exotic locale miles from civilization, it would be a disaster. Having a spare camera right about then could be a godsend. Some shooters may indeed be so concerned that they buy a second body purely as insurance to guard against any possibility of this run an important trip.

Downloader Pro Camera Mapping DialogAnd if you're carrying more than one camera, it only makes sense to put them both to use when the occasion warrants. As an example, you can mount a wide angle lens on one and a telephoto on the second to avoid changing lenses so often. You get the idea. Convenience and flexibility can mean you get more good shots with less work.

But using more than one camera isn't all rosy.

First and foremost, it's important to keep the clock synced between the two if you're to have any chance of lining up all your images in chronological order. With just one camera body, you can be forgiven for allowing your camera's clock to drift a bit since you can always fall back on the image numbers embedded in the file names to keep things straight. They time on each may still be wrong, but they will be equally wrong, and thus still in sequence. But if you dump images from two cameras who's clocked disagree into the same folder, you'll end up with a confusing mess. There aren't any easy solutions for this either. You just need to develop the habit of checking both before setting out on a photo shoot. And don't forget about Daylight Saving Time changes too. When you change it on one, change it on both.

But there's something less obvious worth taking note of. Even if all the images from your trip have the correct time embedded in their metadata such that they sort correctly, you'll still likely want some way to differentiate which camera body shot which image. It can be a frustrating situation indeed to notice a dust spot reoccurring in some of your images and not know which body to check. Or if you suspect a focus alignment problem it helps to know which body to have serviced.

If your cameras aren't the exact same kind of camera, you can always check out that same metadata looking for the tags for camera make and model. Many cameras even show you the serial number amongst all those other fields. But that can be tedious.

A better solution is to implement a naming convention for your image files that includes an indicator of the specific camera each was shot with. At a minimum, all the files you put in the same folder have to have unique names to avoid overwriting anything, and including some indicator of the camera covers the bases nicely.

There are plenty of tools to rename your image files. Lightroom can do a reasonable job on import. But my favorite tool for renaming is Downloader Pro from Breeze Systems. Chris Breeze started making a handful of digital camera software programs back in 2001, originally for Canon shooters since he was one himself. The same core applications are still going strong, and now include support for Nikon and many other camera manufacturers' offerings. Downloader Pro is without a doubt the most powerful renaming tool out there, at least to my knowledge.

Relevant to the subject at hand, it can map specific cameras to any given character string you want. Most programs that allow renaming based on camera will use the full make and model such as "Nikon Corporation D7100" or "5015967" for serial number, both of which take up a lot of needless space in a file name. My simple method is to number the cameras I've had over the year in sequential order with two-digit numbers, starting from "01" and counting on up from there. A simple list lookup is all that's needed then to determine precisely which camera is which. I've never owned more than two cameras at a time that I actively used, so I probably don't even need the list to keep things straight either. All you have to do is point Downloader Pro to an image shot with each camera and tell it to remember it.

Works for me at least.

Date posted: July 19, 2015


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