Where can I find information about maximum allowed lens weight for my camera?

I'm asking because I have an opportunity to get an old Soviet-built 80-200mm lens for my Nikon D3100 for a very attractive price. But then it occurred to me: the lens weighs 960g (more than camera itself) and the camera has plastic body, so could it damage my camera?

Nikon website only list compatible types of lenses, but not maximum weight. I'm pretty sure this particular lens will be OK, but this kind of information would be very useful when considering purchasing heavy lenses.

While I'm asking about Nikon, I think the question will be relevant for any camera brand.

up vote 9 down vote accepted

It's strange but I can't find this data either; clearly there is a maximum load the mount can take, but I can't find one for any DSLR manufacturer, even ones like Canon who have in the past manufactured a 16.5kg lens!

In the manual for the Panasonic GH1 mirrorless camera, the maximum recommend lens weight carried by the mount alone was 1kg. The Nikon F mount is bigger than the m43 mount so I would expect it to take at least this figure if not more.

I can say however that you won't have problems with a 1kg lens, as the mount will take this weight — people use this type of lens all the time without a collar (tripod mount for the lens).

If a lens was shipped by the manufacturer without a tripod collar, I would take this as indication that it is safe to mount this lens without one. The Canon EF85mm f/1.2L is just over 1kg and is shipped without a collar, so I would infer that this is well within the limit (though this is a short lens and so exerts a smaller moment on the mount).

I think that perhaps one of the reasons it isn't specified is that even when using a 1kg lens I've heard people report that it felt too heavy for the mount even when it wasn't, so they can rely on common sense — provided the mount is stronger than it looks!

Really, there's no such thing as maximum weight. As lenses get bigger, you just start supporting the camera by the lens and not the camera. Actually, this is pretty good technique to use with any lens. Anyway, even the Canon 85 f/1.2 weighs about 950g and you can easily hold a 5D by the body with it on.

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    Even if the 85/1.2 is heavy, it's also rather short. A telephoto with a longer barrel will exert more torque, given the same weight. This will of course lead to the user naturally supporting it with his or her hand, however, so the point it moot. – gerikson Jan 17 '11 at 13:17
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    There is however a maximum weight for a lens that is supported only by the mount, for example when used on a tripod without a collar, and this would be a useful thing to know. – Matt Grum Jan 17 '11 at 13:47
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    if you have a very heavy lens, you want a lens collar with it as the tripod mount is going to be unstable well before the point where the lens gets too heavy for the flange to take the weight. – jwenting Mar 31 '11 at 8:20

~= 1000g lenses are not so uncommon, so I would be surprised a common DSLR would not be built to such standards, or at least carry it's own weight.

You practically can't hold a camera and aim while a 1Kg lens is attached. You will be holding the lens, so this is not a problem with hand-help shooting. On a tripod, when the lens becomes that heavy, most tripod heads can't support that moment and it will creep down, so you will end up attaching the system by the lens.

One more thing - from Newton's 3rd law of mechanics, having a 1kg body attached to the lens is similar to having a 1kg lens attached to a body in terms of the strain of the mount. As modern bodies tend to be on the closer side to this weight, I don't see any problem in using that comrade on your Nikon.

  • Actually, whether you can hold that combination by the body alone would depend on the weight distribution, not the weight. If it's a short, fat, lens weighing that much there's no problem holding it by the body as the weight is centered close to the point you're holding it. If it's a long tele with a massive front element, you're in trouble with even lightweight lenses. – jwenting Mar 31 '11 at 8:22
  • @jwenting - I accept your comment, technically. However, practically, even a short 1Kg lens should get pretty big, so I am pretty sure that for any lens of this kind (do you have any example?) the grip will be by the lens and not by the body. And, even if it is not so, the correct way of holding a camera for maximum stability involves holding the lens and resting the body (if possible) on your palm. – ysap Mar 31 '11 at 11:15
  • The Nikon 14-24 f/2.8 and 24-70 f2/8 come to mind as a rather short lens (13cm, 5") that weigh about a kilo. I've a Tokina 28-70 f/2.6-2.8 that's in the same weight/size range. Really sweet lens, but weighs a ton. The 14mm f/2.8 Nikkor is also rather heavy for its size (almost 700 grams for and 86mm long lens). – jwenting Mar 31 '11 at 12:24
  • @jwenting - ... and ... do you hold it by the body or by the lens?? – ysap Mar 31 '11 at 23:36
  • sometimes, yes, at other times, no. Of course proper technique is holding the body with one hand, the lens with the other :) – jwenting Apr 4 '11 at 10:03

The Nikon 500mm f4D ED-IF II AF-S Nikkor Lens is over 3kg, so your soviet lens should be OK.

There have been examples of camera bodies not being able to handle heavy lenses, I think the Nikon F90 (N90 in the US) was upgraded with a beefier lens mount in the F90X revision, due partly because it was bent out of true by heavy lenses.

Nikon doesn't say anywhere that heavy lenses can't be used with the smaller bodies (I used to own a D40). I expect they assume anyone who owns a heavy lens, such as the 400/2.8 AF-S to support it by the lens barrel and not just the camera body.

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