Lightweight Cameras

Canon G16 ISO80, f/4.0, 1/320".
Canon G16 ISO80, f/4.0, 1/320″.

There was a comment on my last blog post asking what had happened to the lightweight cameras as I seem to be publishing images from the Sony full frame. I was thinking about this and wanted to present a slightly longer response as it gives rise to an interesting point.

What is a lightweight camera?

The first thing that comes to mind is that size is relative. If your used to shooting with a Large Format camera, Medium Format might seem lightweight. To a Medium Format shooter, a DSLR might seem lightweight. There is a very good You Tube channel from Ben Horne who shoots with an 8×10 large format camera but then takes a Nikon D800 on his trips to use for video. That’s a camera manypeople think is perfect for Landscapes.

Is the Sony A7r lightweight? Perhaps it is as it’s a mirrorless design and smaller than most DSLRs. If I use it with old prime lenses, it’s actually smaller than my EM5 with 12-40 lens. But if we are determining a camera as being lightweight based on sensor size, then it’s not.

But then this raises the question of my Sony RX10. This is a large camera for what is effectively a bridge camera. It’s a little larger than my EM5 but has only a 1” sensor. Personally I consider it to be lightweight as I need only this camera and a couple of filters to shoot landscapes. I can fit everything into a small shoulder bag. If I were to take the equivalent lenses and the EM5, I need a larger bag.

Then there are the compact cameras. Currently I have only the Canon G7X which is a great pocket camera with the same sized (1 inch) sensor as the Sony RX10. This is definitely a lightweight camera with good image quality. Whilst I can produce good results with this camera, commercial reality means I can’t use this all the time. This is more of a carry anywhere camera in case the opportunity for a photo arises.

Finally, there is my latest purchase, the Go Pro Hero 4. This is definitely the smallest camera I have and wasn’t really purchased for photography but rather for filming some of my photo trips. I want to make some on location tutorials and will use the Go Pro to film these.

Back to the question raised, whilst I may not have published many images shot with the EM5 of late, I have been publishing shots taken with other lightweight equipment such as the RX10. I can’t shoot with every camera I own all the time and must vary the use. I like to publish recent material which probably explains the limited EM5 images. But rest assured, the EM5 is alive and well in my camera bag and will be used in the near future.

What I would be interested to understand is what people feel makes a camera lightweight. Feel free to add any thoughts as comments below.

15 thoughts on “Lightweight Cameras

    1. If I were in the business of selling cameras, I might agree. But as someone who sells images and wants to produce high quality prints, there are definately differences between the different classes of camera. There are charactoristics of Micro 43 cameras and smaller sensor compacts that make them ideal for Landscapes.

  1. I think it is a combination is of size and weight. We have similar cameras and I choose which to take depending what I’m shooting and how far I’ll be walking. This morning I was taking the dog for a two hour hike and was debating between the Rx10 and EM 1 with 12-40. Sony A7 was not in competition because I only wanted one lens. I took the EM 1 but would have been happy with either

    1. Yes, it sounds like you have a similar kit list to myself. I tend to shoot with the A7 if I think the landscape will be spectacular and I might want a very large print. The EM5 is good up to around A2 but I can now see the differences when comparing it against the Sony A7. I still think of the EM5 as my ideal travel kit due to the size and weight.

  2. I should have thought in this context the term “lightweight” was self explanatory – light in weight.

    Increasing age and deteriorating health have dictated that I swap to camera equipment that is lighter to carry – OUT is my Nikon dSLR, IN is Olympus OMD.

    For several years I’ve had to decide which one lens to take before I venture out, and have been restricted to that single lens all day. Now, with lightweight kit, I can travel with camera plus three lenses (wide angle, standard and tele zooms) once again.

    That’s why I subscribed to these newsletters – hoping that they would include advice and inspiration on how to take good photos with minimal, lightweight equipment. Alas, not what is being provided of late.

    1. Hi John. I can totally understand the light in weight comment but being light in weight isn’t the same for everyone. The A7 is light until you add in the great lumps of Canon Glass I use along with the large Lee 100mm filters. The EM5 with the Lee 75 series filters all fits into a small shoulder bag including two more lenses. It sounds like you have a similar kit and it makes photography much more fund.

      I understand your comment about the blog not including as much lightweight advice recentlt as I have been documenting my experimentation with film and a few other things. I will aim to put this right.

      1. Thanks, Robin.

        True, the detail of the kit is important because it’s the total weight that goes on my shoulder that matters. I was hugely impressed with lightness of the EM1 body but, sadly, it’s rubbish at taking photos unless you add a lens! And the (excellent) 12-40 negates much of the weight saving the EM1 gives me. All in all though, by choosing carefully I have reduced the overall “weight on my shoulder” considerably without any loss in image quality (probably a modest increase in quality truth be told). Photography has indeed become fun again.

        And, at a slight tangent, the equipment is smaller. Another big plus as far as I’m concerned.

      2. I also like the small equipment but it can become fiddly in very cold weather. The buttons become harder to find. This is one of the reasons that I like the RX10 for walking. You can still handle it when your hands are cold.

  3. As one who used medium format film cameras in the past and may return to several mint copies that have been on the shelf for over fifteen years, I don’t relish the idea of hauling these things around after using 35mm cameras, polycarbonate digital cameras both DX and FX, and for the most the most part, M43 cameras. To me these are the ideal light weight ones that offer the best in portability along with great resolution and equally light lenses. As I have reached my eighth decade, a small light weight camera is now a must for me and I love the EPL series along with the EM series and the Lumix cameras too. I especially like using these little gems mounted on a carbon fiber tripod and the tiltable eye viewfinders at waist level for accurate focus and great composition. So what I achieve with this setup is very similar to a medium format setup with about 80% less of the weight and bulk.

    1. So it starting to sound very much like people love the Micro 43 kit and consider it to be lightweight. Although I’m not sure about that lump of glass that Olympus released as the 12-40 lens (superb quality). I have to admit, comparing the Digital images to the Medium Format slides, the Micro 43 digital seems to win out, although that’s more than certain to be my scanner. Thanks for adding your thoughts.

  4. To me lightweight cameras mean easy portability and useability. I own a now defective EOS 40D, which isn’t exactly lightweight, but excelled in useability. When I switched to M43 two years ago I bought an E-M5. That camera is leightweight but not very good in the useability department (at least for me). So I upgraded to the slightly heavier E-M1 and find it to be much better in this regard. When I think I need more resolution, I stitch together a couple of shots. Of course that’s not always possible, but works very well especially for landscapes, even handheld. That keeps me from shelling out even more money than I already do.

    By the way, Robin, I’m impressed by your images. Your blog is one of a few on the internet, where the blogger actually heavily uses his gear yielding great results. Your reviews are honest and make the impression on the reader, that you really know your stuff. Thanks for sharing.

    Cheers Gerrit

    1. Thanks for the positive feedback on the blog. It’s always good to know when people enjoy what you do.

      I do agree on your point about lightweight and in particular the usability element. I recently sold my GM1 as although very light I found it too small to use effectively. Lightweight has to be practical.

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