Twins Are Even Better – Johnny Martyr


If you’re in the market for another camera but already have one that you love, my recommendation is simple. Get another copy of what you’re happy with.

Get a twin.

When camera shopping, a common urge is to explore and try different things. And this is a good urge to have; it indicates curiosity and passion for growth. But this can sometimes lead to chasing the horizon for an imaginary perfect camera, which I find can be a distraction from learning to use what we already have, more effectively.

If your goal is to collect cameras, go buy whatever moves you. But if your goal is to improve your photography, consider a twin.

Twin Nikon FM2n’s, one with a 35mm 1.4 AIS and one with a 180mm 2.8 AIS ED

When you take two identical cameras out on a shoot, you can load each with a different film and mount a different lens. Two rolls of film allows you to keep shooting if you hit the end of one roll, as well as to change between two ISO’s without waiting to finish the first roll. And two lenses allow you to “zoom” between shorter and longer lenses. This is how professional film photographers work. Wearing two bodies can make all the difference.

Sure, you don’t need “twin” cameras to do what I’m describing. Two completely different bodies can do that too. And I often do wear two different bodies at the same time for various reasons also. Such as when shooting two different film formats or type of camera. But for developing and maintaining muscle memory that is critical to operating most film cameras, nothing beats twins.

It may not seem like a big deal but when you can seamlessly transition from one body to another, with a different lens or different exposure settings and just keep on going without thinking about the different location of the shutter speed dial, what your shutter speed range is, where your light meter switch is located and how sensitive it is, or anything like that like, you’ll see how beneficial this set-up can be.

Having two identical bodies frees your mind up to think about the shot instead of the arbitrary differences in controls and features.

Two Leica III’s, one with a 9cm Elmar and 90mm finder, one with a 5cm Elmar and 50mm finder.

There is also an economy to buying cameras in pairs. Any other accessories that you use, such as motor drives, flashes, viewfinders, shutter releases, and of course, lenses, can all be shared effortlessly between the two cameras. No need to buy multiple versions of what amounts to the same product just because one is compatible with one body and one is not.

If you find that one of your twin cameras is in need of service, sending it out for repair is that much less disruptive when you have another example on standby. When you only have one of something, there is no true back-up to it, and for me, I find that I’m more reluctant to send a camera out when I only have one copy of it.

Especially when dealing with used/vintage cameras, trying multiple copies of the same camera will help you discern which is a good copy and which may be excessively worn, by differences in operation and feel.

Two Pentax K1000’s – one is an SE model with an SMC 50mm 1.2, the other a standard with 28mm 2.8

I’ve owned and used enough screw mount Leica, Pentax K1000’s, Olympus OM-1’s, Nikon FM and Nikkormat series bodies that I just need a few moments with one to tell if I click with it or not. Do the controls feel too lose? Too tight? Is the meter as responsive as its designed to be? Is the viewfinder as bright as it should be? Things that you accept as normal when you’ve only ever used one copy of a camera, you will learn are just variable character traits after you’ve handled several examples. I think people sometimes buy rangefinders with dim or flare-prone finders, for example, and then assume all copies of that model are like this.

If you want some variety, you can always get one black paint copy and one chrome copy!

Two Nikkormat FTn’s – one in black paint with a 50mm 1.4 and one in chrome with a 135mm 2.8

So listen, I’m not trying to encourage anyone to buy any more than what they really need or want, but having a back-up to anything that’s important to you just makes sense. To me, what doesn’t make sense is buying dozens of different cameras that do the same things in different ways – though, admittedly the reason I know that doesn’t make sense is because I’ve already been down that road! It’s fun to explore all the different ways we can take photos, but at some point, I’ve found it more useful to find something that I love, that speaks to me, and double down. Get a twin!

Thanks for reading, happy shooting!

*Photos taken with my one and only Nikon F2sb and 55mm f2.8 Micro AIS on Kodak Tri-X

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