Why are DSLR’s still so big and heavy? Seriously.

October 9, 2017

This is an honest to goodness question and let me tell you why I’m asking. I was having a conversation with my friend yesterday about why I like shooting with my iPhone

Me: Because it’s convenient, lightweight and takes a great photo.

As soon as I said that I realized that it’s not just having something with you all the time that makes it more convenient it also needs to be less bulky and lightweight (again the iPhone delivers). However,  I would like to have some of the features and lenses that are available to the (Pro) DSLR user but I’m not willing to pay the heavy price of bulk and weight and that set me off on a mission to find out what the heck is inside those things (bodies and lenses) that they still need to be so darned heavy.

I watched manufacturing and design videos and read (a few) articles so, I am nowhere near an expert on this subject. I am also not an engineer, camera designer, manufacturer, or anyone any of those people would ask for advice on this subject but from what I could see I still have to ask, in 2017, is it really still necessary for camera bodies and lenses to be so heavy and bulky? Because if it’s not necessary and they could all be much lighter and less bulky — why aren’t they?

Just asking,



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  • Reply Terrell C Woods October 9, 2017 at 5:03 pm

    Kalebra♥️♥️. I hear you loud and clear because a lot of us feel the same way. I still use my fantastic big heavy Canon gear for work and certain situations. But in the last year I have heavily invited int MFT camera catagory. Personally I went with Olympus for facts that aren’t germane to this post.
    If back pocket pocketable is a feature that doesn’t have to be met… the world is your oyster. Now you have access to so many shooters or steal your hubby’s roladex (iPhone these days) and get on the coconut telegraph and pick a brains. Now obviously these cameras are all are going to be bigger…they’re only going to take pictures and you’re still going to have your iPhone.
    I think it’s an interesting, thoughtful internal question but I bet in the end like most of us… you’ll stick with what got you here. The form factor suits your style and so many other intangibles than just the size. And regardless what you shoot with I know your eye won’t change. So I expect to see amazingly good pics no matter what Kalebra Kelby decides to shoot with, today or tomorrow.


    • Reply kalebrakelby October 9, 2017 at 7:46 pm

      Thank you, Terrell, you’re very kind. I wouldn’t mind a bit more size for features and lens options just not weight and real bulk. It has to be possible. Hahaha! 😉

  • Reply Steve Kalman October 9, 2017 at 5:19 pm

    This is a big quandary for me, too. I love my iPhone. But, as you said, I’d like to have some lens choices. — Not counting the ones that are absurdly bolted on. (I liked my Olloclip, but the dual lenses in my 7Plus killed that option for me.)

    I want multiple lens choices. Just as I have hiking boots, walking shoes, golf shoes and something nicer to wear with a suit, I have wide angle, telephoto, portrait and macro. I couldn’t see limiting myself to just one pair of shoes, nor to just one lens.

    I looked at mirrorless solutions, and they’re a good start, but they only remove about a third of the weight and half the size and have far fewer lens choices.

    This might not be a solvable problem, but if some manufacturer comes close I’ll stand in line to buy one.

    • Reply kalebrakelby October 9, 2017 at 7:47 pm

      Well said, Steve and I totally agree, I’d be in line right behind you. 🙂

  • Reply William Beem October 9, 2017 at 8:24 pm

    In a word – physics. If you like two words – Mother Physics.

    Your camera sensor has these little detectors on them. The bigger the sensor, the more detectors. When a photo hits a detector, it knocks out an electron that gets stored for reading. The detectors react to intensity.

    This is why sensor size matters. How many photos can hit the sensor, and how long do they get to keep hitting the sensor (depends upon shutter speed). Smaller sensors have fewer detectors, and they don’t do very well in low light. They simply cannot collect as much light in the same duration as a DSLR. So they either have to leave the shutter open longer, or they have to amplify the signal. That’s why smaller sensors have more noise compared to their big brothers (or sisters).

    Now let’s talk about lenses. Their job is to bend and refract light so it goes toward an image plane – your sensor. Light is a stubborn thing. It travels at a specific speed. What about size? Photos don’t have mass, so they don’t have size in the way we typically understand. Instead, they have wavelength. The wavelength of a green photon is different than the wavelength of a red photon.

    What this means is that we cannot assume all photons are equal, and therefore come up with an exposure that works in every situation. It also means that larger apertures allow more light to arrive simultaneously than smaller apertures.

    We can do many incredible things by miniaturizing electronics, but we cannot miniaturize light itself. It is the very nature of light that prevents an iPhone from behaving like a DSLR, or a DSLR behaving like a Hubble telescope. Light takes a specific amount of time to arrive, and it varies in size depending upon your subject.

    This, of course, is a very simplified view of how physics affect photography and the size of your camera. Basically, iPhones advance through a variety of software and electronic trickery. They cannot escape the physics of light and how to swing it.

    • Reply kalebrakelby October 11, 2017 at 4:39 pm

      Hahahaha! Is that all, William? Very astute and correct (I’m sure). However, I still think they can be lighter and less bulky but maybe that’s just my pestery side. 😉

  • Reply Kathryn October 10, 2017 at 4:36 pm

    Have you tried any of the mirrorless cameras? I made the switch from my DSLR about 2 years ago and haven’t looked back. My attractive, feminine bag cotains normal purse stuff and camera with 18-135 and a macro lens at all times.

    • Reply kalebrakelby October 11, 2017 at 12:13 pm

      I haven’t, Kathryn, I’m waiting for even smaller. 😉

  • Reply Clinton Ferrara October 11, 2017 at 4:38 pm

    The little camera I gave my grandson is smaller than a smart phone, has a zoom lens, is waterproof and shock proof. Shoots high res raw files and Hd video.
    Maybe some cameras have to be big and heavy but we don’t have to buy them.

    • Reply kalebrakelby October 11, 2017 at 4:40 pm

      I like that about you, Clinton. 🙂

  • Reply Kathryn October 13, 2017 at 1:30 pm

    Is this what you are waiting for? Looks interesting

    • Reply kalebrakelby October 13, 2017 at 10:26 pm

      It just might be…

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