Two of Everything by Jack Kurtz

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A well used Canon 5D Mark III.
A well used Canon 5D Mark III with a 50mm f1.2 lens.

That’s a little bit of an exaggeration but not too much. Working photographers have a different relationship with their cameras compared to “normal” people.

For one thing, we have a lot more gear than the average Guy With Camera (GWC). Working photographers usually have at least one backup for everything. That doesn’t mean two of everything exactly, but it does mean having enough gear that if a piece breaks you have some kind of a backup. If your most used lens is a 16-35mm zoom your backup might be a 20mm or 24mm prime lens. In my case, since I use primes, my backups are a set of really old zoom lens.

Working photographers don’t have the luxury of telling an editor or a client they didn’t get a picture because their camera or lens broke. Photojournalists are especially hard on their gear. We stand around in the rain, we work the street during aquatic hijinks of Songkran, we occasionally get blasted by water cannons aimed at protestors and we knock our gear around getting in and out of cars, jumping off khlong boats or careening through city streets on a motorcycle taxi.

People walk through a market in rural Myanmar during a monsoon storm. My cameras and lenses got soaked in the storm.
People walk through a market in rural Myanmar during a monsoon storm. My cameras and lenses got soaked in the storm and one of my cameras stopped working later this day. Because I had a spare camera I was able to finish the trip.

This week has been a bad week for me. My main camera, a Canon 5D Mark III, developed an electrical problem and would only work in the Program more. I never use Program. I took the camera into Canon at MBK. They fixed it in two days (it pays to be a member of Canon Professional Services) but then when I got out on the street and used it the next day the problem came back. So points to Canon for the speedy repair. Then points off for not actually fixing the camera. I took the camera back into Canon today. They fixed it in about 90 minutes and so far it’s worked. We’ll see what happens tomorrow when I take the camera out on the street.

All of this means working photographers always have to be prepared for the worst. We don’t necessarily have to have two of everything, but we do have to have enough of everything that when a camera or lens stops working we can keep photographing.