View Full Version : Backup Cameras

4-Nov-2005, 09:54
Okay. So you're shooting ruins in the Greek Islands with your bulletproof old Linhof Technika, when the triple extension English Leather bellows starts doing its legendary Dance of the Seven Veils, with too many holes and creases to possibly tape over.

You're in Paris taking a tour to Geverny tomorrow before flying home the following day, when your Haliburton Case with two Nikon F5's and all their lenses disappears from your hotel room. Fortunately, your three weeks of exposed Velvia are in untouched ziplocks.

Or you're in Gatlinburg in October, driving to Cade's Cove for the magnificant Autumn leaves, when your 12 MP Canon D5 (which arrived from B&H as you were packing to leave home, and you've already made hundreds of pictures with it driving down the Blue Ridge ), refuses to turn on. Bad battery? Bad camera? Idiot photographer? When you get back to the hotel you'll find that somehow you accidentally unplugged the charger overnight. But that's no help NOW.

My question: what do you take for backup? And what are the criteria for selecting it?

4-Nov-2005, 10:12
Main backup for holidays or LF outings:

Voigtlaender R3A with Leitz Summicron 40 (Canon 100mm is in my luggage)

Decent size, outstanding optics, battery lives almost forever

Emergency backup (always in my briefcase):

Minox 35 GT

Superlight. Small, Goes everywhere. Works well. Nobody takes you serious with it :)

4-Nov-2005, 10:16
This may not sit well with LF, but for nonprofessional purposes my 'backup' camera is a Zeis Ikon 530 w/Tessar lens. It is small, light, clamshell design. I've usually got the lens shade and cable release and Leitz tablepod as well.

On the regular job I have two of whatever I need with the second ready to ship. I don't do much that's far from a means of delivery. ;)

David A. Goldfarb
4-Nov-2005, 10:22
Backup for my New F-1--an old F-1n.

Backup for my Bronica S2a--another S2a

Backup for LF--I don't usually carry one. If a shutter has problems, I'll just not use that lens, and if I do something catastrophic like break the groundglass or bellows, I'll have a new one FedEx'ed if possible or rent a camera. If I were doing something really important and couldn't wait for replacement parts, I could just bring another LF camera (like the Gowland 4x5" along with my Tech V). I'm pretty standardized on Linhof and Sinar lensboards for all of my LF cameras, except the 5x7" Press Graflex, so I've got a few different options.

Kerry L. Thalmann
4-Nov-2005, 10:26

Ideally, your back-up camera should be able to use the same lenses, film/film holders and other accesorries as your primary camera. For me personally, I have long employed a two-camera 4x5 system that has worked well for me. My primary camera (currently an ARCA-SWISS F-Line) is a full featured model with the ability to handle lenses from ultrawide to quite long. This camera is portable, but not ultralight by any means. For backpacking and really long day hikes, I prefer a lighter, more compact camera (currently a Toho FC-45X). I'm willing to trade-off ease of use and bellows limitations to save a significant amount of weight and bulk when I'm also carrying my camping gear and enough food and clothing for a multiday trip in the backcountry.

So, the "backpacking" camera makes a natural choice as a back-up for my "main" camera. It's nice, but not absolutely necessary that both cameras be able to accept the same lens boards. That makes switching back and forth between the two (one for shooting close to the vehicle, the other for long or difficult hikes where the bigger camera would be an excessive burden. On extended trips I always carry my "photographer's tool kit" full of spare parts, tools and back-up items (spare ground glass, back-up Quick/Readyload holder, etc.) in my vehicle. If my two cameras don't acept the same lens boards (either directly or with an adapter), I have a flat lens wrench and spare lens boards in the tool kit and can swap lenses back and forth if needed. Or, if I know I'm going to be doing a mix of backpacking and "road kills", I will just bring my complete ultralight backpacking kit (including a selection of ultralight lenses well matched to the Toho). It all fits in a small daypack that I can just grab and go as needed.

Time in the field is valuable. Damaged, lost or stolen equipment can ruin a trip. I learned years ago that it's almost impossible to get replacement parts/gear in most of the remote areas (and even some not-so-remote) where I like to shoot. I try to plan ahead and carry enough back-up gear, spare parts and tools that I can keep shooting if something is broken or lost. If nothing else, the knowledge that I have a contingency plan reduces the stress and worries.


Donald Brewster
4-Nov-2005, 10:52
Travel camera: Mamiya 7II. Back up camera: Leica Mini-zoom P&S. New back-up: Canon digital P&S. Convenience, compactness, and utility are my criteria. For large format, if something doesn't work or isn't right, I go home, have a glass of wine, and come back another time.

Dan Fromm
4-Nov-2005, 10:55
Backup for Nikon FM2n? FG or ELW, depending on which we brought. Drawbacks? Slow sync speed (1/90, 1/125 respectively).

for Nikons? Canon AF35ML.

for 2x3 Speed Graphic? Century Graphic. Drawbacks? Can't use my longest lenses.

for Century Graphic? 2x3 Speed. Drawbacks? Can't use my shortest lenses.

for big tripod? None, but I sometimes travel with the Benbo 3/3028 as well as the big one.

for roll holder? I usually travel with at least two.

for LunaSix III? Master V.

Scott Schroeder
4-Nov-2005, 11:02
Enjoying the view ;)

Richard Littlewood
4-Nov-2005, 11:05
Olympus PEN and a few rolls of Delta 400

Frank Petronio
4-Nov-2005, 11:10

Bob Salomon
4-Nov-2005, 11:12
"Okay. So you're shooting ruins in the Greek Islands with your bulletproof old Linhof Technika, when the triple extension English Leather bellows starts doing its legendary Dance of the Seven Veils, with too many holes and creases to possibly tape over. "

The answer to this part is simple. Those holds and folds didn't develop overnight. The bellows should have been replaced a decade ago.

As to theft here is my experience

We are driving to my wife's faather's hometown, Nancy France. We stop in Strasburg and park under the townhall in the main city garage. We go to call our kids in school in Atlanta. We are gone exactly 20 minutes. When we return to the car we found the doors and trunk open. All of my wife's clothes scattered under the car. My Rimowa aluminum suitcase with all my clothes is missing as are two Rimowa aluminum camera cases containing: two Rollei 6006 MKII cameras, prisms and all lenses from 40 to 300mm. three Rollei SL35E cameras and two SL3000 cameras with lenses from 16 to 200mm as well as backs. A Linhof Technorama 612 with two lenses. All of the exposed and unexposed film shot over two weeks in Austria and Germany. Passport, tickets and assorted other items including the keys to the car we parked at JFK and the house keys..

We still had a week to go on the trip. The remaining shots were with a Rollei 35 and a SL3000 I carried with me to the phone call. The suitcase was replaced by a cardboard box and a department store in Freiburg Germany managed to fit and tailor some pants overnight.

The police in Strasbourg were of no help. the City Hall said it was the police who would not patrol the parking garage, the Garage wanted cash payment for the overtime caused by having to find the responsible police station. Lufthansa replaced the tickets at NC as long as I agreed to pay for them if the original one was used within one year and the State Department replaced the Passport and had a new one waiting in Munich. They said not to worry about someone using the Passport again (this was well before 9/11). My insurance took over a year to pay the full replacement policy coverage and then only after threatening a lawsuit.

Luca Merlo
4-Nov-2005, 11:35
I find the old Rollei TLR and the Leica M6 with a collapsible 50 mm the best backup for respectively MF and 35 mm. Franckly, I do not see too many possibilities for a LF back up, until and unless, you hire a mule to help you (no kidding, this could be possible in the Greek islands) !
Enjoy your trip !

John Kasaian
4-Nov-2005, 12:25
For LF cameras, no back up. I suppose if the sole purpose of a trip to a far off expensive destination were photography I'd want a back up. On road trips I nearly always have a back up LF lens (my lenses are in pretty old shutters for the most part---so having a spare is cheap insurance)

I always have a back up when on family outings and its come in handy many, many times when my lovely Bride's digi Canon eats it's battery. The Olympus Stylus or Minox-35 (loaded with B&W of course) to the rescue!

John Berry ( Roadkill )
4-Nov-2005, 12:48
Rolli 35s. I ain't carrin' 2 8x10's

Mark Windom
4-Nov-2005, 12:49
I shoot an Arca Swiss...no need for a back up (fingers crossed).

David Luttmann
4-Nov-2005, 12:59
If the 4X5 spontaneously combusts,

Mamiya RB67 and lots of Ilford Pan F & Canon 1DS with 60GB Delkin Picture Pad.

Mark Sampson
4-Nov-2005, 13:37
When I had the tripod collapse and my 4x5 splintered when it hit the ground... it was January and I did without until it came back from repair. If I'd *had* to have one in the meantime, I could have used a camera from work, or borrowed one from a friend. But in winter my photo energy is mostly spent printing, and so it was that time. Calumet came through with the lifetime warranty and I dodged a bullet.

Harley Goldman
4-Nov-2005, 14:11
Same as Kerry. I have an Arca F-Line Classic and a Toho. On road trips, I take the Toho as a backup camera. It is also handy if I decide to take a long hike and want a lighter load.

Miguel Curbelo
4-Nov-2005, 15:10
Rolleicord V.

Conrad Hoffman
4-Nov-2005, 15:34
I can't imagine breaking a 4x5 (knock on wood), but suspect almost anything can be fixed with duck tape (for the bellows and structure) and scotch frosted tape (for the gg). Shutter dies- jam the blades open and expose with a black card or the dark cloth. For anything else, use the Mastercard and go buy whatever small digicam is available.

Brian Ellis
4-Nov-2005, 15:55
"The remaining shots were with a Rollei 35 and a SL3000 I carried with me to the phone call. "

After all that you were still able to photograph? I'm amazed. I don't photograph very well when I'm throwing up.

As to the question, I carry a Nikon D100 and three Nikon lenses as a backup.

Frank Petronio
4-Nov-2005, 17:47
Ha, I would have torched France and pee'd on the Effiel Tower after that experience.

Dominique Labrosse
4-Nov-2005, 19:17
Backups include: Nikon FM, Nikon D70s & fianlly Sony W5 point & shoot

4-Nov-2005, 19:35
We are driving to my wife's faather's hometown, Nancy France.

So sorry for your bad experience, Bob. I am on the verge of thinking it might be due to religious/national prejudice. on their part. I have spent a couple seasions in Nancy. and enjoyed the city very much but that was around forty years ago.

It might be very cool for a number of us top meet somewhere interesting. My choice would be Oxford, England but .. . hey, it your show!

RJ Hicks
4-Nov-2005, 20:49
My backup is either a leica m3 with a 50mm cron or a pentax mx with also a 50mm. I carry one of these with any format I am shooting.

4-Nov-2005, 21:51
Brooks Veriwide (120). It is also Verilite and Verismall, with a Veribig 6x10 neg. No batteries, and, actually, very wide, so anything will fit in the frame.

Janko Belaj
5-Nov-2005, 05:04
depending on many circumstances: which LF camera I took on hike (4x5 in small rucksack or 8x10 in large one), where am I going and for how long, how will I travel... there is always some smaller camera with me, but that might be my beloved Rolleicord (schneider xenar 75 mm f 1:3.5), or small and funny Canonet (G-III QL 17), or Olympus E-1 dSLR, or even Hasselblad system...

Robert A. Zeichner
5-Nov-2005, 06:25
I actually made a trip to the Greek Isles back in 2004 and took a Rollei 3.5F as a backup to my Deardorff. There were some times when toward evening or early in the morning I would take a stroll with the Rollei to capture some things that would be awkward to get with a view camera, but I think if I did this again, I would just take a slide camera which I could more easily carry with me everywhere I went with the Deardorff.

When I make trips by car, I always take more than one view camera and some smaller format camera as well. I spent a week in the upper penninsula of Michigan a few years ago where it rained for three days. Fortunately I had an old Bronica C that I wasn't too worried about and used it to get some interesting photographs of the historic Red Jacket area in rain and fog. As much as a camera might take a spill and shatter, the photographer could also fall and I have done this a few times myself. What if this happened on a trip and I was no longer able to comfortably carry the load of a view camera? Having a slide camera or the Rollei might salvage an expensive trip from being a total bust.

5-Nov-2005, 11:59
You need a backup if your no.1 is dead, broken og stolen.....if that happends you propably wont be 100% enthusiastic about photography......
I have actually tried in the other way around. I was hiking through Tibet with a friend. My no.1 was Contax 645 wit lenses from 45-300. Backup was Leica M6 and a Nikon 28ti...first I dropped my 28ti wich broke, then the shutter jammed in the M6.....down to my no.1...1000 slides later I am fully content. My friend carried 2 new identical Linhof Tech master with 4 lenses cammed to both cameras....nice
Antoher time I was shooting a wedding with Contax 645 + 35/3,5..60 peolpe on a stairway with 4 powerful flashunits, perfect polaroid. When I called out for everyone to take position, some young grunge look-alike quy ran by, snatching my Contax of the tripod an disapeared in the streets. 60 people and myself, in white suit with a glass of champagne in my left hand and my sekonic in the other was speechless.....well I got the picture with a Leica R6 + 35 (not wide enough, and wrong choice of film)

5-Nov-2005, 17:52
This post inspired me to dig the old Rollei E 3,5 Planar out and knock the dust off of it. I use to have a lot of fun with this thing. Oh well, back in the closet it goes.

Gregory Gomez
6-Nov-2005, 14:13

From a large format photography perspective, make sure your camera bellows is in perfect working condition BEFORE the trip, and if necessary replace it with a high-quality new one.

For shutters not working, take along two replacement shutters that will enable you to swap lens elements in the filed. There’s no need to bring extra lenses unless you plan on dropping one.

Also bring an extra ground glass incase the one in your camera breaks, and bring extra batteries and one additional light meter.

As for theft, NEVER leave your equipment unattended, even in a locked car for two seconds. If you must, take your stuff with you everywhere you go, even if that means taking all your equipment to dinner, etc. In short, NEVER take your eyes off your equipment.

For 35mm gear, an extra camera body and backup lenses of your most favorite focal lengths will suffice. However, if you're shooting with an expensive 600mm telephoto lens, you may have to rent a backup, if that's even possible.

I hope this information helps.

6-Nov-2005, 15:02
Gregory, it was a rhetorical question! But for your information, (and Bob Salomon's), I assure you that a Technika bellows can appear fine when you leave home, and be full of splits and holes within a day or two, probably from undetectible dryrot. At $400 a pop it ain't something that one replaces on a precautionary basis.

And to answer my own question: Rollei 35S. Small, light, pure mechanical, Rollei Reliability, and replacement film is available virtually everywhere in the world (so you don't have to carry any extra with you).

Bob Salomon
6-Nov-2005, 15:13
", I assure you that a Technika bellows can appear fine when you leave home, and be full of splits and holes within a day or two, probably from undetectible dryrot."

No it won't if you simply check it with a flashlight in a dark closet you will see where failure is ocurring.

Pin holes are not an overnight process with a properly maintained camera. Proper maintenance includes a complete professional CLA every few years. This would be caught in a check up.

6-Nov-2005, 15:51
Technika bellows can appear fine when you leave home, and be full of splits and holes within a day or two, probably from undetectible dryrot

Sounds more like a case where the person had it stored for years, and it was in bad shape, he didn't really check it out before using it. Splits and holes in a "day or two" is just bull.

6-Nov-2005, 18:20
Bob and jj, in this particular instance you don't know what you're talking about. Now, let's let it drop.

Frank Petronio
6-Nov-2005, 18:34
If you're worried about the Linhof bellows, replace it with one from a Crown Graphic. You give up the ability to use longer lenses, but Graflex made tough bellows.

6-Nov-2005, 19:31
Until my Fuji GSW is fixed...Yashica Electro 35.

Gregory Gomez
7-Nov-2005, 14:14

I hope you did not take offense to my comments; I certainly didn't intend any.

I have a Linhof Super Color ST Monorail 4x5 view camera that's 24 years old and in mint condition. The bellows looks like new. Admittedly, I have not used this camera much, but I have been very careful to store it using desiccant jel, and I make sure to air it out after each use. The bellows is still in perfect working condition.

I realize $400 is a lot of money so one could take along a flash light and Duck Tape to make sure that any leaks that do develop can be repaired in the field.

Best regards,


Bob Salomon
7-Nov-2005, 16:48

After 25 years as Product manager for Linhof and being the Sinar rep before that and several years in a studio before that with Plaubel, Sinar, Linhof and Calumet and several years before that in the USAF as a photographer with deardorff and Graflex I do know what I am talking about. A properly cared for bellows does not develop holes overnight.

7-Nov-2005, 18:07
Bob, in my last post I said, "Now let's let it drop." What part of that didn't you understand, or do you think that you always should have the last word, even when it's wrong? Althought an event is clearly beyond your personal experience you seem to think that you know all there is to know about a subject. You are mistaken in your opinion, and insulting in your attitude. NOW, let's let it drop.

7-Nov-2005, 18:11
Bob and jj, in this particular instance you don't know what you're talking about. Now, let's let it drop.

Well, I suppose it could happen, but in my few years in photography, beginning in 1964 (military), and since I've never seen Spontaneous Ruin appear in an otherwise decent bellows. It has happened to bellows that were old, uninspected, left for a long time then not inspected before use, or simply whacked or abused upon opening, but not spontaneous out of nowhere ruin.

But WTF do I know? Still waiting for pigs to fly... and nobody orders me to "let it drop." Clear?

Walt Calahan
7-Nov-2005, 19:54
Holga, Minolta CLE w/ 40 mm lens, or my Nikon Coolpix S1.

But then the only camera I've had completely crap out on me is the Nikon D2H, so I used my other D2H. Now that Nikon did the warranty repairs, I've never had another bad day with the camera.

As far as LF, I've never though of getting a back-up Arca-Swiss 4x5 or KB Canham 8x10!