top of page

Economy

Weight & Cost

Camera equipment for shooting Bokeh Panos can seemingly need to be big, heavy and expensive, but if that thought is putting you off then this section is for you. High quality second hand equipment is coming down in price all the time and combinations that aren't painful to carry around all day are possible with some careful choices and a bit of compromise. 

WEIGHT

When considering weight I also feel the need to discuss workflow as that can also be made exponentially more difficult with longer focal length lenses. I usually start choosing a lens by restricting focal lengths between 85mm - 135mm (on full frame cameras). This way you can still get pretty large entrance pupils (which is the primary factor in the bokeh pano effect) without everything getting too heavy and annoying to shoot. Mirrorless cameras are usually lighter and have a few useful features for shooting panos (tilting live-view screens, IBIS and fast/accurate AF). To help illustrate the best lens options I started by using a 'Entrance Pupil size' (mm) per 'Kilogram' (of camera and lensratio . With that as a starting point I then took focal length into account, to give lenses a penalty for extreme focal lengths where hundreds or even thousands of images would be needed to emulate a wide angle lens. Here are some common lens options for the technique plotted on a chart to illustrate the better and worse options...

Weight Ratio 02.jpg

 

Notes: Despite the raw potential of 300-600mm lenses you will likely never reach a wide angle equivalent with it (unless you have a tripod and a ton of time). The 135mm f/1.8 lens is a standout efficiency winner for its sheer size, if you want to push the effect as much as possible. The 50mm f/1.8 and 40mm f/1.2 lenses are also extremely efficient for their weight and thus are good starter options, although I would say this is the minimum effect you should aim for with the technique. Normally I would call the 85mm f/1.8 the gold standard of compromise if you care about weight, workflow and cost, but the Samyang 75mm f/1.8 rather steals the thunder when compared against it like this. It's just so light for what it is, but it's unfortunately only currently available for Sony E and Fuji X mounts.

Best n Light-ish

Let's first talk about weight The lightest way to get the maximum realistic effect (with a full frame mirrorless camera) is to use a 135mm f/1.8 lens (all of which have god tier image quality), so let's find the lightest one for each platform, then the lightest camera body for each brand. For reasonably priced full frame cameras, these are the ratios I found:

  • 1,246g - 60.2:1 - Sony A7 (no IBIS)

  • 1,287g - 58.3:1 - Sony A7CR

  • 1,396g - 53.7:1 - Canon R8 (IS lens)

  • 1,605g - 46.7:1 - Canon R6

  • 1,670g - 44.9:1 - Nikon Z5

  • 1,700g - 44.1:1 - Nikon Z6II

  • 1,850g - 40.5:1 - Panasonic S5

NOTES: The Sony A7 is over a decade old now, so it doesn't have the greatest features, but is a great budget option. It still has surprisingly good image quality today, but it has poor battery life, lacks in-body image stabilization, and has rather poor auto focus. For this reason I also included the state of the art Sony A7CR, with it's 61mp sensor and advanced AI autofocus. This still easily wins second place, but so too would any of the compact Sony full frame range (A7C & A7CII), so there are cheaper lower resolution and older model options to choose from with very similar weight ratios.

Canon have the lightest full frame camera body now with the R8but ultimately it gets pushed off the top spot due to not having such a light lens option as Sony (Samyang). The camera does not feature IBIS, but amazingly the Canon RF 135/1.8 managed to squeeze it into to the lens, while being lighter than the Sony GM or Nikon version, which don't. As amazing as that is it's still 100g heavier than the Sony A7CR + Samyang lens combo.

So, what do these ratio scores actually mean?...

  • 20:1 = Terrible

  • 30:1Poor

  • 40:1 = OK

  • 50:1 = Good

  • 60:1 = Great

  • 70:1 = Stellar

  • 80:1 = God Tier

The higher the number the better effect you get (larger entrance pupils) for the weight. The lightest full frame DSLR combos can just about manage a 40:1 value (only 2 lenses on the Nikon D750 and 1 on the Canon 6D score between 43-45:1). Mirrorless cameras are generally lighter, but not all of them. The Nikon Z9 + Sigma 1051.4 for example weighs 2,985g, it might take some lovely panos, but with a ratio of 25:1 it is not friendly to carry around all day if you're sensitive to back or shoulder pain. Luckily you can get the same performance for less than half the weight!

Best n Light-ish Pro

If cost is no issue (apart from the Sony A9and you want a pro mirrorless body with stacked sensor (for silently shooting panos) here are the best possible ratios (again using the lightest 135mm f/1.8 available):

  • 1,445g - 51.9:1 - Sony A9

  • 1,509g - 49.7:1 - Sony A1

  • 1,905g - 39.4:1 - Nikon Z8

  • 1,950g - 38.5:1 - Canon R3

  • 2,335g - 32.1:1 - Nikon Z9

If you're struggling to visualize how these setups compare here are the weights plotted on a chart, also how they compare to the lightest DSLR setups. Canon mirrorless camera are showing an advantage in weight savings, but Nikon are not and neither of the "big two" have great battery life. Sony is still king of lightweight cameras and lenses while also having by far the best battery life! 

Weight Ratio 01b.jpg

Smaller n Lighter

If you'd like to save as much weight as possible, but still create On the other end of the usable Bokeh Pano scale let's use the same non-pro lightest full frame camera bodies, but this time with the lightest 85mm f/1.8 lens available for each. This is the weights and ratios you can expect:

  • 0,836g - 56.5:1 - Sony A7 (no IBIS)

  • 0,847g - 55.8:1 - Canon R8 (no IBIS)

  • 0,886g - 53.3:1 - Sony A7CR

  • 0,985g - 47.9:1 - Panasonic S5

  • 1,066g - 44.3:1 - Canon R6

  • 1,145g - 41.2:1 - Nikon Z5

  • 1,175g - 40.2:1 - Nikon Z6II

To demonstrate how much weight this is saving compared to the 135mm f/1.8 setups here's the numbers plotted on the same chart, with the old numbers in the background. Nikon mirrorless cameras are actually heavier than their DSLRs in the 85mm f/1.8 category, which is shocking, but the image quality is likely quite improved. Everything is lot closer together here between the brands. The Canon R8 nearly wins, but it's worth noting that both it and the Sony A7 have no image stabilization in the camera or lens here.

Weight Ratio 01c.jpg

Lightest

The Sony FE mount and Fuji XF also have the option of the insanely light Samyang 75mm f/1.8 lens (which is both full frame and auto focus). Combined with the full frame Sony models gets good ratios and a very light overall combination to carry around. If you're willing to take a few more images and use an APS-C body like the A5000 then you can cut the entire weight down to less than half a kilogram and get one of the highest possible weight ratios in existence!

Full Frame

  • 0,704g - 59.2:1 - Sony A7 (no IBIS)

  • 0,745g - 55.9:1 - Sony A7CR

NOTES:

You might notice that many options at the top of the charts do not include 'In-body image stabilization' (IBIS). This is a nice feature to have, but for bokeh panos it's not too important when you're dealing with fast lenses always used wide-open and hundreds of megapixel results. It adds a lot of weight to mirrorless cameras (taking between 5-10 points off the ratio scores in most cases). In this regard the Sony A7C range is especially impressive as they don't weigh any more than the APS-C range that also has IBIS.

APS-C

  • 0,499g - 83.5:- Sony A5000 (no IBIS)

  • 0,574g - 72.6:1 - Sony A6000 (no IBIS)

  • 0,577g - 72.2:1 - Fuji X-A7 (no IBIS)

  • 0,621g - 67.1:1 - Fuji X-E4 (no IBIS)

  • 0,683g - 61.0:1 - Sony A6500

  • 0,722g - 57.7:1 - Fuji X-S20

Since APS-C cameras have the same potential with each lens, this metric doesn't show their negative sides (requiring over twice as many images to get the same result). Thus, just keep in mind that full frame options might be well worth the extra weight, to reduce the images and time you need to shoot, as well as the workflow once you return to the computer.

COST

Now let's focus on reasonably priced equipment, to see how much effect we can get for the least money. The last mentioned combo is also featured below, so the highest effect to weight ratio gear is amazingly also one of the cheaper options!! 

€175 APS-C DSLR

Nikon's first small purpose build DSLR can be picked up for next to nothing. This meant I could spend most of this budget on the lens, which worked out as a 127mm f/2.7 equivalent on this 21 year old, 6mp APS-C CCD sensor. I had to use JPG over RAW here, so as not to get frustrated with the poor buffer speed when shooting these 32 images (hand held). It's important to note that using a smaller sensor will not effect the results you can achieve from a lens, it will only mean you need to shoot more images to get to this same result (this would require only 15 images from a full frame camera).

Nikon D100 (€2000 in 2002) €25~

Nikkor 85mm f/1.8 AF-D - (1987) 150~

Entrance Pupil: 47mm

Weight: 1.2KG (2.65lbs)

Ratio: 39.3:1

# Frames: 32 | Equiv. Lens: 34mm f/0.72

 

€200 APS-C Mirrorless

Like the DSLR, this small n light Sony mirrorless camera also uses an APS-C sized sensor. The 'N' variant improved the original NEX 5's resolution, dynamic range and noise performance while not costing much more, so is worth choosing to get the best value today. Despite being 9 years newer than the DSLR (above) I still had to avoid RAW and use JPG, so as to not get crazy bored when shooting this hand-held burst (48 shots). The controls of these early Sony mirrorless cameras were terrible (compared to a decade older DLSR), but having the rear screen show a live view all the time was massively more helpful when trying to align the pano frames so this ended being a nicer experience overall. Being able to adapt to more older, cheaper and often prettier rendering lenses does limit you to manual focus, but it's much easier to use on mirrorless cameras.

Sony NEX 5N (€700 in 2011) 75~

Konica 85mm f/1.8 - (1970) 125~

Entrance Pupil: 47mm

Weight: 0.7KG (1.54lbs)

Ratio: 67.4:1

# Frames: 47 | Equiv. Lens: 27mm f/0.56

 

€375 APS-C Mirrorless

Sticking with the little old Sony mirrorless camera and combining it with the new Samyang 75mm f/1.8 AF lens can cut your weight down a further 200g to a ridiculously light half a kilogram for the entire combo! That's so light it feels like a toy and represents the best entrance pupil for the weight that I can find, giving a weight ratio of 83.5:1. Realistically I would recommend spending a bit more on a newer camera to improve the overall experience for this kind of budget, something like a Sony NEX 6, or A6000. This will bump up your weight and price a little, but I think it would be worth it. If you are more interested in a full frame combo with this lens you could get the weight down to 740g with the Sony A7c, or 700g with the original A7R, if you don't mind losing in-body image stabilization. If Samyang ever make this lens for the L-Mount (which they now might) then the weight could potentially come down to 650g with the Sigma FP although that would also be without in-body image stabilization or a shutter mechanism.

Sony NEX 5N (€700 in 2011) 75~

Samyang 75mm f/1.8 - (2019) €300~

Entrance Pupil: 42mm

Weight: 0.5KG (1.1lbs)

Ratio: 84.5:1

# Frames: 36 | Equiv. Lens: 30mm f/0.72