Heavy Issues, Mirrorless vs. DSLR weight

Size and weight has become a primary criterion for me with camera gear. When building up my DSLR kit, heavy gear was inevitable if I wanted to use the best optics available on the platform.1 After a couple years of 8+ hour hikes with a DSLR kit on my back, and mirrorless cameras a viable alternative, it was time to downsize. In this article, I’ll paint a picture of just how much weight can be saved by moving from a full frame DSLR kit to a mirrorless one.2

I should note that this is obviously a highly subjective comparison. You might not buy the same stuff I do, and you almost certainly won’t have the exact same DSLR kit as I did, but the weight differences are likely to be similar. You also might not be coming from Nikon, but if you’re a Canon shooter, I suspect you can draw very similar comparisons. I added what I felt I could with reasonable accuracy from the Canon side of things.

And finally, before we get into it, I want to state up front that this doesn’t mean mirrorless cameras are better than DSLRs overall. Both platforms come with tradeoffs. It just so happens that, provided I can get comparable image quality, weight is something I am very interested in reducing. A lighter camera won’t make a better photo, but a camera that’s light enough for you to want to have with you will make a much better photo than the DSLR you left at home because it’s too big and heavy.

Support System

When putting together a tripod and ballhead package for my DSLR kit, weight was a huge concern for me as the rest of my pack was already pretty heavy. I chose the best ratio of weight to support for me, Really Right Stuff’s Versa Series 2 tripod and BH-40 ballhead. Now that I’m mirrorless, I can easily get away with the lighter and significantly more compact TQC-14 Series 1 tripod and matching BH-30 ballhead. People using a BH-55 and Series 3 setup will notice even greater weight savings. I’ve included those numbers, but realistically, you likely wouldn’t be traveling with a “heavy duty” support system unless it’s your job.

Mirrorless DSLR DSLR
Heavy Duty
Tripod 1,200g
Really Right Stuff
TQC-14 Series 1
Really Right Stuff
Versa Series 2
Really Right Stuff
Versa Series 3
Ballhead 324g
Really Right Stuff
Really Right Stuff
Really Right Stuff
L-plate 95g 102g 102g
TOTAL 1,619g 2,047g 2,864g

For clarity, this isn’t intended to suggest that Really Right Stuff’s heftier support systems are “heavy” in any way beyond compared to their other lines. Lighter tripods can be found, but sturdier and better built? You’d have a tough time finding one. If you need support for a DSLR, the Series 2 and Series 3 are outstanding.

What’s that you say? You want to see that in chart form? You got it.


Before even looking at cameras, I had already saved the better part of half a kilogram. Keep in mind that I’m in the lightest, sturdiest class of tripod here so the weight-savings likely aren’t as great as it could be with lower end models. If you can afford it, getting one of, if not the best tripod for your camera is a purchase I highly recommend. Tripods that are frustrating to use for whatever reason, aren’t used.

Camera bodies

Next we’ll move to camera bodies. I’ll include both the D700 full frame kit I used before moving to Fuji, and an APS-C option, in the name of fairness. These weights are all without memory cards or batteries. So just to prove I’m being objective, we really need to include two Fuji batteries for every one Nikon battery.

Fujifilm X-T1 Nikon D700 Nikon D7100
Body 390g 995g 675g
Batteries 94g (2x 47g) 75g 75g
Charger 78g 100g 100g
TOTAL 562g 1,170g 850g

All told with the bodies, I saved over half a kilogram in weight. This brings my total savings up to a full kilogram—for my imperial friends, that’s over 2 pounds—and so far the mirrorless option is only ⅔ of what the full frame DSLR kit weighs. Compared to APS-C, it’s a little over a quarter kilogram lighter.

Rather than show my previous kit for our next chart, let’s look at the weight differences between what can be purchased at the time of writing. Interestingly, my D700 was actually slightly heavier than everything shown here, which probably accounts for why many feel its build was better than the D800. Anyhow. The X-T1 is about half the weight or less than any of these DSLRs. 


Zoom Lenses

A lot of people were understandbly surprised at the size of Fuji’s pro “red badge” zooms. There’s something about Fuji cameras that makes me what to use them with primes. Still, if you opt for zooms, they aren’t as hefty as what you find in the DSLR world. Mostly.

Focal Length Fujifilm Nikon
Full Frame
Full Frame
Ultra-wide Zoom 404g
10-24mm f/4
14-24mm f/2.8G
Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8
16-35mm f/2.8L
Standard Zoom 656g
16-55mm f/2.8
24-70mm f/2.8
17-55mm f/2.8G
24-70mm f/2.8L
Telephoto Zoom 995g
50-140mm f/2.8
70-200mm f/2.8G
70-200mm f/2.8G
70-200mm f/2.8L


Some of you are probably ready to take me to task on having the 14-24mm in there instead of the 16-35mm, which is arguably a more similarly spec’d lens. Well, I never bought the 16-35mm because the distortion was so bad. After correction and cropping I think that lens was really closer to 17 or 18mm. The reality is the 10-24mm f/4 has even better distortion characteristics than the 14-24mm does. That’s why I’m ok to with what I currently have in the table. With that written, the 16-35 weighs in at 680g, or 50% more than the 10-24mm f/4.

Prime Lenses

Focal Length Fujifilm Nikon
Full Frame
Full Frame
21mm 234.5g
14mm f/2.8
20mm f/2.8D
N/A 405g
20mm f/2.8
24mm ???
16mm f/1.4
24mm f/1.4G
N/A 650g
24mm f/1.4L II
28mm 139g
18mm f/2
28mm f/2.8 AI-s
N/A 260g
28mm f/2.8 IS
35mm 296g
23mm f/1.4
35mm f/1.4G
N/A 580g
35mm f/1.4L
50mm 187g
35mm f/1.4
50mm f/1.4G
35mm f/1.8G
50mm f/1.4
85mm 396g
56mm f/1.2
85mm f/1.8G
50mm f/1.8G
85mm f/1.8
135mm ???
90mm f/2
DC 135mm f/2D
85mm f/1.8G
135mm f/2L

That table is a little more dense so be sure to hover over the table rows for easier legibility. The chart below shows an overall trend of how heavy things are. The bars reach higher in the land of DSLR lenses than they do in mirrorless.



24mm APS-C gets an “N/A” rating for “Nothing Appropriate.” I could be cheeky, and add the 14mm f/2.8D at 670g, but I wouldn’t even have bought that lens for FX, let alone DX. Furthermore, I likely would never have purchased Nikon’s 20mm, but it’s the more comparable lens available.

28mm Once again APS-C gets an “N/A” rating. On FX, I personally would never have bought Nikon’s f/2.8 AF-D lens.

35mm Again APS-C gets an “N/A” rating. I could put any of Nikon’s 24mm offerings in, but they’re either poor performers, or heavily geared towards FX. Funny that one of Fuji’s “heavy” lenses is still half the weight of the full frame offering.

50mm Finally, a decent option for APS-C. You can see why moving to DX isn’t really an option for prime shooters looking to cut down on bulk.

85mm At 85mm the tables turn, sort of. Realistically I’d have wanted the 1.4G, but I was leaning towards the 1.8G due to its cost and weight. On DX, 50mm really has a field of view of about a 75mm lens, but putting the 58mm f/1.4G would have been a little silly.

Canon I am not, nor have I ever been much of a Canon user. I chose lenses that, as far as I know, are reasonably comparable to what I’d chosen for Nikon. Canon’s crops are totally alien to me so I opted not to make a mess of a crop sensor version for Canon.

Kit Weights

All these charts and figures are great, but what I find interesting is what a typical kit might weight in its entirety. Let’s take a standard prime setup, what would the weight difference be between Fujifilm and Full Frame for a weather sealed body, and 21mm, 35mm, 50mm, and 85mm lenses?

The difference is just under 1.5kg, or 3.3 pounds. That might not sound like a lot, but the Fujifilm kit weighs in at just 70% of what the DSLR kit does. On a day-hike, every pound counts. Also keep in mind that I’m being conservative with my DSLR numbers, and not simply choosing the heaviest option to prove a point. The point here, really, is that a full line of Fuji’s best prime optics can be carried at over 3 pounds less than optics that have been partially chosen as a compromise for their weight on DSLR.

The bar on the right shows what happens if you don’t compromise on weight (or price) and get the best optics, best being subjective of course. Here the difference jumps to over 2kg or nearly 4.75 pounds. Now the Fuji gear weighs just 60% of the DSLR kit.


This weight stuff might not matter to you. You probably don’t go to the lengths I do to reduce weight. It factors heavily in my carry choices as you might guess from my comparison page on a couple popular bag brands. Despite paying to get the lightest, no-compromise support system, and obsessing over finding the lightest backpack, the weight of my DSLR was obvious to me. It also made assisting my wife through some more intense scrambles across Striding Edge of Helvellyn a little more dicey as I was easily thrown off balance by the weight of my pack. For me, from now on, I’ll choose safety first. I’ll choose mirrorless.

What I love most about having a more compact, lightweight kit is I’m so much more likely to bring it with me. Before getting my smaller support system I would stop and consider whether or not I really wanted to bring it along with me. Now, straping it onto my bag before hopping onto my bike is trivial. As mentioned above, you’ll get much better photos with the gear you have with you than with the gear you left at home, in the car, in the hotel room, etc.

  1. Sadly, Nikon appears to have given up when it comes to their DX line of lenses, and while sharpness isn’t everything, for a landscape photographer it’s pretty important. The reality was a D300 + 17-55mm f/2.8 lens was optically inferior to a D700 + 24-70mm f/2.8 combo. Add to that, Nikon’s 14-24mm is one of the best lenses they’ve ever produced.
  2. The obvious criticism will be that I’m comparing a full frame DSLR with an APS-C kit. Again, if Nikon had produced a complete DX line of lenses, I’d use that for comparison.