View Full Version : What is heavy?

10-Jan-2006, 09:01
I've seen so many queries for a "light" camera that I am puzzled. Please help me out. I am designing a new specialized camera which is rather unusual. The prototype is almost seven pounds. Too heavy?

What, in your experienced opinion, is a heavy camera? One that weights 4 pounds, 5,6,7, what?

Please believe me. I am not bragging; I'm a normal, wearing-out sixty year-old but a 15 pound camera with lens (and ten film holders) doesn't bother me. B(ut the survey-tripod is beginning to.)

Thank you,

Ole Tjugen
10-Jan-2006, 09:15
"Heavy" is surely subjective, but I do know that the Linhof Technika III 5x7" I used to carry was heavier than the 5x7" Gandolfi Traditional I carry now. The "backup", an antique 13x18cm folding plate camera, is a little heavier than the Gandolfi, but not enough to matter. On the other hand the 15 kg 30x40cm Rusian plate camera IS heavy.

Bruce Watson
10-Jan-2006, 09:16
Hard to define. I think it largely depends on how one works.

For example, I'm a hiker. If I carry less weight I can hike farther. Or, I can be less tired when I get there. I've found a direct correletion between how tired I am and photo quality - I do better work when I'm not so tired. I suspect that I'm not alone in that.

Now if you are not hiking, as in working within a hundred meters of your vehicle, camera weight isn't so important. And if you are working in a studio with your camera mounted on a camera stand, camera weight means very little.

There are plenty of people out there hiking with 10x8 rigs in their backpacks. But me, if it weighs more than 2 Kg, I'm not likely going to be interested in it. I'm sure I'm several standard deviations out on the light weight end of the curve however.

Oren Grad
10-Jan-2006, 09:21
For me, for a hand-held camera, anything more than about 2.5 pounds is pretty heavy, and more than about 3.5 is essentially unusable.

For a 4x5 field camera, anything more than about 4 pounds is "heavy", and I'd need a really, really good reason to justify it. (My current 4x5 wood-field weighs less than 3.) I'm proportionately stingy with larger formats as well, at least with any camera that I intend to lug around in the field in a backpack.

10-Jan-2006, 09:22
impossible question to answer accurately. Each to his own.

Personally if I'm hiking I take the medium format system because I don't like hiking with large "heavy" rucksak full of camera gear. Then again, when I eventually get a more compact field camera then I might change my mind. I think the compactness counts because its easier to backpack with 20 pounds of very compact gear than it is with 20 pounds of bulky kit.

Kevin Crisp
10-Jan-2006, 09:22
The answer for most people depends, of course, on the format. Assuming you're talking about a 4X5, I think most people would consider cameras in the Ikeda/Tachihara range "light." (2.9-4 lbs.) Maybe the Canham DLC at just under 5 pounds qualifies too. Then you move up to the common 5 to 6+ pound range, which is probably average. A huge variety of field cameras fall in this range. If a 4X5 starts weighing more than 7 pounds, I'd consider that relatively heavy for a 4X5 field camera, but then all this is all relative.

10-Jan-2006, 09:25
Of the cameras I've owned, the Sinar P2 was definitely heavy, and the Graphic View was somewhat heavy.

But I've always felt that bulkiness was more important than weight, and again the above two cameras have problematic bulk, along with my Toho 5x7.

And you are right, that the secondary weight (and bulk) of the tripod can be more significant than the camera itself.

David A. Goldfarb
10-Jan-2006, 09:27
I guess it depends on the format and context. My 4x5" Tech V is about the same as my 8x10" Gowland, and I think of the Linhof as being on the heavy side, and the Gowland as being light, both around 6-7 lbs. My 11x14" American Optical is about 15 lbs., so that's pretty light for an 11x14" camera, but I don't plan on doing anything more than day hiking with it, and I haven't done that yet. When I want to go really light I carry a 4x5" Gowland that weighs less than 3 lbs.

I think for a 4x5" camera to be considered "light" it should be under 5 lbs.

John Layton
10-Jan-2006, 09:40
When you also consider the weight of your other gear (tripod, lenses, holder, meter, case, etc.) you may find the extra two pounds of this "heavier" camera means relatively little. But what this "relatively little" extra weight can allow in terms of a truly sturdy (at all extensions) smoothly functioning, highly intuitive, non-finicky camera - can make this little bit of extra weight more than worthwhile. Consider also the investment you might make in state of the art lenses - and that to realize the potential of this investment you need a sturdy camera which also behaves well in a breeze. To me, as a puruser of these forums, it often seems that people are so concerned about a little extra weight, or a few extra dollars for that matter, and too little concerned about the quality of the actual experience of using a view camera, from the time its mounted on the tripod and onwards - which is where its really at. Something to think about.

10-Jan-2006, 09:53
"When you also consider the weight of your other gear (tripod, lenses, holder, meter, case, etc.) you may find the extra two pounds of this "heavier" camera means relatively little."

And consider the weight of all your other hiking/backpacking gear. There may be much cheaper weight savings to be had elswhere.

I also agree with veryone who says heavy is subjective. One of my climbing partners weights 105 pounds. Small differences in the weight of gear make a much bigger difference to her than to me, so she's willing to make big sacrifices to save weight. She'll buy critical climbing gear that weighs a couple of ounces less, even it's harder to use, because she can really feel it. I find the balance between light enough and good enough in a different place.

Eric Woodbury
10-Jan-2006, 10:06
Heavy is when the camera weights more than it needs to, weighs more than a lighter camera that does a similar job.

John Layton
10-Jan-2006, 10:22
"Heavy is when the camera weighs more than it needs to, weighs more than a lighter camera that does a similar job."

This only holds if one defines the word "similar" as being true in more than just a quantitative sense. A cameras specifications may say little or nothing about its level of sturdiness/smoothness/convenience/intuitiveness - factors which help to define the cameras actual level of overall usefulness. Again, something to think about.

David A. Goldfarb
10-Jan-2006, 10:38
There is also a factor of how willing the user is to make adjustments to their technique for the sake of being able to carry a lighter camera. My 4x5" Gowland is a little trickier to use than my Technika, and the Technika is trickier to use (as a view camera, as opposed to a handheld press camera) than my Sinar P, but I've learned a few tricks, so I can use the little Gowland successfully and efficiently in situations where it would be impractical to bring the Technika or the Sinar. If you go in with the attitude that "this camera is flimsy and I can't make any good photographs with it," then you won't.

10-Jan-2006, 10:38
Personally I think we all have a limit to what we'll carry. You can spilt it up any way you want. But a camera that weighs 2lbs more means 2lbs less of something else. A heavy camera means something else needs to go. We all make our choices.

10-Jan-2006, 10:48
when I was recently selling a view camera on ebay I constantly got asked the weight of the camera, and nothing of movement. I also got asked how long it took to set up, like I was in a race or something. I don't mind weight as long as the camera is fairly substantial, I prefer strength over something light and flimsy. Large format photography is heavy, hence the term 'large' , if you want optimum quality you've got to make the sacrifice.

Ron Marshall
10-Jan-2006, 10:53
I have two cameras, a Toho at 3Lb and a Sinar at 7.5 Lb. The Toho is for hiking with, the Sinar is for within 1000 ft. of my car.

Rob Vinnedge
10-Jan-2006, 11:28
My interest is in ULF photography. Weight is not so much an issue since the equipment is going to be heavy by definition. In fact, I think weight is an advantage when dealing with wind and vibration. I would think that would also hold true for smaller formats. I've heard it said that Ansel Adams defined the perfect tripod as a cubic yard of concrete with a bolt attached.

Many of us might be less inclined to compromise our choice of field equipment if we gained strength and lost weight. Let's take that 13 lb. 5X7 Linhof and 150mm Super Symmar XL up the trail and leave 20 lbs. of body fat at home.

Jason Greenberg Motamedi
10-Jan-2006, 12:04
Heavy takes concentration, effort, sweat and a bit of worry to move the camera from one place to another. My 11x14 is heavy. It worries me. And no, it doesn't leave the studio. 5x7 or even 8x10 are light. I can balance them and tripod on my shoulder. Doing so with 11x14 would cripple me.

Kerry L. Thalmann
10-Jan-2006, 13:14
Horses for courses!

Heavy is a relative term. How much camera weight I'm willing to carry depends on where I'm going, when I'm going, how long I'll be staying and how much other stuff I'm carrying.

If I'm just shooting near the car or going out for a reasonable day hike of six or eight miles round trip, I'll take John Layton's advice and carry a camera that has all the convenience features that make it a joy to use and fast and efficient to operate. For me, these days, that's an ARCA-SWISS F-Line classic. It's in the same 7 lb. range JJ mentioned for his prototype.

If I going on a late season week long backpacking trip in the Cascades, I'll ltake my little 2 lb. 12 oz. Toho everytime. When nasty weather is a possibility, I'd rather have an extra 4 lbs. of clothing, food and fuel than a camera that's more convenient to operate.

Exactly where the trade-off between convenienve and ease-of-use reverses in favor of lighter weight is different for everybody. We all have out own personal limits as to how far we can hike in a day and how much weight we can carry. I agree with Bruce that if I'm exhausted from carrying too much weight, my photography will suffer. So, I pick the camera that matches the situation. Toho for backpacking or exceptionally strenous day hikes, ARCA-SWISS for everything else.

if you want optimum quality you've got to make the sacrifice

I disagree with this statement. In my experience, quality does not have to suffer to "go light". The biggest sacrifice is convenience. The quality of images I get with my Toho are no less than those I get with my ARCA. The difference is when I need to do the extra work. The Toho isn't as convenient when taking pictures. So, I need to do a little extra work setting up each shot. The ARCA is heavier. So, it requires a little extra work every step of the way getting to where I want to be. There is no free lunch. You can do the extra work getting where you're going, or once you get there. That's where the trade-off comes in. FWIW, the little Toho is more rigid than many cameras I've used that weigh 3 - 4 lbs. more. No sacrifce in quality, just convenience, needed to save those 3 - 4 lbs.

JJ you asked your question but made no mention of how and where you plan to use this 7 lb. camera of yours. As a result, there is a nearly limitless number of "correct" response to your question (as evidence by the responses so far). You also didn't mention the format. While 7 lbs. is a bit on the heavy side for a 4x5 field camera, it would be considered light weight for an 8x10.

Personally, I'd love to have a 7 lb. 7x17, but don't see it happening. The one I'm buldling will likely be in the 12 lb. range, but will have features like self-arresting gear driven front axis tilt and rise. I won't likely be backpacking with this camera, and am willing to accept a little added weight in exchange for convenience and practicality (ever try to loupe the ground glass while applying front standard movements on a ULF camera with the bellows racked out - now, where did I put that third arm). The camera will be re-configurable. So, I can swap out the geared front standard with a non-geared version and if I'm willing to leave the longest lens behind, I can carry a shorter rail and get the weight down in the 10 lb. range. That's tolerable for dayhiking (including holders - almost 2 lbs. each, lenses, tripod, etc.) and maybe even a short one or two nighter. Again, it's all relative. If your 7 lb. camera has all the features YOU desire and isn't too heavy to limit YOUR photography, the heck with what everyone else thinks is heavy. It's irrelevant.


Ben Calwell
10-Jan-2006, 14:03
After a brief affair with a Calumet C-1 8x10 a few years ago, any camera by comparison is light as a feather.

Wayne Crider
10-Jan-2006, 14:21
It's never the camera weight that bothers me, it's usually the bulk of all the extra crap that goes along with it. Working out of a car I all don't care about the weight/bulk; It's just when I have to put it on my body that I feel like I'm suited up for battle. I'm fine with a 6# Graphic handheld, but the backpack, tripod, lenses, and other accoutrements is what breaks the deal for me. I think 7# would be light. Double that would be a little heavy with extras to carry unless your a little better conditioned.

Struan Gray
10-Jan-2006, 14:41
They took an IMAX camera and two rolls of film to the summit of Everest. If you want to get the camera there badly enough, no place is truly inacessible.

I max out handholding cameras at four kilos or so. Beyond that I shake while framing. If I'm allowed to hang the camera on my chest and use a waist-level viewer I can go a bit heavier.

For backpacking the real question is how much the weight and bulk of the camera and its ancilliaries displace other things I want and need to take. For photographic day hikes I'll happily carry sixty pounds of camera gear, a sandwich and a spare jumper. If I need to camp out in winter space and wieght get restricted accordingly.

One thing: if your camera is too specialised, you'll want to take another one too. Thus the weight effectively becomes the weight of a specialised lens.