Lenses are getting much heavier than they used to be

Jan 22, 2019

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Lenses are getting much heavier than they used to be

Jan 22, 2019

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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It feels like every year or to, my camera bags get heavier and heavier, even though the total amount of kit I carry hasn’t really changed. It just gets replaced by newer stuff. And despite the push towards mirrorless, cameras seem to be getting heavier, too. Or are they? Apparently not. It’s no the cameras that are getting heavier, but the lenses we attach to them.

The folks over at Photography Life just did a study of the weights of 733 lenses released since the year 2,000 to see how they all measure up. And their results show that lenses are most certainly heavier than they used to be.

The study includes lenses for 4/3rds sensors and larger. So, this means all Nikon, Canon & Pentax DSLR lenses, all third-party DSLR lenses, Micro Four Thirds lenses, Fuji X mirrorless lenses and Sony full-frame mirrorless lenses. They even included 4/3rds DSLRs, Samsung mirrorless, Leica and Hasselblad, and even obscure and “gimmick” brands like 7artisans and Lensbaby. The only lens intentionally excluded is the extremely ridiculous Sigma 200-500mm f/2.8, which comes in at an insane 15.7kg (34.6lbs) as it’s definitely a rare exception, coming in at more than three times the weight of even the Nikon 800mm f/5.6.

When we look at the average weight of the lenses, we see a bit of a dip as we get towards 2013. But this makes sense, as there were many much smaller lenses released as mirrorless started to become viable (remember when “small” was its selling point?) and 3rd parties started coming out with more smaller lenses for the consumer market.

Image: Photography Life

While the average hasn’t quite gone back up to 2008 levels yet, they’re definitely climbing. When we look at the median weight, though, the story is a little different. The average is the sum of all lenses divided by the total number of lenses. The median is the centre point between the heaviest and lightest lenses from that year. And here the trend is quite clear. Lenses are definitely getting heavier.

Image: Photography Life

As users put manufacturers under more pressure for higher quality optics, better stabilisation, faster autofocus systems, and improved designs to improve vignetting, chromatic aberration and other lens issues, they’re getting heavier. There may be more smaller lenses, bringing the average down, but the fact that the median has climbed so high shows that at least one end of the scale, probably both, lenses are getting heavier.

Their report shows that the 100 newest lenses today average 797 grams. The 100 newest lenses in January 2013 averaged out to weigh only 531 grams. That’s a whole 50% increase. If you’ve got half a dozen lenses in your bag that you’ve replaced over the last 6 years, that’s a significant weight difference.

Photography Life breaks down each of the lens categories compared into their own graphs. What’s particularly interesting are the weight gains in Micro Four Thirds and Fuji X series lenses. Two systems that market their brands based on the light weight of their respective kit. Both of them are becoming significantly heavier rigs than they were a few years ago. Sony, too, has put on more than a little weight.

Head on over to Photography Life to check out the whole comparison and see the different chart categories for yourself, and how lens weight has changed for your system over the years.

It’s definitely an interesting insight. And no wonder my bags feel heavier. Now I know it’s not just me getting old. At least, it’s not only that. I wonder if this is why I like using vintage lenses so much?

[via Photography Life]

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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12 responses to “Lenses are getting much heavier than they used to be”

  1. Miroslav Vrzala Avatar
    Miroslav Vrzala

    Bodies smaller
    Lenses bigger

  2. Collin McLaren Avatar
    Collin McLaren

    If anyone has connections to R&D in any of the camera companies. I got three words.
    ‘Pancake telephoto lens’
    I don’t care if you say its impossible, PROVE US WRONG.

  3. Daniel Fernandez Avatar
    Daniel Fernandez

    Better sensors need better optics to perform 100%. Since there hasn’t been any magical increases in glass/multi coating tech, of course they’re going to get heavier as lenses need to compensate to match the sensor performance.

  4. Viggo Næss Avatar
    Viggo Næss

    I love that the new mounts from Canikon enables much better lens designs, I don’t want tiny, I want superb.

    And I guess they can do both now. The Nikon f4 lenses aren’t big though ??

  5. Andras Oravecz Avatar
    Andras Oravecz

    DIYPhotography that is kinda your fault as well. Reviewers tend to praise pinpoint sharp lenses and manufacturers are responding accordingly….with huge, heavy and expensive lenses

  6. Florent Gross Avatar
    Florent Gross

    Big sensors = big lenses, that’s physics !

    1. John Aldred Avatar
      John Aldred

      Except, Fujii and Micro Four Thirds aren’t big sensors. And even full frame is no bigger than 35mm film was. :)

    2. Florent Gross Avatar
      Florent Gross

      John Aldred Fuji lenses are quite compact compared to Sony’s aren’t they

    3. John Aldred Avatar
      John Aldred

      Did you look at the graphs? Fuji’s lenses are getting larger, too. :)

  7. Henry Rodgers Avatar
    Henry Rodgers

    Hasselblad xcd lenses aren’t huge but the prices are. The consumer mirrorless market won’t pay for that thus, bigger lenses.

  8. Gary Bailey Avatar
    Gary Bailey

    I genuinely don’t see any advantage in mirrorless.

  9. Tim Bambam Avatar
    Tim Bambam

    I shoot an Olympus OM D 5mk ii. I use F2.8 or faster lenses and because of the built-in image stabilization, I find these lenses to be lighter than most.
    In fact, I was looking at Sony lenses and was for me who has a bad back the difference in weight is a deal breaker. I realize the Sony is a full frame camera. But I can shoot a 50-megapixel hi-resolution shot with my Olympus that I would put up against any full frame camera.