Buying a second DSLR

June 19, 2010

Owning a second DSLR can really expand your creative potential, and now that ten-million-pixel DSLRs are available for less than £300 they aren’t just for the pros.

Even though most of us own a collection of overlapping zoom lenses, in some situations it can be difficult to decide which particular set of focal lengths to mount.

When shooting sport, for instance, the action often seems to be a bit too far away or a bit too close for the lens that’s mounted. At social events, too, it is hard to choose between a telephoto lens that will help with those fun, candid shots or something a little shorter to capture the general goings-on and posed portraits. Obviously, it’s possible to swap optics throughout the event, but shots are inevitably missed because the wrong lens is mounted. That’s one compelling reason why many professional photographers use two cameras, each with a different focal-length lens mounted.

Another motive is that less frequent lens changing means there’s reduced opportunity for dust and dirt to get onto the sensor. And, of course, if the worst should happen and one camera develops a fault or even breaks down, there’s no need to stop shooting.

Now that new DSLRs are available for less than £300, the luxury of a second body needn’t be reserved for professionals. It’s an option that’s available to many enthusiasts.

Below, I compare the enthusiast-level DSLRs from all five major manufacturers with some of each company’s more affordable cameras that would make suitable second bodies. In some cases there’s little or no difference in image quality if the same lenses are used, but there are variations in the handling characteristics that need to be considered.  

Choosing a second body

If you already own a camera, the most sensible option for a second body is one from the same manufacturer, as you can use your lenses and some of your existing accessories on the new camera. But, don’t assume everything will be transferable: a battery-grip for a mid-sized enthusiast camera, for instance, is unlikely to be compatible with a smaller DSLR.

Also, check which battery your prospective purchase accepts and whether it’s interchangeable with the one in your existing camera, as you may have to carry two chargers.

The first reaction when considering memory card compatibility is to look for a camera that accepts the same type as your main DSLR. However, while it may be convenient to have two cameras that use the same media, if your first camera accepts CF and the second is compatible with SD, you’ll always know which images are on which card. Even if the cameras use the same card, once you have two bodies you are likely to take more shots, so you will need another card or two anyway.