Have You Exercised Your Back Up Lately?

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by picturesque, Apr 5, 2011.

  1. Since wedding season is upon us, I wanted to remind everyone to check your back ups. I recently had to send my 5D (main camera) in for a shutter replacement and general overhaul. While I use a 40D as a second camera and back up body, it had to do for a wedding as the main camera, meaning I took my 20D (functioning as last ditch back up) out of my last ditch back up kit to function as second camera and back up.
    It had been a while since I'd shot the 20D. Shame on me for letting it go so long. A lot can happen to a camera while in 'mothball' status. In my case, the date/time battery was acting up. At first I thought it was dead and replaced it, but found out the battery was not actually dead. In any case, I could still shoot, but the problem is not solved yet--every so often, the date and time are 'zeroed out'. Imagine if I actually had to use it on a shoot without having examined it first. While I'm sure I would have been able to shoot, the sheer lack of confidence in it would certainly take it's toll. Not to mention that it needed a good cleaning. Plus mechanical, and even electrical things need to be 'exercised' from time to time or functions die.
    It performed well on the one wedding for which I used it as second camera, but the experience also prompted me to replace my last ditch kit from a soft canvas bag to a cooler bag--the kind for sodas--which does a number of things.
    1. Because it is slightly padded, it guards against vibration damage (it sits in the back of my car).
    2. Because it is insulated, it helps keep the contents coolor, and I could insert Blue Ice blocks if needed. Which came in handy when I took a block of 35mm Portra film with me, for use with my EOS 3, which functioned as my last ditch camera body for that wedding. Just be sure to keep moisture well contained, of course. My bag has a partition with a separator made of netting material that can be zipped off.
    3. It looks like a cooler bag, so thieves don't instantly know I have gear in it.
    4. It zips tightly and is semi-hard, keeping dust out. It easily holds a camera body, a lens or two, cables, flash, and other odds and ends.
    I also have the camera body in a wrap designed to help guard against corrosion. And the important part is below.
    I vow to take the 20D and flash out from time to time--probably every month or so--and shoot with it.
    Finally, if you think it will never happen to you (getting down to last ditch gear), think again. I've already used my last ditch flash--an old 380EX--when on an engagement shoot, I dropped my 580EX into the ocean. I had to walk back to the car, dump the dead flash and used the 380EX to complete the assignment.
    If anyone else has any really good ideas concerning back up gear, feel free to comment. This includes how you use your back up gear, good stories about back ups, tips on keeping your back ups in top shape, etc.
  2. It doesn't make sense having backup that you never use, just for the reason you mentioned. How could you possibly know that it would work when you need it to?
    The only reliable solution is to really use your backup gear and also check everything before the wedding. Just checking it without giving it a fair amount of use it not enough.
    So in your case Nadine I think it would have been best to ditch the 20D, get another 40D (put numbers on them) and then rotate them every other wedding.
    So first wedding with 5D and 40D number 1 while 40D number 2 stays in the bag.
    Second wedding with 5D and 40D number 2 while 40D number 1 stays in the bag.
    And so on.
    I'll do the same with flashes, lenses, batteries and all the other good stuff. And I put numbers on everything so I can keep track of identical items.
  3. You're right, Pete. May do that. But I am going to shoot the 20D every month or so--give it a workout, not just a few frames. Maybe a better idea is to use the 20D as an 'everyday' camera. Gotta give it some thought.
  4. You could of course also rotate between your 40D and 20D. Some probably feel that the 20D might not cut it for real use. But I would question the philosophy behind having backup gear that you feel is inferior.
    The only time you will use your backup is when something has already has gone wrong. Likely this may have caused some delays and perhaps aggravation and stress as well. Not a good idea to try to repair the damage using equipment you feel is inferior. Like the three generation old camera body or the kit lens or the all manual flash from the 80's...
    I'm not saying this applies to you Nadine but more as a general philosophy. When something already has gone wrong I think everybody agrees that they would feel a lot better using something they know 100% is working and produces the results they want.
  5. Pete--sure, I understand what you're saying. I personally don't find the 20D lacking a lot, which is why I used it as a second camera for the one wedding. It did just fine. Not sure I'd use your rotational system with two different models. While I don't normally have a problem using different gear, one gets used to using a particular piece of gear, and the frequency of rotation might be wearing.
    In the past, though, I've switched from an often used camera or flash to a seldom used/back up camera or flash and not had a problem--including from a TTL flash to an all manual flash from the 80s. :^) The nerves are going to be jacked up no matter what, because, as you said, something has already gone wrong.
    What's your back up system like?
  6. BTW I had a portrait shoot on location last year where I had some equipment problems.
    First I took some shots and after maybe twenty minutes and a hundred shots or so into the shoot the camera said "no image found" or something to that effect when I chimped my shots. I figured it was a corrupt memory card or possibly some corrosion problem with the compact flash slot but i wasn't going to stand there waste time and troubleshoot.
    So I just picked up my second identical body that had a lens that worked already on it. Everything seemed OK but after having shot some flash shots when I tried some f/1.4 shooting and I couldn't get the focus right no matter what I did. Not good because that could be a lens problem or a warped lens mount (it's invisible to the eye) or some other kind of problem with the body or lens.
    Still without missing a beat I picked up my third identical body and used the lens on the first failed camera. Everything worked as it should. But my problem wasn't over.
    An hour or two later one of my light stands fell over. The hot shoe broke off and some other pieces flew away. I picked up the broken parts and pulled out another identical flash from my bag and continued as nothing happened (except thinking that it would have been cheaper to stay home).
    So all in all I ended the day with equipment that needed some troubleshooting - one memory card, two camera bodies, one lens and one flash.
  7. Yes, I can relate. Part of the jacked up nerves issue is the client reaction to your gear malfunctions. One time, I was doing an executive headshot and the camera malfunctioned. After a few bits of fiddling with the camera, I just put it aside and got my back up body, so the poor fellow whose headshot I was shooting wouldn't get a complex about breaking the camera--he made a comment like that, and that's what prompted me to get the back up body out.
    Another time, the client was bug eyed as we both watched my flash unit burn up, with smoke and fizzling. And at weddings, you simply don't have the time.
    I'd say a factor in deciding upon a back up system is whether you, as a photographer, can handle different kinds of gear, which goes to experience and personality.
  8. Actually my backup philosophy is to use identical gear and rotate everything.
    I like identical stuff because I don't want to think about what I do when I shoot. I want the gear to be second nature so I can think about the image and everything else instead.
    With identical gear I also find it easier to identify and troubleshoot problems.
    So I have three identical digital bodies (I shoot with two cameras), two identical speedlights for on-camera use, several identical speedlights for off-camera use, three identical monolights etc.
    I don't have identical lenses but have both primes and zooms to cover my preferred focal lengths and in some cases also several primes with the same focal length but different character or use. I select what equipment to bring depending on the shoot.
    I also test all batteries on a regular basis to verify their capacity. Both camera batteries and AA that goes into primarily speedlights and pocketwizards.
  9. No insecurites on display here! Why would anyone say that a 20D could not do a good job as a wedding camera? What did the world do before the 20D came along......This thread is, at least partly, a celebration of neurosis and insecurity.
    I am not speaking of Nadine....the op is wise advice, and Nadine has shown where she fits in the pro world.......so.....Pete......Why not just have, say, 5 of everything? and sacrifice a Chicken before every event? There has to be some reasonable degree of confidence, or no one would ever get up in the morning.....Robert
  10. Hey, Robert--I can understand Pete's philosophy. Makes sense to me. It just isn't the way I chose, because using non identical bodies/lenses don't bother me. It would if I rotated a second body regularly, but not the way I have it now.
  11. Gotta love the 20D. After all of these years it still takes great pics.
  12. My backup/second body to my 5D2 is the 400D. I really get frustrated by the change-over: the lack of a rear control wheel, small viewfinder, LCD image quality, ISO performance (well, pitted against a 5D2 it barely holds a candle to it, esp at ISO 400 and up :)) I like the additional reach but I'm planning for a 7D to overcome these shortcomings. Will probably sell or give away the 400D to a good friend.
    I use the 400D at every wedding I shoot. Typically 100-120 shots come from that body, therefore it gets regular use.
  13. I haven't been shooting long enough to have any serious problems requiring backups. I'm sure I'll get there though! (Not that I don't HAVE backups...I just haven't NEEDED them yet.)
    Recently I decided I wanted to use two cameras at once, mostly during ceremonies. I purchased another 7D, just like the one I had. The first time I used them together at a wedding, I realized one of the dates/times settings was very slightly 'off,' so it was really a pain to correctly order the photos later on! That's definitely something to check when using multiple cameras.
    It is nice, though, for me, to have identical cameras. Even slightly different models can have really different controls, and I don't want to be fiddling around any more than I have to.
  14. I don't care if I am paranoid as an ex military and civilian pilot I know that you can never have enough backup. When I did weddings I carried three Bronica bodies, three PE lenses, three Canon bodies, five flashes ( (two Canon, three Vivitar 285s with fragile plastic shoe mounts) . three charged Quantum battery packs, etc. I don't recall a serious failure except knocking over my tripod myself in the mud and caking an ETRSi and lens with mud. After I cleaned it up after the wedding it worked fine. I did bounce a 70-200 off a concrete walkway, however. I could have done an entire wedding with MF if I absolutely had to or solely with Canon. I carried a lot of stuff to weddings but I felt comfortable doing so. As a former pilot I preflighted and functionally checked all the gear I took before each wedding. I still do that every time I go out. The last time I didn't I forgot my main CF card but I had a few 2 gig backups. All of this caution I understand is from thoroughness I learned in aviation and is probably sociopathic behaviour but it satisfied my personal level of comfort. .
  15. I would think a proper backup camera would need to be identical or close to identical to the main camera to be truly a backup. Otherwise the breaking of the main camera would mean having to adopt to a different user interface and acceptance of probably compromised image quality as well.
  16. Ilkka--nope, don't agree. I think it depends on the photographer. I've used a back up that was pretty different, and didn't have a problem. Of course, I used that back up previously--it wasn't a totally strange camera or piece of gear I never used before. Different user interface had no effect on image quality. But I completely understand not wanting to deal with a different user interface. Therefore, if that's the way you want it, then do your back ups that way.
    Like many other things, though, it doesn't mean everyone should do it the same way, or that the outcomes would be the same. In my case, I could have rented a 5D, so that everything would be the same as I normally shoot. But I didn't, and the outcome was fine.
  17. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Neil Ambrose has previously made an exceedingly insightful comment on this particular point you two are discussing.
    Having a complete Back Up Kit, which is different to the main kit, adds yet another layer of redundancy – that of NOT repeating the mistake of USER ERROR, when under pressure.
    I am quite sure that we have all made the error NOT picking up a spelling mistake or typo when proof reading our own words?
    Similarly, when under pressure, if something does foul, there is the possibility that USER ERROR is involved to some extent or another: even if it is USER ERROR which does not allow the optimum fix, in the shortest time.
    Having a completely different back up KIT, forces the brain to adapt to the NEW situation, afresh.
    Any of us that have shot 135 and MF Film at the same Wedding, will understand this more clearly and also understand that provided the two kits are used regularly, it is easy to have an high level of skill, with both.
    I agree with Neil's thinking. However, this does not exclude having a backup CAMERA BODY, within the main kit.
    Also: as a last level of redundancy a High Quality P&S (which shares Flash Dedication to the main kit) is very sensible - I think this is a point which I have posted in that earlier conversation: E.G.: a G10 / 11 etc, for a Canon DSLR Kit.
    The main vulnerability, is the Ceremony Proper.
  18. I had a D70s as my quaternary backup until recently. But, I've heard they magically die on the shelves of the local camera shop (used section). I think they like being exercised. I moved that camera along to someone who loves it more. I'm also getting rid of my D90 (my new quaternary backup). I'm sure other people love the D90. It just never grew on me. It would sit idle for months. Onward and upward.
  19. James P. Jones , Apr 06, 2011; 04:49 p.m.
    I had a D70s as my quaternary backup until recently. But, I've heard they magically die on the shelves of the local camera shop (used section). I think they like being exercised. I moved that camera along to someone who loves it more.​
    James, as a camera shop employee and a (mostly ex-) D70 user, I can tell you that the problem isn't 'going dead' but that the card reader on that camera has a tendency to die long before the shutter does. The shutter is rated for 40,000-60,000 cycles, but I've seen card readers go bad after 20,000 cycles or a few years, whatever happens first. Which is a shame, because it's an otherwise extremely well-built and reliable camera considering the price tag. I've seen a lot more smacked-up-but-still-working D70s than D80s or D90s.
    I also like the idea of using film as a backup backup, especially a manual body. As a Nikon user, I'm fortunate enough to be able to use many of my AF lenses on an MF body without problems. There are just so many fewer things to go wrong, especially if using a camera with a mechanical shutter. Thankfully I've never had to resort to a third camera, but I know that if I were in that situation I'd be a lot more likely to trust a camera that has just above a zero chance of failure than to rely on a third DSLR which is - and let's face it - probably going to end up being and old, used-up 'main' camera.
    If you can afford three new cameras every time you upgrade, hooray for you. But personally, if I was shooting the kind of clients that would allow me to pay for something like that I'd probably be working with an assistant; I'd likely just use his camera, and let him be the one saddled with old tech. That's the kind of grunt work he's there for, innit?
  20. While old metal film cameras can stay in storage till the year 2050 and come out firing, the modern electronic cameras need to be used once in a while to keep the juices flowing.
  21. More importantly ... have you exercised your back lately? LOL!
    I personally go over every piece of gear I own because I use different stuff based on the wedding specifics. As a result of doing this, I already sent a mainstay lens in for repair and a CLA. Generally, I have 4 cameras at each wedding ... at least two of them with me ... usually a DSLR and a rangefinder, and have back-ups for both.
    Another thing to keep in mind is making sure your insurance is up to date. If you sold something or adding a new piece of gear be sure your listings are current. It's easy to overlook this, but trust me, the insurance company won't should something happen ... claim denied is their favorite phrase no matter how nice they were when selling you the coverage. BTW, read the fine print on your policy ... it may surprise you.
  22. I would think a proper backup camera would need to be identical or close to identical to the main camera to be truly a backup.​
    An ideal situation would be to have three identical cameras and take out two at a time, randomly selected.
    While old metal film cameras can stay in storage till the year 2050 and come out firing, the modern electronic cameras need to be used once in a while to keep the juices flowing.​
    When an electronically controlled camera fails (other than flat batteries) it is more likely to be a mechanical problem than an electronic one.
  23. Marc--yeah, that too.
  24. It is because of such considerations that I went for 2 D3s right from the beginning which I use completely interchangeably. They are virtually indistinguishable from each other (well, one of them has a tripod shoe at the bottom while the other has the bolt for my BlackRapid strap) and are used as such. During an event I may have my 70-200 on one and the 24-70 on the other, but I will change lenses on either depending on needs.
    I do have a D300 as a third backup, but for that I have found the perfect solution: I've given it to my girlfriend who uses it very regularly...;-))))
    I also send my cameras to be professionally checked once every year or two years depending on use...;-))
  25. Nadine:
    Back in the olde days when I was shooting dinosaur portraits live I spend one evening per month just working through the mechanisms of all my equipment, winding the film backs, firing off the shutter of all camera and lenses at all speeds while enjoying some liquid refreshments from Scotland and listening to music produced by a needle rubbing on black plastic discs.
    Once a month all the powerpacks would get a full power up at slow recycle speed and all the flash heads would get fired off just to work out the kinks, not stress tested type firing. each pack get at least 48 hours of AC power over the weekend just to keep the capacitor in shape. The only time any of my lighting equipment was in for service were all due to accidents and new assistant/intern not doing everything right. I have Dyanlites from 1970's which are still on the original capacitors.
    I had looked at cameras from estate of collector - while some are absolutely gorgeous looking the mechanisms have seize or not function properly due to inactivities.
  26. Hi Danny:
    Yes, being a dinosaur myself, I knew about exercising gear--just kinda forgot about my good ole' 20D, and I whip myself. :^) I might incorporate your 'products from Scotland' part...thanks for the idea.
    Just thought I'd remind everyone about it and about having your back up plan and gear in order when approaching the upcoming season.
  27. Let's see... I tend to run the shutters on my Hasselblads and wind through the backs if the're going to sit, (which seems to be more and more). On my Nikons, I use them all the time so I just keep them clean and rotate and check regularly all the batteries. Same with the flashes, I have all kinds from shoe to big stuff, I fire them and check their settings. I currently found two flash heads that won't fire at lower power only higher, so they're in the closet. Another thing I check pretty often is the Nikon apertures that they're not sticking. I always check them also mounted on the camera with the DOF preview button. Lastly, I'm a big tripod user, so I clean and lubricate as needed my tripods. I don't keep too many cameras running anymore, just two Nikons and two Hasselblads, in the past I used up to five Nikons and four Hasselblads, I shoot much less professionally now so I don't need all that stuff in service.

Share This Page