I have come across many reviews of lenses, in which reviewer will stress on the point that this lens has a metal mount. I am yet to buy a lens with metal mount, but what are the advantages of having a metal mount over plastic mount? Is it more durable? If so, how?
Metal mounts are generally able to withstand wear and tear better than their plastic counterpart could. This is especially so for higher end lens that are heavier because of increased amount of glass elements and/or heavier, sturdier components that are used in the construction of the lens.
For example, a Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 weighs around 1.4kg. If someone were to hold the camera by the body alone without any support on the lens, this could lead to potential damage in the mount area. Both the DSLR body and its lens could reach up to a substantial weight and the only part that is holding it together is the lens and camera mount. The camera mount is usually made of metal, while lens mounts are either made of metal or plastic. As the proverb goes, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link and the link in DSLR is the mount.
This is just an extreme case example. In most cases I believe (I have not yet stress tested any metal or plastic mounts), the camera maker/lens maker would have made the lens mount with sufficient strength for daily use. Reviewers mention the metal mount so that users can have peace of mind when:
- Heavy lenses are coupled with a metal mount instead of a plastic mount (for durability purpose).
- Lens that comes with metal mount (gets your money's worth).
That said, it doesn't mean plastic mounts aren't worth anything. It helps to reduce the weight of the lens to reduce the stress on the user during extended use (covering an event or during travel). It could also possibly mean reducing the cost so that prosumers can get their hand on decent lens without selling off an arm or leg without compromising too much on the quality of the glass.
Alas, this is the end of my opinion. Do correct me if I had said anything wrong. Just a hobbyist's opinion on this matter.
Roger Cicala at Lensrentals has written on this topic at Assumptions, Expectations, and Plastic Mounts. He states that the following are myths:
Most micro 4/3 lenses have metal mounts (they don’t – only one does that I recall).
All ‘professional quality’ lenses have metal mounts (they don’t, not even close to all do).
Micro 4/3 lenses and NEX lenses all have plastic mounts, but ‘real’ SLR lenses have metal mounts (not true on either side of the comma).
Plastic mounts are only used on cheap kit lenses and have only appeared in the last few years (They’ve been around for a long time on many lenses).
Lenses with plastic mounts break more frequently than lenses with metal mounts (Nothing suggests this).
After showing several examples and images of various lenses, he states:
I looked at the Lensrentals’ reliability data for the last several years (several thousand repairs), and there’s no higher failure rate with plastic mount lenses. They have, if anything, a bit lower failure rate, but it’s not a significant difference.
When a plastic mount does break, people tend to freak out a bit because the lens is so obviously broken. From a repair standpoint, though, we love them. It takes 15 minutes to replace a broken plastic mount and the lens is as good as new. Metal mount lenses don’t break like that. Instead internal components and lens elements get shifted and bent. It can take several hours to return one of those to optical alignment.
I just bought myself a Panasonic 20mm 1.7 mk2 micro 4/3 pancake lens. It's pretty small. The new ("mk2") version has a metal mount, as opposed to the previous one.
When I mount it on the body, I can feel some resistance, and am afraid that it would be scraping against the metal of the body. The last thing I want on my sensor is metal dust.
I also imagine that metal would expand/contract more than plastic.
And if I ever drop my camera and walk on it (or something else happens to it), i'd rather have the lens break off (which is more likely with a plastic mount lens) than both the body and lens being damaged due to the strength of the lens mount.
I can understand that a metal mount would be desirable, especially for the heavier lenses! But I guess in some cases it's undesirable.