What Camera to Buy – Part 2: Cameras by the Pound

By Jack Berglund

One imagines that setting the price of a camera involves a lot of time and effort on the part of the manufacturer.  A team of people would weight up competitive offerings, cost of manufacture, exchange rates, target audience and so on. Countless meetings, phone calls, PowerPoint slides  and spreadsheets would be required.

Not so at Nikon it seems.  You can predict the street price of any of their current cameras to within a few dollars solely by knowing its weight.  The correlation in uncanny right up the range until you get to the D3s.  I imagine the pricing meeting would go something like:

‘Konnichiha team, we need to come up with a price for the new D900.’

….”How much does it weight?”

‘1100 grams’

…”How about $2700.”



…”Shall we go to the Izakaya?”

“Ok, lets go!”

Price vs weight for the current Nikon camera family:

Now, clearly this earth shattering realization has changed your life forever. Well, maybe not.  It does highlight something interesting: Not only do DSLR cameras get more feature rich as you spend more, you also get bigger, heavier camera.  With point and shoot cameras, the opposite is often true.

Compared to entry level models, the more expensive DSLR cameras are typically built with more metal in their frame and more durable moving parts leading to much of the increased weight.   This is a good thing if you plan to use your camera a lot as it will last longer and survive knocks and bumps better.  If you’re unfortunate enough to get mugged wondering around, a nice solid camera could deal someone a decent blow.

What about lugging the camera around, I hear you ask?  This can be an issue, though not as much as you might think.  You’ve already committed to carrying something that won’t fit in your pocket when you bought an SLR camera.  This means you’ll use the camera to ‘go out and take pictures’ rather than carry it everywhere you go just in case (as you might with a point and shoot).   As you accumulate lenses (which happens, trust me), your camera bag will weight a decent amount regardless and the additional 300g is negligible.  What about holding the camera up all day?  If you’re holding your camera well, your arms will be supporting the camera in a nice solid stance so it will be easy to hold regardless of the weight (more on how to hold your camera another time).

I find the added weight gives a  feeling of stability when holding a camera and helps things feel more balanced when using larger lenses.  Bigger cameras tend to fit better in my hands although clearly it depends how big your hand are.  And so to the point of this article (it had to happen eventually): its critical that you go to a camera store and hold the different cameras you’re considering.  Try them with different lenses and see how it feels to hold.  Is a Nikon D90 worth 150 dollars more than a D5000 or a Canon 50D worth 300 more than a 500D?  If its more comfortable and feels better to hold, then yes, regardless of any feature differences.  Many people (myself included) buy their first camera online without ever holding it.  This is one of the reasons I’m on my second camera already.

In What Camera to Buy – Part 1: Chosing a Make I discussed why you should pick a camera manufacturer before looking too closely at all the individual models.  In this article, you learned that you get more than just extra features when you spend more on a camera. Always try a camera before you buy it.  In Part 3, I’ll look at some specific models and highlight what features you should care about and which don’t really matter.

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    • Karen
    • January 30th, 2013

    Very helpful! When will you finish Part III ?

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